THE second golf major of the year has arrived and it promises to be perhaps the most brutal PGA event of the year.
Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania - described by six-time US Open runner up Phil Mickelson as "the hardest golf course I've ever played," - is set to host the tournament for a record ninth time.
Here's everything you need to know about the course, the history and the main contenders ahead of this year's US Open.
The Course - Oakmont Country Club
Oakmont owns some of the most unforgiving putting surfaces in the world, with bunkers everywhere you look and rough deeper than a Pink Floyd B side.
It is the ultimate test of a golfer's ability, preparation and mental fortitude. If there’s a weakness to be found, this track will expose it.
Jordan Spieth said in May: “I’d sign for even par right now for 72 holes, given the history."
That was the first time he had played the course but an ominous warning sign nonetheless from the world number two to the 2016 challengers.
The greens at Oakmont are lightning quick and are expected to run around 14 or 14.5 on the stimpmeter (20-25% faster/harder than the tour average).
The weather forecasts indicates pretty warm weather in the 28-32 degree range with the chance of some thunderstorms on Thursday and Friday.
On top of the electric greens there is also an abundance of sand bunkers - 210 to be exact (an average of nearly 12 per hole for the golfers to contend with!).
It will be a war of attrition, there is no doubting that.
Punters should put an emphasis on mental strength when looking for potential winners and contenders.
Players that can bounce back after bogeys and even double-bogeys will be advantaged because this week, those blowouts will be sometimes unavoidable.
Rory McIlroy holds the US Open scoring record with his brilliant -16 in 2011 at Congressional but don’t expect that score this year.
The last US Open played at Oakmont was in 2007 when Angel Cabrera shot a winning score of five over!
The other golfers who were able to weather the storm somewhat in 2007 and perform well in tough conditions that will go around again this week are:
Jim Furyk ($67) who’s had four tournaments since the injury and is progressing nicely but does still look underdone for an event like this
Bubba Watson ($41) is always dangerous and started the year well but has been pretty up and down since and I think he is battling some injury niggles. His US Open record since 2007 is pretty average having missed the cut four times.
Paul Casey ($61) played well at Augusta and produced one of the best rounds in Oakmont history here in 2007 when he went 11 shots below the average score.
Justin Rose ($26) having a really solid year and he should be suited again here but does come in under an injury cloud.
The last Aussie to win was Geoff Ogilvy in 2006. This year looks to be our best chance in a decade to break the drought with Jason Day ($8), Adam Scott ($34) and Marc Leishman ($81) all live chances.
Jack Nicklaus started in 44 straight Opens from 1957 to 2000. Tiger Woods won the 2000 Open event by a record 15 strokes at Pebble Beach.
The ‘Big 3’
The battle at the pointy end of the world golf rankings is in full swing with both McIlroy and Spieth posting recent victories and all three golfers arriving here in good form.
"I extended my lead (in the rankings) for a while, and now Jordan and Rory are both closing in on it," Day recently admitted.
Rory McIlroy $8
He’s the streakiest of the three but probably the most talented. He has the ability to make birdies from just about anywhere and on a track where bogeys will occur Rory’s ability to attack even the most difficult holes plays is an advantage.
He switched back to the traditional putting grip at Memorial a fortnight ago and he was lights out on the greens. He’ll need to carry something close to that putting form into this tournament if he is to contend.
"I remember watching a little bit of it back in '07 when (Angel) Cabrera won (at Oakmont). I'd say you're probably going to expect a similar score (+5) to win this year again if conditions are the way they want them to be," McIlroy said.
"I don't know how much it's going to come into play at Oakmont, but I feel like I'm driving the ball well. That's always a good asset to have in your bag going into the U.S. Open."
Jordan Spieth $10
Spieth is an outstanding putter and finds ways to shoot low scores even when he isn’t striking the ball as well as the other two golfers. Oakmont should play into his hands and of all the majors I think this will be his best chance to beat Day.
At just 22 years of age still there is some improvement to be made in his swing to help him consistently strike the ball well and hit fairways which he has struggled to do at times even when scoring well. With that being said, he hasn’t finished worse than a tie for fourth in his last four majors.
