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Assessing the world’s top 5 players ahead of the U.S. Open


DUBLIN, Ohio – To be fair, it seems as if Jack Nicklaus was in a particular mood this year, with Muirfield Village playing to a 73.54 average – including the toughest par 3 (No. 16) and the third-toughest par 4 (No. 18) on the PGA Tour this season – but with the U.S. Open looming in two weeks, a breakdown of the world’s best players seems apropos.

No. 1 – A performance that felt like a statistical impossibility left Scottie Scheffler in solo third after a closing 67, but superior ball-striking riddled with woeful putting has become a disturbing trend for the game’s top-ranked player.

Scheffler finished first in every ball-striking category at the Memorial and last in putting. It’s not the best trend with the year’s toughest test waiting at Los Angeles Country Club, but Scheffler said he’s confident his putting will come around.

Full-field scores from the Memorial Tournament

No. 2 – Following his victory at the Masters, Jon Rahm has finished T-15 (RBC Heritage), runner-up (Mexico Open), T-50 (PGA Championship), and he was T-16 at the Memorial.

The weekend at Muirfield Village was a snapshot of the uncharacteristic inconsistencies in the Spaniard’s game, with rounds of 74 over the weekend that left him seven shots out of the playoff (won by Viktor Hovland). Still, the winner of the last West Coast Open (2021 at Torrey Pines) will be an easy favorite in Los Angeles.

No. 3 – A tie for seventh after starting the final round with a share of the lead doesn’t scream confidence for Rory McIlroy, but given his own assessment of his swing the last few weeks, he felt like it was progress.

“This isn’t a major championship, but I feel a lot more positive about things today than I was two weeks ago at [the PGA Championship], even though the results might reflect that I had a better week at Oak Hill,” said McIlroy, who struggled with his wedge play at Muirfield Village but was otherwise sharp. “I feel a lot more positive about everything going forward. It’s nice.”

No. 4 – The spotlight will be particularly bright on Patrick Cantlay at the first U.S. Open played in his hometown of Los Angeles, and his familiarity with the course should give him a distinct advantage. But there are concerns.

Following a second-round 67 to move into the hunt, Cantlay was 8 over par on the weekend at Jack’s Place. Of particular concern was his play on the greens, where he finished 57th out of 65 players who made the cut.

No. 5 – The most curious of all the top players at the Memorial was Xander Schauffele, who followed his opening 77 (his worst round this season) with cards of 66, 72 and 74 to tie for 24th.

Although it was his worst finish in his last five starts at the Memorial, Schauffele remains one of the game’s most consistent players, and he’s another West Coast star who will feel right at home at LACC.