5 talking points ahead of the 120th US Open

Gary Woodland will defend his title when the 120th US Open gets under way at Winged Foot on Thursday.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five talking points ahead of the year’s second major championship.

Will the course embarrass or identify the world’s best?

The last time Winged Foot staged the US Open in 2006, Geoff Ogilvy’s winning score was five over par, but that was no surprise after the so-called “Massacre” in 1974. Not a single player broke par in the first round and 44 shot 80 or worse, while Jack Nicklaus hit a birdie putt on the opening hole off the front of the green and Hale Irwin’s winning total was seven over. “What are you trying to do, embarrass the best players in the world?” was the accusation levelled at Sandy Tatum, then chairman of the USGA’s championship committee. “No, we’re trying to identify them,” came Tatum’s famous response.

Can Phil Mickelson complete the career grand slam?

Mickelson needs to win the US Open – in which he has been runner-up six times – to become the sixth player to have won all four major titles, but since the last of his second places behind Justin Rose in 2013, he has not come close. The left-hander double bogeyed the 72nd hole in 2006 when needing a par to win and is considered a 100/1 outsider this year, but the 50-year-old did win on his Champions Tour debut in August.

Can recent US dominance be broken?

European players enjoyed four wins in five years from 2010 thanks to Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer, but American players have won their national Open for the last five through Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka (twice) and Gary Woodland. Eight of the world’s current top 10 are also American, although number eight Koepka is absent through injury.

Will Dustin Johnson turn his brilliant form into a second US Open title?

Johnson carded consecutive rounds of 80 in the Memorial Tournament in July and withdrew from the following week’s 3M Open after an opening 78, but his form figures since read 12-2-1-2-1 and the world number one looks the man to beat at Winged Foot. His victory at Oakmont in 2016 proved he can win on tough courses and it would be a surprise if he was not in contention on Sunday.

Is a surprise winner possible?

Since world number 108 Keegan Bradley won the 2011 US PGA Championship, the last 33 majors have been won by players ranked inside the world’s top 50 and all evidence points to that trend continuing given the form of the likes of Johnson, Rahm and Justin Thomas. However, at a venue where, with all due respect, Kenneth Ferrie held a share of the 54-hole lead in 2006, anything may be possible.