In NCG’s US Open preview, our team of writers predict who will triumph at Erin Hills as we watch on pretending we don’t actually like watching the very best in the game struggle to make par…

Dan Murphy, editor

Winner: Rickie Fowler is due. Much like Dustin Johnson was last year. He’s a far better player than he was a few years ago and a T2 at the Memorial last week shows his game is where he wants it. He’s tough, he hangs around, he’s way longer than he used to be and he putts as well as just about anyone bar Jordan Spieth.

Winning score: Mike Davis, the USGA’s chief executive, basically has a set of levers at his disposal to move the scores up and down depending on whether he likes what he’s seeing. The ideal is that one man breaks par and that man is the champion but you normally end up with a handful in red figures so let’s go for a four-under 284.

Player to watch: Brandt Snedeker and Francesco Molinari both make sense as 100-1 shots. Make sure you back them each-way – these boys have history of contending at majors but not winning them. Snedeker went very nicely at Chambers Bay two years ago on a similar kind of course while Molinari had a T6 at the Players and is consistency personified.

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Surprise flop: DJ has had his run of golden form so won’t successfully defend his title here. Steer clear of his short price and instead consider backing him for the Open, by which time somebody else will be flavour of the month.

Most looking forward to: That moment on Thursday evening when the second wave of players head out and by parring the opening hole appear on the first page of the leaderboard. Then gradually move downwards until they match the host of 73s and 74s that will place them in the middle of the field.

What will happen: A tee will be moved up on Saturday to create a driveable par 4 from a hole that was 120 yards longer the previous day. Butch Harmon will get particularly excited at the use of what is usually a tee for juniors in the middle of the fairway and the field will help themselves to a birdie each before giving the shot back within the following half hour.

What won’t happen: There will be no rules brouhaha. Nor will the greens resemble broccoli. No siree. The USGA have got it covered.

Alex Perry, digital editor

Winner: I back Rory McIlroy for the Masters and I’m backing him again for Erin Hills. But then his injury might flare up. Rickie Fowler. I’m backing Rickie Fowler.

Winning score: I will continue my tactic of taking average score from the past 10 years, so put me down for a three-under 285.

Player to watch: I’m going to keep putting Jon Rahm here until he stops being the NKOTB.

Surprise flop: I build Rahm up too much, don’t I?

Most looking forward to: The constant references to the rough at Erin Hills. (Why is there no sarcasm font on here?)

What will happen: Golf fans across the UK waking up at 2am on Monday having fallen asleep on their sofas several hours earlier with Dustin Johnson leading by six.

What won’t happen: They’ll stir just in time to see DJ keep up his annual rules infraction tradition and end up losing to Charley Hoffman by one.

Mark Townsend, deputy editor

Tournament of Champions

Winner: Given my limited mental capabilities I always picture Erin Hills like Chambers Bay and Jordan Spieth won there. It won’t be anything like it but I think Spieth will win every week anyway.

Winning score: After three and half days of moaning about this, that and the other we’ll get a perfectly acceptable winning tally of 10 under.

Player to watch: Is Matt Fitzpatrick an outsider these days? Probably not, but it would be quite a surprise to see him finish inside the top five and I quite fancy him to do OK here.

Surprise flop: Sergio Garcia will be playing his first major as a champion and that will be a lot to ask him to contend.

Most looking forward to: Seeing the bunkers as supposedly they are proper hazards and you get some funny lies. It will be good to watch them struggle to get it out, let alone get up and down.

What will happen: We’ll all fall in love with a new course and celebrate bringing the US Open to the middle of nowhere. And by the end of the week we’ll all understand what a Kettle Moraine is.

What won’t happen: The eventual champion won’t be penalised a shot after winning the tournament and any rules fiascos will be dealt with at source.

Steve Carroll, club editor

US Open

Winner: Jason Day’s US Open record is really only surpassed by DJ – and the Australian is in better form.

Winning score: Erin Hills might turn out to be a Chambers Bay, with better greens. I’m going with a five-under 283.

Player to watch: A prolific winner on the Japanese Tour, Hideto Tanihara is starting to show serious form on the world stage.

