This week the world’s best tee it up just outside the Steel City. Oakmont Country Club hosts the 116th U.S. Open and the course’s ninth. The course doesn’t favor any particular style of golf and will reward the players for keeping the ball in play and those with the touch around the green. My article earlier this week pointed out the difficulties of Oakmont facing the players and it will be exciting to see which golfer survives the test that is the U.S. Open. I will rank my top 10 picks this week along with three sleepers that are flying under the radar.
Tony Finau: Tony was just added to the field Monday as he was an alternate after trying to qualify last week. After notching his first career victory earlier this year in Puerto Rico, Finau will look to have another impressive performance at the U.S. Open after finishing T-14th in his major championship debut. He hits it long and has notched two top 15 finished in the last month.
Brendan Steele: He has made 10 of his last 12 cuts including a couple top 15’s in the recent weeks. He ranks 16th on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation and ranks 17th in sand save percentage. Steele has the ability to use his ball striking and driving to make birdies and must be able to do that as hitting greens is at a premium at Oakmont.
15. Louis Oosthuisen, 14. Ernie Els, 13. Rickie Fowler, 12. Branden Grace, 11. Andy Sullivan
10. Chris Wood: You guys might be thinking that I meant to put him in the sleeper section but no, Wood has ascended to number 23 in the world with his play over the last couple months. The 28 year-old Englishmen is not someone many Americans know about but he he recently won The BMW PGA in Europe and finished 6th this past week as well. He is primed for a breakout performance in a major and this could be the week.
9. Zach Johnson: Zach has struggled at times this year with his consistency but he has made 7 of his last 8 cuts. He is coming off a good weekend in his last event at Colonial and has had plenty of time to prep. His accuracy off the tee and his precise iron and wedge play will suit him well at Oakmont and if he can putt like he did at The Open Championship last year, Zach might be able to capture his third major.
8. Phil Mickelson: Phil “The Thrill” is looking to complete the career grand slam this week in Pennsylvania. He is coming off a tied for second place finish last week where he led the field in putting. He hasn’t missed a cut at an U.S. Open in the last 8 years.
7. Brooks Koepka: He also finished second last week in Memphis and is looking to continue his good form. Brooks finished T-4th in 2014 and T-18th last year at the U.S. Open. He ranks in the top 10 in strokes gained off the tee and is 4th in putts from 4 feet this year on Tour. Everyone knows those 4 foot knee knockers are crucial come Sunday.
6. Jordan Spieth: The defending champion looks to repeat and life the trophy again. He has been inconsistent with his irons as of late but his stupendous short game and wedges have helped him pick up more top finishes, including a win at Colonial. Needs to hit the ball better off the tee and from the fairway but we know his putter will make up for some of the inconsistency.
5. Patrick Reed: He is on the hunt for his first major championship and this fiery American has it all. Doesn’t really have many weaknesses and his short game will shine here at Oakmont. He finished T-8th at The Memorial a couple weeks ago.
4. Justin Rose: The 2013 champion has a game built for winning the U.S. Open. Is one of the best in the world off the tee and with his irons. You need to hit greens to be successful here and Rose does plenty of that.
3. Jason Day: The #1 player in the world has it all. He is confident both off the tee and around the green and has been playing at a level above everyone else in the world for the past 10 months. Has recently picked a win at The Players last month. He ranks first in total strokes gained on Tour this year.
2. Dustin Johnson: DJ will look to get revenge this year after he gave the tournament away last year with a 3 putt from 8 feet on the 72nd hole at Chamber’s Bay. He has the game to win, just needs to believe and execute mentally. He is 13/13 in cuts made and has 8 top 10’s. He has been held out of the winners column so far but he is due for a victory, right….?
1. Rory McIlory: Rory is coming off a stretch of great golf including a win at the Irish Open and top 5 at The Memorial. The four time major winner is looking to add his name to the list of champions who have won at Oakmont. He ranks fourth in strokes gained from tee to green. He also has either birdied/eagled over 26% of his holes this year on the PGA Tour, ranking him 3rd which is vitally important because birdies will hard to come by this week.I believe Rory is ready to survive the test and conquer Oakmont, ultimately lifting the trophy come Sunday.