Dustin Johnson broke through with his first major title at this stage last season, and he has the chance to prove himself once again this weekend at the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
Johnson is the favorite to claim back-to-back championships, but he was not able to take part in the year’s first major after withdrawing from the Masters due to a freak injury. Can he overcome that hurdle by locking in and showing out at the U.S. Open? He will certainly need to bring his best game, as other contenders, like Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, will be pushing hard this weekend.
Let's take a look at the odds for the top players, while the complete odds can be found at OddsShark.com. Continue for a preview of what to expect for the big names at the tournament.
2017 U.S. Open Top Odds
Dustin Johnson: 15/2
Jordan Spieth: 12/1
Rory McIlroy: 12/1
Jason Day: 14/1
Jon Rahm: 20/1
Rickie Fowler: 20/1
Justin Rose: 22/1
Sergio Garcia: 22/1
Hideki Matsuyama: 28/1
Henrik Stenson: 28/1
Contenders to Watch
Johnson appeared primed to stake his claim as the world's best golfer this season after his breakout run to end last year. However, he was forced to withdraw from the year's first major after falling down stairs just before the event started.
Now Johnson has a joyous distraction ahead of the U.S. Open. Per ESPN's Ian O'Connor, Johnson is expected to play this weekend despite arriving late due to his fiancee Paulina Gretzky's giving birth to the couple's second child.
Some focus and practice was undoubtedly taken away from golf this week, but Johnson's immense talent and overall play in the last year indicate he should be fine at Erin Hills. Since winning the U.S. Open last year, Johnson has 12 top-10 finishes and three wins, which put him in among the best in the game for this season, per the PGA:
There is some inconsistency to worry about, though. In his last three tournaments, Johnson placed 12th and 13th before missing the cut at the Memorial Tournament on the weekend of June 1. He has three missed cuts since his U.S. Open win in 2016, including one major in the PGA Championship.
So the potential for Johnson to blow up and drop out of contention early is always there, but it does not seem likely. He finished in the top five of in each of the last three U.S. Opens, and he explained to ESPN's Jason Sobel that this tournament is one he would have expected to become his first major win.
"I would've ranked it up there, because my record is very good at the U.S. Open," Johnson said. "I like that kind of golf -- really tough; you've got to drive it straight; you've got to hit great iron shots; you've got to control your ball. So for me, that's why I like it."
Johnson is certainly putting himself is good spots early this season, as he leads the tour with an average drive of 312.14. He is the favorite for a reason, and Johnson should be counted on to be a player this weekend.
Speaking contenders, it is impossible to bring up a major tournament in recent years without mentioning McIlroy and Spieth.
The two young guns typically find themselves in contention on the biggest stages, particularly Spieth. The 23-year-old has five top-five major finishes since 2015, but he has none since his late meltdown at the 2016 Masters.
Spieth is off to a good start this season, notching a win and five top-10 marks. However, he went through a rough stretch from March 30 to May 21, during which he missed the cut in three out of four tournaments. He then rebounded with a second-place finish at the DEAN & DELUCA.
Unlike Johnson, Spieth is not a heavy hitter from the tee. Instead, he relies on a strong short game that has him ranked second on the tour with a 1.7 putting average. Spieth also ranks fourth in greens in regulation rate at 70.9. This allows him to find the green often and avoid more than two putts, which usually means he is sinking birdies or pars. This is important in majors as it allows Spieth to stay consistent while others on the leaderboard drop around him.
On the other hand, McIlroy likes to smash the ball. Not only should he be followed through the first two rounds because of his own star status, but he will play in a monster group, via Golf Channel's Justin Ray:
Whether McIlroy will be able to hit the ball to his liking could be an issue. He started off great with four straight top-10 results to begin the year, but McIlroy has not played since an injury at the Players Championship on May 14. Spieth is more of a sure thing to fight atop the leaderboard this weekend, but McIlroy is always a threat if he plays to his potential.
A sleeper to keep an eye on may be Rickie Fowler.
He's long been considered one of the best young players in the game, but he has not been able to put it all together at majors, as ESPN's John Buccigross notes:
As for this season, Fowler has shown flashes of brilliance, as he won the Honda Classic while adding four other top-five finishes. He missed the cut at his last two appearances at the U.S. Open, but he finished second and 10th the two previous times. Fowler has the ability to make a run as a dark horse, so he could be an option given his favorable odds.
Statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.