Keytron Jordan, CBS Sports design

With the U.S. Open returning to Pinehurst No. 2 for the first time in a decade, the key question everyone's asking is the same across the golf world: Who are you picking to win this 124th playing the national championship? With an extraordinary field featuring the best professionals in the world, the third major championship of 2024 should be an epic ride from Thursday's first round through the awarding of the U.S. Open Championship Trophy early Sunday evening.

There is a three-headed monster atop the 2024 U.S. Open field as Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele and Rory McIlroy are simply raking right now. Scheffler and Schauffele stand as the first two major winners of the year, while McIlroy continues to seek his first major in a decade. There is no question that Scheffler is playing the best golf in the world right now -- having won five of his last eight starts -- but Schauffele and McIlroy are clearly in the second tier on their own above the rest of the pack.

Joining that trio near the top of the oddsboard is Collin Morikawa, a two-time major winner seeking the third leg of his grand slam bid, and Bryson DeChambeau, who has posted career-best finishes at the Masters (T6) and PGA Championship (2nd) already this season. Reigning champion Wyndham Clark, despite his up-and-down play this year, remains fourth in the Official World Golf Rankings, and a return to form might be possible at the even the dominated a year ago. 

There are plenty of golfers behind them who will surely be in contention, including wunderkind Ludvig Åberg and Brooks Koepka, and it will be interesting to see whether the likes of Max Homa, Sahith Theegala and Viktor Hovland can find enough game to put pressure on the favorites. And then there's the duo of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Woods has not played the weekend at the U.S. Open since 2019, and he's only made one cut since 2013. Mickelson, meanwhile, has infamously finished 2nd or T2 at the U.S. Open six times, most recently in 2013. He has not finished in the top 50 of a U.S. Open since 2018, missing three cuts in that span.

So, what is going to happen at Pinehurst this week? Let's take a look at a full set of predictions and picks from our CBS Sports experts as we attempt to project who will win -- and what will happen -- at one of golf's most prestigious tournaments. You can also dive into our U.S. Open field rankings as we list the top golfers participating this week from 1-24.

2024 U.S. Open expert picks, predictions

Kyle Porter, senior golf writer

Winner: Scottie Scheffler (3-1): Who else? If each win to this point has made his season more historic, this one will make it the most historic. First golfer since Tiger Woods to win six times in a year, including a major. One of only four players to win six times in a season since 1983. Third player this century to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year. His gifts are bountiful, but the two most underrated -- his short game and course management -- will be on display throughout the week at Pinehurst as his season goes from tremendous to truly historic.

Sleeper -- Will Zalatoris (80-1): Two top-six finishes in his last three U.S. Opens, and Zalatoris is 80-1 to win the tournament? I know his golf of late has not been tremendous, but he has a lot of major championship history for us to lean on going into the week. I think that 80-1 number is going to look silly come Friday afternoon. 

Top 10 lock -- Rory McIlroy: He has five top 10s in a row at this event and is gaining nearly 2.25 shots on the average PGA Tour field so far in 2024, according to Data Golf. That's a wild number -- we typically only see four or five players per year over 2.0 -- that has gotten destroyed by Scheffler year. Rory is playing terrific golf, just not good enough golf to beat Scottie.

Star who definitely won't win -- Viktor Hovland: It's too inconsistent right now for me. This seems like an insane pick after what he did at the PGA Championship, but the short game is still too out of sorts, and he's been low-key just all right (for someone of his caliber) at U.S. Opens.

Scottie Scheffler vs. Xander Schauffele vs. Rory McIlroy: Scheffler will win, McIlroy will do his top 10 thing, and Schauffele -- like we have seen so many times in the past -- will slip back just a bit after claiming his first major. It's so difficult to stay as focused right after winning that first one, and while I think the game will be fine in the long run, I don't think it'll be quite as good this week as those other two.

Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson: Tiger is going to make the cut here; Phil is not. This is the type of place where Woods can think his way around and use his extraordinary hands to make a lot of pars. I don't see Mickelson thriving at Pinehurst, and I certainly don't believe Tiger is going to contend -- only that he can absolutely make the cut in a way that he simply had no chance of doing at the PGA Championship at Valhalla.

Surprise prediction -- The course will not be as tough as predicted: I think about this piece from Garrett Morrison of the Fried Egg a lot. While I'm hopeful for the fastest, crispiest greens imaginable, I'm dubious that we will get that from the USGA. And that is fine. I just don't want everyone thinking -- after Wyndham Clark said Monday that the greens are already on the edge -- that the USGA will take them over (or perhaps even up to) the line like it has in the past.

Lowest round: 65 (-5)
Winning score: 278 (-2)
Winner's Sunday score: 70 (E)

Patrick McDonald, golf writer

Winner -- Hideki Matsuyama (50-1): Scheffler is more-or-less assumed at this point, so let's add a little more excitement to this topic. Matsuyama thrives in two areas that will be heavily tested at Pinehurst: on approach and around the green. The former Masters champion ranks No. 1 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained around the green and is among the leaders in terms of proximity from 200+ yards and bogey avoidance. He quelled any concerns regarding his lack of reps since the Masters with a top-10 result last week at Memorial and has a solid U.S. Open résumé with a runner-up finish in 2017 and top five in 2022.

