After a year out of the spotlight, all eyes will once again be on the United States Golf Association (USGA) when the 120th US Open gets under way at Winged Foot.
The fact that last year’s championship at Pebble Beach took place without controversy over the set up of the course was a welcome relief for the organisers, who had cultivated an unwelcome reputation for incompetence.
At Chambers Bay in 2015 it was bad greens, which Henrik Stenson likened to “putting on broccoli”, on a course Gary Player felt was designed by “a man who had to have one leg shorter than the other”.
McIlroy is hoping golf’s reputed “Nappy Factor” – where new fathers seem to enjoy increased success – will work in his favour following the birth of daughter Poppy just over a fortnight ago, although his form has been largely mediocre since returning from the enforced Covid-19 shutdown.
Three-time winner Tiger Woods is even more rusty as he returns to the scene of his first missed cut in 38 majors as a professional, although that rare failure in 2006 came after a nine-week lay-off following the death of his father Earl.
World number one Johnson comes into the week with form figures of 2-1-2-1 and was only denied victory in the BMW Championship by Rahm’s outrageous birdie on the first extra hole at Olympia Fields, a course which provided a similar test to that expected at Winged Foot.
The last 33 majors have been won by players ranked inside the world’s top 50 and all evidence points to that trend continuing, but at a venue where, with all due respect, Kenneth Ferrie held a share of the 54-hole lead in 2006, anything may be possible.