The U.S. Open 2013 favorites are starting to become clearer now that the tournament is just around the corner.
The overwhelming favorite is Tiger Woods. However, there are a number of players with legitimate chances to win.
Below, we'll give you the odds on the top favorites and then a prediction of who will win at Merion.
*odds via CBS Sports
Tiger Woods is the favorite, and with good reason. Despite a disappointing showing at the Memorial Tournament, Woods has been the PGA Tour's best player this season. He's won four events and is back atop the rankings.
Woods hit just 53 percent of greens at Memorial, but that should change at Merion. Merion is a bit shorter, meaning that he won't have to use his driver as much. In fact, Merion is the shortest major course since 2004.
When he doesn't have to use his driver, Woods is much more effective, as NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller told the New York Daily News:
Anytime you can give Tiger a course that he doesn’t need to use his driver, I think is to his advantage. I think when he won the Players Championship it’s very similar to what he’s going to do at Merion. Really the only weakness for Tiger is when he has to hit the driver, and if he doesn’t have to hit the driver it sounds crazy but I think he’s tough to beat. If he can hit that stinger off the tee, he can stop the ball on hard greens with those high approach shots the way he spins it.
His performance at Memorial seems like a bit of a fluke, as Woods leads the PGA Tour in eagles, scoring average and in all-around ranking. As one of the best competitors, Woods will likely use his shortcomings at Memorial as motivation.
Woods is the favorite, and unless he continues his struggles reaching the greens, there's no reason why he shouldn't win.
Another top contender is Matt Kuchar. Kuchar might be the hottest golfer on tour right now. He has six top-10 finishes this year, which is most on tour, and he has not missed the cut in 14 appearances this year. In addition, he is one of two golfers to have more than one victory this year. He just won the Memorial Tournament.
At Muirfield Village, Kuchar had just eight bogeys and no double bogeys. His consistency should serve him well at Merion. He’s fourth in scoring average on the PGA Tour (69.739).
Kuchar will undoubtedly be atop the leaderboard headed into the final rounds and will have a legitimate chance of winning his first major.
A final strong candidate is Rory McIlroy. He will be paired with Tiger Woods in the first two rounds:
Tiger Woods/Rory McIlroy will be grouped together for first 2 rounds of U.S. Open..first time they’ve been paired at a major championship— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) June 7, 2013
McIlroy is struggling a bit this season, as he has yet to win a tournament and just barely made the cut at the Memorial. He's missed two cuts this season.
But McIlroy is the No. 2 ranked player in the world, and he has proven that he can step up in major tournaments. This is also not the first time he's struggled in his career.
Last season, after winning the Honda Classic, McIlroy went winless in the next 11 starts, including four missed cuts.
After that, however, he won four of the next nine tournaments.
If there were ever a time to think that McIlroy would break out of his slump, it would be at Merion.
Look for Woods to win his first major in five years. Even with the hiccup at Memorial, he has been the best player on the circuit this season, and the course at Merion suits his game.
Golfers like Kuchar, McIlroy and Adam Scott will keep it close, but Woods should pull away toward the end to claim the title.