Getty Images

The U.S. Open has arrived, and it's shaping up to be a great one this year. Sure, they are all great to some degree, but the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 certainly presents differently than the tournament does at most other places. There have been fascinating national championships already played there, including Payne Stewart over Phil Mickelson in 1999, Michael Campbell holding off Tiger Woods in 2005 when nobody broke par, and Martin Kaymer boat racing the field in 2014.

This year, given all the storylines in play, the U.S. Open should be immensely newsworthy. Of course, we have to start at the top with the man whom the golf world revolves around. Scottie Scheffler, fresh off a Memorial win and having taken five of his last eight tournaments, is looking for his second major of the year.

The last man to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year was Jordan Spieth in 2015 when he won at Augusta National and Chambers Bay. Before that, it was Tiger Woods in 2002 when he won at Augusta and Bethpage Black. Here's the full list of players who have done it.

  • 1941 -- Craig Wood
  • 1951 -- Ben Hogan
  • 1960 -- Arnold Palmer
  • 1972 -- Jack Nicklaus
  • 2002 -- Tiger Woods
  • 2015 -- Jordan Spieth

Scheffler can also become only the third player since 1983 other than Nick Price (1994) and Woods (2000, 2005-06) to win at least six times in a season with two of those being majors. That's some insane company, and he's around the 3-1 favorite to join them.

Let's take a deeper dive on his U.S. Open chances and what the other stories are going into this week at Pinehurst. 

2024 U.S. Open storylines

1. The Scottie Slam: Tiger had the Tiger Slam, four consecutive majors across two years. If Scottie wins Pinehurst as he's favored to do, we're going to have the Scottie Slam -- two of the year's first three majors sandwiched around an arrest at the second. The middle event would have been considered more improbable at the start of the year than the other two, but all of a sudden following his Memorial win (which followed victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Players, Masters and RBC Heritage) every additional "W" for Scheffler is historic. 

Only three golfers have won 6+ times in a season since 1983 -- Woods (three times, including nine wins in 2000), Price and Vijay Singh (nine wins in 2004) -- and Scheffler will have six or so additional opportunities to join them.

Pinehurst should highlight the breadth of his talent this week, which is a scary thought about somebody who has lost to just nine golfers over his last eight events since March 1.

2. The Forgotten Man: Nobody is talking about Collin Morikawa for this U.S. Open, but perhaps they should be. It's Morikawa -- not Scheffler, nor Xander Schauffele nor Rory McIlroy nor anyone else -- who has been in the final pairing on Sunday at both the Masters and the PGA Championship so far this year. In theory, the U.S. Open should be the major he plays the best, too. He has three consecutive top 15s, and the ball-striking has once again returned to Collin Morikawa levels of ball-striking. He is extremely live to win what would be his third major and claim three legs of the career grand slam by age 27 with just a Masters -- where he has three straight top 10s -- left to win.

3. Jon Rahm questions: One of the best major golfers in the world a year ago is in a complete and total funk right now. It would be one thing if this player was a flash in the pan, but I believe Rahm is a generational player, and because of that his struggles this year are a big deal. He struggled to a poor finish at the Masters before missing the cut altogether at the PGA Championship. Following a WD from his most recent LIV Golf event because of a foot issue, Rahm comes into a tournament he's won before with zero momentum. Because he's Jon Rahm, that can all turn in one round or even nine holes, but his regression -- Data Golf has him as the No. 7 player in the world, which is close to as low as he's been since 2019 -- is one of the more interesting story arcs not just for the U.S. Open but across the entire year.

4. Golf course setup: As Greg DuCharme said on CBS Sports' First Cut Podcast last Sunday, the golf course is always a huge story at the U.S. Open. It will be under even more scrutiny this year for two reasons.

  1. Only three players have ever played Pinehurst under par for a U.S. Open week.
  2. Los Angeles Country Club was widely considered way too easy of a setup a year ago.

I believe Pinehurst is actually what we thought LACC was going to be, and I hope the USGA takes it to the brink -- to the place where golfers are mentally and emotionally exhausted even after the first couple of rounds. That's something we haven't seen a ton in professional golf of late, and I it would be a blast to experience.

5. Out of nowhere: Sometimes setups like this can create winners that seem to appear from out of nowhere. While Stewart was a strong player when he won in 1999, Campbell was not. He qualified in European sectionals with a birdie on his final hole then held off Woods on Sunday at a major. Golf, baby. Kaymer falls between those two players. He was solid, having won the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, but perhaps not seen as a superstar. And he opened 65-65 in 2014 and went on to win by eight.

The reason courses like Pinehurst create separation is because the risk-reward factor on each shot is higher than, say, Valhalla. So if somebody is really striking the ball well in a given week, separation can occur. This is reductive and dismisses a litany of other reasons, but venues like Pinehurst do seem to open the door to some "flukey" champions more so than other tracks.

6. Who is Xander now? I'm curious to see how the PGA Championship victory will impact Xander Schauffele in the longer term. He's been so tremendous at majors over the last 10 years. In fact, since the start of 2016 only Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy have better overall strokes gained numbers at the four majors among players with 100+ rounds. His downfall to date was simply that he hadn't won a major. Now that he has, will it change the way he is perceived or how he plays? Major-championship wins are career-changing events, even for golfers as good as Schauffele. It will be interesting to see how that idea takes root in Schauffele's U.S. Open and major experiences going forward.

7. Is Hovland ... back? Many are saying Viktor Hovland is the new Jordan Spieth. The roller coaster is real. After nearly winning Valhalla, he sat near the lead at the Memorial through 43 holes. Then the next 29 holes were a 10-over disaster. His short game has been bad in 2024, even by his own standards. Hovland has lost strokes around the greens in all but one event (the PGA). That could be a tough way to play around Pinehurst, unless he can two putt everywhere around the greens like Kaymer did back in 2014. Regardless, I'm not sure he's a great pick going into the week even if what he does and how he plays at this U.S. Open intrigues based on his first five months of the season.

8. What will Big Golfer do? Is it even appropriate to call Bryson DeChambeau the "Big Golfer" anymore? Perhaps "Medium-Sized-And-Suddenly-Athletic Golfer" fits better? Other than Scheffler, DeChambeau has been the best major golfer so far this year. I'm interested to see how he plays at Pinehurst, which will require some extremely difficult shots around the greens. He is as creative as they come, but there have been moments -- No. 15 at Augusta this year when he pitched one in the water rings a bell -- where he struggles with difficult, short shots. Bryson is certainly playing well enough from tee to green, which will serve him well in seeking his second U.S. Open. If the short game is tidy, too, I suspect he will contend. 

9. The Other Forgotten Man: If Morikawa has been forgotten, Brooks Koepka is barely remembered. Koepka's finishes at the last six U.S. Opens in which he's played look like this: Win, Win, 2nd, T4, 55th, T17. Average finish: 13th. Is anyone talking about him? Of course not. Maybe that's fair. He doesn't have a top 10 at a major since his PGA Championship win a year ago. However, while his game might not be quite at the level of Scheffler, his decision making at majors -- specifically U.S. Opens -- is unparalleled. If he gets in the hunt early, we could get a monstrous showdown from two of the most prolific winners (and major players) of the last 10 years on Sunday.

10. Tiger Woods' return to Pinehurst: Tiger has a real chance to make this cut and play decently in a way he didn't at Valhalla. This is much more of a feel golf course, and it can be played with his mind and his hands more than a beastly PGA Championship. Pinehurst is not Augusta National, but it does have more of an Augusta feel. He has zero chance of winning, of course, but it will be interesting to see how he handles some of these shots and how he gets around Pinehurst for the first time since 2005.