U.S. Open 2020: Put DJ's name on the trophy? Rahm's major breakthrough? - The experts' picks

By Sports Desk September 16, 2020

The 2020 U.S. Open tees off at Winged Foot on Thursday, but who will have their hands on the trophy come Sunday?

It has been 14 years since this notoriously tricky course last hosted the tournament, when Geoff Ogilvy was the surprise winner.

A score of five over got the job done for the Australian and the suggestion this year is that another over-par tally could clinch it.

With likely contender Brooks Koepka absent, we have taken a look at who should be in the mix...


PUT DUSTIN'S NAME ON THE TROPHY – Russell Greaves

I'm not going to win any awards for bravery with this choice, but world number one Dustin Johnson is impossible to ignore right now. He claimed his first FedExCup triumph this month following two wins in the Playoffs and is long overdue a second major success. The one to his name came at this event in 2016 and his game is in an even better place now than it was then, with his putter running red hot. This guy just needs to keep doing what he's been doing, and victory will be his.

RAHM HAS FORM TO TAKE MAIDEN MAJOR – Chris Myson

"I know I can do it," said Jon Rahm at his pre-tournament media conference and it is not difficult to see why he is rated as second favourite to triumph. While he is yet to claim major glory, the Spaniard recorded his best performance with a tie for third in this event last year. Thirteenth at the US PGA displayed further major form, while wins at the Memorial Tournament and BMW Championship since the PGA Tour's return came on difficult courses that should serve him well at Winged Foot, an infamously challenging venue. Rahm's time may have come.

IT'S RYDER CUP STAR FLEETWOOD'S TIME TO SHINE – Dominic Farrell

Eyebrows were raised when Tommy Fleetwood opted to play at the Portugal Masters rather than heading to the United States for his final preparations for the second major of the year. But as the Englishman birdied three of the last four holes for a final round 64 and an eventual share of third, it suddenly looked an inspired decision. Fleetwood loves the U.S. Open and, after a quiet year – even by the standards of 2020 – there were encouraging signs a game suited to the tournament's famously tough set-up is in good order. The Ryder Cup star came fourth at Erin Hills in 2017 and second at Shinnecock Hills a year later, underlining his pedigree.

SCHAUFFELE'S TIME HAS COME – John Skilbeck

This comes not from the heart but the head: Xander Schauffele is due a major. Two seconds and a third in the last seven majors point to that, and he would relish a dogfight at Winged Foot. As Schauffele said after racking up another top-10 finish at the US PGA: "I'm definitely a grinder type. I don't mind making good bogeys and stuff like that. The harder it is, the better it is for me." The winning score when the 2006 US Open came to Winged Foot was Geoff Ogilvy's five over par, yet Davis Love III took the 1997 US PGA on the same course with an 11-under total, so it is tricky to judge how low the winner must go this time. Schauffele's joint-second place at the Tour Championship confirmed his game is in an excellent place.

SIMPSON A STRONG BET FOR SECOND TITLE – Nicholas McGee

A winner of this tournament at Olympic Club in 2012, Webb Simpson enjoyed a stellar 2020 that has featured six top-10s including two wins and just a pair of missed cuts. The world number six also has a game that should see him rise to the stern challenge Winged Foot's narrow fairways and heavy rough are sure to provide. Simpson was 18th in driving accuracy during the 2020 season, hitting 67.31 per cent of fairways. His form has flown under the radar compared to that of Dustin Johnson, but don't be surprised if Simpson is a two-time champion come Sunday.

RORY'S THE DADDY – Peter Hanson

It's fair to say Rory McIlroy's form has not yet hit the same heights he reached prior to golf's hiatus as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But there were encouraging signs with a tie for 12th at the BMW Championship, a tournament which preceded McIlroy becoming a father for the first time to Poppy Kennedy McIlroy. The Northern Irishman then proceeded to claim a first top-10 finish since golf's lockdown was lifted with a tie for seventh at the Tour Championship. A relaxed, if perhaps a little sleep-deprived, McIlroy is a danger for the rest of the field. It's not a particularly brave choice, but major number five is achievable for McIlroy this weekend.

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    Law in order with Tigers

    Lawrence threw for 10,098 yards in his Clemson career. There were 90 touchdown passes and just 17 interceptions in an impressive three-year run, while the average yards per attempt improved - 8.26 to 9.00, then 9.44 – in each of his seasons in South Carolina.

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    "He knows that it might take a little time to change the program around, but just because he came from that winning culture at Clemson and even in high school, he barely lost any games in high school, he just has that winning mindset.

    "He's going to do whatever it takes to change that program around and make them a winning team. I have no doubt he's going to do that."

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    Coping with the heat

    Pressure is coming in many different forms for Lawrence, who prepared for his impending football marriage with the Jaguars by tying the knot with his long-time girlfriend.

    The 21-year-old will have to cope with not just the expectations of a new team's fanbase but also the national spotlight. Going first overall comes with added pressure in itself, but with an opening round set to see a bevy of young quarterbacks selected in the early stages, there will inevitably be comparisons to his fellow rookies.

    Then there is also the added focus awaiting him from NFL defenses. Jacksonville gave up 44 sacks in the 2020 season, one more than Lawrence endured in his entire career at Clemson.

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    'The ultimate competitor'

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    "He's trying to win every single day. Every single rep, he's trying to be perfect, and if it's not, if you miss a ball in practice, we're doing it like three or five times afterwards just so we can have it on mind, that muscle memory that it actually works.

    "He's one of those that prepares like a pro. Ever since he got on campus his freshman year, he prepared outstanding and it showed on the field. I have no doubts he's going to succeed at the next level."

    Lawrence has the talent, temperament and tenacity required to prosper. Now he just has to wait for the formalities of getting picked before joining a franchise desperately in need of a superstar.

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