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US Open Golf 2013: Opening-Round Pairings That Are Loaded with Contenders

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US Open Golf 2013: Opening-Round Pairings That Are Loaded with Contenders
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The 2013 U.S. Open field and pairings are finally set, and we're sure to see some exciting golf at the Merion Golf Club in Philadelphia with some of the world's best golfers paired up.

While there's one super-pairing that obviously stands out from the pack, there are a handful of pairings that are likely to produce contenders who will be around Thursday to Sunday.

Let's take a look at the biggest pairings for the first two days of the upcoming U.S. Open at Merion.

 

Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott

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Rory McIlroy would come one step closer to stepping out of Tiger's shadow by up-staging him at Merion

One of the biggest pairings we've seen in a major in some time, the Woods-McIlroy-Scott matchup (via U.S. Open on Twitter) on Thursday and Friday is sure to have the biggest impact on whoever raises the trophy come Sunday.

The storylines entering this three-way battle are endless. 

For starters, we have the world's top three golfers. Woods has obviously seen the bulk of the attention, but McIlroy is consistently a top threat and Scott showed his prowess with his first major victory at the Masters earlier this year. 

McIlroy and Scott have won the past two majors, and Woods' 14 majors all-time is nothing to scoff at, either. McIlroy was quick to comment on his pairing on Twitter, hinting that he's not in half-bad company. 

Additionally, Woods will be around former and long-time caddy Steve Williams, who is manning Scott's bag, for the first two rounds. The two had a famous falling out in 2011 (per ESPN) after Williams served 12 years as Woods' caddie, and their troubled relationship remains in the headlines even in the present (via New York Daily Post). 

Despite all of the chatter, this trio undoubtedly has the biggest shot of any pairing in the field—and any pairing you could possibly come up with not including these three—to win at Merion and most of the attention will follow them through Thursday and Friday.

 

Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley

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Not to be outdone by the super-pairing noted above, these three should offer some entertaining golf during the first two rounds at Merion.

Mickelson and Bradley paired up for an incredible performance at the Ryder Cup last year, going 3-0 in their time together and giving the U.S. a much-needed boost at the time. 

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Don't forget about the 46-year-old Stricker, either. He'll be hungry to get back to the top at the U.S. Open, where he hasn't finished in the top five since 1999. 

It hasn't been a year to remember for Mickelson, but that could change at Merion. He was cut from The Players in early May, and struggled to find his game at the Masters. But he finished in third at the Wells Fargo Championship and seems to still have it.

There's no doubt that this trio will offer some exciting golf, and one—or all—of them could sneak into the top of the leaderboard at some point.

 

Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker 

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Matt Kuchar has been on a tear so far in 2013, however, he won't be an outright favorite by any means, even against the rest of his pairing.

After winning the Memorial Tournament last weekend and finishing second in the Crowne Plaza Invitational the previous week, Kuchar is as hot as any golfer in the field and should be right in the thick of things after rising to fourth in the world golf rankings

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

But don't count out the competition in his pairing. Justin Rose played well at Memorial, finishing tied for eighth, and also showed up well at the Masters earlier this season.

Snedeker always seems to find a way to stand out in majors as well, at least for the first three rounds. His best finish at the U.S. Open is a tie for eighth back in 2010, but he's shown promise since then and just needs to piece it all together to be in the hunt come Sunday. 

Each of these golfers are in the top 10 in the world, and together they should excite in the first two rounds. 

 

Graeme McDowell, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson

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All three of these golfers find a way to crack the top of the leaderboards at majors, and we shouldn't expect anything different now that they're paired together.

McDowell's successes at the U.S. Open are well documented, having won the event in 2010 and forever etching his name into the greats whose footsteps he followed in.

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He's not the only former champ in the mix, though. Jim Furyk took the event back in 2003, but he won't have to channel his performance from a decade ago. He's playing great at the moment and seems to be in contention anywhere he goes. 

Zach Johnson has become a household name ever since his 2007 Masters win, and seems to always show up at majors. 

All of these golfers will want to prove that their legacy isn't defined by victories earlier in their career, and what better place to do so than at Merion

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