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US Open Favorites 2013: Tiger Woods and Stars Sure to be in Contention

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US Open Favorites 2013: Tiger Woods and Stars Sure to be in Contention
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Tiger Woods will certainly be in contention for his 15th major championship victory at the 2013 U.S. Open, but he's not the only player you can count on to play well at Merion's East Course this year.

The Hugh Irvine Wilson-designed masterpiece measures in at just under 7,000 yards, which is extremely short compared to most modern designs. By no means will Merion play short, however, as there are some monstrous holes hidden within the "short" layout that require a combination of power and precision to conquer. 

Zach Johnson recently discussed the "short course." He has traditionally fared well on shorter courses that require a tidy short game, but he realizes this course isn't what it appears to be. He specifically pointed to the brutally long par-3s, via Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times:

We were all sitting around talking about it. [Woods] says it plays as long as any U.S. Open he’s ever played. [On the short par-4s], guys will be hitting 5‑irons and 4‑irons off some of those tees, and you’re still hitting a mid‑iron in. There’s one par-3 that’s 100 yards, and after that, Tiger said he hit a 4‑iron, 3‑iron and 5‑wood into the par 3s. So you have par-3s where you’re hitting lumber in, and then I think coming down the stretch, there’s not a par-4 under 500.

With that in mind, it's clear that the winning golfer must be able to combine power and finesse to take advantage of the many different characteristics of this wonderfully designed course.

These are the men you can count on to be in contention on Sunday in the final round of the U.S. Open.

 

Tiger Woods

Woods was clearly off his game at the Memorial Championship, but even the world's best players are prone to fall flat on their faces every once in a while. His 65th-place finish at Muirfield Village doesn't mean he won't be a force to be reckoned with at Merion this upcoming weekend.

Tiger Woods will ____ at the 2013 U.S. Open.

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In eight PGA Tour events this year, Woods has won four tournaments and has five top-five finishes. And though it's been five years since Tiger has won a major championship, he has finished in sixth place or higher eight times in majors since 2008, including his fourth-place finish at Augusta earlier this year.

Woods leads the PGA Tour in eagles, scoring average and in all-around ranking, which is based on eight key stats. 

His overall game is almost impossible to beat when he's firing on all cylinders. You can be sure Woods has been hard at work fine-tuning his swing after his disappointment at the Memorial. You can also be sure he'll be one of the men vying for the title on Sunday.

 

Matt Kuchar

Photo Credit: prmanager on Instagram

Kuchar may not have the same "star" power Woods does, but anyone who has been watching this guy play lately will tell you he's as much of a star on the PGA Tour as any other golfer on the planet.

In fact, no other golfer has won more than one tournament besides Kuchar (2) and Woods (4). Additionally, he has earned six finishes in the top 10 (No. 1 on the PGA Tour) and has made the cut in all 14 of his appearances in 2013.

Though he doesn't feature a gorgeous, prototypical swing, Kuchar is adept at making every stroke count. He leads the PGA Tour in "actual" scoring, averaging a score of 69.84 strokes per round. As we've seen throughout the years, the key to scoring is a strong putting game, which Kuchar certainly possesses.

 

Brandt Snedeker

Video Credit: PGA Tour

You might think that missing the cut in a tournament the week before the U.S. Open would portend bad things to come, but you'd be wrong. 

Snedeker missed the cut at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, posting a score of three over par, but according to ESPN's Justin Ray, that's not necessarily a bad thing heading into Merion next weekend:

Snedeker's record this season resembles that of Kuchar's. The biggest difference between the two men's 2013 seasons is that Snedeker has one win and two second-place finishes to go along with his six top-10 finishes, while Kuchar has two wins and one second-place finish.

The course at Merion will fit Snedeker's strengths perfectly. 

He's an excellent ball-striker who ranks No. 10 in driving accuracy and No. 11 in the GIR (greens in regulation) statistic. Furthermore, he's one of the best golfers on tour on par-3s and par-4s, which dominate the landscape at Merion.

 

Note: All stats courtesy of PGATour.com

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78

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