Not that either of them will be lifting the winner’s trophy on Sunday, anyway.
Instead, let’s concentrate on the guys who have a shot and delve into their major championship history. We present the 10 most likely players to win the second major of the year, including two studs in their 20s at the top.
Rory McIlroy (5-1): At age 26, the world’s No. 1 player will be among the favorites to win any major for the next decade or so. He already has four majors to his credit, including the 2011 U.S. Open. Upon arriving in Washington state last week, he told the media he was in “top form” leading up to the season’s second major. Gulp.
Jordan Spieth (6-1): After lapping the field at The Masters in April, the 21-year-old Spieth shows up this week as the world’s second-ranked player and a fitting rival for McIroy. Think of the Ryder Cup battles these two could have in the next several meetings. Spieth struggled at Chambers Bay during the 2010 U.S. Amateur Championship, winding up six shots below the cut line. This week will be different.
Justin Rose (10-1): Another former U.S. Open champ (in 2013), Rose has the best chance of stopping a McIlroy/Spieth stranglehold on the majors. The Englishman finished second at the Memorial Tournament a couple weeks ago. That event is always loaded with the game’s best talent. Rose has 18 career wins and would love for his 19th to be another major.
Dustin Johnson (15-1): One of the game’s longest hitters could find the course very much to his liking. The fairways aren’t needle-thin like Augusta and conditions might favor guys with length. Johnson was in contention at U.S. Open 2011, finishing three shots behind unlikely winner Darren Clarke.
Jason Day (20-1): It’s hard to believe Day hasn’t won a major. We promise that isn’t a research error. The Aussie has finished second twice (2011 and 2013) in the U.S. Open, so maybe this is his year. His biggest career victory so far is last year’s Accenture Match Play Championship, the event that could be called the sixth major.
Bubba Watson (20-1): The two-time Masters champ hasn’t had a lot of success in his country’s national championship. His high-water mark is a fifth-place finish way back in 2007. Watson’s most recent victory came in the World Golf Championships HSBC Champions in China last November. His length off the tee and deft touch around the greens give him a chance this weekend.
Phil Mickelson (22-1): This could be the last realistic chance for the 46-year-old Mickelson to get his first career U.S. Open title. He has 51 career PGA Tour wins, including five majors. He has finished second an astonishing six times in his career. A breakthrough this week doesn’t seem probable, but Lefty can still turn it on.
Rickie Fowler (25-1): Fowler had an amazing year in the majors in 2014, winding up tied for fifth in the Masters, tied for second in both the U.S. Open and Open Championship and tied for third in the PGA Championship. He was the only player to finish in the top five in all four Grand Slam events (trivia question alert). Let’s see if he can finish the deal.
Henrik Stenson (25-1): The intense Swede is another quality player who hasn’t won a major title, although he finished tied for fourth in last year’s U.S. Open. While Stenson has 17 professional wins, the 39-year-old only has a few more realistic shots at a major.
Adam Scott (30-1): Scott was the world’s No. 1 player as recently as May 2014 before putting woes started dogging his performance. The Australian has 27 pro wins, including a Masters title in 2013. Scott has gone so far as to rehire his former caddie, the semi-retired Steve Williams, to carry his bag for the three remaining majors. That can’t hurt.
With a new U.S. Open course, FOX Sports hosting TV coverage for the first time, and a superb field befitting a major championship event, this will be a great weekend for golf.
The game has survived Tiger Woods’ self-destruction over the past few years – his last major title came in 2008 – thanks to a host of young and international players.
Tiger as a footnote when discussing the U.S. Open? Why not? It’s going to be a great week.
Photo of Phil Mickelson: via Flickr