The consistent Australian has deservedly risen to number one in the world, reward for what has been a fine year. However, despite recording multiple top-10 finishes in each of the other three major championships and winning last year’s Masters, Scott has yet to place higher than 15th at the US Open. He will be eager to challenge this time around and can take confidence from recent form, having won the Crowne Plaza Invitational in late May before finishing fourth the following week at the Memorial Tournament.
A runner-up in the tournament on six occasions, Mickelson would love nothing more than to complete a career grand slam by finally triumphing in his national Open. The three-time Masters champion’s latest second-placed finish came at Merion in 2013, when he was pipped to glory by Justin Rose. He has also been agonisingly close to glory at Pinehurst, coming home a shot behind 1999 champion Payne Stewart, but his most painful near-miss occured in the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot, when a double-bogey on the last handed victory to Geoff Ogilvy.
Only 20 years of age, Spieth is arguably the brightest young talent on the PGA Tour. He threatened to become the youngest ever Masters champion in April when he shared the lead heading into the final round, only for Bubba Watson to claim a three-shot win at Augusta. Although he has yet to add to his victory at the 2013 John Deere Classic, Spieth has been in contention numerous times this season, recording six top-10 finishes, and could be there or thereabouts come Sunday.
A two-time Masters champion, Watson has struggled at the US Open since sharing fifth at the tournament in 2007. However, the Pinehurst layout – measuring a whopping 7,565 yards – should suit the big-hitting 35-year-old. The world number three can be maddeningly inconsistent, but is sure to be near the top of the leaderboard if he delivers his best form and could be hard to stop on the back of a good start.
Still only 25, McIlroy is expected to add many more majors to the two he has landed so far. He responded to a high-profile split with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki by winning last month’s BMW PGA Championship, while his last five appearances on American soil have yielded four top-10 finishes. The winner of this tournament by eight strokes in 2011, McIlroy will be keen to avoid the sloppy moments that have blighted a number of his recent major outings.
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