World No1 Dustin Johnson is coming off a missed cut at the Memorial and faces an unknown in the Wisconsin course this weekend.
With this in mind, we ask: Will DJ successfully defend his US Open title at Erin Hills?
Let us know your thoughts as our two writers debate.
JOY CHAKRAVARTY, SAYS YES
Picking a winner in an elite golf tournament is as difficult as finding the proverbial needle in a haystack, unless, of course, you are talking Tiger Woods in the early and mid-2000s.
However, Dustin Johnson has shown almost Woods-like dominance and mind-set in recent months, making a mockery of quality fields and doing well in playing conditions that were thought unsuitable for his kind of golf.
The missed cut at The Memorial last week was surely a blip on what has been a phenomenal run ever since he won his first major at the US Open last year.
In 2017, Johnson has seven top-10s in 11 starts, including three wins. The MC at The Memorial could be a blessing in disguise. He will surely be eager to bounce back from that, and would be slightly more fresh coming into the tournament.
The ultra long Erin Hills course is the biggest unknown in the whole scenario. It is long, and reportedly with penal rough. It also has a bit of a links course-like feel to it. But none of this should bother the world No1. The United States Golf Association have always favoured courses with a similar set-up – narrow fairways, deep rough and fast greens – and Johnson has always managed to find his way around – evident from his performances in the past US Opens.
And given he has a second place and several top-15s in the Open Championship, the ‘linksiness’ of Erin Hills should not be much of a headache either.
Johnson not only hits it long, he also hits is straight most of the time. And his short game is as good as his long game, only under-rated because of the brilliance of his booming drives. However, the most improved aspect of Johnson’s game is his mind. That laid-back nature hides a fierce competitor. His coach Butch Harmon once said his greatest strength is his ability to completely forget his bad shots and good.
That would not only take away any pressure that comes from being the defending champion, but on a US Open golf course, where mistakes are inevitable, give him an extra edge over his other rivals.
DHRUV NAIR, SAYS NO
This year’s US Open will be played at Erin Hills, which hosted the US Amateur in 2011 and also plays to a maximum yardage of 7,800 yards.
Although the World No1 Dustin Johnson won the 2016 US Open and has the ability to smash the ball a long way, which is needed at Erin Hills, it will be tough for him to retain the title.
The main reason is the level of competition he faces, added to the fact that he missed the cut at the Memorial last week and hasn’t been his dominant self ever since he withdrew from the Masters.
My three picks to lift the championship this year are Rickie Fowler, Kevin Kisner and Jon Rahm.
In 10 individual events this season, Fowler has finished in the top-25 eight times. In the last 12 weeks, his average finishing position of 17.6 is second in the US Open field and since February, he’s been outside the Top 20 just once.
But the most remarkable thing about Fowler is on the putting surface. He is currently ranked sixth in strokes gained on the green. He also is in good form, having recently secured a second place at the Memorial, apart from his win at The Honda Classic. I feel it is safe to say Fowler can be considered a serious contender to win.
Kisner has been racking up top finishes all year – six top-10s in 17 events – and he is in red-hot form, having won the Dean & Deluca Invitational and following that up with a T6 at the Memorial. He lacks the distance required at Erin Hills, but will certainly make up for it with driving accuracy, consistent iron play and sharp putting. He’s fifth on Tour in total strokes gained which surely makes him a dark horse.
Jon Rahm, also known as ‘DJ Lite’, has been especially good when he can let it rip, and with an average driving distance of 305 yards, he ranks 12th on Tour in driving distance. The talented 22-year old won the Farmers Insurance Open and has been notching impressive performances all year which makes him another favourite.
Johnson is a definite powerhouse but because of the unbelievable level and pedigree of golfers playing this week, he won’t win.