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U.S. Open: Top players to watch at Shinnecock Hills

Rory McIlroy reacts to a putt on the

Rory McIlroy reacts to a putt on the 18th green during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Saturday. Credit: Getty Images / Jamie Squire

Rory McIlroy

Age: 29

PGA Tour victories: 14

Major championships: 4

U.S. Open file: In his first major after an epic meltdown on Sunday at the Masters, McIlroy won his first Grand Slam title and did it resoundingly. He set a U.S. Open record for most strokes under par (16) and, at 22, became the youngest Open winner since Bobby Jones in 1923. He finished eight strokes ahead of runnerup Jason Day. McIlroy had tied for 10th in 2010, his U.S. Open debut and tied for ninth in 2015 but has missed the past two U.S. Open cuts.

Dustin Johnson

Age: 33

PGA Tour victories: 17

Major championships: 1

U.S. Open file: The highlight of a career that has featured at least one win in its first 11 seasons occurred at Oakmont in 2016. Johnson withstood the turmoil caused when the U.S. Golf Association announced during the final-round telecast that he would be assessed a one-stroke penalty. He ultimately won by three strokes, stifling potential further furor and overcoming his own Open heartbreaks at Pebble Beach in 2010 (squandering a lead by shooting 82 in the final round) and Chambers Bay in 2015 (three-putting the final hole and losing by a shot).

Phil Mickelson

Age: 47

PGA Tour victories: 43

Major championships: 5

U.S. Open file: His tie for fourth at Shinnecock Hills in 1995 began a long run of strong finishes in the Open, which has yet to yield a title. Six times he has been runner-up, either alone or tied. Arguably his two most frustrating endings occurred in the New York area—he took one-shot leads into the 17th hole at Shinnecock in 2004 and the 18th hole at Winged Foot two years later. If he wins the Open this year, he will become only the sixth one to have won the modern career Grand Slam, joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods.

Jason Day

Age: 30

PGA Tour victories: 12

Major championships: 1

U.S. Open file: He had five top-10 finishes in his first six Opens (2011-16), including two seconds. He led on Sunday at Merion in 2013, but made three bogeys on the back nine and tied with Phil Mickelson for second behind Justin Rose. In 2015 at Chambers Bay, Day staggered in round two and nearly passed out from vertigo. But he remained in the tournament and shared the lead after round three before finishing tied for ninth.

Patrick Reed

Age: 27

PGA Tour victories: 6

Major championships: 1

U.S. Open file: The 2018 Masters champion has played in four U.S. Opens, never having cracked the top 10. Reed did share the 36-hole lead with Jordan Spieth in 2015 at Chambers Bay before finishing tied for 14th place. He ended one place higher last year at Erin Hills. One of his tour wins occurred in on a U.S. Open course, the 2016 Barclays at Bethpage Black.

Jordan Spieth

Age: 24

PGA Tour victories: 9

Major championships: 3

U.S. Open file: At the end of his one and only year at the University of Texas, Spieth got into the 2012 Open at Olympic Club as an alternate, replacing Brandt Snedeker, who was injured. Spieth tied for 21st and was low amateur. Three years later, he was the U.S. Open champion, making birdies on two of the final three holes. He became only the sixth player to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year.

Justin Thomas

Age: 25

PGA Tour victories: 8

Major championships: 1

U.S. Open file: The son of a club pro in Kentucky, Thomas is the reigning FedEx Cup champion and PGA Championship winner. He missed the cut at his first U.S. Open in 2014, but made history last year at Erin Hills. With an eagle the par-5 18th hole in the third round, he finished with a 9-under par 63, an Open record in relation to par. Thomas shot 75 in the final round and tied for 9th place.

Tiger Woods

Age: 42

PGA Tour victories: 79

Major championships: 14

U.S. Open file: His 15-stroke victory in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach is often cited as the most dominant tournament victory in history. He finished at 12 under par while no one else came close to breaking par. It was the start of the Tiger Slam, a streak that saw him hold all four major titles by early 2001. His second U.S. Open title occurred in 2002 at Bethpage Black, the first true municipal course to host the championship. The third of his three Open victories also came on a public-access course, San Diego’s Torrey Pines, in 2008. He later revealed he won the 19-hole playoff against Rocco Mediate on a broken leg, with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. It was his most recent major title.

Rickie Fowler

Age: 29

PGA Tour victories: 4

Major championships: 0

U.S. Open file: In the first round of his first major championship, Fowler, a 19-year-old amateur, shot 1-under-par 70 at Torrey Pines in 2008. He was tied for seventh, ahead of Tiger Woods, the eventual champion. Fowler’s best U.S. Open finish was a tie for second at Pinehurst in 2014, the year in which he placed among the top five in each of the majors. He tied for fifth at Erin Hills last year.

Brooks Koepka

Age: 28

PGA Tour victories: 2

Major championships: 1

U.S. Open file: Won last year at Erin Hills, overpowering the course with a final round 67 and tied Rory McIroy’s record by finishing the championship 16 under par. The night before that last round, he was encouraged by a short phone conversation with Dustin Johnson, his workout partner and predecessor as U.S. Open champion. A few weeks later, Koepka asked his Florida State buddy Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants to get him into the baseball All-Star Game, where he marveled at Aaron Judge’s home run stroke. Koepka’s great uncle, Dick Groat, won the 1960 National League Most Valuable Player Award with the champion Pittsburgh Pirates.

Jon Rahm

Age: 23

PGA Tour victories: 2

Major championships: 0

U.S. Open file: Having enrolled at Arizona State and learned English on the fly by listening to rap music, the young golfer from Spain was No. 1 in the world amateur ranking for a record 60 weeks. But he really became known during the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, where he was the only amateur to make the cut and finished tied for 23rd. He turned pro right after that and held the first-round lead in his first event, the Quicken Loans National.

Xander Schauffele

Age: 24

PGA Tour victories: 2

Major championships: 0

U.S. Open file: The resident of La Jolla, Calif., great-grandson of two European premier league soccer players and son of a German decathlete, arrived at Erin Hills last year ranked 378th in the world. He became the first in history to shoot a bogey-free round of 66 or better in his U.S. Open debut and finished tied for fifth, earning an exemption to Shinnecock. He went on to win the Greenbrier Classic and Tour Championship and was named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.

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