Where next for the top stars after the US Open?

29 June 2017

The triumph of Brooks Koepka in the US Open may have been a wonderful moment for the player, but for many golf fans the question will have been asked: where were the big boys?
Of course, golf is not like tennis. It may have four major events, but there ends the comparison between the latter sport - in which five men have won all but one of the Grand Slams this decade - and the former, in which nearly 20 different men have triumphed in one of the biggest events since Tiger Woods last won a major.
For this reason, it makes no sense to talk about Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson as if they were Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. However, even by the more open standards of golf, there was undoubtedly a remarkable paucity of big names high on the leaderboard on the final day at Erin Hills. Of the world's top ten, only two - Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama - were among the ten best finishers. Reigning champion and world number one Johnson didn't even make the cut.
It all means the big names have much to do as attention turns to the other side of the Atlantic. July will bring the Scottish Open at Dundonald Links and then the Open at Royal Birkdale. Will the next major turn another journeyman into an overnight celebrity, or will a rather more familiar face be smiling as he holds the famous claret jug?
Spieth has certainly done his bit to suggest his form is on the up, winning the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut after a play-off with Daniel Berger. The field was a strong one, featuring big names like McIlroy, Paul Casey, Boo Weekley, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker, Jim Furyk and Padraig Harrington.
The next few weeks will offer further chances for players to build up their games. Of course, as many who have enjoyed the Experience St Andrews will know, the capricious weather can have an impact when it comes to playing in Scotland; a warm and sunny day - more common than some would have you believe - will inevitably favour some players more than others, while there are those who have the uncommon capability to adjust when the wind blows and the rain trickles down.
Unless a tournament is taking place somewhere permanently hot and sunny like Dubai, the ability to adjust to the elements could be critical. But players will also be affected by the differences between courses, from the size of the greens to the thickness of the rough. At Erin Hills, the width of the greens was greater than at any other US Open. However, players also had to try their best to adjust to the undulating nature of the post-glacial landscape known as the Kettle Moraine.
Of course, the Open itself can produce some unusual winners; last year saw Swede Henrik Stenson finally claim his first major at the 84th time of asking. It was the first time since Darren Clarke in 2011 that the tournament had provided somebody with their maiden major victory, but neither player was exactly an unknown, with both having several Ryder Cups on their CVs.
With other recent Open winners including Zach Johnson, McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, this is a tournament that seems more likely to be won by an established big name. But after Erin Hills, who can be sure the same will be true this time?


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