The second major of the men's golf season is the one that many fans look forward to the most because of the difficulty that the top professionals face when teeing it up in the U.S. Open.
The majority of the top golf tournaments—including the other three majors—allow the top golfers in the world a chance to show off their skills and string low scores together.
That's not the case for the 156 players who will compete at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York, because the United States Golf Association wants to make sure that this year's Open is not a cakewalk.
The tournament gets underway Thursday morning and will conclude Sunday, barring any major weather issues.
Brooks Koepka won last year's tournament with a score of 16 under par at Erin Hills, and seven golfers reached 10 under or better. Erin Hills features much wider fairways than most typical U.S. Open courses, and when the winds did not buffet the Wisconsin tract, golfers had no problems putting low scores on the books.
The golfers should be prepared for a much tougher run at Shinnecock Hills, where the fairways are surrounded by punishing fescue rough and the greens appear to be lightning-fast.
Dustin Johnson is the favorite to win the tournament with odds of +800, according to OddsShark. Johnson appears to be the most talented golfer on the PGA Tour. He is once again the No. 1 golfer in the world, and when it comes to driving and distance and accuracy, nobody can match him.
Johnson is coming off a victory in the FedEx St. Jude Classic in which he holed out his last shot on 18. If he is on fire with his short game, he should have the best chance to win.
Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Justin Rose are the second choices at +1400.
U.S. Open odds (courtesy of OddsShark)
Dustin Johnson, +800
Rory McIlroy, +1400
Justin Thomas, +1400
Justin Rose, +1400
Jordan Spieth, +1600
Tiger Woods, +1800
Rickie Fowler, +1800
Brooks Koepka, +2000
Jon Rahm, +2200
Hideki Matsuyama, +2800
Phil Mickelson, +3000
Henrik Stenson, +3000
Branden Grace, +3300
Patrick Reed, +4000
Bryson DeChambeau, +4000
Tommy Fleetwood, +4000
Sergio Garcia, +5000
Bubba Watson, +5000
Paul Casey, +5000
McIlroy failed to make the cut at the Players Championship. However, when it comes to having a complete game, McIlroy has all the tools needed to compete with Johnson if both golfers are at their best.
While the Shinnecock fairways are not as wide as Erin Hills', they should allow McIlroy to have a good chance at keeping his drives in play.
Thomas had been the No. 1 golfer in the world for four weeks before Johnson took the ranking back with his victory in the St. Jude. Thomas is going for his second major title, having won the PGA Championship a year ago.
Justin Rose may not get the respect of Johnson, McIlroy or Thomas, but he has been among the most consistent and dependable golfers in the world. Rose won the Colonial just two weeks ago, and his ability as a ball-striker should allow him to remain in contention for four consecutive rounds.
Jordan Spieth always seems to find his game in the major championships. He has lacked consistency this season, largely because his stellar short game has not been as on point as it has been in the past. He won the Byron Nelson Tournament but is coming off a missed cut at the Memorial. Spieth has the ability to put bad performances in the rearview mirror and come up big at the major championships.
Tiger Woods has been hitting the ball quite well this year, and his statistics at the Memorial in late May and early June were quite impressive until his putting was included.
Woods has played in nine events this year, and he has made the cut in eight of them. He is averaging 70.5 per round and earned more than $1.5 million in prize money this year. Tiger has not won a tournament this year, but he has two top-10 finishes.
Rickie Fowler is coming off an excellent second-place performance in the Masters, and he would have won that major had Patrick Reed not been on fire with his putting and shot-making. Fowler has four top-10s this year, but he is looking for his first victory of the season. He has earned more than $3 million this year.
Jason Day has the tools to win here, and he has displayed his talents quite a bit this year. He has made the cut in all 11 events he has entered, he has four top-10s and two victories this year. While he struggled in the Memorial to a 44th-place finish, he was fifth in the Players Championship and he won the Wells Fargo title in May.
Koepka won last year's U.S. Open in large part because of his tremendous power off the tee. He took advantage of the favorable conditions and barged through the opening to win his first major title. Koepka has two top-10s this year in seven events, and his best showing was his second-place performance in the Fort Worth Invitational in late May. Koepka has won nearly $1.8 million this season.
It's difficult to overlook Johnson because he is coming off an impressive victory and he is playing so well. His impressive power is almost shocking because many of the top pros who can fly past the 300-yard mark on their drives can't keep up with Johnson.
One of those who can is Day, and he will not be intimidated by the numbers Johnson puts up on the board. If these two are battling on the final day, expect Day to be ready for the challenge while Johnson could feel the pressure.
Woods' last major victory came 10 years ago in the U.S. Open. If he can get off to a solid start, there's no reason he can't play himself into contention on moving day. Winning is another story, but he should take another step toward making his comeback memorable.
1. Jason Day. 2. Dustin Johnson. 3. Tiger Woods