Although at Bleacher Report we don't encourage betting, we're happy to take a look at the players with the best chances—with the help of the oddsmakers at GolfOdds.com—of winning the 2013 U.S. Open as we move ever nearer to the start of the 113th edition of the June classic.
Golf is a notoriously difficult sport to bet on—just ask those seduced by Tiger Woods' 3-1 odds entering the Masters. However, these players are the strongest candidates at Merion Golf Club this year, and it's a solid bet that the winner will come from our list of 10 (as Adam Scott did at the Masters).
Read on to see the men with the best odds at lifting the U.S. Open trophy.
Why he'll win: Already a major champion (2011 Masters), Charl Schwartzel has proved that he has the mettle to triumph on golf's grandest stages.
Although the 2011 Masters is his only victory on the PGA Tour, he's won nine times internationally. Clearly, then, Schwartzel has proved himself capable. A tie for 39th and a T9 finish the past two years at the Open indicate he's comfortable with the USGA's setup. A tie for eighth at last week's Memorial Tournament is encouraging, as well.
Why the trophy will elude him: Schwartzel makes cuts and racks up top-10 finishes like it's his job, which is to say, he's more likely to finish tied for 12th or ninth at Merion than win the thing. This despite the fact that, statistically, the South African is in great form and should be able to make a serious run at the trophy this week.
The smart money: The 30-1 odds paint Schwartzel as much more of a long shot than past performances, and his stats from this year indicate him to be. Thus, he looks to be a great value, and he is as solid of a bet as anyone not named Tiger Woods.
Why he'll win: Although Luke Donald hasn't had an overwhelmingly good year (his best finish is a tie for third at the RBC Heritage), he is one of the best putters and scramblers on the tour. Merion is a shorter track, by U.S. Open standards. This should play into Donald's hands, as he averages under 280 yards off the tee.
Why the trophy will elude him: Donald shot 79 and 72 at the Olympic Club last year to miss the cut. He tied for 45th in 2011 and has historically (and surprisingly) not played well in our nation's golf championship. Given his play thus far in 2013, there's no reason to expect this trend to change.
The smart money: Take a pass on betting on Donald. He hasn't shown the mettle to win any major, let alone the most difficult one.
Why he'll win: As the saying goes, beware the wounded golfer. Craig Wood, for one, won the 1941 U.S. Open at Colonial with a back injury so bad he was forced to wear a corset for support. All signs point to Brandt Snedeker missing the cut, which is exactly why he could win this thing.
Why the trophy will elude him: In a word: ribs. Snedeker's nagging injury has compromised his game, pouring cold water on his hot start to the season. He missed the cut at the Memorial, firing a second-round 80, and is clearly ailing.
The smart money: Sneds is hurt and isn't playing well. Certainly, there are better bets on this list.
Why he'll win: Graeme McDowell has already won a U.S. Open (2010). Having triumphed once at one of the sternest tests in golf has to fill G-Mac with a particular kind of confidence.
Why the trophy will elude him: Although McDowell won the RBC Heritage at Colonial, he missed the cut at the Players and Masters. Heading into the U.S. Open with anything other than your best stuff rarely leads to victory.
The smart money: McDowell is the most accurate driver on tour this season and places 11th in strokes gained-putting. The year he won the Open in 2010, the Ulsterman was 86th in the category. Still, the fact that he's 150th in greens in regulation is not encouraging.
Getting up and down with regularity from around the greens at Merion will be difficult. Additionally, he hasn't made a start on the PGA Tour since the Players Championship, where he missed the cut. The smart money says G-Mac may eke out a top-10 finish, but he's not going to win at Merion.
Why he'll win: Justin Rose has been having a fantastic year. He's finished inside the top 10 in four of his eight starts on the PGA Tour, the most recent of which came at the Memorial Tournament.
Historically not a great performer at the U.S. Open, he finished tied for 21st last year. As one of the best players without a major victory, Rose is ready for his breakthrough win.
