Dan Box
By Dan Box

Once again we head into a major championship week with the same storyline - can anybody stop Scottie Scheffler?

The World Number One has reached incredible levels this year with five wins in his last eight starts, and is the clear favourite as we head to the fantastic Pinehurst Resort for what is set to be a very tough test of golf.

In the UK it feels like the golfing season has only just got underway properly, but the US Open is the third major of the year and means we are past the halfway point in the season already.

After Xander Schauffele tied the lowest score in PGA Championship history on his way to lifting the Wanamaker Trophy in May, setting a new major championship scoring record in the process, things are going to get a little tougher this week at one of the United States' most iconic golf courses.

Last Year: Clark takes down McIlroy at LACC

Rory McIlroy suffered another major near-miss last year as Wyndham Clark won his first major title at Los Angeles Country Club, having never previously finished better than 75th in one of the big four events.

Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele both broke the US Open scoring record in the first round, with rounds of eight under par 62, and it was Fowler who entered the final round tied with Clark at the top of the leaderboard.

McIlroy made just one birdie in the final round, on the first hole, whilst Clark was able to two-putt from 60 feet on the final hole for a round of 70 and a one-stroke win over the Northern Irishman.

Scottie Scheffler finished in third place, with Cameron Smith in fourth, with Tommy Fleetwood, Min Woo Lee and Rickie Fowler finishing in a tie for fifth.

The Course: Everything you need to know about Pinehurst No. 2

Pinehurst Golf and Country Club is one of the best known and well-regarded spots for golf in all of the USA. The resort itself features 10 different golf courses, the most famous of which is Pinehurst No. 2, host of this week's tournament.

Pinehurst has become one of the 'anchor sites' for the US Open which means it will return more frequently going forward, in the same way that the Old Course at St Andrews hosts The Open Championship every five years.

First opened in 1907, No. 2 was designed by Donald Ross and is famous for its green complexes, with lots of run-offs and firm, fast conditions. A redesign by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw in 2010 removed most of the rough from the course and exposed more bunkers and waste areas.

The course has hosted the US Open on three previous occasions, as well as the US Women's Open once. In those four events, just four golfers have finished under par, proving just how difficult the course can be when it is set up for major championship golf.

The Field: Who is playing this week at the US Open?

As he has been for most of the last year or so, Scottie Scheffler is the man to beat again this week at Pinehurst. The American is currently performing at Tiger-esque levels so far in 2024, with five wins in his last eight starts, and managed to win last week's Memorial Tournament while being far from his best.

The course requires precise approach play and an excellent short game, as well as avoiding the tricky waste areas off the tee. Scheffler is the best in the world off the tee and approaching the green, his chipping is sublime and his putting, although he missed some questionable putts at Muirfield Village, has improved massively in the last few months too. If he plays well, it's impossible to think he could be beaten.

The main challenge may come from recent PGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele, who has been playing consistently great golf for months and finally broke through at a major championship last month, whilst the course should suit his playing style too. Could the major floodgates have opened for the American?

Collin Morikawa looks to be playing close to his best again this year and ran Scottie close at The Masters and last week at The Memorial, whilst Viktor Hovland and Rory McIlroy are also listed as favourites with the bookies with consistent finishes week in week out on the PGA Tour, despite hitting the heights of previous years.

Adam Scott managed to keep his streak of playing major championships going, having played in the previous 91 events over 23 years.

It looked as though the 43 year old Australian may miss out this week, after failing to advance through the qualifying event, but Scott, who is ranked 61st in the world, was given a spot due to Grayson Murray's tragic death.

Tiger Woods tees it up again this week. The 15 time major winner has struggled in his last few starts but Pinehurst is a pretty easy walk and the firmer conditions may suit his game better. It feels like he's a long way from contending but he is Tiger Woods, so you never know.

Jon Rahm could be a doubt this week after withdrawing from the last LIV Golf event in Houston with a foot injury. The Spaniard, who won the US Open in 2021, has endured a frustrating season so far since leaving the PGA Tour, with poor showings in the first two majors of the year.

Golfalot Tips: The best bets this week at the US Open

Bryson DeChambeau @ 20/1

It's difficult to find value at the top end of the market, with Scheffler as low as 3/1 and the likes of McIlroy, Schauffele and Morikawa all at very low odds too. DeChambeau has performed very well at the first two major championships this year, finishing in a tie for sixth at The Masters before coming second to Schauffele at the PGA Championship.

DeChambeau is also a previous US Open winner and has an excellent short game which will stand him in good stead at Pinehurst.

Cameron Smith @ 45/1

The Australian had a complete nightmare on Sunday at the LIV event, with a stretch of 9 over par in four holes en route to shooting an 80. Despite this I still think he could be a factor this week because the rest of his golf was pretty good besides that spell, as he was sitting at 4 under par after two rounds.

Smith is at his best when the conditions get firm and fast, because his chipping and putting is as good as anyone's, and the conditions at Pinehurst should remind him of the type of sandbelt golf that is played back home in his native Australia.

Matt Fitzpatrick @ 50/1

Another golfer who seems to play better as the conditions get tougher, Fitzpatrick is already a US Open winner and this golf course should be a good match for his style of play.

The Englishman has been inconsistent so far this year but did show plenty of flashes at last week's Memorial, closing with an excellent round of 69 in very tough conditions to record a top five finish. He also played in the US Open at Pinehurst back in 2014, making the cut at the age of just 19.


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