US Open 2018

Despite its well-earned prestige as our national championship, the U.S. Open is not the most exciting major in golf. It delivers far less than the Masters and can’t compete with the run that the British Open is on over the last decade. There have been plenty of legendary winners and unforgettable Sundays with dramatic finishes. It’s a great championship but it also misses more than those other two. Sometimes we get random champions. Sometimes we get blowouts. Sometimes the golf is just a boring slog full of pars that don’t end up being fun to watch.

This week should not be one of those. After a few months of being told 2018 was the “most anticipated Masters ever,” we’re set up again at the U.S. Open. It’s not overhype, but just the way things have fallen in 2018. There are a few common elements between that pre-Masters excitement and this U.S. Open, and a few unique reasons why you should be in a manic Monster-fueled state of anticipation for this second major. Here are five.

Tiger Woods can contend in his first U.S. Open start in three years

We have hit the “toughest test in golf” mile-marker in what is Tiger Woods’ attempt at his first full healthy season since 2013. It’s been three years since Tiger played the U.S. Open, which is boilerplate now for every event he’s started this season since Torrey Pines. That last start at Chambers Bay was arguably his most embarrassing major.

He missed the 2015 cut by miles and the lasting images are Tiger’s club flying through the air after a hopeless hack from some knee-high fescue, and a cold top ground ball he hit in the 18th fairway. It was the kind of shot a hack chop hits at the muni on the weekend when he thinks he can pull off some hero shot with a fairway wood off the deck. Tiger’s top dribbled into the ”Chambers basement,” a deep bunker in the middle of the fairway and resulted in this memorable bit of symbolism.

The tract was wide open, and players did not face the demanding tee shots they usually see at the US Open 2018. Brooks Koepka, one of the strongest bombers on the tour, won that event with a score of 16 under par, and seven golfers were 10-under or better.

The United States Golf Association wants the tournament to bring out the best in the 156 competitors.

“The US Open 2018 really is, we consider, golf’s ultimate test, and accuracy needed to play a bigger role in that,” said Mike Davis, the USGA chief executive, per Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press (h/t Columbus Dispatch).

Phil Mickelson said Shinnecock Hills looks like it has been prepared well and the golfers will face a strong and fair test.

“Skill is brought into play with the short game there,” Mickelson said. “I think that it will reward the best player as opposed to having luck be a big element on some of the bounces in the fairway, bounces around the green, how it comes out of the rough.”

The tournament will feature several glamorous pairings, and the spotlight will shine brightest on Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods. Those three will tee off at 1:47 p.m. ET Thursday and 8:02 a.m. Friday.

Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth will tee off at 8:02 a.m. Thursday and 1:47 p.m. Friday, while Rickie Folwer, Hideki Matsuyama and Marc Leishman will follow that group at 8:13 a.m. Thursday and and 1:58 p.m. Friday.

Here’s a look at all the tee times, courtesy of the Golf Channel:

Thursday, June 14, hole #1 / Friday, June 15, hole #10

6:45 a.m. / 12:30 p.m. Harold Varner, Gastonia, N.C.; TBD; Matthieu Pavon, France

6:56 a.m. / 12:41 p.m. Michael Putnam, University Place, Wash.; Scott Gregory, England; Will Zalatoris, Plano, Texas

7:07 a.m. / 12:52 p.m. Brendan Steele, Idyllwild, Calif.; Chesson Hadley, Raleigh, N.C.; (a) Harry Ellis, England

7:18 a.m. / 1:03 p.m. Jhonattan Vegas, Venezuela; Dylan Frittelli, South Africa; (a) Doug Ghim, Arlington Heights, Ill.

7:29 a.m. / 1:14 p.m. Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa; Jimmy Walker, Boerne, Texas; Justin Rose, England

7:40 a.m. / 1:25 p.m. Bubba Watson, Bagdad, Fla.; Jason Day, Australia; Brooks Koepka, West Palm Beach, Fla.

7:51 a.m. / 1:36 p.m. Tyrrell Hatton, England; Danny Willett, England; Ian Poulter, England

8:02 a.m. / 1:47 p.m. Kevin Chappell, Fresno, Calif.; Andrew Johnston, England; Daniel Berger, Jupiter, Fla.

8:13 a.m. / 1:58 p.m. Bryson DeChambeau, Clovis, Calif.; Matthew Fitzpatrick, England; Matt Kuchar, Sea Island, Ga.

8:24 a.m. / 2:09 p.m. Thorbjorn Olesen, Denmark; Shubhankar Sharma, India; Patrick Rodgers, Avon, Ind.

8:35 a.m. / 2:20 p.m. Lanto Griffin, Blacksburg, Va.; Tom Lewis, England; (a) Jacob Bergeron, Slidell, La.

8:46 a.m. / 2:31 p.m. (a) Kristoffer Reitan, Norway; (a) Luis Gagne, Costa Rica; Cole Miller, New Tripoli, Pa.

8:57 a.m. / 2:42 p.m. Mickey DeMorat, Merritt Island, Fla.; (a) Tyler Strafaci, Davie, Fla.; Calum Hill, Scotland