Why the trophy will elude him: Rose has missed the cut four out of the past five years at the U.S. Open. He struggles with his putter (156th in gained-putting) and won't be able to master Merion's greens.
The smart money: Rose isn't going to win at Merion Golf Club, simply put. The other golfers at 25-1 odds are all better bets.
Why he'll win: Another one of the best players without a major, Lee Westwood has finished inside the top 10 in four of his past five at the Open. He's finished inside the top 10 in his past two starts at the U.S. Open, as well. Assuming he continues to build on both those trends, this could be Westy's week.
Why the trophy will elude him: The golfer still doesn't seem fully right after injuring his finger at the Players Championship. Additionally, last week's withdrawal at the Memorial is discouraging and further evidence that the finger is a problem.
The smart money: It's tough to bet on a player who has missed the cut or withdrew in his previous start before a major, especially when there are potential injury concerns.
Why he'll win: Despite a career full of erratic driving and inconsistent putting, Phil Mickelson has finished second, or tied for second, four times at the U.S. Open. He was 134th in strokes gained-putting in 2011, but has improved to inside the top 10 during the past two years. Better work with the flatstick could propel Mickelson to a win at Merion.
Why the trophy will elude him: Phil's never won a U.S. Open. What indication is there, just a few days shy of 43, that he's going to win this one?
The smart money: Phil will likely bet on himself, but that doesn't mean you should.
Why he'll win: Although going back-to-back in majors is unlikely, Adam Scott has the game to do just that. He finished tied for 15th at the Olympic Club last year. The fact he's accurate enough off the tee and proficient enough with the putter, coupled with his win at the Masters, make clear that Scotty is a man who can win multiple majors in the same year.
Why the trophy will elude him: If recent history is of any guide, you don't win two majors in a year unless your name is Tiger Woods.
The smart money: Statistically, it's incredibly improbable that the same player will win both the Masters and the U.S. Open. This alone should deter betters.
Why he'll win: Matt Kuchar is the hottest golfer in the game right now. If he continues with the play that notched him a second-place finish at the Crowne Plaza Invitational and a victory at the Memorial tournament, this tournament is his.
Why the trophy will elude him: Kuchar has never really overwhelmed at U.S. Open tracks. His best finish in an Open is a tie for 14th. He's generally a short, erratic driver off the tee. If he is both of those things this week, he won't be the 2013 U.S. Open champion, no matter how well the arm-lock putting method is working for him.
The smart money: It's tough to bet against a guy on this hot of a streak.
Why he'll win: Sure, his putting hasn't been great (statistically, he was nearly twice as good last year). However, Rory is hitting 70 percent of greens in regulation this year. Assuming he continues his return to form and has a good week with the putter, Rory could be lifting the trophy.
Why the trophy will elude him: Removing Rory's 2011 U.S. Open victory at Congressional (with its generous setup and soft conditions) from the equation, McIlroy has made the cut in only one of his other three appearances at the tournament.
The USGA (traditionally) rewards patient, deliberate golfers who respond well to adversity with its set-ups. If McIlroy's performance at the Honda Classic is any indication, he's not likely to withstand the Open's stern test this year.
The smart money: It's tough to make the case that McIlroy is going to win any major this year, let alone this one.
Why he'll win: Tiger Woods is, again, the best golfer in the world. Assume he merely had an off week at the Memorial (as he said he did). It's prudent, also, to bear in mind that Tiger has won three of his last five starts. He was solid off the tee and on approaches even while his putter was atrocious at Muirfield Village.
Why the trophy will elude him: Tiger hasn't won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open. This tournament marks the fifth year of the most notable dry spell in golf, which is rather the point. The pressure could again get in the way of Woods finally notching his 15th victory at the majors.
The smart money: Assuming he has better luck on Merion's greens, Woods is the best bet to win. Forget what happened at the Memorial, there's no better bet than TW.