Golf's toughest major returns! The U.S. Open is here to test the mind, heart, spirit and game of the best players in the world. Combine the fact that some of golf's biggest names playing well with an unfamiliar-yet-classic course, and you have the makings of a special week. Good thing there's no other golf story looming over the proceedings ...
Setting the stage
For the first time in forever, the tournament itself isn't the story of the week. This is the first major being played in the LIV Golf era, an epochal change in golf, and it very well could be the last full-field U.S. Open if the USGA decides to close the Open.
Still, once the tee shots begin on Thursday, the focus will be on the golf, and all the many players coming into this tournament in near-peak form. The U.S. Open is always a test of will even in the best of circumstances, and this course is likely to challenge the world's best from dawn on Thursday through dusk on Sunday.
Key storylines: Who’s coming in hot?
Rory McIlroy hasn't won a major since 2014, but that doesn't stop the entire golf world from hoping and praying that this time, it'll be different. McIlroy is playing strong golf — he won last weekend at the RBC Canadian Open with a strong performance that turned unexpectedly gutsy — but it's never about how well he's playing coming in, it's whether he can string together four good days in a row.
The U.S. Open is truly an open event — anyone with a handicap of 1.4 or better can attempt to play their way into the field. The USGA accepted 9.265 entries, the sixth-highest total of all time, and included players from all 50 states and 79 foreign countries working their way through 109 sites all over the world. The 156-player field includes 88 already-exempt golfers.
The odds: Who’s the favorite?
McIlroy has the best odds in the field. McIlroy won the U.S. Open back in 2011 at Congressional. Right behind him are Thomas, Rahm and Scheffler, the only players at better than 22-1 odds.
Here's the rundown of the best odds on the board:
Rory McIlroy (+1100)
Justin Thomas (+1200)
Jon Rahm (+1400)
Scottie Scheffler (+1400)
Cam Smith (+2200)
Patrick Cantlay (+2200)
Xander Schauffele (+2200)
Jordan Spieth (+2500)
Will Zalatoris (+2500)
Collin Morikawa (+2800)
Matt Fitzpatrick (+2800)
Sam Burns (+2800)
Viktor Hovland (+2800)
The course: The Country Club
The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. is one of the USGA's five founding courses. A combination of multiple courses built at various times in the club's 120-plus-year history, the current alignment features 15 of the original 18 holes, plus three additional holes from another loop. The club has hosted three U.S. Opens, including the fabled 2013 Open when amateur Francis Ouimet won in one of the great upsets in golf history. The 1963 Open featured Julius Boros besting Arnold Palmer and Jacky Cupit, and the 1988 Open saw Curtis Strange defeat Nick Faldo in an 18-hole playoff.
This year's course will play as a 7,264-yard par 70. Contoured fairways and small greens will place a premium on shotmaking, particularly approach shots. The Country Club's greens are among the smallest that players will face all year, and if the dry weather bakes them out, the tournament could turn treacherous.
TV/Streaming times: How & where to watch
NBC has the U.S. Open, and will be spreading it across its broadcast, cable and streaming properties. Here's the rundown of all the many places you'll need to go to keep up with the action:
Tee times: Who plays when?
Complete tee times for the field for Round 1 are here. A few of the notable pairings, all times Eastern:
7:18 a.m.: Collin Morikawa, James Piot, Jon Rahm
7:29 a.m.: Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Max Homa
7:40 a.m.*: Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele
1:03 p.m.*: Kevin Na, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton
1:14 p.m.: Justin THomas, Viktor Hovland, Tony Finau
1:25 p.m.*: Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith, Scottie Scheffler
1:36 p.m.: Matt Fitzpatrick, Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson
1:47 p.m.*: Phil Mickelson, Shane Lowry, Louis Oosthuizen
1:47 p.m.*: Gary Woodland, Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau
*-10th tee start
The weather: Breezy and warm
Galleries at the U.S. Open will enjoy some classic New England summer weather — low 70s, winds in the teens. The only rain in the forecast is Friday afternoon, which could cause a bit of trouble for players grinding to make the cut, but will soften the greens for the weekend.
Contact Jay Busbee at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee.