For forty years no British player ever got close to winning the US Open; it was a tournament that usually prompted an American winner. However, with three Brits winning the event over the course of the last four years, it would be fair to say that the tide has now changed.
This Thursday sees the event return to Pinehurst in North Carolina; a course that has been regarded as one of the more difficult to play over the years. There are some suggestions that this could play straight into the hands of some of the British contenders, with recent US Open victors Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell winning the 2010 and 2013 event with relatively high, conservative scores.
Unsurprisingly, Rory McIlroy is right up there as the favourite for the tournament. This isn’t just out of the British field either, most people are tipping McIlroy to add to his existing tally of two majors. He’s already succeeded in this tournament having lifted the trophy in 2011 and his form over the last few weeks has led many to believe that he is in optimum condition ahead of Pinehurst. He has recorded five top ten finishes in his last six events, with one of these being his BMW PGA Championship victory.
Having won the US Open last year, it’s no surprise to see Rose being branded as a potential winner for the 2014 event. If he does manage the unthinkable, it will be the first time in 25 years that a player has managed to successfully defend their title in this competition.
There is evidence to suggest that he’s coming into form at exactly the right time as well. While he hasn’t won a tournament this year, he has finished fourth and fifth in The Players Championship and Wells Fargo Championship respectively over the past few weeks. Whether or not he can go one step further and fly the flag for Britain again remains to be seen though.
Lee Westwood always seems to find himself in contention for major tournaments and there have been umpteen occasions where he’s been on the tip of glory, only to fall at the final hurdle. He managed to finish third in both 2008 and 2011, although his recent results suggest that things might be more difficult this time around. He has missed the cut in three of his last six tournaments, although on a more positive note he did manage top ten finishes at the Players Championship and the Masters.
If you want to look like Westwood the next time you roll up to your local course, take a look at the Dunlop collection of golf shirts which he regularly dons.
Another former winner, there is naturally going to be plenty of attention on Graeme McDowell this week. McDowell started the season in fine form and a return of six top ten finishes out of seven events suggested that this could be another memorable year for the Northern Irishman. Unfortunately, things have gone off the rails somewhat over the past few weeks and after missing the cut at the Masters, he has proceeded to finish outside the top 20 on his past three events. Nevertheless, McDowell obviously has a knack of prevailing at the US Open and after winning the event in 2010, he also finished 2nd a couple of years later. It will now be interesting to see just how fares at the challenging Pinehurst.
For years Luke Donald has been one of those players that your typical Sunday morning is in awe of. He looks the part, has the textbook swing – but one thing has always been missing; victories. He is yet to record any sort of success in a major, with his best achievements being third place finishes at the Masters and PGA Championship. His 8th place finish in last year’s US Open was the best he has ever managed and prior to that he was regularly finishing outside the top forty or even missing the cut.
His overall form through 2014 has hardly been inspiring either, although after recording a 3rd place finish at the BMW PGA Championship and finishing 2nd at the RBC Heritage, some might suggest that he has an outside chance of prevailing at Pinehurst this year.