From the day he won The Open at Muirfield in 2013, the story at every US Open has been centred around Phil Mickelson completing the career grand-slam. And that will continue to be the case until he wins one, or until his time is up.
That’s no different this year.
Lefty is the centre of attention again at Shinnecock Hills and has insisted his tactic this time around is to not try and win, but rather to keep himself in contention.
“My goal, though, is not to try to win on Thursday,” he admitted at a press conference.
“My goal is just to stay in it Thursday, stay in it Friday, and have an opportunity for the weekend. So I’m not really thinking about winning right now.”
Mickelson has a very promising record around Shinnecock Hills to fall back on this week. Of course, he has famously finished in a US Open runner-up spot on six occasions and in 2004 one of those occasions was here at Shinnecock Hills.
A two-under total was three shots ahead of the rest of the pack but two shots shy of Retief Goosen’s winning score. Even in 1995, when Shinnecock Hills again played host to the US Open, a 25-year-old Mickelson came in a tie for fourth, four shots off the top.
It’s fair to say he knows his way around this track, and he likes it around this track.
Oh, and if you need another omen pointing in Mickelson’s favour, it’s his 48th birthday on Saturday (it usually falls on US Open week).
The field doesn’t really need to be explained. It’s a major championship; everyone is there. From Dustin Johnson to Kevin Na, the entirety of the world’s top 63 are in action.
There’s been displays of fine form this year throughout the list of the world’s top names. Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day all have wins within the past four months and will be gunning for more success in New York.
And DJ’s hole-out eagle to close a six-shot victory at the FedEx St. Jude Classic last week cannot be ignored.
That’s one way of making it back to world-number-one!#HushYall
— The Caddy’s Review (@TheCaddysReview) June 10, 2018
Golf’s front runners will be joined, too, by the likes of Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and Adam Scott.
And, of course, Tiger Woods will be playing his 20th US Open and his first since missing the cut in 2015, striving for his fourth title. It has been 10 years since Woods won the last of his 14 major titles at this event at Torrey Pines.
With his three US Open titles (2000, 2002 & 2008), Woods will not be the only past champion in the field. Johnson, (2016), Jordan Spieth (2015), Martin Kaymer (2014), Rose (2013), Webb Simpson (2012), McIlroy (2011), Graeme McDowell (2010), Lucas Glover (2009), Furyk (2003) and Els (1997 & 1994) are all back after past victories.
As too is Brooks Koepka (2017) defending his title from Erin Hills last year. It has become somewhat tradition that the test of a US Open leaves the winning score at low single-figures under-par, or even over-par. Before last year the average winning score for the past 10 outings had been three-under. In an anomaly last year Koepka played a steady week of 67, 70, 68, 67 to claim his first major by a comfortable four shots at 16-under (yes, sixteen), ahead of Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama.
A win this week would make Koepka just the seventh man to defend this title in its 123-year history.
As aforementioned, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club has hosted this event before, in 2004, 1995, 1986 and way back to the second ever US Open in 1896. In fact, it prides itself on being the oldest formal golf club is US history (founded in 1891).
Despite only measuring 7445 yards, the course is actually quite lengthy at a par of 70 with just two par fives.
The course, despite not being right on the coast, is links in style; the fairways have been widened and narrowed since 2004 but still don’t offer a great deal of room. A driver is a necessity off the tee if you are to attack this lengthy course but, given the tight fairways it is a true case of risk and reward. Wider fairways than 2004 should give an increase on the 51% FIR average but don’t expect a great deal more. Accuracy off the tee will be paramount this week; like it is at all US Open tracks given the punishment for stray shots into the rough.
Putting the pride and honour of winning a major championship to one side, there’s a season high $12,000,000 dollars in prize money to be distributed with a staggering $2,160,000 for the winner alone. That’s equates to exactly the same in Race to Dubai points for the European Tour and 600 FedExCup points for the winner on the PGA Tour.
To put it simply, golf events don’t come bigger than this.
The first round tees off at 06:45 EDT on Thursday. It’s not to be missed.