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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    "You want to speak about my mother?"

    Romelu Lukaku was seething. A yellow card and a stern talking to from referee Paolo Valeri having done nothing to lift the red mist.

    Inter's diminutive playmaker Nicolo Barella attaching himself to Lukaku's torso in a bid to calm the powerhouse striker was one of the more memorable sights of an action-packed first 45 minutes in this Milan derby for a place in the Coppa Italia semi-finals.

    Or the Derby della Madonnina, to give the game its full, grander title. A game that takes its name from a pristine golden statue of the Virgin Mary.

    It seemed for all the world that Zlatan Ibrahimovic had not spoken about Lukaku's mother with such reverence.

    Here was Milan's 39-year-old talisman, who suggested the youthful make-up of the Serie A leaders' XI was a factor in their 3-0 weekend defeat to Atalanta, deciding to display his own brand of leadership in the guise of juvenile schoolyard bully.

    Ibrahimovic's crowing chuckle as mayhem unfurled around him (Arturo Vidal got involved - of course he did - for no apparent reason) was one of a player who had recently enjoyed a familiar feeling for the 499th time in his career.

    Freed from shackles of their knife-edge Scudetto battle, both teams played with freedom and the intent to land a psychological blow. The fact each team had the same idea appeared to irritate all concerned, but it made for great entertainment.

    It is doubtful Antonio Conte would consider such a cavalier selection in league combat as he rolled out on Inter's left flank here. Ivan Perisic was at wing-back, paying as much attention as you'd expect to the part of his position lurking after the hyphen.

    That increased the defensive burden on Aleksandar Kolarov on, a defender who has worn 11 for the bulk of his career. Kolarov's shirt number is a statement of particular intent.

    Ibrahimovic showed he recognised that point of weakness in the 13th minute, when he leapt athletically to meet a Rafael Leao cross, knocking Perisic and Kolarov to the ground in the process. Brahim Diaz was just unable to turn home.

    Kolarov still seemed distracted when he backed off enough for the former Sweden international to fire though his legs and beyond Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.

    The script seemed written, goal 500 was surely on the way to take Ibrahimovic closer to yet another piece of silverware. Why not have some fun and wind up the opposition's star man.

    Ibrahimovic's language and his message seemed appalling, with ESPN footage showing him at one point appearing to yell: "Go do your voodoo s***, you little donkey."

    A flaw in the plan to rile Lukaku was the yellow card that Ibrahimovic received for his part in the spat. Not a problem in itself, but in the 58th minute he clumsily and needlessly fouled Kolarov to collect a second booking.

    Displaying none of his vast experience, Ibrahimovic had gone from hero to villain to idiot within half an hour of playing time.

    And so, it was over to the youngsters and backup players who the star striker sometimes seems to consider walk-on extras in his one-man show.

    First there was on-loan defender Fikayo Tomori, who was quickly disabused of the notion he had escaped chaos by leaving Chelsea this week. Thrust into a debut by Simon Kjaer's first-half injury, he made a brilliant last-ditch block to deny Lukaku.

    Alessio Romagnoli and Theo Hernandez defended heroically down the Milan left but reduced numbers forced willing attacking players back to man unfamiliar barricades. Leao was pressed into action and brought down Barella. After consulting the pitchside monitor Valeri pointed to the spot.

    Lukaku has been known to roll his penalties home. On this occasion, he tested the structural integrity of the crossbar and the ball ricocheted into the turf and home. Then there was a shouting match with a team-mate (Yes, Vidal; nope, no idea).

    Enough mayhem? Nonsense. Valeri had to limp out of the action injured. Fourth official Daniele Chiffi looked like he was putting on the microphone and headset for the first time in his life and 10 minutes of stoppage time were required.

    In the seventh of those, wantaway midfielder Christian Eriksen curled home a sumptuous free-kick, leaving Ciprian Tatarusanu no chance to add to his fine catalogue of eight saves.

