It’s almost time for the 119th United States Open, and there is no shortage of storylines. There is also no shortage of favorites. When one of the 10 best players of all time barely cracks your top 25 on a course where he’s won five times, you know your event is as deep and as good as it’s ever been.
Here’s how I rank the top 25 from most likely to win to least based on current form and their history both at major championships and at Pebble Beach itself. Be sure to take a look at thealong with the for the third major of the year.
1. Brooks Koepka (Best finish: Won in 2017-18): A three-peat at the U.S. Open hasn’t been achieved in over 100 years. Not only is he the two-time defending champion, but he’s also one of just four golfers to make the cut at the last five U.S. Opens.
2. Dustin Johnson (Won in 2016): These two are so far and away the top two in the field, it almost feels like we should skip 3-5 and pick up with No. 6.
3. Xander Schauffele (T5 in 2017): Top 10 in each of the last two U.S. Opens and top 20 at the first two majors of 2019. No star flies more under the radar. I’m not even sure the radar detects where Schauffele flies.
4. Patrick Cantlay (T21 in 2011): Is this an overreaction for somebody whose best U.S. Open was eight years ago when he was an amateur golfer? Maybe, but Cantlay is one of just three golfers to finish top 10 at the first two majors of 2019 (Johnson and Koepka are the other two), and he’s currently in the top 10 in approach shots on the PGA Tour. The storylines are too easy! California kid returns home to a place his sort-of mentor (Jack Nicklaus) made famous!
5. Tommy Fleetwood (2nd in 2018): 2019 It’s pretty easy to envision, isn’t it? He’s been the closest to Koepka — which isn’t saying a ton — the last two years with a solo second at Shinnecock Hills and a solo fourth at Erin Hills.
6. Tiger Woods (Won in 2000, 2002, 2008): He hit it so well at the Memorial Tournament a few weeks ago. Tiger winning Augusta and Pebble Beach in the same year following four back surgeries would be the apex of absurdity. A two-month fever dream that would be among the greatest stretches in golf history.? One other note: In 2010, there were no 67s shot in that tournament, but Tiger, Johnson and Phil Mickelson all shot 66s. Tiger needed to shoot 72 on Sunday to get into a playoff. He shot 75.
7. Jordan Spieth (Won in 2015): I could be talked into anything from No. 3 to No. 25 here. Despite three straight top 10s, Spieth still isn’t hitting his approach shots that well. But he’s made of magic and has decimated this course before and won a U.S. Open on poa annua. Much like Spieth’s game, my mindset with him is all over the place.
8. Rory McIlroy (Won in 2011): As great as he’s been this year, I’m mildly concerned that so short a course will mitigate what he does best. However (!), he’s also top 15 in both fairway and rough proximity to the hole and top five in approach shots in general.
9. Justin Thomas (T9 in 2017): He would be higher if not for the recent wrist injury. Currently fourth in greens in regulation, which is, uh, pretty important at Pebble Beach.
10. Justin Rose (Won in 2013): He might be the forgotten man. Only one top 10 since winning in 2013, but his iron play should be exquisite at Pebble Beach. A fun game to play at every major — especially this one — is which Mark Steinberg client will finish highest on the leaderboard.
11. Rickie Fowler (T2 in 2014): I know it’s going to happen at some point, and I don’t want it to be the major where I exclude him from my top 25 rankings altogether on the basis of principle. Hopefully, he finds good reads on all the subtle buried elephants at Pebble Beach.
12. Matt Kuchar (T6 in 2010): He’s never been great at U.S. Opens, but he’s also never played golf at the level he’s playing at. It would be fitting if Kuchar won the biggest first prize of 2019, wouldn’t it? Third on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation.
13. Brandt Snedeker (8th in 2015): He’s one of just four golfers with three or more top 10s in the last five U.S. Opens. He’s also won twice at Pebble Beach before. Pretty intriguing sleeper pick.
14. Francesco Molinari (T23 in 2014): He’s … never had a top 20 at a U.S. Open? Of course, before last year’s Open Championship, he’d only placed in the top 10 in three majors total. Now he’s doubled that and is pouring wine at dinner from a Claret Jug.
15. Adam Scott (T4 in 2015): I think it’s easy to look at Scott and say, “Well, he can’t putt it well enough to win the U.S. Open.” Two things on that. The first is that when you’re 15th in approach shots, I could not possibly care less how you’re putting it. The second is that Scott — you may have missed this! — is currently 21st on the PGA Tour in putting.
16. Hideki Matsuyama (T2 in 2017): He might lead the field in approach shots. He also might lead the field in total putts.
17. Webb Simpson (Won in 2012): I think he’ll be really competitive this week. Coming in off a great week in Canada, and his biggest weakness this season (driver) won’t be highlighted as much as it would at a place like Bethpage Black. Zero surprises from me if he’s in one of the final three pairings on Sunday.
18. Tony Finau (5th in 2018): I can’t envision it the way I can with Schauffele or Fleetwood, but there’s no chance I’m excluding him after the run he’s been on over the last few years. Four top 10s in his last six majors.
19. Paul Casey (T10 in 2007): You know who just absolutely pounds greens and finished runner up at this course back in February? Paul Casey. Only one top 10 ever at a U.S. Open is a little concerning, but I think he’s undervalued in this spot.
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20. Jason Day (2nd in 2011): He’s been — this feels astonishing to say — better than both Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at Pebble Beach over the course of his career (that data includes all three courses played during the regular season event). Part of the reason for that, as Andy Johnson recently pointed out on the Shotgun Start, is that he’s amazing around the green. I don’t think he’s ball-striking it well enough to win here though.
21. Patrick Reed (4th in 2018): Three top 15s in his last four appearances at this championship. He’s one of the more underrated U.S. Open players in the field. He’s a really good sleeper pick, even if his iron play has been lousy this year.
22. Jon Rahm (T23 in 2016): I think Rahm will win major championships, maybe several of them, but I don’t think one of them is going to be a U.S. Open. And certainly not at Pebble Beach.
23. Henrik Stenson (T4 in 2014): There are a lot of different ways to look at this. The pessimist says Stenson doesn’t have a top 10 at a PGA Tour stroke play event since last year’s U.S. Open. The optimist says, “Well … yeah, that’s the whole point.” Stenson is a great major championship golfer, and he’s also currently first on the planet in approach shots. His 3-wood could be devastating to the field on a track that doesn’t demand a ton of drivers.
24. Sergio Garcia (T3 in 2005): It would be the most Sergio of all Sergio things to bookend seven straight missed cuts at majors with a win on either side, one at Augusta National and one at Pebble Beach. I need this badly.
25. Phil Mickelson (2nd in 1999, 2002, 2004): He said he gets two more shots at it. I think he only gets one. This one. It wouldn’t surpass Tiger winning the Masters as the golf story of the year, but it would certainly get within striking distance.