"My short game is there. It's U.S. Open-ready. It needs to continue to stay there with some extra effort on driving the ball. It needs to be improved. My wedges, they'll work well there." Spieth said.
Can't talk anyone out of a bet on him. At best I'd probably save without making him a big result.
Jason Day $8
We’ll save the best for last!
Jason has the least amount of holes in his game and chinks in his armour. As it stands he is the number one golfer in the world to the eye and to the official world golf rankings.
He’s got the best short game in the world, probably only second to Spieth in putting and possesses a lethal 2 iron that could become a great weapon as the wind picks up on these narrow fairways.
He’s won seven of his last 18 tournaments and looks more and more comfortable playing from the front and closing out in big events.
Day deserves to be favourite in the tournament and the most favored of the three. However, the margin is slight and it looks set to be a great battle.
The Chasing pack
Dustin Johnson $17
He’s probably been the most consistent player on tour this season. Since November he’s had 11 Top 20’s in 13 tournament starts! Two chip-ins on Sunday may have put a bit more gloss on his round than he deserved but he’s still playing so well and obviously last year did everything but cross the finish line.
Rickie Fowler $26
He’s missed the cut at three of his past five starts and his trademark consistency of 2014 and 2015 seems to have alluded him for now.
Phil Mickelson $29
Six times he’s been runner-up at the US Open although most of his peak performances have come against the weaker PGA fields this year. His inaccuracy off the tee worries me despite some encouraging signs last weekend in Memphis and I’m taking him on this weekend.
Adam Scott $34
Really solid bounce back year from Scotty who has putted better than most experts thought he would after ditching the big stick. He will hit plenty of fairways and stick greens hopefully keeping him out of trouble.
Hideki Matsuyama $34
Leading into Memorial where he missed the cut he was as hot as any player outside of the ‘Big 3’. If you can forgive that effort he may look decent value given his ability to hit greens. No major knock on him at all and seems an ok price.
The value and the bets
Dustin Johnson EW Top 6 @ $17/$4.25 & Top 20 @ $1.73
Johnson has finished 11 out of his last 13 tournaments in the top 20 and six of his last 13 in the top six. His accuracy and length off the tee could prove a huge advantage. We are getting $1.73 for something he has done every 1.18 times and on the EW side we are also getting $4.25 for something he has done every 2.16 times?
Billy Horschel - Top 20 @ $4.33
Billy The Kid is rock solid across the board and has performed well under the pressure of US Opens in the past. He’s made the cut at his past 12 tournaments which should hold him in good stead here. Not sure he’s going well enough to win but I’ll spec Top 20!
Matt Kuchar Top 20 @ $2.50
Once again it might be hard for Kuch to win but it’s even harder to see him playing poorly. An excellent putter and a cool head. Top 20 in 10 of his last 15 starts and Top 10’s at his last 4 starts set him up very well for a testing track.
Jason Day EW Top 6 @ $8/$2
Getting place dividends for six places it’s impossible not to include Day for something.
Adam Scott EW Top 6 @ $34/$8.50
Steve Williams in your corner at the toughest golf course in the world is a big advantage.
Marc Leishman EW Top 6 @ $81/$21
He looks well suited by this track and he’s been building toward a peak performance.
Danny Willett - EW Top 6 @ $46/$11.50
He’s still the most underrated golfer in the world despite winning the Masters two months ago. He hits the ball very straight and doesn’t have the pressure on his shoulders some of the others do.
Patrick Reed - EW Top 6 @ $51/$12.75
Leads the tour in strokes gained around the green and is fourth in scrambling. He’s had an underrated season thus far with a stack of top 10’s and he looks over the odds.
Branden Grace - EW Top 6 @ $56/$14
The forgotten stud from last years Open who has struck form at the right time for this tournament again. Looks to have the right makeup to play well again.
Matsuyama to beat Stenson
Scott to beat Fowler
Willett to beat Watson
Rose to beat Mickelson
For more thoughts, analysis and bets including some H2H and prop bets closer to the commencement of the tournament be sure to follow me on Twitter @jwhenson_
Good luck and good punting!