10 Groups to Watch at the 2018 U.S. Open

Published on Wednesday, June 13th, 2018 in News | Slider

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is a popular pick, given his dramatic win last week, and strong history on links-style courses.

The 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills is here, meaning tight fairways, tough greens, and millions of employees around the world trying to quickly minimize their live stream windows before the boss notices. But, when’s the best time to turn that live stream on? Below, we map out some of our favorite pairings, including the must-see groups with players like Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods, along with all of our Home Teamers and a few others where the USGA’s sense of humor gave us a chuckle.

At the bottom, we also give our picks for this year’s Open. Post your pick to Cascade Golfer’s Facebook page, and you could win some cool CG swag!

All times Pacific

3:56 a.m. – Michael Putnam; Scott Gregory; Will Zalatoris
Our first Home Teamer, Michael Putnam, goes off at 3:56 a.m. Pacific. That may be a little early for most of us, but he’s used to an early start (6:56 a.m. ET, that is) — at Chambers Bay in 2015, Putnam (who grew up just minutes from the course) had the honor of being in the first group off the tee. Hopefully, he can ride the wave of his brother, Andrew’s, runner-up finish at last week’s St. Jude Classic. (Unfortunately, Andrew’s jump up the rankings came too late for him to qualify.)

4:29 a.m. – Louis Oosthuizen; Jimmy Walker; Justin Rose
This group features three past major champions, with 23 combined top-10 finishes. It also includes three of our favorite players to watch — nobody was more fun to follow in 2015 than Oosthuizen, while Rose comes across as a consummate pro, and Walker always seems to be having a blast.

4:40 a.m. (10) – Bubba Watson; Jason Day; Brooks Koepka
Want to follow the reigning champ? Brooks Koepka begins his title defense before the sun comes up on the West Coast, teeing off at 4:40 a.m. Thursday. He’s joined by two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson and fan favorite Jason Day in a group that features three of the Tour’s biggest hitters. Catch a couple of holes before work, then flick on the live stream when you hit the office.

4:51 a.m. – Zach Johnson; Charl Schwartzel; Patrick Reed
It’s a USGA tradition to throw a few creative pairings into the mix. (Remember the year they paired up all the players who went by their initials?) Here’s the first one this year — can you spot the connection? All three players are past Masters champs, including Johnson (2007), Schwartzel (2011) and the current champ Reed. Will a game suited to Augusta translate to Shinnecock Hills? We’ll find out.

5:02 a.m. – Kevin Chappell; Andrew Johnston; Daniel Berger
Tune in to watch Home Teamer-in-law Kevin Chappell (his wife, Elizabeth, grew up in Kirkland — the two own a home here, and Kevin is, in fact, a member at Gamble Sands), stay for wild man Andrew Johnston. You may not know Johnston yet — he primarily plays on the European Tour — but if he can ever make a run in the U.S., he’ll be a household favorite for sure. With a look straight out of “Game of Thrones” and a nickname — “Beef” — to match, he makes an unforgettable impression.

5:02 a.m. (10) – Rory McIlroy; Jordan Spieth; Phil Mickelson
Of all of the groups the USGA put together, this one is the most inspired. Yes, it features three great players — including Jordan Spieth and his Home Team caddy, University Place’s Michael Greller. But, it also features the only three players in the field who are one win away from a career Grand Slam — Rory needs the Masters, Spieth the PGA Championship, and Mickelson, of course, the U.S. Open. Will this be the year?

10:14 a.m. – Sergio Garcia; Jon Rahm; Rafa Cabrera Bello
Viva Espana! If you’re following this group, I sure hope you have a fluent understanding of the Spanish language. The USGA grouped together the world’s top-three Spanish players, each at different stages in their careers. Garcia is El Perro Grande, of course, with the most career winnings and that elusive major finally under his belt. Rahm is the one seemingly destined to take Garcia’s mantle as Spain’s standard bearer for the next 10-15 years, while Cabrera Bello seeks his first win on U.S. soil.

10:36 a.m. (10) – Ernie Els; Steve Stricker; Jim Furyk
If my dad were still alive, this would be the group he’d follow. The Tiger-Thomas-DJ group of its day, Els-Stricker-Furyk may have lost a little shine, but the group hasn’t lost much game. Indeed, Stricker and Furyk remain popular dark horse picks almost every year at the U.S. Open, given their excellent ball striking, while even at this stage of his career, Els has managed at least one top-10 major championship finish in eight of the last 13 years.

10:36 a.m. – Cameron Smith; Kyle Stanley; Pat Perez
No Home Teamer is having a better year than Gig Harbor resident Kyle Stanley, who at 27th on the money list (with over $2.2 million in the bank already in 2018) and 38th in the World Rankings is building a case that, with some more good results over the summer, he should be a part of the U.S. Ryder Cup team this fall. A strong U.S. Open would go a long way towards making that dream a reality.

10:47 a.m. – Justin Thomas; Dustin Johnson; Tiger Woods
Stanley may find himself playing alongside some massive crowds on Thursday — though, with all credit to Kyle and playing partners Cameron Smith and Pat Perez, it likely has more to do with fans getting in position to see the group behind them. It’s without question the featured group of the week, with this week’s World No. 1, Dustin Johnson, last week’s World No. 1, Justin Thomas, and perhaps the all-time World No. 1, Tiger Woods. It’s no coincidence that this group will go off later in the day, when the TV networks can maximize ratings — make liberal use of that boss button, because this is one group you won’t want to miss.

Who do you like to win the U.S. Open? We make our picks below; hop on over to our Facebook page and make yours, and you could win some cool CG Swag!

Dick Stephens, Publisher: TOMMY FLEETWOOD
Shinnecock is the Carnoustie of the U.S. At 7,500 yards, par-70, a rating of 75 and slope of 140-plus, the course calls for a decathlete of a golfer — that’s Fleetwood (world rank No. 12). He’s top-15 in categories that count and hits it long. With three top-10s this year and two in the last month, the guy’s ready to have an Oosthuizen-like breakout. The last three U.S. Opens at Shinnecock have averaged just two under par – dude?! I feel an unlikely hero will win here, one who hits it long and knows how to grind on links. He finished fourth last year behind Koepka’s freak show.

Kirk Tourtillotte, Vice President: DUSTIN JOHNSON
He is a past U.S. Open winner and understands how to win it, AND is red-hot from this past weekend — including his amazing eagle on 18 to finish the tournament and reclaim the world No. 1 ranking.

Brian Beaky, Editor: JASON DAY
Boy, I really went back and forth between Day and Rickie Fowler. I firmly believe that both will win a U.S. Open someday — three top-fives in the last five for Fowler, and five out of seven for Day. Fowler, too, was fantastic at The Masters, and has three top-fives in his last four majors. Both have four top-fives this year, both are in the top-10 of the world golf rankings. But, I just think that Shinnecock sets up well for big hitters with strong games around the green, and that fits Day to a tee.

Simon Dubiel, Golf Sales Manager: JUSTIN ROSE
He has proven he can win on tough setups and in big moments.

Tony Dellino, Golf Show Manager: DUSTIN JOHNSON
He is playing great golf right now and I like his momentum coming off the St. Jude Classic. He won in 2016 and is ready to reclaim the title.

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