There are a whole host of players capable of winning the US Open this week, but who are the most likely suspects in the hunt for glory?
It’s no surprise that the bookmakers view Johnson as the strong favourite for the year’s second major championship.
Prior to the freak injury that ruled him out of the Masters, the American was a truly dominant force in the men’s game, winning three tournaments in three starts – the Genesis Open, the WGC-Mexico Championship and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play – as he shot to the top of the world rankings.
Unfortunately, fate intervened on the eve of the year’s first major at Augusta when Johnson suffered a nasty fall down a staircase at his rental home, ruling him out of the tournament for which he was the overwhelming favourite.
Johnson returned to the PGA Tour in early May and immediately grabbed a second place at the Wells Fargo Championship, although he did suffer his first missed cut since January in the Memorial Tournament in early June. Inbetween those two events, he finished T12 at the Players Championship and T13 at the Byron Nelson.
It would be fair to say he hasn’t yet returned to the kind of form he showed prior to his Masters mishap, but that could very easily happen at Erin Hills, where he is the defending champion following his maiden major triumph 12 months ago.
Johnson’s record over the past year remains staggering – by far the best of any player in the world – and he’s still the man to beat.
It’s been a while since Jordan Spieth set the world alight in 2015. Back then, the 21-year-old (he’s 23 now) won both the Masters and the US Open, before being crowned FedEx Cup champion later that same year following his triumph at the season-ending Tour Championship. Comparisons with Tiger Woods abounded as golf prepared to crown its new heir apparent.
Spieth hasn’t been able to rise to those kind of lofty heights since, but he’s still one of the world’s best players by a comfortable margin and regularly finds himself in the mix for big wins.
Spieth captured his first victory of the season at Pebble Beach back in February, finished just outside the top 10 at Augusta and was runner-up at the Dean & Deluca Inviational only a couple of weeks ago.
Consecutive missed cuts at the Players Championship and Byron Nelson were uncharacteristic for him, however, and it would be fair to see he blows hotter and colder these days than he has at other times in his career.
Don’t be surprised to find him right near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday, however.
No one is quite sure in what kind of shape Rory McIlroy’s game will be in at Erin Hills.
The Northern Irishman only recently confirmed his participation in the tournament, after spending the last few weeks on the sidelines with a lingering rib injury which has been making life uncomfortable for him.
The injury, which McIlroy first suffered in the off-season, flared up again at the Players Championship, and has contributed to yet more downtime for a player already short on match practice.
Since the end of the WGC-Match Play on March 22, McIlroy has played in only two tournaments: the Masters, where he finished a very respectable seventh, and the Players, where he was well off the pace down in 35th place.
Having also pulled out of the Memorial, which would have been his final US Open warm-up, McIlroy will now head straight to Erin Hills, hopefully fully healed, to make only his sixth appearance of the season.
His incredible talent means he must be considered one of the favourites, even if the current state of his game doesn’t necessarily reinforce that.
Another player arriving in Erin Hills with a bit of a question mark hanging over his head is Jason Day, the supremely talented Australian who until recently was the world’s top-ranked player.
Day hasn’t quite been himself at times in 2017, though with his mother currently battling cancer, that’s no surprise. Back in March, an emotional Day withdrew from the World Match Play event because he was struggling to focus on the job at hand.
His mother has since received good news on her condition, however, and Day has returned to the fold for several tournaments.
Just in the last few weeks, he has started to show the kind of form that suggests he will be a force at the US Open – a second place finish at the Byron Nelson followed by another solid 15th place at the Memorial.
It’s been a while since Day has been in the winner’s circle, but like Johnson, his impressive length off the tee and his strength from out of the rough should stand him in good stead at Erin Hills, a course which demands both power and accuracy.
The Asian favourite – Hideki Matsuyama
This year, several Asian players are in with a decent shout of walking away with the top prize, but none more so than Hideki Matsuyama.
The 25-year-old Japanese player has been coming into his own this year, suggesting he has the skill and the talent to turn into one of the world’s best players.
His victory at the Phoenix Open over a quality field back in February was his fourth on the PGA Tour, while his T11 finish at the Masters once again proved he can turn one the heat even on the biggest stages of them all.
Matsuyama has four top-10 finishes in major championships since 2013, including a T4 at the PGA Championship last year.
It seems only a matter of time before he goes all the way.