Who are the biggest challengers to Rory McIlroy at the US Open?
With the 2018 US Open just three days away, Rory McIlroy has been installed as one of the favourites to take home the trophy.
However, the World No.6 will have to be on his game this week to be in with a shot of winning, with US Open courses notoriously long and horrendously difficult, testing every facet of your game.
The imposing Shinnecock Hills in New York will be no different this week. Sitting at 7,445 yards, the iconic links-style couse will sort out the true contenders from the pretenders.
But, besides the course itself, who will be McIlroy's main opposition this week at Shinnecock? Here we look at five players who could be in with a shot.
Johnson can't help but be feeling pretty good about himself right now having just regained the World No.1 spot by winning the FedEx St. Jude Classic at the weekend, capping it all off by holing his second shot at the final hole for a walk-off eagle. The 2016 champion, who won at Oakmont CC, has proven he has the kind of game that suits the layout of a US Open - power and clean ball striking - and when you add into that his all-round confidence in his game right now, he will undoubtedly fancy his chances.
The hot-headed Spaniard has powered up the world rankings in recent years having made a name for himself in college golf, and now has five wins under his belt as a professional - including last year's Irish Open at Portstewart. However, he's still missing a Major, and his record in golf's top tournaments hasn't been overly impressive either. That being said, he turned it around at this year's Masters when he recorded a fourth-placed finish, and his game has matured since this time last year, so a run at the trophy may not be that unrealistic.
The 2018 Masters champion, Reed has something nobody else in the field has: experience of winning a Major in the last two months. Now, that may not count for much given how many first-time winners there have been at Majors recently, but it does at least give Reed the confidence to know he can see out the weekend if he gets into the right areas. The Texan hasn't been in great form since his Masters win, though, with an eighth placed finish at the Wells Fargo Championship backed by two average performances at The Players and the Memorial Tournament.
As far as form goes, Molinari is right up there with Johnson as one of the form players in the world right now. The Italian has somewhat answered his doubters by seeing off McIlroy to win the BMW PGA Championship, and he then followed that up at the Italian Open a week later by finishing second, just a shot behind eventual winner Thorbjorn Olesen. It seems like Molinari has firmly turned the corner from his early-season form, but he needs to prove those weren't flashes in the pan and he does have the consistency to challenge.
It would be remiss of us not to mention the returning legend. The former World No.1, now all the way back up to 80th in the rankings, has proven that his game is back to a level where he can compete - even if he hasn't actually won yet - and all it takes is for everything to fall into place for him on any given week to get over the line. So why not this week? He loves the competitiveness of a Major, and the crowds will surely fall in behind him regardless of how he's doing. The only question that remains: is his game quite up to scratch to win a tournament of this magnitude? We'll see.
Belfast Telegraph Digital