    Last act for Eriksen? Maybe. Definitely last laugh for Lukaku.

    Ibrahimovic likes to call himself a lion but Tatarusanu and the Milan players he left behind were the lions here, roaring defiantly at wave after wave of Inter attacks before buckling at the last. Nine of Inter's 27 shots were blocked.

    After fatefully dwelling too long in self-parody at the end of the first half, Ibrahimovic owes them an apology, and surely Lukaku is also due one. Perhaps they shouldn't hold their breath.

  • Chelsea appoint Tuchel: Fixing Werner woes on new coach's to-do list Chelsea appoint Tuchel: Fixing Werner woes on new coach's to-do list

    Thomas Tuchel's appointment as the new Chelsea head coach was confirmed on Tuesday - and the new man does not have a lot of time to get settled.

    Frank Lampard was sacked on Monday, with Tuchel's widely anticipated arrival promptly following.

    The former Paris Saint-Germain coach took charge of training on his first day and will be thrust straight into the spotlight when Chelsea host Wolves on Wednesday.

    The Blues entered the latest round of Premier League fixtures sitting ninth in the table and Tuchel will be looking for an immediate impact.

    But there are long-term tasks to complete, too, if the German is to stay at Stamford Bridge beyond the end of his initial contract, which runs to 2022.
     

    HELP WERNER AND HAVERTZ

    Having worked with the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar during his time at PSG, Tuchel knows all about the challenges of motivating some of the world's top talents.

    At Chelsea, that will mean eliciting an improvement in the performance of his much-criticised compatriots Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.

    Werner, for whom Chelsea paid RB Leipzig close to £50million, scored 28 Bundesliga goals in 34 appearances last season but has mustered just four in 19 in the Premier League, the most recent of which came on November 7.

    Meanwhile, Havertz arrived from Bayer Leverkusen with a price tag in the region of £70million and a reputation as one of Europe's most creative young stars but has one goal, two assists and just 11 key passes to date.

    Tuchel will be asked to get more from the Germany pair to boost a Chelsea team who have scored only four goals in their past five league outings.
     

    KEEP ACADEMY ACES INVOLVED

    Hindered by a transfer ban in his first season in charge, Lampard at least made use of Chelsea's impressive academy to bring a number of young talents into the team.

    Perhaps most exciting among those were Mason Mount and Billy Gilmour.

    Both Mount, 22, and Gilmour, 19, started Lampard's final game in charge against Luton Town and formed a creative double-pivot in an attack-minded side, earning praise from the coach for their discipline and movement.

    Mount will surely feature in Tuchel's immediate plans, but Chelsea will hope both the England midfielder and team-mate Gilmour can continue to develop over the coming years.
     

    SETTLE ON HIS BEST SIDE

    Between the big spending ahead of this season and the promotion of a number of academy talents, Lampard was certainly not short of options. But that might have been to his detriment.

    Looking to pack an array of star names into a first XI, the team too often lacked balance.

    Juggling club captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James proved tricky, while Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma - seemingly Lampard's preferred centre-back pairing - have started together in only 14 of the 29 games so far this season in all competitions.

    There has been concern regarding the form of N'Golo Kante, perhaps played out of position, while Lampard struggled to work out the best fit up front in his 4-3-3.

    Tuchel must be more decisive.
     

    EFFECTIVELY MANAGE UPWARDS

    An increasingly strained relationship with director Marina Granovskaia reportedly contributed to Lampard's demise, so keeping the Chelsea board onside will be crucial for Tuchel.

    Dealings with the top brass at PSG in his previous job were not always straightforward for Tuchel and may have been a factor behind his departure from Paris, which came despite impressive results across recent seasons.

    Criticism of PSG's transfer business did not go down well with sporting director Leonardo, who fired back at the coach, telling him he "must decide to respect the choices of the sports management".

    Tuchel could hardly complain about the level of investment at Stamford Bridge over the past year, so similar comments towards Chelsea power-brokers would be unlikely to go down well.

