Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas on what it takes to win the US Open

The leading contenders at the year’s third Major Championship also discuss the distinct challenge of host course, The Country Club in Brookline.

Brooks Koepka and the US Open test: they go together like Alan Turing and Enigma.

Where most are befuddled and bewildered, Koepka has cracked the code.

True, the American made a bit of a mess of his championship debut in 2012, carding a pair of 77s to miss the cut.

But since turning professional the 32-year-old has teed it up seven times, always recorded a top 20 finish, and five times finished in the top five.

In 2017 and 2018 he became just the third golfer since the Second World War to win the tournament back-to-back and, even when apparently out of form in 2019 and 2021, he finished second and fourth.

Ahead of this year's championship he expanded on his fondness for his national open.

"I love it, man," he gushed. "It's a tough test.

"I don't like these 25-under tournaments where you have to shoot 60 every round just to compete.

"You have to drive the ball well and rough is tough - and it's only going to get tougher because I'm sure they won't cut it.

"I like it when it's a battle. That's more my style. You know it's going to be tough. I like that. I like scores that are somewhat around even par. It's going to be difficult."

So, what does it take to win a US Open? Let's see what Koepka, last week's RBC Canadian Open victor Rory McIlroy, last month's PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas and the defending champion Jon Rahm had to say.

Discipline

Koepka: "Whether it is laying up off tees, just to hit fairways, missing in the correct spots, not being suckered into any pin locations even though it might be a go yardage for you or anything like that. You've just got to be disciplined and stay in the moment."

Rahm: "You need to be mentally sane for four days. You can't hide, period. Your biggest asset out here is mental strength."

Thomas: "You always know the US Open is a grind. That's why I love it. That's why a lot of guys love it. It's one of the few times of the year you're kind of playing more in relation to par, and par is a good score."

Avoid multiple mistakes on individual holes

Koepka: "You know you're going to make a bunch of bogeys, just try not to make a double bogey. That's always been my big goal in majors: if you never make a double bogey, you're doing all right. Get out of trouble and get back in position. That's the key to US Opens."

Rahm: "You are going to have a lot of holes where things are going to go wrong, but know it and accept certain things that happen."

Endure

Thomas: "There times in a major that I've learned that I become a little impatient. I almost try to force the issue. At the end of a major week that's how a lot of guys are going to end up losing the tournament. I'm trying to get to a point where I don't do that any more. I wish it was easy to say, 'I'm going to stay perfectly in the present and in the moment and I'm not going to let anything affect me,' but it's not that easy."

Don't burn yourself out

Koepka: "My practice is the same thing I do every Major. Just play nine holes every day. I don't want to tire myself out. See enough of the golf course where you can kind of put all your attention into those nine holes long practice rounds aren't exactly fun, waiting for five minutes on every shot."

Specific Brookline challenges

The crowds

Koepka: "I love Boston. It's arguably one of the best sporting towns in America. They're going to be loud and rowdy, and I seem to do all right when it's like that. In New York I do just fine. Played alright here, too. I love it, man."

Rahm: "It's going to be loud and it's going to be a lot of fun. They're hungry for it and you can tell."

The nature of the course

Koepka: "It's kind of weird. Got a couple of blind shots, but other than that, it's a great golf course, fun golf course to play."

Off the Tee

McIlroy: "It seems pretty playable off the tee. There's some rough, but if you just miss a fairway, you can certainly get it to the green. You're going to lose control of your ball and not be able to spin it into the greens, but at least on the front nine there's a lot of greens that have very manicured run-ups, so the greens probably play a little longer than they actually are."

Thomas: "It's a cool place. It's very in front of you. It's old school. You've got doglegs."

Approach shots

Rahm: "It's not the biggest greens out there, right? And the ones that have a healthy size don't play like it, like the par-3 sixth. That's a bigger green, but a lot of slopes. You can easily end up off of it even though on paper it is big. I think that's the biggest challenge."

Around the greens

Rahm: "The rough around the greens is about as healthy as I've seen in a while. That's obviously key in a US Open and especially with smaller greens. You're going to need to use (your short game) quite a bit."

Thomas: "Especially in a US Open scrambling and salvaging those putts for par can be a real momentum builder."

The 310-yard par-4 5th

Rahm: "See, that hole is reachable unless the wind is really, really hurting. But it's not the best layup in the world, meaning your comfortable yardage might leave you in a severe upslope with the ball below your feet to a small green and wind. That's not always the easiest shot to control. The first bunkers of the second set that are 30 yards short of the green are not the worst place to be because you can hit it on the green from there. If the wind conditions allow, I'll most likely I'll go for the green. If you do hit the green, it's so small, you are pretty much looking at a birdie option, right? But a wayward tee shot can get you in a lot of trouble."

The 131-yard par-3 11th

Thomas: "I love the addition of the short par-3. I think every golf course should have a little hole like that. It's got a diabolical green where they can put some tough pin. You can make two or four in a heartbeat."

The 373-yard par-4 17th

Thomas: "It's unique. It presents a lot of opportunities for different clubs off the tee, especially with how a lot of guys are playing nowadays. A handful of guys are probably going to hit driver, try to hit it right in front of the green. Or if you get a helping wind, maybe the tee is up, you can knock it on the green. But then again, I'm sure the rough is going to be nasty up there. So then, it's like, do you lay up? Do you lay up to a good number? It's a hole that you can have a two-shot swing on it pretty quickly for it being a pretty short, easy hole, especially come Saturday and Sunday."

READ MORE: US Open: Could the first page of the PGA Championship leaderboard point towards this week's winner?

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