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2022 U.S. Open: top-10 golfers who could win best challenge of the PGA season

Breven Honda

The 122nd United States Open begins this week at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. and it will be unlike any other U.S. Open ever.

Although Tiger Woods said he will not compete this week, the United States Golf Association has allowed those who played in last week’s LIV Golf event in London to compete.

That means players such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia are on hand for the third major of the season as the conversation grows between the PGA Tour and LIV.

However, this is still the U.S. Open and the course will be difficult with all of the doglegs and the undulation throughout the course.

Here are 10 players who can win this week’s event and hoist the U.S. Open trophy.

Related: 2022 U.S. Open TV schedule and tee times

10. Matt Fitzpatrick

matt fitzpatrick: 2022 u.s. open
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

This is the first time since 1988 the U.S. Open will take place at The Country Club when Curtis Strange won with a 6-under 278. This week will mark the fourth time The Country Club has hosted a U.S. Open with each of the previous three tournaments ending in a playoff.

However, for 27-year-old Matt Fitzpatrick, he has experience at The Country Club. In 2013, Fitzpatrick became the first Englishman since 1911 to win the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club.

Entering this week, Fitzpatrick finished tied for 10th at last week’s RBC Canadian Open, highlighted by a 6-under 64 first round and a 3-under 67 in the final round on Sunday. In addition, Fitzpatrick finished tied for fifth at last month’s PGA Championship and tied for 14th at the Masters Tournament a couple months ago at Augusta National.

9. Collin Morikawa

PGA: U.S. Open - Final Round
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Collin Morikawa enters this week failing to play at the level where he wants to be. However, with a win, he would get one step closer to the career grand slam — also needing only a green jacket to achieve victories at all four major tournaments.

With the challenge a U.S. Open brings every year, it all comes down to who will make the least amount of mistakes when par might be something to aim for a hole. If Morikawa can execute shots, he will find himself atop the leaderboard on Sunday.

Related: What makes each of the four PGA majors unique

8. Xander Schauffele

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Xander Schauffele’s last individual title came on a global stage, but not at a major tournament nor on the PGA Tour. That win came last year at the 2020 Summer Games in Japan after being postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schauffele took home the gold medal, needing a par to bring home the top spot.

Par is going to be the goal on certain holes when birdie is unachievable. However, one thing that stands out about this course is small greens. As a result, greens in regulation are going to be even more crucial. In addition, all facets of the game will be on display.

This season, Schauffele is seventh on the PGA Tour in strokes gained tee-to-green and ninth in total strokes gained.

Another reason to watch to San Diego State alumnus is that in each of his first five U.S. Open starts, Schauffele has finished no worse than seventh. That includes a tied for third finish in 2019 at Pebble Beach.

7. Patrick Cantlay

PGA: U.S. Open - Second Round
Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Cantlay begins his seventh U.S. Open looking to not only make a seventh consecutive cut, but to also be atop the leaderboard. Cantlay’s best finish at a U.S. Open came last year at Torrey Pines when he finished at +1 and tied for 15th place.

One thing that has stood out so far on the PGA Tour this season is how aggressive Cantlay has been at attacking greens. Cantlay ranks second this season in going for the green. The high risk, high reward mentality for Cantlay will come into play, based on where his tee shots land on par-5s this week, which come at holes 8 and 14.  

Related: Golfers with the most PGA Tour wins of all-time

6. Dustin Johnson

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Dustin Johnson, who competed last week in London for LIV Golf’s inaugural event, shot 1-under and finished in eighth place individually.

Johnson is one of a handful of golfers to come from the LIV Golf series and compete in this week’s U.S. Open.

At the first two majors, the 37-year-old missed the cut at last month’s PGA Championship and tied for 12th at the Masters Tournament back in April. For added measure, Johnson also finished tied for ninth at THE PLAYERS Championship in March.

Johnson, who won the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, has two top-six finishes over the last several years, including a third-place spot in 2018 at Shinnecock Hills.

As a past U.S. Open champion, who also has a runner up finish in 2015, Johnson knows how to play challenging and difficult U.S. Open courses. However, for Johnson, the questions remain are how well he’ll play and how well he can adjust after playing last week in London.

