Brooks Koepka has been installed as the favorite to triumph at the upcoming US Open after his commanding victory at last month’s PGA Championship. The 29-year-old American has now won three of the last five available majors, taking his tally to four overall, and he has targeted double digits before his career winds down. He has won the US Open for the past two years and carries a great deal of momentum into this year’s tournament, so his status as the favorite is understandable. But can he pull it off?
Koepka has now dethroned Dustin Johnson as the world number one and there will be a degree of pressure on his shoulders as he heads to Pebble Beach for the US Open. Yet he has appeared relaxed in interviews, where he is finally getting the credit he deserves.
“It’s been a hell of a run,” he said as he reflected on his recent spell of dominance. “It’s been fun. I’m trying not to let it stop. It’s super enjoyable, and just try to ride that momentum going into Pebble.”
Most sportsbooks believe he has what it takes to maintain that momentum and they have made him the outright favorite to lift the trophy. Yet he faces stern competition. Johnson, who finished second at the PGA Championship and T2 at the Masters earlier this year, looks like Koepka’s closest rival. He won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2009 and 2010, and he has since secured four top-five finishes. He was top of the leaderboard after 54 holes when the US Open was last held at this course in 2010, only to finish eighth after a poor final round. Yet he is more experienced now and he will be desperate to secure a second career major and return to number one in the world.
Johnson has the scrambling ability, the strokes gained from tee to green and the composure to win here, and he just has to overcome the major hoodoo he is currently experiencing.
There are several other big names in with a chance of success, with Jordan Spieth well backed and the likes of Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose always in the conversation. Promising stars such as Xander Shauffele and veterans like Phil Mickelson have the ability to make things interesting too, so it should be an open and entertaining contest with lots of stars vying for glory.
Yet the majority of the hype will surround Tiger Woods, who won by a record-breaking 15 shots when he seized the US Open at Pebble Beach back in 2000. He then entered a remarkably dominant spell, taking his tally to 14 majors when he won the US Open for the third time in 2008. It seemed inevitable that he would break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18, yet everything then fell apart amid the infidelity scandal and the resulting fallout, with injuries and personal problems mounting up. Yet he completed one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history when he landed the Masters earlier this year.
He is now just three behind Nicklaus in the all-time stakes and the Golden Bear believes Woods can blitz the field at the US Open this month.
“I would consider him the favorite,” said Nicklaus. Woods disappointed in the PGA Championship, but Nicklaus said that is to be expected following the emotions experienced at the Masters. He reckons that will serve as a wake-up call for Woods and that he will play well at Pebble. Yet Koepka is now being touted as the next Woods or Nicklaus, and if he can secure another symbolic triumph over Woods in this month’s US Open it would further fuel those claims.