Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson (Image: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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A New York major can be memorable on two fronts.
Not always for the right reasons when it comes to a partisan crowd, but nearly always because of a classic course.
We’ll be spared rowdy galleries at this week’s US Open, but Winged Foot is set to provide a serene and quality test.
A narrative is being pushed that we might see an over par winning total given that only one of six previous US Opens there has been won under-par, but I think that concern is being overhyped.
It will be tough, but the players are equipped to deal with anything Winged Foot’s challenging greens and dogleg holes throw at them.
Gary Woodland (inset) is defending champion and the type of powerhouse player that will relish this track even if he hasn’t kicked on from last year’s glorious takedown of Brooks Koepka.
The outstanding favourite on paper is Dustin Johnston – and for good reason.
He is World No1, FedEx Cup champion and in the form of his career.
The last time he arrived at a major in this kind of form was the 2017 Masters, when a domestic fall forced him to withdraw.
It’s hard to discount Johnson, but I suspect the law of averages is against him as golf has a real habit of bucking the trend.
Rory has a huge week in front of him and no doubt the recent arrival of daughter Poppy has helped him switch off.
(Image: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
I hope the welcome distraction of his first born child allows him to sneak under the radar in New York.
There’s no real spotlight on him this week but a content McIlroy is a threat.
He has the mindset and natural game to turn up and perform, even on the biggest of stages.
Yes, he hasn’t won a major in six years and there’s no doubt he will have tried many different forms of preparation since his last triumph at the 2014 PGA Championship.
But immersing himself in the joys of fatherhood and being the third most important person in his house all of a sudden might inspire him to deliver.
Top players can try too hard and sometimes being under-cooked mentally and not having time to overthink can be the secret to success.
This year’s US Open is loaded with A-listers and you could make a strong case for up to 15 players to come through on Sunday.
It is stacked with quality and Rory is one of those 15 players.
With a clear mind, he has the talent to upset the apple cart in the Big Apple.
Thee Irish girls' performance at ANA Inspiration great for the game
Pro Irish golfer and Davy brand ambassador Leona Maguire
Sunday's climax to the ANA Inspiration in California was one of the most enjoyable finales to a tournament I’ve seen all season.
From an Irish viewpoint the big story was that three of our girls made the cut for the first time in major history.
Leona Maguire secured her first ever top-20 finish at a major, while Stephanie Meadow and Olivia Mehaffey – still an amateur – also made the weekend.
It was a great story and I was thrilled to see our girls perform so admirably.
You can have all the marketing campaigns you want, but it’s performances and results that will grow the women’s game here.
That’s what Leona, Stephanie and Olivia (all inset) gave us in California.
The final day was full of drama with Nelly Korda in control and fending off Brooke Henderson before South Korean Mirim Lee made a late blindside run with a pitch-in birdie at the 16th and an eagle at the last to force a three-way playoff.
The shootout didn’t disappoint as Lee played the first playoff perfectly to card a birdie and edge out Korda and Henderson.
I loved the way the three girls played with such skill and rhythm under the gun.
The ANA Inspiration was proof the future is bright for women’s golf and our three Irish stars played their part.
Phil Mickelson's Cinderella story?
(Image: AFP/Getty Images)
This year’s Cinderella Story would be Phil Mickelson completing a grand slam of majors at the grand old age of 50.
Mickelson has racked up five majors so far in an illustrious pro career spanning 28 years, but he has yet to win the US Open. That’s a record he’d love to put right this week and if he drives it well in New York, he has the guile and short game to still be around come Sunday.
Mickelson (inset) will hope it’s his turn to get the rub of the green – something that has been painfully missing for him at previous US Opens.
He has finished runner-up at the event no fewer than six times before, including at Winged Foot in 2006.
There’s some scar tissue there, but his recent win on the Champions Tour is a reminder of his experience and quality.
Seeing Stewart Cink claim his first win in 11 years at the Safeway Open at the age of 47 should also provide a little inspiration.
Watch out for Daniel Berger
Daniel Berger is a fan of Bermuda grass
(Image: Getty Images)
I fancy a big week from Daniel Berger.
He has the physical attributes to tackle Winged Foot, has won on difficult courses before and possesses the ‘minerals’ to get over the line in a major.
As an American, he also has the added incentive of winning his national Open.
Jon Rahm – 9/1 EW
Europe’s top golfer is improving all the time and is my favourite at Winged Foot.
Rory McIlroy – 16/1 EW
Will be boosted by the ‘nappy factor’. I fancy a big week from the World No4.
Daniel Berger – 28/1 EW
Good post lockdown form. Talented American could make a major step up.
Hideki Matsuyama – 33/1 EW
An attractive price for a player who has US Open form and pedigree.
Henrik Stenson – 100/1 EW
Former World No1 is under cooked but represents big each way value.