The stakes are high this weekend at Merion's East Course for the 2013 U.S. Open, as the top golfers in the world have convened to compete in one of the toughest tournaments on the calendar.
Some golfers are better suited to win at Merion than others, however.
Merion is a stiff test that rewards accuracy off the tee and precision into the greens. It features a difficult stretch of holes to open up on the front nine, a brutally tough final stretch and a relatively easy series of holes in between.
With five par-fours that measure in well under 400 yards, four par-fours that measure well over 450 yards, three par-threes over 236 yards and a monstrous, three-shot par-five, this course provides a wide spectrum of challenges.
These upcoming golfers have been given excellent odds to win, but you'll surely regret betting the farm on their success.
Note: Odds courtesy of Bovada and stats courtesy of PGATour.com
Phil Mickelson (16-1 Odds)
Mickelson's coming off a nice second-place finish at the FedEx St. Jude Classic last weekend, so he's a tempting player to pick this weekend at Merion.
Don't do it!
Mickelson's Achilles' heel is that he is terribly inaccurate off the tee. This season, he's getting his balls into the fairway just 53.83 percent of the time. That's not going to cut it at Merion, where the rough was already burly before the course received over five inches of rain.
Mickelson has also struggled in big events of late. He missed the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and at the Players Championship, finished in 54th place at the Masters and has finished outside the top 50 in each of the last two U.S. Opens.
Betting on Mickelson this weekend isn't a good idea.
Rory McIlroy (20-1 Odds)
This is a tricky one.
McIlroy—when he's on—is one of the most dangerous golfers on the planet. He is one of the better ball-strikers on tour, hitting 70.31 percent of greens in regulation, but he struggles to hit fairways, just like Mickelson.
This season, McIlroy has hit just 58.87 percent of fairways off the tee, and he'll struggle badly to hit the narrow fairways at Merion.
Even more damning than his tee shots is McIlroy's recent lapses on the greens. This season, he's No. 123 on the PGA Tour in the "strokes gained-putting" stat, averaging minus-.158 strokes per hole.
Which of these three golfers has the best chance to break through with a huge win at the 2013 U.S. Open?
McIlroy has also failed to play well leading up to this year's U.S. Open, missing the cut at the BMW Championship and finishing in 57th place at the Memorial two weeks ago.
When he's on, he's really on, as we saw from the way he torched the field in record-breaking fashion at the 2011 U.S. Open. Unfortunately, his game is far from "on" right now, and you'd be doing yourself a disservice by betting on him to win.
Adam Scott (22-1 Odds)
This year's Masters winner used to be one of those guys golf announcers lamented for never having won a major, despite possessing immense talent. He finished in the top 10 at a major eight times before finally winning at Augusta in April.
Unfortunately for Scott, none of those top-10 finishes occurred at a U.S. Open, per Shane Bacon of Yahoo! Sports:
Big names that have never had a top-10 at the U.S. Open - Adam Scott, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Zach Johnson and Rickie Fowler.— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) June 10, 2013
In fact, his best finish in 11 tries was his tie for 15th place last year, and he's missed the cut six times—more than half of the time.
Scott is a long hitter who has always done significant damage on par-fives. Unfortunately, with just two par-fives on the menu—one of which is a true three-shot hole—he will have to find other ways to score.
This won't be Scott's week to break through with a U.S. Open title. He struggles with the conditions the USGA presents at this tournament, and even though the course will be soft and receptive, he will struggle to hit fairways and greens.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78