US Open: Key talking points ahead of the 118th edition at Shinnecock

Jordan Spieth with the US Open trophy
Jordan Spieth with the US Open trophy

PA Sport look for answers to five of the key questions ahead of the 118th US Open, where Brooks Koepka defends his title.

Brooks Koepka will defend his US Open title at Shinnecock Hills next week as the year's second major championship takes place from June 14-17.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at five talking points ahead of the tournament.

Will the USGA get the course set-up right?

The last time Shinnecock Hills hosted the US Open in 2004, play had to be suspended during the final round - in which 28 of the 66 players amazingly failed to break 80 - to water the seventh green, which had already been described as "ridiculous" and "unplayable" by Ernie Els a day earlier. More recently the 18th hole at Chambers Bay in 2015 was labelled "unbelievably stupid" when played as a par four by Jordan Spieth, while Henrik Stenson compared the parched greens to "putting on broccoli". Last year at Erin Hills, former champion Rory McIlroy was stunned to learn the USGA were cutting down heavy rough on four holes in the middle of his pre-tournament press conference. It is hardly surprising that USGA chief executive Mike Davis admits the organisation is happy to "have a Mulligan this time" at Shinnecock.

Can Koepka become the first back-to-back winner for 29 years?

Curtis Strange was the last player to make a successful title defence, following his play-off victory over Nick Faldo in 1988 with a one-shot win 12 months later. Koepka equalled McIlroy's tournament record with a 16-under-par total and four-shot victory at Erin Hills, and also won by nine shots in the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan in November. A serious wrist injury means the 28-year-old has played just five events in 2018, although he was second in the recent Forth Worth Invitational.

Will Phil Mickelson complete the career grand slam?

Mickelson needs to win the US Open - in which he has been runner-up six times - to become the sixth player to have won all four major titles, but remarkably opted to miss last year's championship to attend the high school graduation of his daughter Amanda, who was born the day after he finished second to Payne Stewart at Pinehurst in 1999. At the time it was easy to suggest the 47-year-old's chances of a first win since 2013 at Erin Hills were pretty slim, but the left-hander returned to the winner's circle this season in the WGC-Mexico Championship and has recorded four other top-six finishes.

Phil Mickelson glances enviously at Geoff Ogilvy with the US Open trophy
Phil Mickelson glances enviously at Geoff Ogilvy with the US Open trophy

Can US dominance of the majors be broken?

Patrick Reed's victory in the Masters means American players currently hold all four major titles, with Koepka defending his US Open crown and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas the reigning Open and US PGA champions respectively. However, European players won the US Open four times in five years from 2010, while Shane Lowry held a four-shot lead after 54 holes in 2016 before finishing second and Tommy Fleetwood was fourth last year.

Is a shock winner possible?

Since Darren Clarke and Keegan Bradley won the last two majors of 2011 when ranked 111th and 108th in the world respectively, the lowest-ranked winner of any major has been Jimmy Walker, who was 48th when he won the 2016 US PGA Championship. The 2017 major winners were ranked 11th, 22nd, third and 14th, while Reed was 24th before his victory in the Masters in April. The days of Ben Curtis (396), Shaun Micheel (169) and YE Yang (110) appear to be over.

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