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

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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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Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and other players to watch at the US Open

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Ahead of the US Open that starts on Thursday, we look at six star players set to shine.

Who do you think will win?

Let us know on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

DUSTIN JOHNSON
Age:
33

Major wins:
US Open 2016
Last five results: T10-T16-T17-T8-1

The 33-year-old reclaimed the world number one spot after winning the St. Jude Classic in dominant fashion on Sunday. The Jupiter resident has the most complete game in the sport and can prosper on a tough course like Shinnecock. DJ has 13 top-20 finishes in his last 14 tournaments, including two wins and two second place finishes. May not have scaled the same heights as 2017, but is still as influential as ever.

RORY MCILROY
Age: 29
Majors:
US Open 2011, PGA Championship 2012 and 2014, The Open Championship 2014
Last five results: T5-T16-MC-2-T8

It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years since his maiden major win at the Congressional. And after a rib injury ruled him out of action last season, the Northern Irishman looks back to his best in 2018 with a win, two runners-up and one third-place finish in 13 events since January. The former world No1 will be bidding to show that he still has tricks in his armoury after finishing T5 at the Masters in April.

JUSTIN THOMAS
Age:
25
Majors:
PGA Championship 2017
Last five results: 4-T17-T21-T11-T8

The world No2 may not be a household name like Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, but has proven to be equally as impressive over the past two years. The 25-year-old has 12 top-25 finishes and five top-10 finishes this season, including a win at the Honda Classic. Shinnecock will be harder and faster than some of the courses he has played this year, but the Kentucky native has proven his consistency at the US Open in the past with a top-10 finish in 2017.

JUSTIN ROSE
Age:
37
Majors:
US Open 2013
Last five results: T52-T12-T23-1-T6

The rock-solid Englishman had one of his most successful seasons in 2017 with 10 consecutive top-10 finishes and three tournament victories. Has started this year brightly with a dominant victory at the Fort Invitational last month and looks every bit as threatening from the tee and further up the green. The 2013 champion is consistent, resilient and should be within a shout of a second major on Sunday.

JORDAN SPIETH
Age:
24
Majors:
US Open and Masters Tournament 2015, The Open 2017
Last five results: 3-T41-T21-T32-MC

Without a doubt, the most talented player in golf. Results may have not gone his way over the past 12 months but the 24-year-old is still a three-time major winner. If he can improve his putting – his biggest strength in previous years – then expect the 2015 US Open winner to add to his 11 career Tour wins at Shinnecock. The Texan boasts an impeccable record of 1-1-4-2-2 in majors since 2015.

BROOKS KOEPKA
Age:
28
Majors:
US Open 2017
Last five results: 34-T42-T11-2-T30

Koepka may have only played five tournaments this year due to a wrist injury, but the 28-year-old showed solid form finishing second behind Justin Rose at Fort Invitational earlier this month. The Florida man was playing the best golf of his career this time 12 months ago and went on to clinch a first major at the US Open. Injuries may have restricted his progress since January, but he is slowly getting back to his competitive best.

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Mikko Korhonen eases to inaugural Shot Clock Masters title

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Finland’s Mikko Korhonen shrugged off two weather delays to cruise to his first European Tour title at the inaugural Shot Clock Masters.

Korhonen took a five-shot lead into the final round at Diamond Country Club and carded a closing 69 to finish 16 under par, six shots ahead of Scotland’s Connor Syme.

Syme, 22, who only turned professional last September and was ranked 836th in the world at the start of the week, holed from 60 feet for a birdie on the 18th to finish outright second, a shot ahead of Steve Webster, Nicolas Colsaerts, Justin Walters and Raphael Jacquelin.

Jacquelin reduced Korhonen’s overnight advantage to three shots after four birdies in the first seven holes but the Finn birdied the third before play was suspended for 75 minutes due to the threat of lightning.

The 37-year-old, who needed eight attempts to earn his European Tour card via the qualifying school, picked up further shots on the fifth and sixth when play resumed before carding his first bogey of the week on the ninth.

A birdie on the next quickly settled any nerves and despite another bogey on the 12th following the second stoppage in play, Korhonen was never in danger of being caught.

“It feels great, beautiful,” Korhonen said. “It’s been a long wait so it feels so good. I’ve been up there a couple of times and couldn’t do it at those times, but now I’m so happy and relieved that I have done it.

“It’s not easy to win, especially not the first win, so I’m really happy to have done it. I have no words, it’s so good.”

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