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Golf-Five storylines to follow at this week’s U.S. Open

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Five storylines to follow as the best players in the world descend upon The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, for the June 16-19 U.S. Open.

MICKELSON MANIA

Phil Mickelson, who has finished runner-up at the U.S. Open a record six times, never flies under the radar at his national championship but the spotlight on him this week will reach new heights given he arrives on the heels of his LIV Golf debut.

The six-times major champion took a self-imposed hiatus from the sport in February — even skipping his title defense at the PGA Championship — amid a backlash over comments he made about the breakaway tour where he marked his return last week.

Mickelson, who needs a U.S. Open title to complete the career Grand Slam, was only cleared to compete at Brookline after the USGA decided last week not to deny entry to eligible players who joined the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

MCILROY MAJOR DROUGHT

Rory McIlroy, who posted top-10 finishes in his last three U.S. Open appearances, has gone nearly eight years since winning the most recent of his four majors, but has been one of the more consistent players on tour this year and is fresh off a win.

The Northern Irishman has racked up six top-10 finishes in 10 starts this season, including at the year’s first two majors where he enjoyed a runner-up showing at the Masters before an eighth-place finish at the PGA Championship.

McIlroy arrives at Brookline as the tournament favorite and full of confidence having just successfully defended his title at the Canadian Open where he triumphed by two shots to secure his 21st PGA Tour victory.

RAHM SEEKS REPEAT

Jon Rahm birdied the final two holes, including an 18-footer at the last after draining a left-to-right putt from 25 feet at the 17th, for a one-shot victory at Torrey Pines in 2021 and will now try to become only the eighth player to win back-to-back U.S. Open titles.

World number two Rahm, however, is not in the same form he was in 2021 and did not fare particularly well at the year’s first two majors having tied for 27th place at the Masters and finishing in a share of 48th at the PGA Championship.

Rahm, whose sole PGA Tour win this year came at the Mexico Open where he played against a weak field, finished in a share of 10th place at the Memorial Tournament in his only U.S. Open tune-up event.

TOP-RANKED SCHEFFLER

Scottie Scheffler has cooled off since he won the Masters in April for his fourth PGA Tour win in six starts but if his short game is up to its usual standards the world number one could very well prove a threat at Brookline.

In Scheffler’s first major start since his Masters triumph, the 25-year-old American missed the cut at the PGA Championship but quickly got back on track a week later at Colonial where he was edged in a two-man playoff.

Scheffler has not had much in the way of success at the U.S. Open, having missed the cut twice in four appearances, but did manage a career-best share of seventh place last year and is in the midst of his best season to date.

ABSENT WOODS

Tiger Woods will not be in the field this week as the three-time champion decided to withdraw from the U.S. Open in hope of being ready for the July 14-17 British Open after playing in the year’s first two majors took a toll on his 46-year-old body.

Woods returned to competition this year after suffering career-threatening leg injuries in a February 2021 car accident and while he made the cut in both majors he experienced obvious discomfort with his surgically repaired right leg.

The 15-times major champion shot a one-under-par 71 in the first round of the Masters but went on to finish in 47th place and then withdrew after the third round of last month’s PGA Championship where he appeared to be in significant discomfort.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Brookline, Massachusetts; Editing by Toby Davis)

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SourceReuters

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