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With Scottie Scheffler back to doing what he does best – winning golf tournaments – can anyone stop him at the US Open?

It’s one of the seven burning questions answered by the bunkered team as the world’s finest make their way to Pinehurst…

We went from Tony Jacklin in 1970 to Graeme McDowell in 2010 without a European winner. Since then we’ve won six of 14. Which of our continent-compatriots has the best chance of bringing America’s national championship back across the Atlantic?

James Tait: There’s only one man and that is Rory McIlroy.

Bryce Ritchie: This whole concept of “playing boring golf” came from a comment from Padraig Harrington, and it might have been correct at the time. Not so sure now. Some recent winners have played some truly exceptional golf. US Opens of late have thrown up big time winners, so the obvious choice is McIlroy. He’s in-form, suits the US Open, has no fear, the list goes on. 

Alex Perry: Maybe if I stop backing McIlroy, he might actually get over the line. I can’t. I have to.

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Michael McEwan: On current form, probably Viktor Hovland – which isn’t something I’d have said before the PGA. He’s seen the light, gone back to the coach and methods that won him the GDP of Austria last year, and consequently came agonisingly close to winning at Valhalla (which would have been extremely appropriate given the whole Nordic thing, wouldn’t it?). He’s had success on USGA set-ups before – the US Am, since you asked – so, if I had any Krone, I’d put a few on him. 

Lewis Fraser: Rather than thick, penal rough, we’ll get small, Donald Ross greens with brutal run-offs at Pinehurst. For that reason, you need a sharp short game and a good imagination around the greens and with that in mind, I like Robert MacIntyre’s chances this week. Sure, it’s a big ask to win in two consecutive starts, but he’s been going well for several weeks now.

Ben Parsons: Jon Rahm. Beware the injured golfer and all that. Also he can’t keep playing this badly in majors, can he?  

John Turnbull: Tyrrell Hatton fits the mould and trends of a winner this year. If his clubs follow him onto the plane, that would help, too. 

The bunkered Verdict: Ten years is long enough, Rory. (It’s going to be another American winner, isn’t it?)

Robert MacIntyre
At least one of the bunkered team fancies Bob MacIntyre’s chances at Pinehurst. (Credit: Getty Images)

Speaking of which, seven US Opens since G-Mac at “Pabble” have been won by players now on LIV. Which of Greg Norman’s signings can you see getting it done at Pinehurst?

John: Bryson DeChambeau is the standout. It was a much different US Open he won at Winged Foot, but he’s at the top of his game. 

Lewis: It’s got to be Bryson. He’s been near the top of the leaderboard in the first two majors this year and his power means he’s a match for any golf course.   

Bryce: Probably Bryson. The LIV players are not quite as in form as some people would have you believe. Respect to you for calling them “Greg Norman’s signings”. Rahm will love that.

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Michael: Clearly Bryson. Recent winner of the event, in great form, revelling in his new-found popularity… any other answer is just wrong. 

James: If Bryson brings his A game, he’ll be leaving with that trophy.

Alex: I would genuinely love to see Bryson return to the major winners’ circle. And, seeing as we’re on the subject, back on the PGA Tour. 

Ben: Martin Kaymer told me that whoever holes the best ten footers round Pinehurst will have the best chance – and he should know. So if it’s not Jon Rahm, I’ll go with Cameron Smith. 

The bunkered Verdict: So close to a clean sweep for everyone’s favourite golfing scientist.

Bryson DeChambeau
Bryson DeChambeau has got another major in him, according to the bunkered team. (Credit: Getty Images)

Do you like seeing the pros struggling to shoot level-par rounds, or would you prefer a US Open birdie-fest?

Alex: I said this on last week’s episode of The bunkered Podcast, but watching the pros try to mastermind their way to the slightly-under-par finishing score that will see them lift the trophy is utterly captivating. Either that or they just have a full Phil-Mickelson-at-Shinnecock meltdown and leave us all with our jaws on the floor.

Michael: I like it so long as it’s not unnecessarily tricked-up. It’s well within the gift of the USGA to make a course difficult without it becoming a clown show. They just need to stay out of their own way. And it’s a well-worn part of the US Open’s identity now, isn’t it? We expect a winning score in the ballpark of par. Once or twice a year and done right, I absolutely love it. 

Ben: If you want a birdie fest, see every single PGA Tour event. We don’t want the USGA to make it impossible by any means, but when pars feel like birdies on a significant number of holes, that’s when we can all start to relate. 

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Bryce: I like the pain and the misery, as long as it’s fair. We have moved away from people winning at +5, thankfully. 

James: The struggle separates the men from the boys.

John: Nothing more infuriating than shouts of ‘this is too hard’. That’s the point, go watch highlights of the Scandinavian Mixed if you want birdies. 

Lewis: I think it’s good to have a brutal test every once in a while, and if the US Open gives us that, then I’m all for it.   