  • Tuchel prospered at PSG - can he succeed at Stamford Bridge? Tuchel prospered at PSG - can he succeed at Stamford Bridge?

    A day after club great Frank Lampard was shown the door by Chelsea, Thomas Tuchel has been confirmed as the new head coach at Stamford Bridge.

    Having departed Paris Saint-Germain in late December, the highly regarded tactician will now continue his coaching career in England.  

    Former Borussia Dortmund boss Tuchel won two straight Ligue 1 titles and steered PSG to the Champions League final last season, yet ownership decided the time was right for a change in the French capital.

    Mauricio Pochettino's status as a free agent arguably persuaded PSG to act fast and the boot is now on the other foot for Tuchel, whose availability has allowed him to step straight in at Stamford Bridge.

    FROM PARIS TO LONDON

    There was little Christmas cheer for Tuchel, who left PSG with a record similar to his predecessor in the job - Unai Emery. Both recorded an average of 2.37 points per game in Ligue 1 - tied for the best in club history.  

    The German tops the list when it comes to top-flight win rate at 75.6 per cent (62 wins from 82 games), though that number dips slightly when taking into consideration all competitions, albeit only down to 74.8 per cent (Emery's was higher, at 76.3 per cent).

    Like Lampard, Tuchel lost his job on the back of a convincing home win. PSG thrashed Strasbourg 4-0 in his final game and, while that result on December 23 left them third in the table, they were sitting just a point behind leaders Lyon. 

    Only Laurent Blanc (173 games) was in the PSG post for longer than Tuchel in the time since Qatar Sports Investments purchased the French club. 

    Tuchel averaged 2.67 goals per game in Ligue 1.

    It helps to have a squad that contains stars such as Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, of course, though he was the first PSG boss to make it beyond the quarter-final stage of the Champions League, the one trophy that has so far eluded the owners.

    An unconvincing start this term was enough to lead to change. Tuchel became the first PSG head coach to be fired during a season despite sitting in the top three of Ligue 1 since Antoine Kombouare, who lost his job during the 2011-12 campaign.


    FAMILIARITY, PLUS A CASE FOR THE DEFENCE

    Roman Abramovich made clear he has the "utmost respect" for Lampard in the statement released to confirm his departure. Still, there was no doubt left over the reason for making the change. 

    "We are grateful to Frank for what he has achieved in his time as head coach of the club," the statement read from Chelsea.

    "However, recent results and performances have not met the club's expectations, leaving the club mid-table without any clear path to sustained improvement." 

    Chelsea have a home game against Wolves on Wednesday and Tuchel will get up and running by taking training on the eve of the match. He takes over a team in ninth place, though just five points off fourth in what is a congested league table. 

    It will be hoped the new man can get the best out of compatriots Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, two of Chelsea's big-money recruits in the previous window who have yet to fire. 

    However, Tuchel will also need to tighten things up at the back, particularly on the road. At PSG, his teams conceded 0.81 goals per game, while it should be noted they leaked just six in Champions League action in 2019-20.

    Since the start of the previous season, only Newcastle (54) have conceded more away goals in the Premier League than Chelsea (50).

    They kept a clean sheet in just 17 per cent of their away games under Lampard; among those to have taken charge of 10 or more such fixtures in the competition, this is the lowest percentage of any Chelsea boss. 

    Tuchel will, of course, be able to call upon his old PSG captain Thiago Silva in trying to mastermind a defensive revival.

    There will also be an expectancy to improve the team's fortunes against their major rivals, too. 

    Since August 2019, Chelsea have won just 15 points against fellow 'big six' sides, a joint-low tally alongside Arsenal. During that run, they have scored 17 goals and conceded 28 times. 

    At least Tuchel understands the demands of working for owners with lofty expectations. There is still time to turn this season around but, like his most recent Stamford Bridge predecessors, he will be expected to produce instant results.

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