With six of the last nine major winners being first timers, I'm giving a serious look at some underdogs who can win the 2013 U.S. Open.
There are seven golfers, according to Bovada on June 9, who have odds at 25/1 or lower. Of that group, only Matt Kuchar and Lee Westwood have yet to win a major. I'm considering everyone lower than that an underdog.
These next three guys have everything going for them to steal headlines at Merion.
*Stats via PGATour.com and odds courtesy Bovada.
Billy Horschel 80/1
It's been a remarkable year for Billy Horschel. Setting out just trying to earn his PGA Tour card, he's been one of the tour's best players.
Horschel has played 15 PGA events this year. In his first eight, he was solid if not spectacular. He had two finishes inside the top 11 and didn't miss a cut.
Beginning with his ninth start, he posted four consecutive top 10s. This included a second, third and then ultimately his first win on the PGA when he claimed the Zurich Classic.
Horschel promptly responded by missing his first cut of the year his next time out. That came at the Players. However, it's easy to understand that he would've lost his edge a bit after his first win. It would be natural to relax after such an accomplishment.
He followed that up with a pedestrian 41st at the Memorial and then a 10th this past week at the St. Jude Classic.
Horschel is working his way back into form, and he has the game to succeed at Merion. He is 31st in driving accuracy and 17th in strokes gained-putting. He also has nice touch around the greens. At 80/1, Horschel is the best bet in this tournament.
Brandt Snedeker 28/1
Brandt Snedeker enters this tournament with a lot of question marks. First, he has to face the demons of his Sunday failure at Augusta in the last major. And that came on top of his heartbreaking collapse in the Masters in 2008:
That's not all, though. Snedeker will be trying to win his first major while suffering through some wildly inconsistent play. There's a story behind his erratic play, though.
Snedeker just began taking medication to increase the bone density in his ribs. The same ribs that forced him out of action following his win at Pebble Beach. Snedeker had back-to-back second-place finishes leading into that victory, and he was easily the best golfer on tour heading into the mid-February Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Which of these guys will finish highest?
He missed six weeks, and hasn't been the same. He's played seven events since his return and has two top 10s and four missed cuts.
However, his two top 10s came at the Masters and the Players. The quality play in those esteemed tournaments bodes well for his performance at Merion.
He missed the U.S. Open last year because of his pesky ribs, but he was 11th in 2011. And Snedeker has been much better on the whole in 2012 and 2013.
I'm still not convinced he can hold it together if he's in contention on Sunday, but I am convinced he will find a way to be on the leaderboard.
Hunter Mahan 50/1
Hunter Mahan burned me heading into the Masters. I was confident he'd make a run at the green jacket. He didn't make the cut.
Still, I'm back for more. With a swing this pure, how can I not be?
Mahan missed the cut in his tournament heading into the Masters, and what I didn't see at the time, was that was the beginning of a slump. Following the Masters, Mahan finished 91st and 73rd.
He's since turned it around. He finished in 19th at the Players, 26th at the Crowne Plaza Invitational and 16th at the Memorial.
The biggest difference for Mahan is improved putting. He's finished his last two tournaments at .853 strokes gained-putting or better. He also hit 71 percent of his fairways last time out.
Mahan is a tremendous ball striker. He has a nice all-around game and he will put that on display at Merion.