Will big four continue solid play at Pinehurst?

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M. James Ward outlines the consistency of Scheffler, Schauffele, Morikawa and DeChambeau and whether the foursome will materialize again down the stretch at this year's US Open.
Posted on
June 13, 2024
by
M. James Ward in ,
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

PINEHURST, NC. While much of the attention has rightly centred on the superlative and thoroughly consistent play of Scottie Scheffler — winner of five of his last eight events — the spread between him and three other main rivals is not as far apart as one might think.

Scheffler earned his second green jacket in winning at Augusta and has not skipped a beat both prior to the Masters and afterwards.

But other rivals have been ever present with equally solid form during the first two majors played this year.

124th US Open at Pinehurst No.2

At the PGA Championship at Valhalla, Xander Schauffele broke through, earning his first major title.

Among the rivals who competed aggressively at both the Masters and PGA were Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau.

In both the Masters and the PGA Championship, the aforementioned four golfers finished in the top eight slots.

Before coming to Pinehurst, it was Morikawa who pushed Scheffler to the brink at the Memorial before the Texan wrapped matters up when sinking a devilish downhill five-foot par putt to claim the title at Jack Nicklaus' Muirfield Village.

Undoubtedly, the focal point begins with Scheffler. The 27-year-old has gone eleven consecutive tournaments in the top ten. Even with his "B" game at the Memorial, it was Scottie who ground out a tough win.

Scottie Scheffler celebrates after a birdie on the 18th hole during third round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club
Scottie Scheffler (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Scheffler's tour leading greens in regulation average will come in handy at the vexing greens of the famed No.2 course. On average he is reaching thirteen greens in the regulation stroke giving him more opportunities for birdies.

Schauffele finally took the monkey off his back in not having won a major championship and his record at past US Opens is most encouraging.

Since 2017 the 30-year-old has played in seven US Opens and finished in the top ten six times — including three top-five finsishes. At last year's US Open he scored an opening round 62 which bested the long-time low 18-hole score of 63 in the championship. Amazingly, he then scored a second 62 in this year's PGA Championship.

Total strokes played in first two majors

Scottie Scheffler – 548
Bryson DeChambeau – 550
Xander Schauffele – 550
Collin Morikawa – 553

Schauffele faded for the balance of the '23 US Open but his tenacity in continuing to be a presence finally paid off at this year's PGA Championship. The bigger question is whether Xander has only begun to make his presence known in golf's biggest events, or will he plateau as other one-and-done major winners have done in recent years? If betting guides are any indicator, there's a strong belief Schauffele has more wins to come in the biggest of moments.

Xander Schauffele at the 2023 US Open
Xander Schauffele (AP Photo/Matt York)

The interesting take on both Morikawa and DeChambeau is how both emerged from recent irrelevance for a period of time and have now come back onto the scene in a big-time manner.

Morikawa's career blossomed with two major titles and his play at this year's Masters showed a resolve that had been missing. In his last three events he has been in the top five for each. The main missing link for Morikawa has been a recent win. His last came at the ZOZO Championship in October of 2023 — which broke a winless streak stretching back 27-months.

Pinehurst No.2 might be the right formula for the 27-year-old given his deft iron game. The main stumbling block for Morikawa is having had a front row seat in witnessing the play of Scheffler. The two have known each other since their junior golf days and the scales have been tilted in a direction which Morikawa needs to turn to his advantage.

Collin Morikawa
Collin Morikawa (AP Photo/Matt York)

DeChambeau seemed on a pathway to stardom in winning the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot during the height of the global pandemic.

The performance at the storied layout was impressive, with DeChambeau routinely hitting prodigious tee shots and having short approaches into the demanding greensites.

What should have served as a springboard for DeChambeau did not materialise.

The 30-year-old did claim a win at the 2021 Bay Hill Invitational but then opted to bolt the PGA Tour and join LIV. DeChambeau has won twice on that circuit including a record score of 58 when winning at Greenbrier.

Yet DeChambeau became enamoured with sideshow long drive exhibitions, and the lack of focus meant no top ten finishes in a major following the win at Winged Foot until the 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

Bryson DeChambeau
Bryson DeChambeau (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The "new" Bryson has now developed a fan base at this year's PGA Championship and his emotional involvement touched a clear nerve of approval, even though he finished one shot behind winner Schauffele.

Nonetheless, the main storyline starts with Scheffler. Not since the peak playing days of Tiger Woods has someone shown such dominance. Scottie is the first player since Tom Watson in 1980 to win five times before the US Open.

Can his brilliant play continue by adding a US Open title? His three main rivals have shown the capacity to push him to the max. In fact, Scheffler will have a ringside seat when paired with Schauffele for the first round. Joining them will be a man equally looking to reassert himself on the major stage - Rory McIlroy.

The stage is now set.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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