Sleeper -- Russell Henley (100-1): Six players can claim they rank inside the top 20 in strokes gained approach and strokes gained around the green over the last three months, and Henley is one of them. Among the most accurate drivers in the game as well, Henley will need to lean into the firm and fast conditions of Pinehurst and hopefully turn this par 70 into a bit of a smaller ballpark. For my money, he's the most underrated player in the game and has a pair of top 15s in his last three U.S. Opens to show for it.

Top 10 lock -- Xander Schauffele: Back to the well with this one. He comes into the U.S. Open with nine straight major top 20s and that's all he has done in this championship alone. In seven U.S. Open starts, Schauffele has six top 10s with his worst finish coming at The Country Club in the form of a T14 result. The tee-to-green game wasn't up to par at Jack's place, but it didn't matter and he still found a way to finish inside the top 10 like he will this week.

Star who definitely won't win -- Wyndham Clark: "Star" might be a stretch, but he is the world No. 4 and reigning U.S. Open champion. Clark has been brutal the last few months missing the cut at the Masters, PGA Championship and most recently last week at the Memorial. Combine the lack of form with some additional commitments off the golf course, and I could see the defending champion struggling again. 

Scottie Scheffler vs. Xander Schauffele vs. Rory McIlroy: I'm going to side with the Official World Golf Rankings on this one and follow their order. It feels like Scheffler's floor at this point is a top-three finish, while Schauffele's floor is a top-10 finish. McIlroy is playing fine golf -- don't get me wrong -- but there are some shortcomings in his iron play that neither Scheffler nor Schauffele possess at this time. 

Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson: Coming into the season, I figured this would be Tiger's best chance to at least show us something as Pinehurst is a golf course which requires as much mental toughness as it does physical. A flat piece of land that will play firm and fast, Pinehurst should be in Tiger's wheelhouse and should allow him to see the weekend. Meanwhile, Mickelson has been poor on LIV Golf and is a candidate to miss the cut.

Surprise prediction -- No first-time major winner: Might seem like an odd prediction, but the U.S. Open has been the maiden major for the last five winners. Not since 1973-78 has that streak extended to six, and I don't think this year will snap that drought. Schauffele coming through at the PGA Championship obviously helps the cause, but there are some potential worries here with Viktor Hovland, Ludvig Åberg and Sahith Theegala.

Lowest round: 66 (-4)
Winning score: 278 (-2)
Winner's Sunday score: 70 (E)

Adam Silverstein, director of editorial

Winner -- Collin Morikawa (16-1): In the final pairing across each of the year's first two majors, Morikawa finished in the top four at the Masters and PGA Championship. His last three U.S. Open finishes look like this: T4, T5, T14. It's easy to forget about Morikawa since he hasn't won a major since 2021 and hasn't won at all in eight months, but his short game has improved significantly, which is a huge benefit alongside his accurate driving and approach play. Morikawa is not only a solid play in general, he's the best value at the top of the odds board entering the U.S. Open.

Sleeper -- Sahith Theegala (45-1): It's going to happen at some point for Theegala; the only question is when. The U.S. Open does not exactly set up as his best event, but he has a ton of momentum at his back and could easily be buoyed by the Pinehurst crowd. If he can keep his driver straight, and hang around the top of the leaderboard entering the weekend, a late surge is certainly possible.

Top 10 lock -- Scottie Scheffler: Here are Scheffler's last three U.S. Open finishes: T7, T2, 3rd. He's won five of his last eight events and finished in the top 10 across 15 of 16 tournaments over the last 10 months. He's also the No. 1-ranked player in the world whose strokes gained numbers are preposterous. Not sure there's a golfer who has better defined "lock" since Tiger Woods at the height of his run.

Star who definitely won't win -- Justin Thomas: Look, J.T. got up for the PGA Championship, but it was in his hometown of Louisville and the major at which he's had the most career success (two victories). Thomas has not sniffed a top 10 at the U.S. Open since 2020, and he's missed the cut in four of the last six majors. If you can tell me what about his game recently gives you confidence he's going to win the U.S. Open, well, I'm all ears.

Scottie Scheffler vs. Xander Schauffele vs. Rory McIlroy: This is an interesting topic given these are the top three in the OWGR and the top three on the odds board for this match. It's tough for me to believe Schauffele is going to go from struggling to close for his career to suddenly winning back-to-back majors. It's quite possible Scheffler would have been looking at the third leg of a grand slam if not for his arrest in Louisville. And then McIlroy, well, he's gone a decade without a major, but he's actually been exceedingly consistent at U.S. Opens. Give me Scheffler, McIlroy and Schauffele in that order.

Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson: Lefty has missed the cut in three of his last four majors and three of his last four U.S. Opens. He's playing poor golf overall, and Pinehurst is unforgiving to the mistakes he makes. Tiger is certainly not a beacon of health or consistency of late, but this is also his first U.S. Open since 2020, and he's said at the Masters this year that he will play his best golf in warm, dry conditions. That's exactly what is ahead at Pinehurst, and while I see no scenario in which Woods contends, I absolutley believe he will make the weekend. 

Surprise prediction -- Come-from-behind winner: Whether it's a golfer who loses his lead Sunday or never has it entering the final round, the U.S. Open victor will not be atop the leaderboard for most of the day. The USGA loves to set up difficult final rounds, and it won't take much for a leader to be thrown off his game if a few things do not go his way early in the round.  

Lowest round: 66 (-4)
Winning score: 277 (-3)
Winner's Sunday score: 69 (-1)

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.