Brooks Koepka in pursuit of historic US Open hat-trick and other talking points

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Brooks Koepka

Brooks Koepka will be bidding to win a hat-trick of US Open titles as the third major championship of the year gets under way on Thursday at Pebble Bleach in California.

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

Can Koepka seal a third-successive major?

Koepka became the first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to successfully defend his title with victory at Shinnecock Hills in 2018.

The 29-year-old rose to the fore last year and looks unstoppable again in 2019, clinching a fourth major at Bethpage Black last month. Now, the Florida man has his sights on a hat-trick of wins at a single major, last achieved by Willie Anderson in 1905.

Although it may be difficult to replicate the highs of back-to-back major triumphs, after winning in Long Island four weeks ago, he still boasts the confidence, power and precision to win this weekend. With four of his last eight major starts converted into victory, it looks hard to see past Koepka.

How is McIlroy looking?

Rory McIlroy won his 16th PGA Tour title in dominating fashion when winning by seven shots, at a stunning 22-under par, in Canada last weekend.

In the process, the Northern Irishman fired his best four-day score ever on the PGA Tour and this acts as the perfect momentum heading into this week’s US Open. The 30-year-old is, statistically-speaking, having the most productive season of his career, with two wins, one runner-up, three top-5s, four top-10s from 11 starts.

He also leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained off the tee, strokes gained tee to green and strokes gained overall. Based on current form, this is a golden opportunity for McIlroy to win his first major since August 2014.

What shape is the course in after last year’s criticism?

At Chambers Bay four years ago it was bad greens, likened to “putting on broccoli”. The following year it was poor rules which left Dustin Johnson, other players and spectators unsure of the score with seven holes remaining.

In 2017, Rory McIlroy fumed with the sound of rough being cut down on four holes. And last year, only three players broke par in the third round.

This time around, the USGA need to redeem themselves and will be determined to avoid similar mistakes at Pebble Beach, a beautiful course that has been a regular feature on the PGA Tour.

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 27 attempts (25 as a professional, two as an amateur).

At 48, the five-time major winner continues to show impressive form, with victory at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this year. It was his fifth win at the California course, a place where his comfort and success level is a major plus.

A win on his 49th birthday on Sunday to complete the Grand Slam would be a story of epic proportion.

Will America’s dominance at majors continue?

Koepka’s victory at Bethpage last month means American players currently hold seven of the last nine majors, with Sergio Garcia and Francesco Molinari’s respective wins at the Masters (2017) and the Open (2018) being the only two held by European players since April 2017.

American players’ strong hold on the US Open is also tight, winning the last four tournaments. And based on results in recent months, it’s difficult to see America golf’s dominance being toppled in California this weekend.

Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood or McIlroy may boast strong form for European players, but it is difficult to see past Dustin Johnson or Koepka prevailing. The wait continues.

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