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

Major Championship winners almost always have recent experience of contending in golf’s biggest events and in recent years that is especially true of the US Open.

It's the Major Championship Winning Method - an elite-level golfing version of base-camping if you will.

Because mountaineers don't head to the top of Everest in one go. Instead, they set up a base-camp and venture into higher altitudes, before returning to their tents and the warm embrace of the sleeping bag.

Next time they climb, the thin air feels less oppressive. They know what to expect; they're ready and primed.

And Major Championship winners usually prepare in much the same way.

Since the start of 2017 there have been 21 of them crowned and no less than 19 had vivid memories of being in-contention at a Major ahead of their win.

In their three Major starts prior to their wins those 19 golfers landed a top eight finish or slept on Saturday night with the knowledge that they could win the next day.

The only exceptions were Collin Morikawa, who had played just one Major before his PGA Championship win in 2020 (a solid but unspectacular top 40), and Phil Mickelson, who succeeded Morikawa and was apparently in his golfing dotage.

Mickelson closing out the 2021 PGA Championship
Mickelson closing out the 2021 PGA Championship

Let's take a closer look at those 21 most-recent Major winners, but then we'll add a further element to the discussion, especially for this week's US Open.

The Masters

2017 - Sergio Garcia had missed the cut in the PGA Championship but before that had finished fifth in both the Open and US Open.

2018 - Patrick Reed had finished second in the PGA.

2019 - Tiger Woods had finished second in the PGA and had briefly led in the final round of the Open.

2020 - Dustin Johnson had been sixth in the US Open and second in the PGA (when leading after 54 holes).

2021 - Hideki Matsuyama had finished T13th in the previous year's Masters (in November) and before that had been fourth heading into the final round of the US Open before slipping back into T17th.

2022Scottie Scheffler was eighth in the Open (when fourth after 54 holes), his third top eight finish in the Majors in a row.

The PGA

2017 - Justin Thomas had been second with 18 holes to play at the US Open, finishing tied ninth.

2018 - Koepka had won the US Open.

2019 - Koepka had been second in the Masters after sharing the 18 and 36 hole lead and was defending his title.

2020 - In an odd COVID-disrupted year Collin Morikawa only had experience of the previous year's US Open when he was T35th.

2021 - Phil Mickelson had given no hint that he would win.

2022Justin Thomas had finished tied eighth at the Masters, spending the last 54 holes in the top 10.

The US Open

2017 - Brooks Koepka had been T11th in the Masters and fourth in the PGA.

2018 - Koepka had missed the Masters that year. He had been T13th in the PGA (having been third after 18 holes) tied sixth in the Open (having been top three all week) and was defending his title.

2019 - Gary Woodland had been tied eighth in the PGA and tied sixth in the PGA (when the 18 and 36 hole leader).

2020 - Bryson DeChambeau had been tied fourth in the PGA.

2021 - Jon Rahm had been tied eighth in the PGA and tied fifth in the Masters.

The Open

2017 - Jordan Spieth had been T11th in the Masters when tied fourth with 18 holes to play.

2018 - Francesco Molinari had been second in the PGA.

2019 - Shane Lowry had been tied eighth in the PGA having opened with a 75 to lie outside the top 100. It was a similar story in the US Open, opening with a 75, outside the top 100, but he only made it to T28th.

2021 - Collin Morikawa had been tied fourth in the US Open and tied eighth in the PGA.

The extra element this week

Since 2019 there has been a change to the Major Championship schedule.

In that first year, last year and this year it has become the third Major to take place in the calendar year. In 2020 it was the second because of lockdown disruptions, but it still took place after the PGA Championship.

Has that had any impact on US Open results?

The first response to such a question is that we should be wary of drawing strong conclusions because it is a very small sample of data.

However, in 2019 US Open winner Gary Woodland had been tied eighth in the PGA.

In 2020, champion Bryson DeChambeau had been tied fourth in the PGA.

And last year? The triumphant Jon Rahm was also tied eighth in the PGA.

And what of players who contended?

In 2019, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy finished top 10 in both events, while Chez Reavie - an unlikely contender in the US Open - had been T14th in the PGA.

In 2020, Dustin Johnson, Matthew Wolff, Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele also made the top 10 in both Majors.

Last year, Louis Oosthuizen, Brooks Koepka and Scottie Scheffler did so.

Clearly, some of these players achieved this because they are of the highest quality.

But it's a reminder not to overlook the likes of Woodland, Reavie and Wolff; to believe that they had had their week in the spotlight.

So, for guidance, here are the top eight from Southern Hills last month:

1st: Justin Thomas, 2nd: Will Zalatoris, 3rd: Mito Pereira, Cameron Young, 5th: Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Fitzpatrick, Chris Kirk, 8th: Rory McIlroy.

And if you want to push it perhaps a little too far, those last three US Open winners only broke into the top 10 at the weekend during the PGA Championship. That fits only one of the above names - Tommy Fleetwood.

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