June 11, 2015

A capsule look at 10 top contenders for the U.S. Open, to be played June 15-18 at Erin Hills Golf Club in Wisconsin. Listed in predicted order of finish:

DUSTIN JOHNSON

AGE: 32.

COUNTRY: United States.

WORLD RANKING: 1.

WORLDWIDE VICTORIES: 15.

MAJORS: U.S. Open (2016).

BEST US OPEN FINISH: Won in 2016 at Oakmont despite not knowing if he would be assessed a one-shot penalty while playing the final seven holes.

US OPEN MEMORY: His 6-iron to 5 feet for birdie on the 18th at Oakmont to win.

BACKSPIN: Johnson concedes that he lost momentum from his slip down the stairs and subsequent back injury that knocked him out of the Masters. He missed a playoff by one shot in his return at the Wells Fargo Championship, but his putter has gone cold since then. He still rates as the favorite, and most likely will be the favorite at every major the rest of the year.

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JORDAN SPIETH

AGE: 23.

COUNTRY: United States.

WORLD RANKING: 6.

WORLDWIDE VICTORIES: 12.

MAJORS: Masters (2015), US Open (2015).

BEST US OPEN FINISH: Won at Chambers Bay in 2015.

US OPEN MEMORY: His three-hole finish at Chambers Bay when he made a long birdie putt, followed with a double bogey, and closed with a 3-wood onto the 18th green for a two-putt birdie.

BACKSPIN: Known as the guy who makes everything, Spieth's strength this year has been more in his long game. He is not putting well, which still makes him slightly above average. If his short game is in reasonable shape at Erin Hills, expect to see him with a chance on Sunday.

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JUSTIN THOMAS

AGE: 24.

COUNTRY: United States.

WORLD RANKING: 13.

WORLDWIDE VICTORIES: 4.

MAJORS: None.

BEST US OPEN FINISH: Tie for 32nd in 2016.

US OPEN MEMORY: His 69 at Oakmont in the second round last year. It's his only score better than 73 in two U.S. Open appearances.

BACKSPIN: Six of the last eight U.S. Open champions were first-time major winners, and Thomas can easily fit into that category. He is a big hitter on a big golf course at Erin Hills. His short game is adequate. The test will be how he handles the inevitable frustrations of a U.S. Open.

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SERGIO GARCIA

AGE: 37.

COUNTRY: Spain.

WORLD RANKING: 5.

WORLDWIDE VICTORIES: 26.

MAJORS: Masters (2017).

BEST US OPEN FINISH: Tie for 3rd at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2005.

US OPEN MEMORY: Playing in the final group with Tiger Woods at Bethpage Black in 2002 and coping (not very well) with a New York, pro-Tiger gallery.

BACKSPIN: The U.S. Open once would have been considered the ideal major for Garcia because of his driving and ball-striking. Can he join Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth as the only winners of the first two legs of the Grand Slam since 1960? The peace of being a major champion won't hurt.

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RORY MCILROY

AGE: 28.

COUNTRY: Northern Ireland.

WORLD RANKING: 2.

WORLDWIDE VICTORIES: 21.

MAJORS: US Open (2011), British Open (2014), PGA Championship (2012, 2014).

BEST US OPEN FINISH: Won at Congressional in 2011 with a record score of 16-under 268.

US OPEN MEMORY: Bouncing back from an 80 in the final round to lose the Masters by winning the U.S. Open two months later.

BACKSPIN: Even with all his talent, McIlroy will be a bit of a mystery at this U.S. Open from his lack of playing. A rib injury at the start of the year cost him seven weeks. A recurrence means he won't have competed since The Players Championship. He hasn't won this year. But it's not as bad as when he returned at the 2015 PGA Championship from a severe ankle injury.

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JON RAHM

AGE: 22.

COUNTRY: Spain.

WORLD RANKING: 10.

WORLDWIDE VICTORIES: 1.

MAJORS: None.

BEST US OPEN FINISH: Tie for 23rd at Oakmont in 2016.

US OPEN MEMORY: Bouncing back from an opening 76 to be low amateur at Oakmont last year.

BACKSPIN: The U.S. Open last year was his final event as an amateur, and now the Spaniard is among the top 10 in the world. Along with great power, Rahm has a knack for scoring and contending. The biggest challenge will be his temper. His passion carries him to birdies, but he allows bad breaks to linger.

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JASON DAY

AGE: 29.

COUNTRY: Australia.

WORLD RANKING: 3.

WORLDWIDE VICTORIES: 11.

MAJORS: PGA Championship (2015).

BEST US OPEN FINISH: Runner-up at Congressional in 2011 and Merion in 2013.

US OPEN MEMORY: One shot out of the lead going to the 18th at Merion, he hit into the bunker and made bogey.

BACKSPIN: Day started the year at No. 1 and has yet to win this year, mainly because of his emotions from his mother battling lung cancer. He showed signs of turning the corner with his playoff loss at the AT&T Byron Nelson. His exquisite short game could be enough to keep him in the hunt at Erin Hills.

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HIDEKI MATSUYAMA

AGE: 25.

COUNTRY: Japan.

WORLD RANKING: 4.

WORLDWIDE VICTORIES: 13.

MAJORS: None.

BEST US OPEN FINISH: Tie for 10th in 2013 at Merion.

US OPEN MEMORY: Closing with a 67 in his first U.S. Open in 2013.

BACKSPIN: He was looked upon as a Masters favorite when he won the Phoenix Open for his fifth victory in nine starts worldwide. Matsuyama had a chance to go to No. 1 in the world at Riviera, but he missed the cut. He hasn't finished in the top 10 since then, which at least alleviates a little pressure going into a major.

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RICKIE FOWLER

AGE: 28.

COUNTRY: United States.

WORLD RANKING: 9.

WORLDWIDE VICTORIES: 7.

MAJORS: None.

BEST US OPEN FINISH: Runner-up at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014.

US OPEN MEMORY: Playing in the final group of a major for the first time at Pinehurst No. 2, though he was five shots behind Martin Kaymer.

BACKSPIN: Fowler hasn't finished in the top 10 of any major since he finished in the top 5 of all of them in 2014. He rejoined the conversation of potential major winners when he won the Honda Classic in February. He was one shot out of the lead at the Masters and shot 76 in the final round.

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HENRIK STENSON

AGE: 41.

COUNTRY: Sweden.

WORLD RANKING: 7.

WORLDWIDE VICTORIES: 18.

MAJORS: British Open (2016).

BEST US OPEN FINISH: Tie for 4th at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014.

US OPEN MEMORY: Wanting to see Torrey Pines for the first time ahead of the 2008 U.S. Open, he went online to book a tee time and was sent out with two paying customers from Orange County. One of them was a woman named Pamela Anderson. Just not the actress.

BACKSPIN: He withdrew from the U.S. Open last year with a neck injury, and then won in Germany the following week. A month later, he won the duel at Troon over Phil Mickelson to win the British Open. Stenson hasn't won since then and had not shown much form until a tie for third in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

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