10 burning questions for the 2019 U.S. Open

By Michael Dixon
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 U.S. Open brings a number of fascinating talking points. With them, a good amount of questions will need to be answered at Pebble Beach.

This U.S. Open could be Phil Mickelson’s last realistic chance at completing the Career Grand Slam. Should Brooks Koepka win again, he’d join an even more exclusive club. Just how much would Tiger Woods accomplish if he wins at Pebble? What does the weather off of the Monterey Peninsula have in store for the world’s best golfers, and will the USGA finally get out of its own way?

These are the main questions to lock in on as we look ahead to the 2019 U.S. Open.

Can Phil Mickelson finally win the U.S. Open?

With a win, Mickelson would join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger as the only winners of the Career Grand Slam. Winning would also make Mickelson the oldest ever major champion by nearly a year and the oldest U.S. Open winner by nearly four years. Still, history isn’t entirely against him. Mickelson has won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am a record-tying five times, including this year’s tourney. If Lefty absolutely had to win one golf tournament, he’d want it to be at Pebble Beach. Mickelson will turn 49 on Sunday. We can’t imagine a better gift.

Will Brooks Koepka three-peat?

Presently, six men have three U.S. Open championships. Koepka would join that group with another win at any point of his career. If he wins at Pebble Beach, he’ll be in even rarer company. Koepka is the two-time defending U.S. Open champ, one of only seven men to ever repeat. Willie Anderson, the first man to win two in a row, is also the only golfer to three-peat, winning from 1903-1905. In a matter of 72 holes, an exclusive club that’s been limited to one man for more than a century could get its second member.

What will USGA have to offer?

The USGA has often been criticized for its handling of the U.S. Open. Still, the last several years have been particularly bad. The general frustration has been rooted in the course setup. Other issues have come up, though. Who can forget Dustin Johnson’s maybe/maybe-not penalty, which dominated the final round in 2016? While the U.S. Open is the flagship event for the USGA, it’s failed to put its best foot forward in recent years. As golf fans, we can hope for a change in 2019.

Will a first-time major winner emerge?

Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Jon Rahm, Tony Finau, Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Marc Leishman, and Gary Woodland are all ranked in the top 25 and still looking for their first major wins. While Koepka’s major dominance and Tiger winning the Masters have bucked this to a degree, the recent trend in majors has still been kind to golfers looking for their first major triumph. Of the last 20 majors, 11 have been won by first-time champs. For the aforementioned golfers and the many others like them in the field, that’s good news.

Can Dustin Johnson claim his second major?

Much like the 2004 Masters did for Mickelson, winning the U.S. Open three years ago felt like it could have opened the floodgates for DJ. At least in majors, though, it hasn’t been. Johnson’s major resume since the 2016 U.S. Open looks a lot like it did before he broke through. He’s contended a lot but hasn’t won. Johnson’s history at Pebble Beach is solid. He has twice won the AT&T and was the 54-hole leader when Pebble Beach last hosted the U.S. Open in 2010. So, if he’s going to add another major to his mantle, DJ is at the right course.

Can Rory McIlroy continue his hot play?

McIlroy has sometimes dealt with consistency issues in his career. However, McIlroy is practically unstoppable when his game has been sharp. Right now, his game is very much on point. He’s coming off of a seven-shot win at the RBC Canadian Open in which he fired rounds of 64 and 61 over the weekend. With that, plus the win at THE PLAYERS Championship in March, he is already having a great season. At Pebble, he has a good chance to make his 2019 season even better.

Is Jordan Spieth back?

Spieth’s last win came at the 2017 British Open. While he’d experienced some ups and downs before then, it seemed unfathomable then that it’d be his last win for almost two years (and counting). The good news is that he’s shown some signs of coming out of that funk. Spieth has finished in the top-10 in each of his last three events, including a T3 at the PGA Championship. The last two years have been bumpy for Spieth, but he’s yet to stamp his comeback with a win. Pebble Beach would be a great place for him to do that.

Will American dominance continue?

Spieth, Johnson, and Koepka (twice) have given the United States four straight U.S. Open champions. This run is already the longest the United States has seen in a while. From 1982-1993, Americans won every U.S. Open. After that, the United States never had a run of more than three in a row until Koepka’s win in 2018. From 2004-2014, Tiger, Lucas Glover, and Webb Simpson were the only American champs. Only Simpson’s came after 2010. It will be interesting to see if the Americans can continue to win their national championship or if a more international trend might start.

What tricks will Mother Nature play?

More than any course (at least in the United States), how Pebble Beach plays has a lot to do with the weather. Case in point: In 1992, Gil Morgan became the first player to reach double-digits under par at a U.S. Open. By the seventh hole on Saturday, he was 12-under. Then the winds picked up and Morgan played the final 29 holes at 17-over, finishing out of the top-10 completely. Heading into the tournament, the forecast looks good, which will allow for low scoring. But at Pebble Beach, things can change in a heartbeat.

Can Tiger make more history?

Tiger won the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble by a record shattering 15 shots. In 2019, he’s chasing more history. A win would tie Woods with Anderson, Bobby Jones, Hogan, and Nicklaus for most U.S. Open Championships (four). Additionally, it would tie him with Sam Snead for the most wins in PGA Tour history. Of course, it would also move Tiger to only two short of Nicklaus’ career major record. There’s a lot on the line this week. For Tiger, it must be nice to be chasing history at a place where he’s already made it.