Open immortality awaits the golfer who separates himself from the rest in California.
With the 112th edition of the U.S. Open set to commence on Thursday, America’s national championship has arrived at San Francisco’s Olympic Club for the fifth time.
Excitement abounds this week, at a course that is sure to challenge golf's best.
From amateurs hoping to make their presence felt to stars trying to affirm their shine, this year’s Open is anything but short on story lines.
And though Olympic Club has produced a few previously-unrenowned champions, expect the cream to rise to the top this week. A course so demanding figures to require practiced hands.
So here are the top five golfers in the official world rankings, and their chances of procuring U.S. Open glory.
Unspectacular but steady, Donald eyes his first major championship.
He may not be flashy, but the world’s top-ranked golfer has turned in a solid season thus far, splitting time between the PGA and European Tours.
Donald won the BMW PGA Championship last month, and is coming off a 12th place finish at the Memorial.
While Donald has yet to notch a major victory, Olympic Club would appear to play to his strengths.
He's not a long hitter, but Donald’s penchant for finding fairways and greens bodes well for him, considering Olympic’s tight and unforgiving layout.
The World No. 1 also boasts one of the best short games in golf. Players will miss plenty of greens this week, so scrambling will be crucial.
Just like in past Opens, the players who successfully manage their game and emotions will be in contention Sunday afternoon. Expect no less from Donald.
McIlroy hopes to exchange recent struggles for last year's Open magic.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of McIlroy’s lapping of the field at last year’s U.S. Open.
But the world No. 2 heads to the Olympic Club a different man than we saw at Congressional.
Last month, he missed three consecutive cuts, surrendering the world’s top ranking. And though he recovered with a strong showing at last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic, McIlroy is clearly not at his best.
We have seen him respond to adversity at major championships before, however.
After compiling an 80 in the second round at the 2010 Open Championship at St Andrews, McIlroy rebounded to finish tied for third.
And who could forget last year? McIlroy turned a Masters meltdown into an eight-shot victory parade at the U.S. Open.
The defending champion is too talented to stay down for long.
Fresh off a win in Sweden, Westwood looks to solve the major championship riddle.
Much like Donald, Lee Westwood has been a stalwart on the tour these past few years, but has failed to record a major victory.
Off a five-shot win at the Nordea Masters last week, the Englishman enters the season’s second major on the short list of favorites.
While his ball-striking has always been consistent, Westwood’s play around the greens has proven to be a major detriment.
He finished in a tie for seventh at the 1998 U.S. Open at Olympic Club, and has amassed 12 other top 10s in major championships.
Westwood will need to show a polished short game this week in order to find the winner’s circle.
But don’t be surprised if he is in the mix come Sunday afternoon. He always is.
A victory at Muirfield Village catapulted Woods into the center of the U.S. Open discussion.
What would a U.S. Open be without Tiger Woods?
Whether or not he’s playing well, the major championship plot thickens when Woods is in the field. And his win at Muirfield Village makes this Open all the more compelling.
It has been four years since Woods captured his last major, but he should approach this one with some confidence.
He looked very comfortable with his game at the Memorial, and perhaps just as importantly, it appeared that his flair for the dramatic had returned.
Bringing his game from Muirfield Village to the Open might just draw Woods a little closer to Jack Nicklaus’ major championship record.
Watson heads to San Francisco looking to win his second consecutive major.
If one player deserves a pass should he struggle this week, it is Watson.
The Masters champion has teed it up only once since April, which resulted in a missed cut at the Memorial two weeks ago.
Since winning the Masters, the No. 5 player in the world has had to adjust to his newfound fame, and his golf game has suffered.
Watson’s length and imaginative shot-making propelled him to a victory at Augusta, but it may not be enough this week.
Olympic Club requires precision and discipline, two things Watson has never had in excess.
If he hits less than driver and stays in play, he could challenge this week. But don’t bet on it.
Expect someone else to rise to the occasion at this major championship. If something can be learned from previous U.S. Opens, it is that anything can—and will happen.