Surprise flop: Dustin Johnson is tremendous at the US Open but has his hot streak of form come to an end?

Most looking forward to: Rory McIlroy’s return. With Tiger out of the loop, he is the game’s most charismatic figure.

What will happen: A significant proportion of the field moaning about the rough, or the greens, or just anything.

What won’t happen: Hearty congratulations handed out to the USGA.

James Savage, equipment editor

Golfers in sunglasses

Winner: Jason Day has found some form, loves a scrap and has finished in the top 10 in all but one of his US Open appearances.

Winning score: The course is silly long and no doubt has really thick rough, so I’ll go for one under – exactly what the USGA want.

Player to watch: Patrick Reed made some equipment changes which seem to have worked. Due a performance in a major and is another who loves a dogfight.

Surprise flop: You get the feeling Adam Scott would miss the cut on purpose just to highlight his disdain for the USGA.

Most looking forward to: A battle of the big guns between Rory, DJ and Day.

What will happen: Wayne Riley or Mark Roe will drop balls into the rough to demonstrate how thick it is. Yawn.

What won’t happen: Kevin Na’s teary victory speech in the early hours of Monday morning.

James Broadhurst, production editor

Winner: The course is monstrously long. Is it too obvious to go with Dustin Johnson?

Winning score: The last three US Opens have been under par so I will go three under.

Player to watch: Wisconsin native Steve Stricker will finish high up in the field. He usually performs strongly at majors and will feel comfortable playing in his home state.

Surprise flop: Louis Oosthuizen’s record this season of not missing a cut suggests I’m crazy but I am going with my gut feeling.

Most looking forward to: Seeing how Andrew Johnston fares at Erin Hills. Every major should have a slice of Beef.

What will happen: Danny Willett will continue his frustrating decline. Expect another missed cut.

What won’t happen: I tempted fate in my Masters predictions by saying Sergio wouldn’t break his major duck so I will try my luck again. He definitely won’t make it two major victories in a row.

Joe Urquhart, social media editor

Alex Noren

Winner: Boring answer, but Dustin Johnson.

Winning score: Six under par sounds about right.

Player to watch: Alex Noren has announced himself rather emphatically to the world and it is high time he produced the goods in a major. Impressive performances at the Players and Wentworth stand him in good stead at Erin Hills.

Surprise flop: Jon Rahm’s emotions will get the better of him and he’ll let his frustration boil over in the usual tricky conditions.

Most looking forward to: Butch Harmon offending someone for no reason.

What will happen: “If only Phil were here!” How many times will we hear that each day?

What won’t happen: There will be no USGA rules drama. Honest!

Craig Middleton, digital journalist

ross fisher

Winner: Jordan Spieth. If you can rely on anyone to grind a score out it’s him.

Winning score: Get stuck in that rough and a par is very difficult to make. Still fancy an under par winning score though – I’ll go for two-under. These guys are good.

Player to watch: Ross Fisher, whose US Open record reads missed cut, fifth, missed cut.

Surprise flop: I honestly think Rory McIlroy will struggle.

Most looking forward to: The best players in the world battling it out in tough conditions.

What will happen: Ewan Murray will still be amazed every time DJ drives the ball. We get it, he hits it miles.

What won’t happen: Steve Stricker to make the cut. As much as everyone would love to see it…

Matt Beedle, digital journalist

Jason Dufner WITB

Winner: It all depends on how accurate Jordan Spieth is off the tee, but he’s been getting some criticism this season despite winning once and finishing inside the top 10 six times. He’s already played at Erin Hills as an amateur and won the US Open last time it visited a new course.

Winning score: Nothing extravagant. Five under par.

Player to watch: He wouldn’t be everyone’s pick to win but Jason Dufner is in good form having won the Memorial and finished T8 last year at Oakmont. Another top 10 finish.

Surprise flop: Rickie Fowler – though would it really be a surprise given he missed the cut at the last two US Opens?

Most looking forward to: The surprises Erin Hills and the USGA will throw our way.

What will happen: Endless TV replays of Dustin Johnson’s oscillation ruling from last year.

What won’t happen: Any of my predictions.

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