In the 2013 US Open, as in any other golf tournament, it will be important to get off to a fast start. At Merion Golf Club, though, it will be even more crucial because of the inclement weather forecasts. The course profiles as one of the shortest in major play, but the wild rough and narrow fairways are a brutal obstacle for any player.
Though all players will look to be near the top of the leaderboard after Friday's cut, a few players will need it most. Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell and Matt Kuchar all need to establish their game early to capture our nation's major championship.
The 24-year-old who hails from Northern Ireland is one of golf's most popular and talented players. That being said, McIlroy has had a bit of a rough year thus far. He has missed the cut at Abu Dhabi, withdrawn from the Honda Classic, and finished a lowly T-57 at the Memorial.
Despite these struggles, McIlroy is very excited for the weather at Merion. In his 2011 US Open victory at Congressional, he thumped the field in one of the most bizarre weather displays in recent memory. Playing with Tiger Woods and Adam Scott, McIlroy needs to establish his confidence early. If he can do that, his bad weather play will give him a shot to take the lead after 36 holes.
What kind of preview would this be without the world's best golfer? Tiger Woods has been playing some excellent golf this year, with four PGA Tour victories already. However, his last tournament at the Memorial was abysmal, finishing at eight over.
Tiger is renown for his ability to close out majors when he has the lead. When beginning Saturday in first place, Woods is 36-10 overall and 8-3 in majors. Those kind of numbers are really impressive, and I'm sure the much-maligned Lee Westwood would love to be able to claim such a record, with nine top-five finishes and zero major championships.
We've all seen brilliance from the "other" golfer from Northern Ireland. He last won a major in 2010, capturing the US Open at Pebble Beach, and was the first European to complete such a feat since 1970. McDowell hasn't played in America since his missed cut at the Players Championship, though he did win the Volvo Match Play Championship in Bulgaria. Still, he missed another cut at the BMW PGA Championship in May, causing one to wonder what is wrong with his game.
The bright side? Though he doesn't get very much distance on his driver, McDowell has always been very accurate off of the tee. With the inclement weather and dangerous rough on a short course, he might be primed for a confidence-boosting fast start.
Though he can't claim a major championship victory like the previous three guys, Matt Kuchar has had five top-10 finishes in these tournaments since 2010. In 14 events this year, Kuchar has been rock solid, with two victories, six top-10 finishes, and 14 made cuts.
So why does Kuchar need a fast start if he's been so successful this year? Well, his driving accuracy has been less-than-spectacular this year. He ranks 134th on tour which checks in at 57.4 percent. On these narrow fairways, that's some cause for concern.
With rain delays already putting a damper on the 2013 version of the US Open, we can only hope that it doesn't compromise the excellence that this tournament always provides. No matter what, though, these players will have to deal with whatever hand Mother Nature deals them.
How successful each of these golfers will be is anyone's guess, but I'm inclined to believe that Kuchar will have the most difficulty of this foursome. Otherwise, I expect Tiger and Rory to get off to a fast start. My bold prediction? I think McDowell is in the best position after 36 holes.