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Trends have reigned supreme across the first two major championships of the season. Whittling down the Masters field to a handful of players, trends identified Scottie Scheffler as the man to beat at Augusta National. At the PGA Championship last month, our trends pointed to Scheffler again -- and he may have won if not for, well, you know -- but he was joined by eventual champion Xander Schauffele as well as runner-up Bryson DeChambeau in the final five-man group.

While we would love to promise similar success here, the 2024 U.S. Open may be more difficult to decipher -- especially when you consider last year's champion, Wyndham Clark. While Clark had just won on the PGA Tour for the first time one month prior at the Wells Fargo Championship, his major championship résumé was lacking to say the least. His best finish prior to the 2023 U.S. Open was a T75 at the 2021 PGA Championship.

Major pedigree will still be called upon, but the last five winners at the U.S. Open have, in fact, all been first-time major champions. Throw in the variable that is Pinehurst No. 2 itself, and the waters continue to get muddier as one of its three champions (Michael Campbell) had to go through sectional qualifying just to earn his place in the field in 2005.

As a consequence, it's tougher to trim the field. U.S. Open, after all, is "open" and available for anyone to win should they string together 72 holes of high quality golf. With all that in mind, let's take a look back at the 10 most recent winners of the U.S. Open and identify what trends exist as we attempt to narrow down the field of 156 players to pinpoint this year's champion. 

1. Official World Golf Rankings

The rankings have lost some accuracy and completeness amid the LIV Golf drama, but they are still sound for tours that receive points. Each of the last 10 winners have been inside the top 50 of the OWGR with the likes of Brooks Koepka (No. 22), Gary Woodland (No. 25), Martin Kaymer (No. 28) and Clark (No. 32) bringing up the rear. Similar to the PGA Championship, the top-50 cutoff for those players on circuits that do accumulate OWGR seems like a good starting point.

Eliminated: Non-LIV Golf players outside the top 50 of the OWGR, notably Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Harris English, Adam Scott, Billy Horschel, Justin Rose, Tom Hoge, Cameron Davis

2. Course changes, stakes do not

The U.S. Open visits Pinehurst No. 2 for only the fourth time in the championship's history. While we will see it much more often in the coming years, Pinehurst will be somewhat of a mystery with most of the field seeing it for the first time in competition. Regardless, quality has proven to be an important barometer at this championship in particular. Nine of the last 10 champions had a top-25 finish to their name with Clark being the outlier.

Eliminated: Ludvig Åberg, Max Homa, Sahith Theegala, Sepp Straka, Cameron Young, Sam Burns, Chris Kirk, Nick Taylor, Akshay Bhatia, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Robert MacIntyre, Nicolai Hojgaard, Stephan Jaeger, Corey Conners, J.T. Poston, Eric Cole, David Puig, Dean Burmester, Adrian Meronk, Eugenio Chacarra

3. What have you done for me lately?

Major champions rarely pop up unannounced. Before his win at Pinehurst, Kaymer reigned supreme at the Players Championship earlier that spring. He is among four prior champions to have won before claiming the U.S. Open with Jordan Spieth being the lone man to do it multiple times before his triumph at Chambers Bay in 2015. In fact, the last 10 U.S. Open winners all had at least one podium finish under their belt during the calendar year.

Eliminated: Patrick Cantlay, Matt Fitzpatrick, Russell Henley, Tyrrell Hatton, Jason Day, Tom Kim, Lucas Glover, Si Woo Kim, Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Phil Mickelson

4. Major-championship pedigree

Clark really busted this trend a season ago with his best major result being T75, but before that, it was a steady climb for our winners. Kaymer, Spieth and Koepka are the only three to have already been major champions, but guys like Dustin Johnson and Matthew Fitzpatrick had experienced their own close calls. With all that said, nine of the last 10 winners had at least one top-10 finish in a major championship.

Eliminated: Byeong Hun An, Matthieu Pavon

5. Let's get technical

We're down to just 26 players without touching a statistic, but that won't be the case much longer. The last 10 champions all averaged at least 0.75 strokes gained per round in the three months leading up to their victories. Spieth headlined the group with +2.80 in 2015. Koepka (2018) and Jon Rahm also checked in north of +2.00 strokes gained per round, while Fitzpatrick (+1.96) and Clark (+1.93) settled in right around the +1.95 average of the last 10 winners -- the number we will be using as our benchmark, much to the dismay of many recent major champions and many potential contenders.

Eliminated: Wyndham Clark, Viktor Hovland, Jon Rahm (also withdrew), Brian Harman, Tommy Fleetwood, Keegan Bradley, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, Sungjae Im, Denny McCarthy, Shane Lowry, Adam Hadwin, Min Woo Lee, Bryson DeChambeau, Will Zalatoris, Brooks Koepka, Austin Eckroat, Sergio Garcia, Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson

That leaves us with ... five golfers

Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, Hideki Matsuyama

This is basically the same list from the PGA Championship with the only change being the inclusion of Morikawa and the dismissal of Bryson DeChambeau. The two-time major champion is the only player to finish inside the top five at both majors as he was featured in the final pairing in the final round at both Augusta National and Valhalla. A win appears imminent after dueling Scheffler at the Memorial.

Speaking of Scheffler, his presence is a free bingo square at this point. He continues to widen the gap between himself and the rest of the world and a second major of 2024 -- and third overall -- would come to the surprise of no one. Schauffele continues to showcase he is the second-best player in the world and could be frisky following his PGA Championship breakthrough.

McIlroy is still searching for his first major win since 2014, but the U.S. Open has proven to be his best major in recent years with five straight top 10s, including a runner-up result in Los Angeles last season. 

The wild card of the bunch and the only player among this group north of 20-1 on the odds board is Matsuyama (50-1). He hasn't played much since the Masters -- teeing it up at only the PGA Championship and the Memorial -- but he looked great at Jack's place and has proven capable on the major stage.

Who will win the U.S. Open, and which longshots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine to see the projected U.S. Open leaderboard, all from the model that's nailed 12 golf majors, including the last three Masters and the 2024 PGA Championship.