A new Battle of Brookline: Looking ahead to the 2022 US Open at The Country Club in Massachusetts

Jon Rahm will attempt to defend the title he won in style at Torrey Pines.

In one sense Europeans ought to be excited about the US Open returning to The Country Club in Brookline.

Why so? Well, first up the defending champion is Spain's Jon Rahm. And secondly, when Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick won the US Amateur there in 2013, he became the first non-American winner of the 13 major events the club has hosted.

In another sense, however, the venue has mostly bad memories for Europeans.

Way back in 1913 it was where the unheralded local amateur Francis Ouimet downed the English favourites Ted Ray and Harry Vardon in the quest for that year's US Open.

In 1988 it was where Curtis Strange broke Nick Faldo in an 18-hole play off and then 11 years later was the scene of the infamous Battle of Brookline, when raucous crowds and a presumptuous invasion of the green offended the defeated European team.

Recent Major history is also against the Euros. Rahm broke a run of six straight home wins in the US Open, and 14 of the last 18 Majors have been won by golfers flying under the Stars and Stripes.

Let's look forward to next year's third Major of the year, at what's needed to win it and who are the leading contenders.

How to win the US Open

Ahead of the 2021 tournament the requirements to win this event were clear-cut: the likely champion would be under-35, in the world's top 25, had played at least three championships already (with a top 25 under his belt), and have finished top three in the year already. Jon Rahm, who then lifted the trophy, fitted the bill perfectly. This MO will be a good starting point again in 2022.


The defending champion

Jon Rahm will fancy his chances of winning the championship back-to-back. He is, after all, the World No. 1 so what's to fear? History, maybe? Sure, Curtis Strange successfully defended in 1989, and Brooks Koepka did so in 2018, but the only other man to achieve the feat since before the Second World War was Ben Hogan in 1950/51.

The championship specialist #1

Brooks Koepka loves Major Championship golf. He's finished top 10 in 12 of his last 16 appearances in them, winning four. He's arguably, however, at his absolute best in the US Open. As a pro, he's played it seven times, never finished outside the top 20, and his last four starts have reaped two wins, second and tied fourth. He considered 2021 a poor year in elite company - and yet he still landed three top six finishes.

Perhaps we should also take note of his words at the season-ending Hero World Challenge. "I worked my tail off over the last two months and I see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "I'm damn close. It feels like the last two years have been a struggle except for the majors and WGCs. I think only four top-20s in the last two years are outside of WGCs. It's not been very good."

The championship specialist #2

He's yet to win a Major, but Xander Schauffele, like Koepka, understands what is required in the weeks that define a career. He's played 18 Majors, finished top 25 12 times, top 10 in nine of them, and top five on six occasions. He has also ticked off wins among elite company at the Tour Championship, WGC HSBC Champions, Tournament of Champions and the 2021 Olympics.

Again, like Koepka, he loves the national championship above all others. He's made five starts and never ended the week outside the top 10. He gets himself involved early, too: he's never ended a first round more than three blows back of the lead.

The Major muncher

Collin Morikawa broke with modern trends by winning the 2020 PGA Championship without ever having contended before in a Major. But even he admitted that the tournament taking place with no fans lessened that pressure and aided his progress towards the win.

Since that triumph he's proved it was no one-off, winning at WGC level, adding three top 20s in the first three Majors of 2021 and then winning the Open at Sandwich. He's halfway to completing a career Grand Slam so a first win in the US Open will interest him greatly, either to complete the feat or get one step nearer.

The nearly man

Louis Oosthuizen can count himself a nearly man in just about every aspect you can think of. True he won the 2010 Open (amazingly he'd made just one cut - and that was T72nd - in his previous eight Major starts), but he's also finished second in all four of the Majors. In all, he has nine top three finishes in Majors - and eight weren't wins.

Three of those near-misses came in the last three Majors of 2021 and it doesn't stop there because his US Open record in the last three years is one of very-very-close-but-no-cigar. He was tied seventh in 2019, third in 2020 and second in 2021. In all three he was top three with 18 holes to play. Still looking for a first win in America, however.

The Major learner

As hinted above, new Major winners tend to have gained experience in the heat of battle prior to their breakthrough. Morikawa and Oosthuizen were very much exceptions in not having done so. All of that bodes well for Matthew Wolff.

The young American finished fourth at the 2020 PGA Championship, was second at the same year's US Open (when leading by two heading into the final round), and he was T15th at the 2021 US Open (when one back at halfway and still sixth with 18 holes to play). He ended 2021 in high spirits, landing four top 20s to start the new season, contending for a title in the last three of them.

READ MORE: Tiger Woods back in action with son Charlie: Here are eight other great father-son golfing combos

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