2019 US Open: Key Storylines


Five key storylines to watch out for this week at the U.S. Open

The 119th edition of the U.S. Open takes place at Pebble Beach Golf Links this week, and there's plenty of storylines to look out for. 

Here, we take a look at five of the biggest.

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Brooks Koepka could join history books with a three-peat

Last year, Koepka became the first person since Curtis Strange in 1989 to successfully defend a U.S Open, but is hoping to go one better this week. 

Koepka already became the first player in history to hold multiple U.S. Open and PGA Championship titles when he successfully defended the latter last month, and he has a chance to become just the second person in history to win three successive U.S Open trophies. The last time the feat was achieved was by Willie Anderson from 1903 - 05. 

He finished T50 at last week's Canadian Open, but if we've learned anything by now, it's not to doubt Brooks Koepka and his ability to raise his game for the majors - even if he did make it rather stressful for himself last month. As he said before the PGA Championship, he believes they are the easiest to win. 

"There's 156 in the field, so you figure at least 80 of them I'm just going to beat," Koepka had said in his press conference before the tournament. "From there, the others — you figure about half of them won't play well from there, so you're down to about maybe 35.

"And then from 35... (the) pressure is going to get to (some of) them. It only leaves you with a few more, and you've just got to beat those guys."

Phil Mickelson goes for career grand slam

Phil Mickelson, who turns 49 on Sunday, has struggled in U.S. Open's over the past few years, but he has his best chance to date to complete the career grand slam this week.

When he won the Open at Muirfield in 2013 (after a sixth runner-up finish at Merion), and it left just the U.S. Open between him and the grand slam - a feat only five other players have achieved in the history of the game.

Since then, Mickelson has had four attempts at filling the empty space in his major trophy cabinet, but the U.S Open that he once seemed to excel at seemingly turned into more of a foe, having gone T28-T64-MC-T48 in the last few years. On Tour, the wins dried up too.

But Phil Mickelson has had something of a resurgence over the past year and a half. He ended his five year victory drought at last year’s WGC Mexico in a playoff against Justin Thomas, and picked up the 44th PGA Tour win of his career in February, at none other than Pebble Beach.

And that win here earlier in the year was by no means a fluke. In total, he has five wins at Pebble Beach, in addition to finishing runner-up in both 2018 and 2016. This year, he battled the elements on the final day to best Paul Casey by three shots with a closing bogey-free seven-under 65.

This will be his sixth attempt at joining the elusive club of Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Gary Player - and if he's ever going to do it, there's surely no better place for Phil than Pebble. 

Tiger Woods returns to scene of historic triumph as he searches for major no.16

When Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open in 2000 at Pebble Beach it was historic: He beat runner up Ernie Els by 15 strokes, the field average by 29 shots, and was the only player under-par at -12. 

Not only that, but he was fourth in the 2010 Open here, and comes in to this tournament just two months after claiming his 15th major title - a feat that seemed unthinkable less than two years ago. 

Yet during the Masters, the Woods of old seemed to be on the Sunday leaderboard as players in contention fell back, and the scene was iconic on the last as the fans chanted his name after he holed the winning put. 

For Woods, there's no better place to have a chance than Pebble Beach. Like Phil, this is a place Woods has a lot of fond memories of - despite not being a particular fan of the greens - and there's no doubt he'll have his sights on a 16th major. 

Dustin Johnson targets major number two Pebble Beach 

A runner-up at both the Masters and the PGA Championship already in 2019 cemented Dustin Johnson as a member of an exclusive club of players who have completed the second place grand-slam in major championships. 

The former World No.1 came close to besting Brooks Koepka as he frittered away a huge lead over the final day of the PGA, but DJ made two crucial mistakes over the final few holes to end up settling for second place. And while those were disappointing results, there's no question DJ will be hoping Pebble Beach will be the site of his next triumph. 

It's a place where he's performed exceptionally well, including back-to-back victories at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2009-2010, and runner-up finishes in both 2014 and 2018. When he played the U.S. Open here in 2010, he finished in a tie for 8th. 

In addition to that, DJ's record in U.S. Open's over the past few years is bettered only by Koepka. With the exception of a MC in his title defense, DJ has been consistently dominant on U.S. Open leaderboards, having gone T4-2nd-1st-MC-3rd over the past five years. His game is undoubtedly suited to U.S Open set-ups, with some of the most consistent stats across the board for every single part of his game. 

Rory looks to end five year major drought

When Rory McIlroy picked up four major titles in four years, there were plenty of people predicting he'd go on to dominate the majors like Tiger Woods did at the peak of his powers. But instead, McIlroy was left with a constant string of top 10s - he's had two per year in majors in every year since his last victory in 2014 - but no trophy. 

But McIlroy is playing the most consistent golf of anybody on Tour right now, and heads to the U.S Open with two victories in 2019: The Players Championship, and last week's RBC Canadian Open. 

You might think that winning the week before a major is a reason not to pick him, but the last player to win a major directly after a PGA Tour title was Rory McIlroy, when he won three events in a row - the Open Championship, the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship in 2014. 

The only doubt about Rory is he missed the cut in his first trip to Pebble last year, and has missed three consecutive cuts at the U.S. Open. Then again, he has two wins and eight further top 10s in 12 starts this year.