Nick Bonfield looks at five US Open outsiders who have the potential to do something special at Erin Hills
US Open outsiders worth backing at Erin Hills
As such, the list of past winners is extremely strong. It’s the sports sternest examination and, as a result, you see far fewer players surging through the field with one low round. You need to be at the top of your game for four days to win the US Open. Naturally, the game’s top players are best prepared to do that.
However, it’s still a golf tournament, and that means there’s a degree of inherent unpredictability. No one expected Jack Fleck to outduel Ben Hogan in the 1955 US Open, or for Lucas Glover to reign supreme at Bethpage Black in 2009.
So who might this year’s surprise packages be? Let’s take a look at some US Open outsiders who could feature at Erin Hills…
Why not start with the 2009 US Open champion? Glover has recorded four top-seven finishes on the PGA Tour so far this season, including at the Players Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational – two big events. His ball-striking statistics are also incredibly good – he’s 9th in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee and 3rd in Greens in Regulation. If he has a good week with the putter – which admittedly are few and far between – he could challenge.
Like Glover, Kevin Chappell isn’t the greatest putter, but he’s very solid from tee to green and he’ll be playing with a weight off his shoulders after registering his maiden PGA Tour victory at the Valero Texas Open in April. Chappell has also proved he’s adept at dealing with US Open conditions in the past, notching back-to-back top-ten finishes in 2011 and 2012 when he was much lower down the world rankings. Erin Hills will play to 7,800 yards, which will suit the better ball strikers in the field.
Englishman Tommy Fleetwood is having an incredible ball-striking year. He’s a great driver of the ball and he’s hit more than 80% of greens in regulation on the European Tour so far this season. For context, only four players in the history of the European Tour have completed an entire season hitting more than 80% of greens – Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose. What do they have in common? They are all Major Champions. Fleetwood already has a top-two finish to him name in Central America in 2017 – achieved at the WGC-Mexico Championship – and he’s recorded three top-two finishes so far in 2017, including a victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Related: Tommy Fleetwood swing sequence
In my opinion, Brian Harman is one of the most underrated players on the PGA Tour. Granted, he isn’t at all flashy, but he’s solid off the tee and he possesses a quite brilliant short game. He’s a genius with any sort of wedge in his hand and he’s one of the best putters in world golf. His short-game skills will come in handy on a long golf course where missed greens will be commonplace. He registered his second PGA Tour victory earlier this season at the Wells Fargo Championship, one of ten top-25 finishes on the PGA Tour this season.
I know what you’re thinking… how can you possibly include a man who’s won once on the PGA Tour in more than ten years as a member, and someone who’s notoriously twitchy under pressure, on this list? My answer? Funny things happen in golf (see every season ever). Admittedly Na isn’t in the best form, but he’s a good iron player and an excellent chipper, and he can be dangerous on the greens when he finds his range. His recent US Open results also prove he has the constitution to deal with the challenge of the year’s toughest Major. He finished 29th in 2012, 12th in 2014 and 7th last year – his best ever Major finish.