What chance do these top contenders have to win it all?
Read on to find out.
Tiger Woods is the favorite heading into this weekend at Merion. The most famous golfer in the world, who has not won a major tournament in five years, is coming of a disappointing tournament at Memorial, where he finished 20 strokes back.
Despite that, he has been the best and most consistent golfer on tour this year. He has four tournament wins this season and has won in seven of his last 22 tournaments.
Woods will also benefit from a course that won't require his driver. Woods excels in that type of environment, 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.
Tiger Woods during practice round at Merion Golf Club, site of U.S. Open. His last major win was in '08 U.S. Open pic.twitter.com/uap7ouKozC— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 9, 2013
Merion is a relatively short course—the shortest for a major since 2004— so it's possible that he won't have to use his driver at all. If that's the case, then he should improve on the number of greens he will hit. At Memorial, he hit just 53% of his greens.
Memorial seems like a fluke, and Woods should be out in front for the most of the tournament, with a real chance to win it at the end.
Adam Scott will be part of an exciting trio in the first two rounds, as he's paired with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. Scott admits that he's looking forward to it, as he told ESPN:
Absolutely, (there's going to be) some energy and electricity, playing with him at any time there always is. And given the hype around this grouping and being a major, it's going to be an intense couple of days.
After winning the Masters in April, Scott has taken it easy, playing in just two tournaments. He was tied for 19th at the Players Championship and tied for 13th at the Memorial. Was it a case of being rusty? Or is it symptomatic of a larger problem? Scott told ESPN that it was all part of the plan:
"My lack of success and 10 years of playing badly,'' he said about his switch in philosophy. "I'm a learner, but not a fast one, obviously. The frustration was really high in 2010. I was playing well, not getting results that I wanted. I was frustrated with a lot of things because of that. I'd had enough, essentially, of not playing well enough in the big events when I felt I could. So I had to do something different. You have to after a while if it's not working. If it is broke, you've got to fix it."
It remains to be seen if this new philosophy will have a major impact on his performance at Merion. However, he should be considered one of the favorites. He's long been effective at majors. Since 2011, Scott has had five top-10s in major tournaments.
Scott will need to avoid a British Open-style meltdown, but he should be atop the leaderboard throughout the tournament.
Matt Kuchar is probably the hottest golfer in the world. The 35-year-old just won the Memorial Tournament. In addition, he has six top-10 finishes this year, which is the most on the PGA Tour. He has not missed the cut in his 14 appearances, and he is one of two golfers to have more than one victory this year. At the Masters, he finished tied for eighth.
Can Kuchar Continue His Hot Streak?
He's been pretty consistent, as well. He's fourth in scoring average on the PGA Tour (69.739). At the Memorial, he had just eight bogeys and no double-bogeys. He's also fifth on the Tour in par-5 birdies.
Kuchar will continue this remarkable run into Merion. He will be with Scott and Woods at the top of the leaderboard, and he will challenge to win it all.