Can Brooks Koepka become the first back-to-back winner since 1989 and other talking points ahead of the US Open – Article

Brooks Koepka will be bidding to defend his US Open title on Thursday as the second major championship of the year gets underway at Shinnecock Hills in New York.

Here, we look at five talking points ahead of the tournament.

Can Koepka seal a second major?

Curtis Strange was the last player to successfully defend the US Open title back in 1989, but no player has repeated the feat in nearly thirty years. Koepka may head into Shinnecock as the reigning champion, but his form in 2018 has been something of a mixed bag, with one top-25 and a runners-up finish in his five starts. However, the 28-year-old is just back from a serious wrist injury and is slowly returning to the form that saw him have one of his best ever seasons in 2017. Although the Florida native may had his preparations cut short, he still boasts a formidable record in his last 10 major appearances, including five top-10s, four top-25s and a win at last year’s US Open.

Can US dominance of the majors be broken?

Patrick Reed’s triumph at the Masters in April means all four majors are currently held by American players, and all under the age of 28 – with six of the world’s top 11 players also coming from across the pond. Koepka (28), Jordan Spieth (24) and Justin Thomas (24) hold the US Open, The Open Championship and PGA Championship trophies – with world number six Rickie Fowler yet to win but consistently proving he can challenge at the top of the leaderboard. European players may have won the US Open four times in five years from 2010, but only Francesco Molinari of Italy has finished inside the top three in any of the last four majors. Based on current form, it looks difficult to see America golf’s dominance toppled at majors any time soon.

Is Justin Thomas overtaking Jordan Spieth?

If you saw Spieth and Thomas walk together down the fairway two years ago, you would have been crazy to think the latter would be sitting number two in the world rankings and finishing better than his close friend in most recent tournaments. Thomas has won four times and made the cut in 20 consecutive tournaments, while Spieth has won once in 23 tournaments and missed the cut twice. Spieth may be regarded as one of the most talented players of the current era, but Thomas has the quality game and steely confidence to be considered as the leader of that group at present.

Can Mickelson complete a career grand slam?

The American has finished second a record six times at the US Open – the only major he has not won in 26 attempts (24 as a professional, two as an amateur). At 47, the five-time major winner continues to show impressive form, with a playoff victory over Thomas in Mexico to win the 43rd tournament of his career. The left-hander has five top-6s and four top 25s in 13 tournaments this year. Returning to a Long Island course where the fairways are wider and the rough around the green is shaved down, Mickelson has another chance to complete a career grand slam at a venue where he finished fourth in 1995 and second in 2004.

Will there be a player from the British Isles in with a shout of winning?

While Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose have all lifted the US Open title in recent years, only one British and Northern Irish player finished inside the top-25 in 2017. The chances of that depressing statistic continuing at Shinnecock look unlikely though, with Rose, Tyrrell Hatton and McIlroy all showing consistent form this year. Rose, in particular, appears to be the front runner to challenge the Americans at the top of the leaderboard, with some glittering rounds over the past six months. The Englishman has recorded five top-10 and two top-25 finishes from 10 starts this season, including a three-stroke win over Koepka at Fort Invitational last month.

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