As of this writing, there are still only 78 players listed as exempt for the US Open on the USGA website. The sectional qualifying in the United States takes place Monday at ten sites, after which the field will pretty much be set. One player that probably won't be participating is Tiger Woods, yet at the moment he is in the field. When he withdraws, and it's likely he will, an alternate will get his spot in the tournament. Of course, Tiger has until today to enter the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, which is the final event prior to the Open. If he doesn't play any tournaments prior to Oakmont, it's almost impossible to believe that he would remain entered without having hit a competitive shot since last August.
Of those already exempt, and forgetting about the last five Oakmont US Open results, it's hard to dismiss the chances of Jordan Spieth and Jason Day, given how they've rounded into form the last month or so. Spieth, after his disaster at the Master's, rebounded by taking the Dean & Deluca last week in Fort Worth. Jason Day went wire to wire at the Players in winning against the toughest field of the season. A good indicator of how well players are looking in advance of the Open is their performance at the Memorial, which is played on a tough course with lush rough and fast greens. As the afternoon wave begins their second round, some of those mentioned earlier are in contention, including co-leader Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day. Phil Mickelson, who has made a career out of tough and sometimes inexplicable losses in the US Open, is still dealing with his insider trading issues, but is in the clubhouse after two rounds at seven under par, five shots off the pace.
Once all of the sectional qualifiers are complete, I'll take a look at the entire US Open field, beginning with some dark horses that may be able to contend at Oakmont. As we've seen before, we can end up with some surprising finishes at major championships. Just take a look at the most recent one, where Danny Willett shocked the golf world by coming from behind to win the Master's. Stay with me for the next couple of weeks as I preview this years US Open, then cover it live from Oakmont Country Club June 16 - 19.