Will Phil Mickelson complete career grand slam and other talking points ahead of US Open

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Brooks Koepka will defend his US Open title at Shinnecock Hills next week as the year’s second major championship takes place from June 14-17.

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

Will the USGA get the course set-up right?

The last time Shinnecock Hills hosted the US Open in 2004, play had to be suspended during the final round – in which 28 of the 66 players amazingly failed to break 80 – to water the seventh green, which had already been described as “ridiculous” and “unplayable” by Ernie Els a day earlier.

More recently the 18th hole at Chambers Bay in 2015 was labelled “unbelievably stupid” when played as a par four by Jordan Spieth, while Henrik Stenson compared the parched greens to “putting on broccoli”.

Last year at Erin Hills, former champion Rory McIlroy was stunned to learn the USGA were cutting down heavy rough on four holes in the middle of his pre-tournament press conference.

It is hardly surprising that USGA chief executive Mike Davis admits the organisation is happy to “have a Mulligan this time” at Shinnecock.

USGA flag

Can Koepka become the first back-to-back winner for 29 years?

Curtis Strange was the last player to make a successful title defence, following his play-off victory over Nick Faldo in 1988 with a one-shot win 12 months later.

Koepka equalled McIlroy’s tournament record with a 16-under-par total and four-shot victory at Erin Hills, and also won by nine shots in the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan in November.

A serious wrist injury means the 28-year-old has played just five events in 2018, although he was second in the recent Forth Worth Invitational.

Brooks Koepka

Will Phil Mickelson complete the career grand slam?

Mickelson needs to win the US Open – in which he has been runner-up six times – to become the sixth player to have won all four major titles, but remarkably opted to miss last year’s championship to attend the high school graduation of his daughter Amanda, who was born the day after he finished second to Payne Stewart at Pinehurst in 1999.

At the time it was easy to suggest the 47-year-old’s chances of a first win since 2013 at Erin Hills were pretty slim, but the left-hander returned to the winner’s circle this season in the WGC-Mexico Championship and has recorded four other top-six finishes.

Phil Mickelson 1

Can US dominance of the majors be broken?

Patrick Reed’s victory in the Masters means American players currently hold all four major titles, with Koepka defending his US Open crown and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas the reigning Open and US PGA champions respectively.

However, European players won the US Open four times in five years from 2010, while Shane Lowry held a four-shot lead after 54 holes in 2016 before finishing second and Tommy Fleetwood was fourth last year.

Shane Lowry

Is a shock winner possible?

Since Darren Clarke and Keegan Bradley won the last two majors of 2011 when ranked 111th and 108th in the world respectively, the lowest-ranked winner of any major has been Jimmy Walker, who was 48th when he won the 2016 US PGA Championship.

The 2017 major winners were ranked 11th, 22nd, third and 14th, while Reed was 24th before his victory in the Masters in April.

The days of Ben Curtis (396), Shaun Micheel (169) and YE Yang (110) appear to be over.

Tommy Fleetwood of England 1

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Bryson DeChambeau wins Memorial Tournament at second play-off hole

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Bryson DeChambeau claimed his second PGA Tour title after winning the Memorial Tournament following a play-off at Muirfield Village.

DeChambeau, who won last year’s John Deere Classic, looked to have blown his chance after three-putting the 18th as his fourth-round lead was wiped out by Byeong Hun An and Kyle Stanley in the closing stages.

That saw the trio all finish on 15 under and set up a three-way play-off.

Stanley’s bogey five at the first extra hole saw his challenge come to an end, with pars from DeChambeau and An sending them down the 18th for a third successive time.

On that occasion it was overnight leader DeChambeau who held his nerve to hole a 12-foot birdie putt and clinch the title ahead of a star-studded field.

The 24-year-old Californian was congratulated by tournament host Jack Nicklaus following the win and he told Sky Sports: “I feel real honour to be the champion this year.

“He (Nicklaus) puts on an amazing event. I played here a couple of years ago and was fortunate enough to get a sponsor’s invite from him, so I’m forever in his debt.”

DeChambeau did concede, though, that he had not been at his best, saying: “I just wasn’t comfortable all day for some reason. I was fortunate enough to scrap around the golf course and get it done this week.”

Patrick Cantlay was fourth on 14 under, just ahead of Peter Uihlein, whose six-under-par 66 was only eclipsed by Louis Oosthuizen’s 65.

England’s Justin Rose (70) had to settle for joint sixth on 12 under, one shot ahead of an illustrious group that included Dustin Johnson (67), Justin Thomas (68), Rickie Fowler (68) and Rory McIlroy (69).

Tiger Woods finished on nine under after signing off with a level-par 72.

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Thorbjorn Olesen holds his nerve to win the Italian Open

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Italy’s Francesco Molinari came up agonisingly short in his bid for back-to-back wins and a third Italian Open crown as Thorbjorn Olesen held his nerve to claim the fifth European Tour title of his career.

Olesen carded a closing 64 at Gardagolf to finish 22 under par, a shot ahead of home favourite Molinari, who had won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last week.

The two players had been tied for the lead with two holes remaining, but Molinari dropped just his second shot of the week on the 17th and Olesen birdied the same hole in the group behind to take a two-shot lead.

Molinari refused to throw in the towel and holed a curling birdie putt on the last from 40 feet to complete a 65 and pile on the pressure, but Olesen got up and down from a greenside bunker for par to secure the first prize of £874,000 in the second Rolex Series event of 2018.

England’s Lee Slattery finished alone in third after a closing 67, despite having to get a replacement caddie after 13 holes after Max Cunningham signalled he could no longer continue due to a pelvic injury.

Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello was fourth on 18 under with Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Andy Sullivan a shot further back in a tie for fifth.

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