Andy Sullivan … It’s been four years now since he was a member of Europe’s Ryder Cup team. Although it lost, 17-11, the Englishman went 2-0-0. He rose in his continent’s ranks on the strength of a trio of victories on the European Tour in 2015, but he went winless until capturing the title at the English Championship a month ago. It was his third start since play resumed over the summer, but it wasn’t his only appearance on a leaderboard. The 33-year-old bookended the U.K. Swing with a T4 and a T9, respectively. The timely surge triggered a U.S. Open exemption granted to the top 10 in a special points list during that stretch. Currently eighth on his circuit in greens hit and first in scoring average.
Rasmus Højgaard ... The Dane is going to make guys like Matthew Wolff, 21, and Sungjae Im, 22, feel old this week. Højgaard turned 19 in March and he’s 66th in the Official World Golf Ranking with two wins, a second and a third on the European Tour in his last 12 starts. When he broke through at the AFRASIA BANK Mauritius Open last December, he became the third-youngest winner in European Tour history. His burst over the summer propelled him to the top of the U.K. Swing’s points list. He’s fourth in the Race to Dubai and fifth in distance off the tee. The U.S. Open marks his debut in PGA TOUR-sanctioned competition.
Thomas Detry … He hung up a pair of runner-up finishes to place fourth the U.K. Swing’s points list and qualify for his first major at the age of 27. Still winless on the European Tour, the Belgian is 15th in greens in regulation, third in scoring average and 14th in the Race to Dubai. Not only were he and compatriot Thomas Pieters, who is one year older, teammates for one season at the University of Illinois (2012-13), they also partnered to win the ISPS Handa Melbourne World Cup of Golf by three strokes in November of 2018.
Brandon Wu … Even if he didn’t live in nearby Scarsdale for several years as a child, he’d belong on this watch list. (And that’s convenient because he’s never played the West Course at Winged Foot!) The 23-year-old has rested for two weeks since his victory at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance. That elevated him on the short-term KFT points list used to exempt the top five into the major. He’s second on the KFT in greens hit and inside the top 10 in par-3, par-4 and par-5 scoring. Born in California and a member of Stanford’s 2019 NCAA championship team. How all of that translates on what will challenge to be the most difficult course on the PGA TOUR in 2020-21 remains to be seen, but he goes in with a comfort level all to his own.
Takumi Kanaya … Among the budding stars shadowed by the uncertainty of 2020. The 22-year-old from Japan currently is the world’s top-rated amateur, and comfortably at that. He first made international news as the winner of the 2018 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. That yielded a start at the 2019 Masters (where he made the cut), but it’s what he’s done most recently worldwide that warrants attention on yet another big stage, even though his run of form dates back some time. Seven weeks after losing in a playoff in his title defense of the Asia-Pacific nearly a year ago, he prevailed in a Japan Golf Tour event. Three weeks later, he tied for third at the Emirates Australian Open. He didn’t play again until finishing T5 at another stop on the JGTO two weeks ago.
NOTE: Sleeper is a relative term, so Rob uses unofficial criteria to determine who qualifies. Each of the following usually is determined to be ineligible for this weekly staple: Winners of the tournament on the current host course; winners in the same season; recent major champions; top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking; recent participants of team competitions.