The world’s best golfers head for Wisconsin this week for the year’s second Major championship. Dustin Johnson defends his title in the 117th US Open.

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Dustin Johnson will defend his US Open crown at Erin Hills in Wisconsin this week. The big hitting American will face strong competition with almost all of the world’s best gunning to prevent him becoming the first man to win back-to-back US Opens since Curtis Strange achieved that feat in 1988-89.

Rory McIlroy returns to action with a new putter and Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia all start. In fact, it’s expected that 58 of the world’s top-60 players will tee it up. The only ones missing will be Phil Mickelson, attending his daughter’s graduation and Ryan Moore who is injured. There will be 14 amateurs in the field this year, three more than last season.

Erin Hills opened for play in 2006. The track was designed by Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Ron Whitten. They set the course through the rolling farmland to the north of Milwaukee. With nearly no trees the course has an open feel and the wind can be a factor. Measuring over 7,700 yards, it’s one of the longest courses in US Open history, but power hitting will not be essential this week – accuracy will be to the fore as players aim for the running, rolling fairways protected by some pretty brutal rough – as you would expect in the US Open.

There are some exciting groups to watch out for in the first two rounds. Rory McIlroy will play with Justin Rose and Jason Day while defending champion Dustin Johnson will tee off with Martin Kaymer and Jordan Spieth.

Masters winner Sergio Garcia will be looking to make it back-to-back Major victories and he starts his campaign alongside Adam Scott and Bubba Watson.

For a long period in the latter part of the 20th century, the U.S. Open was dominated by home players but, since the turn of this century, the list of winners has a far more international feel: South Africa’s Retief Goosen won twice in 2001 and 2004, Michael Campbell of New Zealand won in 2005, Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy in 2006 followed by Angel Cabrera of Argentina in 2007. At Pebble Beach in 2010 Graeme McDowell became the first European since Tony Jacklin in 1970 to take the title. Since then, three have been three more European winners – Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy.

Rory’s practice tips:

Last year, Dustin Johnson of the USA finally broke his Major duck at Oakmont. He played some superb golf and shook off the threat of a penalty shot following his ball moving on the 5th green, to finish three clear of Jim Furyk, Scott Piercy and Shane Lowry.

The weather forecast has the chance of storms on Thursday and Friday. As stated above, the wind could play a significant role, coming from the west and south west throughout the tournament.

Venue: Erin Hills, Erin, Wisconsin
Date: June 15-18
Course stats: par 72, 7,741 yards
Purse: $12,000,000 Winner: $2,160,000
Defending Champion: Dustin Johnson (-4)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 15 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Friday 16 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Saturday 17 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Sunday 18 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm

Player Watch:

Jon Rahm – The young Spaniard has proven that he has the complete game necessary to win the very biggest events. This could be the week he becomes a Major champion.

Justin Rose – The 2013 champion lost a playoff to Sergio at The Masters and has been on good form all year. He was tied 12th at Wentworth.

Alex Noren – The winner at of the BMW PGA at Wentworth, Noren has climbed to 8th place on the Official World Golf Ranking. He’s earned his spot in the world’s top-10 and now he could justify it with a Major title.

Key hole: 18th. A monster par-5 that can stretch to 663 yards, this one requires a clear strategy and to find the correct areas on both drive, lay-up and approach. A par here will be hard earned.