Jason Day and Tiger Woods during practice today – courtesy of USGA / Chris Keane
An eclectic mix of Australians take on Shinnecock Hills and the game’s leading players this week when the US Open is played on Long Island in New York.
The Australian line-up consists of three players who qualified through the various performance criteria set out by the USGA, the other six through Sectional Qualifying at a series of venues across Britain, Japan and the USA.
Australians have only two US Open titles to their credit, those coming with David Graham’s victory in 1981 and Geoff Ogilvy’s in 2006, although they have been runner-up on seven other occasions, Jason and Greg Norman Day twice and Stephen Leaney, Bruce Crampton and Kel Nagle one each.
In 2018 Jason Day and Marc Leishman offer genuine hope of another victory, Adam Scott an outside chance while perhaps the others have done well to make the field.
Let’s look at how they shape up bearing in mind that each is likely to consider success in different ways.
Seven starts at the US Open has provided five top tens for the Queenslander, two of those runner-up finishes and the manner in which he has performed this year suggests that impressive record could well continue this week. He has shown a capacity to play the sort of golf course he will be presented with this week at Shinnecock Hills well and appears on paper and logically as the most likely of the Australians.
Has the game and the demeanour to capture a major championship at some stage of his career. His record at the US Open is not as good as it has been in other major championships but his form in 2018 has been solid including when runner-up in Dallas two weeks ago. Leishman’s background and his relative success at Open Championship venues and /or in windy conditions suggests this week could well be an opportunity for Leishman contend and perhaps do even better.
Scott just crept into the field to play his 17th consecutive US Open through Sectional Qualifying ten days ago. There has never been a lot to get excited about by Scott’s US Open performances although a 4th place in 2015 was impressive enough. Importantly his chances this week however is that Scott has been building continuity of late playing more regularly as he worked hard to earn a place in the field and his effort to do just that suggests his game is in reasonable shape. A new local caddie is another intriguing aspect of the week for Scott.
Smith appears to be out of sorts with his game at present and that is a concern. He has shown however with a 4th place finish in 2015 at Chambers Bay and a 5th place finish at this year’s Masters that the big stage does not faze him. If he can regain some of the form he is capable of then he might have another good week but having missed his last three cuts the chances of the Queenslander are under a cloud.
Jones has only two starts in the event, both of which ended in him not making the weekend, so his record in the event leaves a lot to be desired. So too has his form in 2018 although in recent weeks there appears to have been improvement and just making the field has been an achievement for the former Sydneysider.
Baddeley also made the field via Sectional Qualifying and now plays his 10th US Open although there is little to get excited about amongst his previous nine starts. He has a best of 13th and no other top twenties and having missed three of his last four cuts this year then his chances of anything better appear slim.
Victorian Herbert played his way into the field last week and continues to impress in the early stages of his professional career. This will be the first of two majors Herbert will play in 2018 having also qualified to play the Open Championship. It is clearly too early for him to expect any better than a cut made, if that, but he has done well to be playing on this stage so early in his career.
Bransdon is in the field courtesy of Sectional Qualifying in Japan and although this is a significantly higher level than which he competes in regularly it offers the Victorian a great opportunity to test his game against the world’s best.
West Australian Scrivener managed to play his way into the field through Sectional Qualifying in England and gets his chance to play a first major championship. He is an impressive young player who won the NSW Open late in 2017 and although he has hardly set the world on fire in 2018 this is a great chance to see just where his game is at against the game’s elite.