Is this the week Rickie Fowler breaks through in a major?

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The Players Championship may never achieve its ambition of becoming the fifth major, but Rickie Fowler feels his 2015 victory at Sawgrass proves he will win one of the game’s four biggest titles.

Fowler has recorded multiple top-fives in all four majors, the most recent being a runners-up finish behind Ryder Cup team-mate Patrick Reed in the Masters in April.

And after extensive preparation ahead of the 118th US Open at Shinnecock Hills, the 29-year-old was in bullish mood about his prospects of avoiding the dreaded tag of “best player never to win a major”.

“There’s some scores that I’ve shot that have been good enough to win majors, but we haven’t been able to get it done that specific week,” Fowler said.

“At the same time, I like to look at it as that I’m good enough and I basically won a major. I won the Players against, arguably, the best field we play all year on a golf course that is a very good test as well.

“We all know I’m good enough to win. I know I’m good enough to win. Being prepared and making it happen that specific week, there’s been a few guys that have been very good at that… Jack (Nicklaus), Tiger (Woods).

“Phil (Mickelson) didn’t get his first for a while so there’s still hope. I’m not too worried about it. I’m excited about some of these courses that we have coming up, especially this week. But in the coming years, we have some great major venues.

“Augusta is one of my favourites and I have had success there. It would be nice to throw on a (green) jacket at some point, but we’ll keep doing what we’re doing. I’m definitely not trying to put any extra pressure on.

“We’ll get it done, and once we get our first, it’s definitely not going to be the last.”

Fowler was among the early starters in Thursday’s first round, the world number seven teeing off at 0813 local time (1313 BST) alongside Hideki Matsuyama and Marc Leishman.

Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Mickelson were in the group in front, but Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas and world number one Dustin Johnson had to wait until 1347 local time (1847 BST) to get their campaigns under way.

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Rory McIlroy eager to challenge for second US Open title

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Rory McIlroy is anxious to get his campaign for a second US Open title under way after a lengthy spell of preparation ahead of the Shinnecock Hills event.

McIlroy rented a house in the area for two weeks and made the trip east immediately after finishing in a tie for eighth in the Memorial Tournament in Ohio.

“I first played here in 2014 and it has definitely been a US Open I have been looking forward to,” the 2011 champion said. “I love the golf course, especially with how the conditions have been. The wind and dryness remind me a bit of courses back home.

“I’ve spent quite a bit of time here and think I played 18 out of 19 days before taking a day off on Saturday.

“I came straight after Memorial and played a few courses in the area. I’ve had a bit of fun and a good few looks at this course and I’m looking forward to getting started tomorrow.

“I’m happy that I have an early tee time because it feels like I have been here a while and I’m anxious to get started.”

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Experience should count for Phil Mickelson as he chases elusive US Open and career Grand Slam

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Even at 47 years of age, it’s never too late to dream and Phil Mickelson will go into this weekend’s US Open bidding to become just the sixth person in history to complete a career grand slam.

The San Diego native – who turns 48 on Saturday – is a six time runner-up at the major, including his run back in 2004 when he and eventual winner Retief Goosen were the only players to finish under par at Shinnecock.

Now returning to that same course he came very close to conquering 14 years ago and also played on back in 1995, the American will be hoping to go one better and clinch that elusive crown.

Even for a man of all Mickelson’s experience and pedigree, Shinnecock will require his full repertoire of skillset to win. It’s a fast and difficult course that is a riddle to solve even for the best.

And, like many of the great links courses which influenced the Long Island venue, there is danger at every turn should a player not approach each hole with total focus and attention to detail on their shot selection.

But the five-time major winner’s form in 2018 suggests he is a serious contender, with five top-6 finishes in 13 tournaments, including a play-off victory over Justin Thomas in Mexico to win the 43rd tournament of his illustrious career.

After his win in Mexico in March, he finished T36 at the Masters and followed it up with a top-5 finish at the Wells Fargo. He missed the cut at the Players Championship but is on course to make the US Ryder Cup team for a 12th time – where he has never had to rely on a captain’s pick.

His last major triumph was five years ago at the Open Championship in Muirfield, and although he boasts a poor record of T33-T22-MC-MC-T36 in his last five major finishes, the pressure is undoubtedly there as he chases the one major that has evaded his trophy cabinet.

The oldest player to win the US Open is Hale Irwin, who was 45 when he sealed the title in 1990. With a victory, Mickelson would become the second oldest major winner, behind Julius Boros who was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship.

Remarkably, the world No20 opted to miss last year’s championship to attend the graduation of his daughter, who was born the day after he finished second at Pinehurst in 1999.

At the St. Jude Classic on Sunday, he showed his class once more, finishing tied for 12th after posting rounds of 66-70-73-65, behind winner Dustin Johnson who clinched his 18th career title in dominant fashion.

And with the second major of the year teeing off on Thursday, Mickelson looks primed for an assault on the leaderboard.

The left-hander is grouped for the first two rounds with two other players who are one major away from completing the grand slam – Rory McIlroy (US Open winner in 2011) and Jordan Spieth (US Open winner in 2015).

It may seem like a stiff task when challenging perhaps two of the most talented golfers of the current era, but Mickelson has the confidence, flawless short game and drive to win on his 28th appearance at the major.

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