As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, there will be some shockingly bad scores posted by notable players in the first round of the 2013 U.S. Open.
It happens four times a year. You pull up the leaderboard while at work on a Thursday to see how the field is shaping up only to discover that a few of the world's top golfers have managed to shoot themselves out of the tournament.
This is especially true at U.S. Opens.
The USGA works hard to craft as difficult a test of golf as possible for this tournament without creating unplayable conditions.
This year's open will certainly be a bit different, as the East Course at Merion has been soaked by over five inches of rain since last Friday (via PGATour.com's Jeff Shain). More rain is still expected on Thursday and Friday, as well (via Weather.com).
The soggy conditions will likely lead to lower scoring at the top of the leaderboard.
That said, the course is still going to claim some victims. Narrow fairways, an army of pot bunkers and minuscule greens are characteristics of the East Course that no amount of rain can diminish.
So, which players are sure to shoot high scores on Thursday and find themselves out of contention early? Here are a few men who are most likely to struggle to make the cut after horrible first rounds.
The former No. 1 player in the world, McIlroy hasn't been playing like it for some time.
Though the Northern Irishman has placed well in a few tournaments this year—including an impressive eighth-place finish at the Players Championship—he's been more down than up, especially of late.
Since his excellent showing at the Players, McIlroy missed the cut at the BMW Championship and then finished in 57th place at the Memorial Tournament.
He hasn't been able to get close often with his approach shots, which has only compounded his mistakes with the putter. For the year, McIlroy ranks No. 123 on the PGA Tour in the "strokes gained-putting" statistic (-0.158).
McIlroy will be playing with Tiger Woods and Adam Scott for the first two rounds, and the added pressure won't serve him well.
If not for a bad back, Johnson would likely have had much more success on the PGA Tour than he has in his career thus far.
A player who reminds many people of Freddie Couples, Johnson embraces a grip-it-and-rip-it strategy and has the game to make it work on occasion. When he's hitting fairways on a regular basis, Johnson is adept at attacking pins and shooting low scores.
Which of these struggling players has the best chance to turn fortunes around with a strong performance at Merion?
After winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January, Johnson's stock as a contender has tumbled. He withdrew from the Sony Open with the flu and then withdrew from three tournaments in a row with various injury concerns in May, as reported by Will Gray of GolfChannel.com.
Johnson's inability to practice or play on a regular basis leading up to this tournament will likely cause him to experience inconsistencies in his game. He's also struggled in prior U.S. Opens and missed the cut a year ago.
One of the popular young guns on tour, Fowler—a former top-ranked amateur—is a player many expect to become a force on the PGA Tour.
Since turning pro in 2009, Fowler has a lone victory to his name to go along with 21 top-10 finishes. To this point in his career, however, Fowler has yet to make many strong statements at major championships—his best showing being his eighth-place finish at The Open Championship in 2011.
In four previous appearances at the U.S. Open, Fowler has yet to finish higher than 41st place and has missed the cut twice.
A player who struggles off the tee (112th on the PGA Tour in total driving) and on approach shots (132nd on tour in GIR), Fowler's game is not matured to the point where he's going to play well under U.S. Open conditions.
Fowler will do well just to make the cut on Friday.
Note: Stats courtesy of PGATour.com
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