Golf's toughest major is typically among the most difficult to predict. The treacherous conditions usually play in favor of the best shotmakers and most accurate drivers, but the course's difficulty means that any golfer can just as easily fall out of the running within the first two rounds.
Pinehurst has played host to some of the toughest U.S. Open tournaments before. The late Payne Stewart won the 1999 event with a score of one-under par, while Michael Campbell held off Tiger Woods in 2005 to win at even par.
So which golfers are the likeliest candidates to conquer the North Carolina course on Sunday? Here's a look at the up-to-date odds for the U.S. Open, as well as a few names to keep an eye on.
via Vegas Insider as of June 9, 1 PM ET
The 2011 champ has had numerous solid showings this season, but apart from the Honda Classic, McIlroy has not yet seriously threatened to win a PGA tour event. However, following a European Tour victory at the BMW PGA Championship, the former world's No. 1 player could be primed for his third major championship.
McIlroy's well-documented off-course life has dominated the headlines, but it appears that he is starting to regain his form after a few shaky early-season showings. He has not finished outside of the top 15 in a PGA tour event since the WGC-Cadillac Championship in early March, a streak that spans five consecutive tournaments. Indeed, it appears he has redirected his focus to the golf course in recent weeks:
Rory Mcilroy sets his sights on the US Open following his BMW win, and says his season is 'just begining' read more ->http://t.co/P7hHe8BR79— Bunkered Golf Mag (@BunkeredOnline) May 26, 2014
McIlroy has the talent to run away with the event as he did at Congressional. Based on his recent form, it appears likely that McIlroy will at least have an impact on the Sunday leaderboard.
Mickelson will receive the most media attention as he attempts to end his U.S. Open drought and finish the career Grand Slam. His record six runner-up finishes have only steeled his focus in recent weeks, however:
“Right now I’m just trying to get my game ready to finish off that grand slam.” – Phil Mickelson: http://t.co/oUAxvEj76N— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) June 4, 2014
The 43-year-old has struggled on tour this year, missing four cuts in 14 events and compiling no top-10 finishes. Nevertheless, his accuracy in his past three tour events has improved, ranking among the top 25 in PGATour.com's accuracy ratings. Moreover, coming off a season-best 11th-place finish at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, there are signs that Mickelson could be on the upswing.
Mickelson has had success at Pinehurst before, earning his first second-place U.S. Open finish in Stewart's victory. A win would surely rank among his most memorable career victories, rivaling his first major championship at the 2004 Masters.
The 20-year-old Texan has been golf's biggest breakout star in 2014. Though he has yet to win this season, Jordan Spieth has compiled six top-10 finishes, including a second-place finish at the Masters after holding a lead on the back nine.
Spieth has sustained his form since then, though he has not had a top-10 finish since the Players Championship back in May. Nevertheless, as one of the most versatile shotmakers on tour, Spieth has the rare game that automatically makes him a contender at virtually every course.
Since start of '13 season, Jordan Spieth has been in the top-5 nine times heading into the final round. Tied w/ Tiger for most in that span.— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) June 1, 2014
As the fourth-ranked player in terms of putts per round, Spieth is well-equipped to capitalize upon the rare birdie opportunities Pinehurst presents. Consequently, Spieth's breakthrough victory appears imminent, and do not be surprised to see his first career major victory arrive this weekend.