The U.S. Open is golf’s ultimate test. Based on our calculations (see below), here’s a look at the PGA Tour’s hottest players heading into Chambers Bay.
1. Kevin Kisner – 245.33 points
Kisner secured a late U.S. Open berth thanks to a top-60 world ranking after his top-10 finish at the Memorial two weeks ago. He skipped the Fed Ex St. Jude Classic to rest his ailing back, but has four top-8 finishes in his last six tourneys — including playoff losses at the Heritage and Players Championship. The 31-year old’s game is primed for Chambers Bay, as he ranks 23rd in driving accuracy, 10th in putting from inside 10-feet, and 6th in 3-putt avoidance. Plus, he’s patient, a key quality for any U.S. Open contender.
2. Rory McIlory – 204 points
McIlroy missed the cut at his last two events — the BMW PGA Championship and the Irish Open — but after playing five straight weeks, he was mentally tapped. McIlroy has since taken the last two weeks off — going seven days without touching a club — and now looks fresh and ready to go. He spent this past weekend getting to know Chambers Bay, where his long, straight, and accurate game should be an ideal fit. Plus, he’s won four majors in last four years, giving him more than enough confidence to compete.
3. Jordan Spieth – 196.17 points
The Tour’s most consistent player since mid-March has two wins, three runners-up and a third place finish in his last 10 starts. He also ranks 3rd in strokes gained tee-to-green, a key advantage on Chambers Bay’s rolling, links-style layout. And he’s no slouch on the greens either, having played 1,008 holes so far in 2015 with just 15 three-putts and 448 one-putts, both ranking third best on Tour. But his biggest advantage just might be the guy on his bag, as his caddie, Michael Greller, was a regular looper at Chambers Bay from the time it opened in 2007 until he started working with Speith in 2012. As a result, Greller knows every nook and cranny of the course — including its 8,700 square-feet of undulating greens — giving the Masters champion a big boost of local knowledge.
4. George McNeill – 167.01 points
McNeill cracks our ranking thanks to consistent play in his seven starts over the last nine weeks. He notched his first top-ten at Colonial (T-5th), but doesn’t have the range to contend this week. He’s only played in ten majors in his career with a best finish of T-62 at the 2012 PGA Championship, so it’s hard to imagine that he’ll pull a rabbit out of his golf bag this week.
5. Steven Bowditch – 163.34 points
His win at the Byron Nelson was good enough to earn the Aussie a spot in our Top-10 — but not a bid to Chambers Bay.
6. Charley Hoffman – 163.17 points
His game has been solid since his win in Mexico last November, including two runners-up and a T-9 at the Masters. But Hoffman’s stats don’t bode well for contending this week, as he’s wild off the tee and ranks143rd in putting strokes gained. He also tends to struggle on links layouts, having missed the cut in two of his four British Opens.
7. Chris Kirk – 155.5 points
Kirk proved that he can play well on a shot-makers course with his win at the Colonial. Trouble is, Colonial is the complete opposite of Chambers Bay, which features fescue grass and not the bent and Bermuda varieties the Atlanta native is accustomed to. But he does have decent numbers on the greens, ranking 43rd in putting average, 33rd in one-putt average and 59th in 3-putt avoidance.
8. Justin Rose – 150.5 points
Along with McIlroy and Spieth, Rose heads to Chambers Bay as one of the favorites. He has one runner-up finish over the last nine weeks and his core stats — plus his 2013 U.S. Open victory — point to a strong showing in Washington this week. He ranks 26th in strokes gained from tee-to-green and 36th in one-putt percentage. He also has a knack for playing well at Augusta, which is a lot like Chambers Bay, especially when it comes to the need for precise putting.
9. Jim Furyk – 147.33 points
2015 is shaping up to be one of Furyk’s best overall seasons. He’s notched a win, a 4th place and a T-5 in the last nine weeks, and his five top-5 finishes on British Open courses shows he has the experience to contend at the Open. From tee-to-green, Furyk’s game is just about perfect for Chambers Bay, but the flat stick may prove his Achilles heel. If he can putt like he did in his Heritage win, the 45-year old will be a force to reckon with all week long.
10. Hideki Matsuyama – 145.5 points
With six top-five finishes in 2015, Matsuyama looks like a great long shot pick to contend at this year’s Open. The 23-year old ranks 2nd in strokes gained tee-to-green and 7th in scrambling, key factors in any major but especially on a tricky track like Chambers Bay. He’s a solid 36th when putting from inside 10 feet but is middle of the road — T-84 — in 3-putt avoidance. But the Japanese star’s biggest bona fides rest on the fact that he has played well at the Masters (T-5this year), on British Open links courses (T-6 at Muirfield in 2013) and at U.S. Opens (T-10 at Merion in 2013.) Look for this rising star to be in the hunt come Sunday.
Inside the rankings:
*using GOLFstats player rankings, we determine the hottest players based on the last nine weeks on the PGA Tour. Keys to the system:
*132 points for a regular Tour win. All finishers in top-50 get points via a declining scale.
*198 points for a win in WGC events and the Players Championship, 264 points for a major win
*points lost for missed cuts, DQs or WDs: 10 for regular events, 15 for WGC and Players, 20 for majors
*All points get degraded 1/3 after weeks 4, 5 & 6, and by 2/3 after weeks 7, 8 & 9