Home » U.S. Open storylines: Can Xander Schauffele (or anyone else) top Scottie Scheffler?

U.S. Open storylines: Can Xander Schauffele (or anyone else) top Scottie Scheffler?

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PINEHURST, N.C. — Discuss a stark distinction.

After the PGA Championship offered one of the best golfers on the earth with an execution check at Valhalla Nation Membership that featured a successful rating of 21-under (the bottom ever in main championship historical past), the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 offers one thing totally totally different.

The sand hills of North Carolina will check each facet of every participant’s sport throughout what is anticipated to be a sizzling and humid week. And although there is a clear favourite, there are additionally 155 different gamers within the discipline wanting to show the third main of the 12 months into their shining second.

Listed here are 5 storylines we’re watching at Pinehurst this week.

Scottie Scheffler’s dominance

Nobody’s presence looms bigger over this golf event than Scottie Scheffler’s. He has been talked about in each information convention, is the speak of each his friends and followers and is way and away the favourite to win this week, to not point out one of the best participant on the earth by a wholesome margin.

After successful the Memorial Event and including to his five-win complete for 2024, it continues to really feel like barring any setback — be it harm or one thing out of the unusual — Scheffler will contend each time he tees it up. As Viktor Hovland defined, it is not simply that Scheffler is successful, it is that even when he does not play in addition to he can, he can nonetheless win.

“All of us hit nice photographs out right here, and there are loads of guys which are spectacular, however you already know the outdated saying: It is not about how good your good photographs are, it is how good your unhealthy photographs are,” Hovland stated. “He is actually taking part in a sport the place his unhealthy photographs are nonetheless good.”

This 12 months, Scheffler performed in 13 occasions and completed inside the highest 10 in 12 of them. He leads the tour in strokes gained: complete averaging almost 3 strokes gained over the sector common. Even his placing has now improved to about tour common, which is sufficient for him to win just about every little thing on any given week.

“He’s the gold commonplace proper now,” Bryson DeChambeau stated. “And we’re all wanting as much as him going, ‘All proper, how can we get to that stage?'”

“Scottie is doing unbelievable issues,” PGA champion Xander Schauffele stated. “Each week we play, he appears to construct a much bigger lead, and in some way make the mountain even taller for all of us to climb.”

For all of the genuflecting gamers are doing round Scheffler, it is evident they need to beat him and his play is simply motivating them much more. The duty at hand just isn’t simple. Past the standard of Scheffler’s sport being what it’s, it is arduous to think about a course that matches Scheffler higher than Pinehurst No. 2 with its demand on ballstriking and brief sport — each of that are arguably Scheffler’s greatest strengths.

“What I admire about this type of course is loads of the areas across the greens are all fairway, and so it could be extraordinarily tough photographs, however there’s all the time alternative,” Scheffler stated. “I consider it is a greater check than simply having heavy tough over the again of each inexperienced.”

If it is a true check that this course will present, there isn’t any one with a greater probability of acing it than the No.1 participant on the earth. — Uggetti

Who can beat Scheffler?

If Scheffler does not win his third main this week, then Schauffele may be poised to win his second straight. Exterior of Scheffler, nobody is taking part in higher golf than Schauffele.

The 30-year-old from San Diego completed within the prime 25 in every of his previous 10 begins on tour, together with seven within the prime eight. He tied for second on the Gamers Championship, was solo second on the Wells Fargo Championship, a signature occasion, after which captured his first main finally month’s PGA Championship.

After ready so lengthy to win a significant — 28 begins to be precise — Schauffele stated he is not carried out.

“Simply checked one field,” Schauffele stated. “Simply loads of unchecked packing containers. I simply checked one field, which is admittedly cool. Clearly, a field very a lot on the prime of my checklist. However nonetheless much more to do, clearly.”

Schauffele has been particularly good within the U.S. Open. He completed within the prime 10 in six of his seven begins within the event, together with a tie for third at Pebble Seashore Golf Hyperlinks in California in 2019.

What’s Schauffele’s secret to success?

“Simply what I carry week to week, just a bit bit of additional persistence,” he stated. “It’s important to ramp that up slightly bit extra throughout these weeks. All U.S. Opens, they’re distinctive in their very own method. However all of them really feel like par is a good rating, and you actually have to simply plot your method round a property.

“I used to be right here per week in the past only for slightly tuneup, and the best way the course is taking part in now’s considerably totally different already. I can solely think about what it is going to appear like in two days.” — Schlabach

Pinehurst is able to chew

Even earlier than Wyndham Clark known as the greens at Pinehurst No. 2 “borderline,” gamers have been already experiencing the robust problem the course will present this week. The firmness of the fairways and pace of the greens is already dialed up, establishing per week that might characteristic loads of inventive — and irritating — brief sport photographs across the course’s diabolical greens.

“The previous few days taking part in follow rounds — I am responsible in addition to the remainder of the fellows I’ve performed with — we have putted off loads of greens,” Tiger Woods stated. “It relies upon how extreme the USGA needs to make this and the way shut they need to get us as much as these sides. However I foresee similar to in ’05 watching among the guys play pingpong forwards and backwards. It might occur.”

Woods, for his half, stated he is been utilizing every little thing from his 60-degree wedge to his 4-iron to hit totally different photographs across the inexperienced. DeChambeau stated he’ll doubtless keep on with his wedges and putter, whereas gamers equivalent to Collin Morikawa have even tried hybrids and fairway woods.

The occasion and the course current a unique problem than what PGA Tour gamers (and LIV gamers, for that matter) face on a week-to-week foundation. Lengthy irons, particularly on par 3s, might be lots, and hitting the inexperienced might be a fair greater benefit this week than another. When you’re on, nevertheless, you are not protected both.

“I do not actually know the place they are going to find yourself placing the pins. But when they have been, in my view, borderline yesterday when the greens have been smooth,” Hovland stated, earlier than praising the raised, upside-down bowl nature of the greens. “What if it begins blowing up slightly bit and the greens simply hold getting firmer and quicker? It’s going to be simply attention-grabbing to see.”

Whether or not it is reward or preemptive criticism, Pinehurst won’t solely be robust to overcome this week, however it must also present nice theater as gamers chart their method round a golf course that can make them suppose lots over each shot.

“I feel a course like this undoubtedly calls for a unique ability set and in addition some creativity,” Rory McIlroy stated. “I feel for the viewer at dwelling, that is extra thrilling than seeing guys hack out of 4-inch tough on a regular basis. Hopefully, that involves fruition and it’s an thrilling golf event.” — Uggetti

What is going to the LIV Golf League gamers do?

Within the final U.S. Open performed at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014, Martin Kaymer ran away from the sector and gained by a whopping 8 strokes to change into the primary man from Germany to win the event.

After successful, Kaymer, now captain of Cleeks GC within the LIV Golf League, hadn’t been again to Pinehurst till this week.

“Yeah, final time I used to be right here was once I gained,” Kaymer stated. “I dwell in Germany, and it is not likely a spot that you simply simply swing by rapidly for a pair days. Clearly, coming right here with all these good recollections, once I performed at present it felt like I left yesterday. The golf course appears to be like slightly bit totally different than 10 years in the past, however the feeling was very optimistic.”

Kaymer, 39, is even staying in the identical room in a lodge close to the course that he did a decade in the past.

“I do not know if it helps,” Kaymer stated. “It can not harm, I assume. I am slightly bit superstitious when it comes right down to that. I feel, regardless, it is going to be a very nice week.”

Kaymer is one among 12 gamers from the LIV Golf League within the U.S. Open discipline; Jon Rahm withdrew on Tuesday due to an harm to his left foot. After a stellar efficiency within the majors in 2023 (Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka tied for second on the Masters, then Koepka gained his third PGA Championship), it has been a so-so begin this 12 months.

There have been three LIV Golf gamers within the prime 10 on the Masters (DeChambeau and Cameron Smith tied for sixth and Tyrrell Hatton tied for ninth) and only one on the PGA Championship (DeChambeau was second).

“I feel Houston was truly a fairly stable check for us,” DeChambeau stated. “The Bermuda fairways and greens are considerably much like this week, so there was undoubtedly some thought put into that. We make certain over there to try to set the schedule applicable relative to the majors, as effectively.” — Schlabach

Who’s going to the Olympics?

There’s greater than the U.S. Open trophy and a $20 million purse on the road at Pinehurst No. 2 this week. There are additionally spots within the Olympics males’s golf event up for grabs. The cutoff to qualify for the event, scheduled for Aug. 1-4 at Le Golf Nationwide exterior Paris, is on Monday.

The highest 15 gamers — however not more than 4 from every nation — within the Official World Golf Rating will mechanically qualify. After that, the remainder of the 60-man discipline might be stuffed with not more than two gamers from a single nation based mostly on OWGR.

Because it stands, Scheffler (No. 1), Schauffele (No. 2), Clark (No. 4) and Morikawa (No. 7) would characterize the U.S.

Schauffele gained a gold medal on the Tokyo Olympics in August 2021.

There are 5 different Individuals within the prime 15 of the OWGR — No. 9 Patrick Cantlay, No. 10 Max Homa, No. 11 Sahith Theegala, No. 12 Brian Harman and No. 15 Keegan Bradley — however they would not be eligible to compete within the Olympics below the choice guidelines.

Morikawa jumped Cantlay within the OWGR with a runner-up end on the Memorial final week, so there actually might be further motion on the U.S. squad after the U.S. Open.

Different golfers who appear assured of being eligible for the Olympics embody Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick (Nice Britain), Hovland (Norway), McIlroy and Shane Lowry (Eire), Hideki Matsuyama (Japan), Tom Kim and Ben An (South Korea) and Jon Rahm (Spain).

One of many tightest races is for the 2 spots on the Canadian group. Final week, Adam Hadwin completed third on the Memorial and moved from No. 59 to No. 35 within the OWGR. He jumped good pal Corey Conners (No. 46) to probably be part of Nick Taylor (No. 32) on the group. — Schlabach

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