For the first time since 2010, the U.S. Open returns to iconic Pebble Beach during the 100th anniversary of the famed course.
The world's best will descend on Monterey this week in the third installment of what has been an exciting major season.
First, Tiger Woods roared at Augusta National, overcoming Francesco Molinari, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele to win his 15th major championship and first since 2008. Then, Koepka continued his major championship run at Bethpage, holding off Dustin Johnson to claim his second straight PGA Championship and fourth major title in his last nine starts.
Now, the toughest challenge in golf returns to Pebble Beach in what is sure to be a grueling test of major championship mettle.
As Koepka noted prior to his win at Bethpage, you only have to beat a few people to win a major, so here are seven golfers with a serious chance to come out victorious at Pebble Beach. (Plus one honorable mention.)
Tiger Woods: After electrifying the golf world by winning his 15th major championship at The Masters, Woods took some time off to soak in his accomplishment. The result was poor play at the 2019 PGA Championship where he missed the cut by one stroke after firing a 5-over-par-145 over the first two days of the championship. Knowing he no longer can just show up and win major championships, Woods played the Memorial Tournament as a tune-up for his return to the site of his greatest major victory -- the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where Woods ran away from the field, finishing the tournament at 12-under-par, a full 15 strokes ahead of Ernie Els and Miguel Angel-Jimenez.
Woods' play at the Memorial showed his game was in good form heading to Monterey Peninsula. Iron play has always been the strength of Woods' game, and he was dialed in at the Memorial where a Sunday 67 vaulted him into a tie for ninth. But it's Woods' driving of the ball in Dublin, Ohio, that should give people confidence for his performance at Pebble where the fairways will be narrow and the rough penal. Woods hit 42 of 56 fairways over four rounds at Muirfield Village while doing so with a variety of different shots, including his patented iron stinger. He looks ready.
Brooks Koepka: Koepka's career changed two years ago at Erin Hills when he won the 2017 U.S. Open by four shots over Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama. Since then, Koepka has put a stranglehold on the golf world, winning four of the last nine major championships dating back to Erin Hills, including the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage. Pebble doesn't set up quite as well for Kopeka's game as Erin Hills or Bethpage, but it would be foolish to think he can't win.
Jordan Spieth: After struggling with every facet of his game for over a year, the three-time major winner finished tied for third at Bethpage, and followed that up with top-10 finishes at Colonial and Muirfield Village. Spieth has started pouring in 25-footers -- a staple of his 2015 run -- and he's quickly gaining confidence off the tee. He won the AT&T at Pebble by four shots in 2017. While his approach play still is shaky, Spieth's game appears to be rounding into form and he's contended at majors with less than his best before.
Rory McIlroy: McIlroy was the hottest golfer on the planet prior to the Masters, finishing fourth, second and sixth before winning The Players. A slow start doomed him at Augusta National, but he came back with a top 10 finish at the PGA before winning the Canadian Open on Sunday. McIlroy is the best golfer on the planet when he brings his A-game. It's just a matter of if he brings it to Monterey Peninsula.
Dustin Johnson: The last time the U.S. Open was held at Pebble Beach, it looked like Johnson was primed to win his first major championship. Johnson led by three strokes heading into the final round, but he fired a final round 82 that would have set Twitter on fire had the social media app not been in its infancy. DJ finished in a tie for eighth and would have to wait another six years to claim his first major championship. Johnson has a great track record in California and has nine top-eight finishes in his career at Pebble. He's the world No. 1 for a reason, and it feels like major No. 2 could be on the horizon.
Tommy Fleetwood: He's been the model of consistency in recent major championships, making nine straight cuts. The Englishman put on an impressive display last year at Shinnecock Hills, firing a final-round 63 only to get to see Koepka nip him by one shot. He's been plagued by one bad round during majors, but Pebble should suit his game nicely. Expect him to be in the mix on the weekend.
Xander Schauffele: The 25-year-old has been brilliant in his young major championship career. In nine starts, he's made eight cuts, posted four top-six finishes and finished as the runner-up twice. He finished tied for fifth at Erin Hills in 2017 and tied for sixth at Shinnecock Hills last year. It feels like his first major championship win should be coming soon.
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Jon Rahm: Rahm is a good player and has acquitted himself well in the state of California during his 10 career starts. He's played the AT&T twice, finishing fifth and 26th. The Spaniard has a tendency to let his emotions get the best of him, so the tough conditions could fluster him when the going gets tough, but he's certainly a name to watch.
Phil Mickelson (Honorable mention): Lefty's game hasn't been good over the past two months, but he won the AT&T at Pebble this year, and has finished third and 16th at the two US Open's he's played at Pebble. He might not have another shot at completing the career grand slam.