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Oh sure, you’ve got Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day.
And if picking U.S. Open contenders straight from the first page of the Official World Golf Ranking is sufficient to move your needle, so be it.
But for those seeking a bit more of a deep dive this week, weeding out the underdogs is where it’s at.
Exhibit A is Tommy Fleetwooda well-liked Englishman who’s played the weekend in the last four majors and shared the 36-hole lead at Erin Hills last year before winding up fourth.
He drives it more than 300 yards a pop, appears laser-guided when it comes to greens in regulation and is also handy from the sand.
Putting has been a career issue, but he’s been strong enough with the short stick this year to get into positive territory (.129) in the strokes gained stat—good for 84th on the PGA Tour. If the putter holds out at least that well for 72 holes at Shinnecock Hills, he’s a good bet to equal or improve on last year’s finish.
Another under-the-radar choice is Georgia-based lefty Brian Harmanthe world’s 28th-ranked player heading into this week. The 31-year-old has just two PGA Tour wins and a single second-place finish in his career. But because that second came at last year’s U.S. Open, he warrants more than a moment of consideration.
Harman actually held a one-stroke lead entering the final round at Erin Hills before he was caught and passed by eventual champion Brooks Koepka on a course that caters to big hitters. He’s bounced back nicely from that disappointment, however, and has made the cut at all but two of the 16 events he’s played in 2018.
That stretch has yielded six top-10 finishes, and because he’s 14th on the tour in birdie average—not to mention 22nd in both greens in regulation and strokes gained putting—it ought to be no surprise if he’s high on the leaderboard on Sunday evening.
Last but not least, we present Keegan BradleyVersion 2.0.
Bradley was the No. 13 golfer in the world after winning the 2011 PGA Championship and finishing the 2012 season with five top-10 finishes. He’s tumbled precipitously since then, though, going nearly six years without a victory and briefly dipping to a triple-digit world ranking—108—at the end of 2016.
Nevertheless, the Vermont native has quietly crept back toward relevance this year. He’ll begin Thursday’s first round on the heels of a tie for seventh at The Players Championship and a tie for 23rd at The Memorial in his last two events, the latter of which saw him dead even with another major winner by the name of Woods.
The quality of Bradley’s tee-to-green game is borne out by statistics, and if he’s able to manage even a respectable four rounds with the putter, he’ll belong in the contention conversation.