Nick Bonfield assesses the English challenge at Shinnecock Hills and reveals why he thinks an Englishman will win the US Open
Why an Englishman will win the US Open
The first US Open was contested at Newport Country Club back in 1895. Englishman Horace Rawlins came out on top, with compatriot Joe Lloyd reigning supreme two years later at Chicago Golf Club. In fact, five different Englishman lifted the US Open before the start of the Second World War (along with Jersey’s Harry Vardon).
Since then, however, only two have come out on top – Tony Jacklin in 1970 and Justin Rose in 2013. But in spite of that, I believe a golfer from England will ultimately triumph at Shinnecock Hills come Sunday night.
That might seem like a fairly brash proclamation given that Americans occupy five of the top nine spots on the Official World Golf Ranking, but my confidence stems from a combination of form, course attributes and quantity of Englishmen in the field.
Let’s start with Rose, who looks odds-on to contend on Long Island. In fact, much of my anglo optimism is down to the World No.3.
Rose is on an incredible run of form. He hasn’t missed a cut since the 2017 USPGA Championship and his last 20 worldwide starts have yielded 16 top-tens and four victories, most recently the Fort Worth Invitational, where he produced a prodigious display of ball-striking.
He won the US Open in 2013, hitting a series of clutch shots down the stretch, he’s comfortable in firm and fast links-style conditions and he simply has no chinks in his armour. In fact, he’s even managed to turn a former weakness into a strength.
Let’s look at the statistics here. So far this season, Rose ranks 10th on the PGA Tour in Strokes: Gained putting. To put that into context, he’s finished outside the top 100 in that category for the last six seasons and has never cracked the top 50.
And it’s not just on the putting greens where he’s excelling. He’s 17th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, 15th in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green, 8th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, 6th in Sand Save Percentage, 2nd in Strokes Gained: Total, 2nd in Scoring Average and 1st in Birdie Average. That’s a remarkable set of statistics.
But Rose isn’t the only one with a good chance of Major success at Shinnecock Hills.
Tommy Fleetwood has been on a significant upward trajectory over the last 18 months or so. He’s the current European No.1 and he finished in a tie for 4th at Erin Hills in 2017. He’s a tremendous driver of the golf ball, his all-round statistics are more than encouraging and he’s only finished outside the top 25 on the PGA Tour once since February. He’s worked his way to World No. 12 and he’ll be aiming to break the top ten for the first time at Shinnecock Hills.
The man one spot ahead of him in the rankings is compatriot Paul Casey. He’s been suffering with injury recently, but he’s a top-ten machine when he’s fit and healthy. He’s a tremendous ball-striker, which bodes very well for any US Open, and he co-led the tournament after 36 holes last year.
These three Englishmen will attract most of the money in the betting markets, but others in the field warrant deliberation too.
While slightly out of form, Tyrrell Hatton is a fine player who has a tremendous record on links-style courses. Ross Fisher is one of the best drivers of the golf ball in the world and Matthew Fitzpatrick’s game is perfectly suited to US Open conditions.
Elsewhere, Ian Poulter has been on a great run of form – three top-11s and a top 20 in his last four starts – and Danny Willett showed some good signs in Italy after a spell in the doldrums.
I don’t expect the other nine English players in the field to be in a battle for the US Open trophy come Sunday, but the likes of Matt Wallace, Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston and Tom Lewis have all won events on the European Tour. Stranger things have certainly happened.