US Open Golf 2013: Latest Expectations for Golf's Top Favorites and Sleepers

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US Open Golf 2013: Latest Expectations for Golf's Top Favorites and Sleepers
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The world's top golfers have assembled at the Merion Golf Club to test their skills against the East Course at the 2013 U.S. Open. Not surprisingly, Tiger Woods is the heavy favorite to win the event after already winning four tournaments this year.

Woods isn't the only golfer capable of winning this year's second major, however.

Merion's East Course is a brilliant study in contrast.

At just under 7,000 yards, it's one of the shortest courses you'll ever see at a U.S. Open. To say that this course is short, however, would be unfair—it features some incredibly long, tough holes that will be difficult to conquer.

For the purpose of this column, four players will be put under the microscope—two favorites and two sleepers—to determine how they will perform at the 2013 U.S. Open:

  • Tiger Woods (9-2 Odds)
  • Phil Mickelson (16-1 Odds)
  • Jason Day (40-1 Odds)
  • Bubba Watson (66-1 Odds)

All four men have won or have come close to winning a major championship. Here's what you should expect from them this upcoming weekend at Merion.

 

Tiger Woods 

Woods is due for major victory No. 15. Photo Credit: cristiano14sg on Instagram

Woods' last outing wasn't pretty. He struggled with the incredibly gusty winds at Muirfield Village and finished in 65th place at the Memorial Tournament—his worst performance of the year.

What does it mean for the U.S. Open?

Absolutely nothing.

Woods has won four tournaments in eight appearances this year, and he finished in fourth place at the Masters. He has had two weeks to shake off his dismal performance at the Memorial and focus on fine-tuning his swing—the same swing that has served him so well during the rest of this season.

The key for Woods this week at Merion—as it will be for every golfer on the course—will be hitting the incredibly narrow fairways off the tee. The USGA has let the rough grow and players will have a heck of a time getting their balls out cleanly when recovering from errant tee shots.

The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass featured narrow fairways, too. Woods was able to conquer the Players Championship by using a driver as little as possible, and he'll take the same strategy with him to Merion.

Prediction: Woods will finish in the top 10, if not win the event.

 

Phil Mickelson 

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Lefty's struggles off the tee will doom him at Merion.

Unlike Tiger, Mickelson is coming off an excellent performance heading into this year's U.S. Open—a second-place finish at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Unfortunately for Lefty, his strong showing last weekend won't help him at Merion.

Who has the better chance of winning the 2013 U.S. Open?

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Mickelson has been horrible off the tee this year, hitting fairways 53.83 percent of the time. He was only slightly better at TPC Southwind, hitting just 55 percent of fairways off the tee.

You can't win the U.S. Open landing in the rough 45 percent of the time.

Mickelson has really struggled in major championships of late. Since finishing in third place at the 2012 Masters, he has posted abysmal scores, leading to three finishes outside the top 35 and one missed cut. 

Furthermore, he's failed to crack the top 50 in his last two U.S. Open appearances. 

Prediction: Mickelson will struggle to make the cut and, at best, he'll finish outside the top 10.

 

Jason Day

Day has the game to win at Merion. Photo Credit: surfenergy on Instagram

This Australian golfer has yet to reach his potential, with just one win on the PGA Tour under his belt. He has posted 27 top-10 finishes in his young career, and it won't be long before he starts converting his strong showings into wins.

Day has also come close to breaking through in majors but he has never been able to finish strong when he needed to.

In 10 career majors, Day has finished in the top 10 four times including a second-place finish in the 2011 U.S. Open and 2011 Masters and his third-place finish at this year's Masters.

A brilliant scrambler who possesses both power and finesse, Day has the game to win this year's U.S. Open.

Prediction: Day will finish in the top 10.

 

Bubba Watson

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Big-hitting Watson will struggle to make the cut.

One of the biggest fan-favorites on the PGA Tour, Watson has a knack for putting together some magical rounds.

That said, he's also traditionally struggled in U.S. Opens. In six previous attempts, Watson has missed the cut five times. His best finish at a U.S. Open came in 2007, when he tied for fifth place.

Watson is more likely to ____ at the 2013 U.S. Open.

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Though Watson certainly has the game to perform well in big tournaments (see his 2012 Masters title), he's been playing poorly of late. In his last five tournaments, he's finished no higher than 15th place and has missed the cut once.

Watson, like Mickelson, struggles to hit fairways off the tee. This year he's managing to hit fairways only 56.39 percent of the time and, if he can't do better than that at Merion, he'll likely miss the cut.

Prediction: Watson will miss the cut.

 

Note: Odds courtesy of Bovada and stats courtesy of PGATour.com.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78

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