5. Jordan Spieth

The challenges for the 2015 U.S. Open Champion have been on display at U.S. Open courses since his major victory seven years ago. Since 2016, Jordan Spieth’s best finish was a tie for 19th spot last year at the South Course at Torrey Pines.

Despite missing the cut at both THE PLAYERS Championship in March and The Masters Tournament in April, Spieth made the cut at the PGA Championship last month. Alas, he finished 34th.

However, the PGA Championship was in a stretch where he had a top-10 finish in three out of four tournaments, highlighted by winning the RBC Heritage a week after the Masters.

That goes to show how difficult major tournaments and how challenging major courses are compared to tournaments on the PGA Tour.

If Spieth can play the way he did at both the RBC Heritage and the AT&T Byron Nelson where he shot all eight rounds at 69 or below, he will easily be at the top come Father’s Day for Championship Sunday.

Related: Golf world reacts to Scottie Scheffler winning Masters

4. Scottie Scheffler

PGA: U.S. Open - Final Round
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Scottie Scheffler enters this week at the U.S. Open not in the limelight compared to a few months ago when he won four tournaments in six starts, ending with a green jacket for winning the Masters Tournament.

During his four wins in six starts, Scheffler emerged as the top player in the Official World Golf Ranking and No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings with a lead just short of 1,000 points.

Despite missing the cut at the PGA Championship last month, Scheffler rebounded with a second-place finish at the Charles Schwab Challenge the following week. Last week at the RBC Canadian Open, the 25-year-old finished tied for 18th at -7.

If Scheffler wins this week, he would join Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods and Spieth as the only golfers to win the Masters and a U.S. Open in the same year since World War II.

Related: Justin Thomas says it’s sad LIV distracting from U.S. Open

3. Justin Thomas

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If last week showed any positive momentum before a major tournament, then Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy should look to be at or near the top of the leaderboard this week.

Thomas, who won the PGA Championship last month, was in a battle between Tony Finau and McIlroy at last week’s RBC Canadian Open.

Like in last month’s PGA Championship, all four of Thomas’ rounds was in the 60s — highlighted by a 7-under 63 in the third round on Saturday.

Thomas, who has been playing some good golf as he has nine top-10 finishes this season, said the challenges will arise this week leading up to Thursday’s first round and throughout the tournament.

“You always know U.S. Open is a grind. That’s why I love it. I think that’s why a lot of guys love it. It’s one of the few times of the year you’re playing more in relation to par and par is a good score.

Driving the ball is going to be very important this week, but I think like any major, especially U.S. Open, scrambling and salvaging and making those putts for par can be the momentum builders.”

Justin Thomas to the media ahead of 2022 U.S. Open

Related: Rory McIlroy slight favorite to claim 2nd U.S. Open title

2. Rory McIlroy

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At last week’s RBC Canadian Open, McIlroy was in some tight competition on Sunday with Thomas and Finau. All three players were in the final grouping, but it was McIlroy that finished on top of the leaderboard.

McIlroy joined a small class to have at least 21 PGA Tour Wins, including at least four major victories all before the age of 34. He joined Nicklaus, Palmer, Woods, Byron Nelson and Tom Watson.

McIlroy, who won the 2011 U.S. Open, will look to take the momentum with first round action beginning on Thursday.  

The key for McIlroy this week, and all season, has been his driving. He ranks third on the PGA Tour in driving distance, averaging 319.1 yards off the tee. In addition, he is third in strokes gained off the tee this season, first in strokes gained tee to green and first in strokes gained total this season.   

1. Jon Rahm

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The reigning U.S. Open champion, Jon Rahm, is in the field this week.

Unlike McIlroy and Thomas, Rahm did not play last week at the RBC Canadian Open but did compete at the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago, where he tied for 10th place.

In the first two major tournaments this year, the Spaniard finished tied for 27th place at the Masters and tied for 48th at the PGA Championship last month.

With 600 FedEx Cup points to make a boost ahead of the PGA Tour Championship in a few months, Rahm has the opportunity to put himself in a position to achieve those points and be the first back-to-back U.S. Open Champion since Brooks Koepka won in 2017 and 2018.