On Thursday, the golfing planets align and stand in perfect unison for the US Open, the second major of the year. This years event, notorious for being the sternest test of golf on American soil, is set to be staged at Pinehurt, on the No. 2 Course, in North Carolina. But which names are we going to be talking about come Sunday afternoon, when the tournament is in its nittiest and grittiest?

For a start, Tiger is not going to be there. It is certainly arguable that this isn’t as important a point as it used to be. Tiger’s mere absence in a quality field would usually cause commentators to bellow how open and up for grabs everything would be in his absence. But Woods hasn’t won a major since 2008, and has been in and out of consistent tournament golf since his personal issues were revealed to the world. When he has been playing, he has been completely mercurial – red hot one minute, combusting into the nearest water hazard the next. And when he is on, he is ON. You can’t stop him. But thanks to this changeability, Woods’ absence means less now than it used to, despite him still being the biggest draw in golf. Tournament executives want him there, because without him ratings suffer, but astute golf followers will know that golf is in rude health with or without him, with plenty of international stars that readily eclipse him.

Wins last week for Rory McIlroy and world number 1 Adam Scott put them both firmly in this bracket. Adam Scott is a loved man on tour who everyone wants to do well, and his form in the last couple of years has been both consistent and spectacular. Rory came from 7 back last week to claim his the European Tour flagship event at Wentworth, and when it comes to form, he has been very sneaky about it. Ten events this year, eight top ten finishes. If that isn’t form, what is? They are both drawn together in this week’s PGA event at Memorial, which should in itself be very interesting. These two boys are right at the height of world golf in terms of their firm, and will be the ones to shoot down at Pinehurst.

There are so many golfers enjoying consistency in both majors and weekly PGA events. Luke Donald has revamped his swing, elongated his length of the tee, and that, twinned with his already electrifying short game, has seen him, in recent weeks, produce some of the golf that took him to world number one only a short few years ago. He should certainly feature. Justin Rose should also be there or there abouts, and, of course, he is the defending champion. Graeme McDowell loves the US Open, and Ian Poulter will, as usual, do everything he possibly can to nail that first major – as will a certain Lee Westwood, who is laser precise around the golf course and unbeatable when he gets his putter to match his stunning long game. Jimmy Walker has been in great form on the US PGA in the first half of this year, but is an unknown quantity when it comes to Majors and their tougher tests. This year Matt Kuchar always seems to appear scrapping it out on tournament Sundays, and puts himself in the major picture often – as does Jason Day, even though Augusta would clearly be his favourite given how close he has come to winning it there. He won the WGC-Accenture Match Play in February, so he’s got a win under his belt this year already. And who would write off Bubba Watson, who won this years first major? To hold off the competition, he showed tremendous stoutness and course management. If he fancies it, he fancies it.

The man I’ll be watching out for the most however, is 20 year old world number 10 Jordan Spieth. It’s not a question of if he will win a major one day, as opposed to when. He was majestic at Augusta in April, finishing as runner up, and has the cool head and prodigious game to suggest he is absolutely here to stay. With him at 20, and McIlroy at 25, I picture many McIlroy/Spieth face-offs down the oncoming years, and this could well be the first. One of these two for me, but golf is so open at present, so rich with exciting players playing well, that it will surely be another exciting event which comes down to that fateful back nine on sunday afternoon.

About The Author

Robert Parker

Book-writing, movie-watching, sport-obsessing, wife-spoiling, daughter-wrangling, son-of-a-gun. Always smiling, always writing. Plenty of both in the tank.

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