The bunkered Verdict: Looks like we’re all in favour here.

us open rough
We’re in favour of a tough but fair US Open test. (Credit: Getty Images)

What’s your favourite US Open memory?

Lewis: Tiger. 2008. That putt on a barely functioning leg. What else is there to say?

Michael: Everybody remembers he won it with a broken leg and a busted ACL but what a lot of people forget is that it took him 91 holes to get the job done. To this day, it’s the most impressive – if somewhat ridiculous – feat of physicality I’ve ever seen from a golfer. 

Alex: There have been some brilliant moments down the years. Webb Simpson telling the heckler to “enjoy your jail cell, pal”, Rory McIlroy reacting to his Masters meltdown in the best possible way, and that shot from Justin Rose to set up a maiden major win. But it has to be Jordan Spieth and the utterly bonkers week at Chambers Bay.

John: When Bryson DeChambeau started to bomb it in 2020 and demolished the field at Winged Foot. Fuelled by protein shakes, he ripped up the rule book. 

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Bryce: Bryson’s was pure entertainment, wasn’t it? Fleetwood shooting a record-equalling 63 and still not winning was pretty wild. That year, Brooks Koepka became the first to defend the trophy in 29 years. He was brilliant. 

James: When Martin Kaymer lapped the entire field last time out at Pinehurst.

Ben: Matt Fitzpatrick. Nine-iron. Brookline Country Club. 

The bunkered Verdict: We’re incredibly fond of Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau. Can you tell?

tiger woods
We can still hear that Tiger Woods roar from the 2008 US Open. (Credit: Getty Images)

Another major, another shot at a Grand Slam. It would be the most Phil Mickelson thing ever to do it this week, right?

Michael: I mean, yes, absolutely. But there’s more chance of Rachel Stevens strutting into bunkered HQ to drag me off to the nearest Premier Inn.

Bryce: Behave. 

Alex: LOL! (Do people still say “LOL”?)

Ben: Phil’s best finish in his last five majors is T43. Easy now. 

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James: He won’t make the cut, let alone win the Grand Slam.

John: There’s plenty of things Phil could do at Pinehurst, but winning isn’t one of them. Next. 

Lewis: It would be, but I don’t see it happening. He’s been at the wrong end of the LIV leaderboards this year and has missed the cut in three of his last four majors. 

The bunkered Verdict: Sorry, Phil.

Phil Mickelson LIV Golf
Sorry, Phil Mickelson, it isn’t going to happen. (Credit: Getty Images)

Before we get to your 2024 US Open champion, who’s an outsider we should keep an eye on?

James: Is Scottie Scheffler an outsider now he’s out of jail?

Alex: Keegan Bradley’s US Open record is nothing to write home about, but a T7 two years ago and a T4 last time it was at Pinehurst are keeping me in. Add to that he’s in some of the best form of his life, and has top-22 finishes in the year’s other majors so far. You can get him at three figures if you’re quick.

John: Rickie Fowler not only put in a good display last year, but the last time the US Open was at Pinehurst too. He’s been putting solid rounds together and on a consistent basis.

Ben: Justin Rose finished T12 the last time the US Open was at Pinehurst. Plus he loves the grind. 

Lewis: Sahith Theegala is in the 66/1 region, which seems very long odds. He would be a hugely popular winner and he played nicely at the PGA Championship. 

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Bryce: Will Zalatoris, according to the bookies, is an outsider at 50/1. Hasn’t played as much as he would have wanted, but he’s a big time player. Seven major top 10s since 2020, was runner-up in 2022. Eventually it’s going to happen. 

Michael: Corey Conners. Hasn’t missed a cut since last year’s US Open, in which time he’s had five top-10s. He’s currently second in SG: Approach The Green, which is going to be critical at Pinehurst. Just needs a hot week with a notoriously temperamental putter and he’ll be in the mix. 

The bunkered Verdict: Plenty of options here if you like a flutter.

Keegan Bradley caddie
Keegan Bradley has found some major form in 2024. (Credit: Getty Images)

And finally, as always: life savings on the line – who wins?

Michael: Rory Daniel McIlroy. It’s time. 

Bryce: I have no savings, anyway, so Rory.

Alex: Heart says McIlroy. (Obviously.) Head says Scottie Scheffler. (Obviously.)

Lewis: How have we got this far and not mentioned Scheffler? 

James: I’m putting half my savings on Scheffler and the other half on Bryson DeChambeau. Don’t tell my girlfriend.

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Ben: Morikawa will end the week three-quarters of the way to the Grand Slam. 

John: Morikawa has been threatening to win since his redemption at the Masters and Pinehurst will complement his game. 

The bunkered Verdict: A big mix. We could be in for an all-time US Open here.

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour
We’re ready to be hurt again, Rory McIlroy. (Credit: Getty Images)

We’ve previewed the 2024 US Open in much more detail on The bunkered Podcast – so make sure you’re subscribed!


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