The 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst officially begins on Thursday, and there are a few favorites in the field with favorable odds to win, but the favorites aren't always the ones analysts predict to claim the major championship.
There are plenty of big storylines entering this year's U.S. Open, even with Tiger Woods missing the tournament. Phil Mickelson will be looking to finally win his first career U.S. Open after finishing in second six different times.
Rory McIlroy will be in the hunt for his second U.S. Open title after winning in 2011, while Bubba Watson is trying to become the sixth player to win the first two majors of the season, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
As the players prepare for the second major of the PGA Tour season, let's take a look at the latest odds for the top contenders as well as some of the most recent predictions from around the web.
2014 U.S. Open Odds
Odds for the entire field can be viewed at OddsShark.com
Predictions from Around the Web
Kyle Porter, CBS Sports
Predicted winner: Charl Schwartzel
He's only coming in at 50-to-1 odds, but Kyle Porter from CBS Sports is predicting the dark horse to win at Pinehurst.
While he ranks just 76th in the FedEx Cup standings, he's had some strong showings this season. He started the year by finishing in fifth at the Northern Trust Open, putting up a round of 69 followed by three straight rounds of 68 to finish at 11 under par. He's had some solid showings lately as well, finishing tied for 12th or better in three of his past four tournaments.
The long fairways will be an advantage for the 2011 Masters Tournament winner. So far this season, he ranks 32nd in driving distance, averaging 297.2 yards. He's struggled hitting the green in regulation just 60.76 percent of the time, but with the narrow fairways, he won't be the only one struggling to hit the green.
Porter isn't going with one of the go-to contenders, and it's kind of refreshing to see. Schwartzel has won a major before, and if he can stay on the fairway, he'll have a shot at winning another.
Jason Sobel, Golf Channel
Predicted winner: Matt Kuchar
He's not the first guy you think of when it comes to favorites in this year's tournament, but Matt Kuchar is up there with 25-1 odds, and Jason Sobel from the Gold Channel likes his chances, saying:
He fits the mold of Justin Rose and Webb Simpson, the last two champions -- good, solid ball-strikers; family men winning on Father’s Day, which really has nothing to do with the end result, but in some way, maybe it does.
It just feels like Kuchar’s number is ready to be called now. You can crunch the numbers, analyze swings, even examine biorhythms, but sometimes a hunch is still the best play.
Kuchar is off to a great start this season, currently third in the FedEx standings. In 15 events, he's won one tournament, come in second in another and came away with seven other top-10 finishes. He's never won a major, and he hasn't had a ton of success at the U.S. Open.
However, Kuchar has looked slightly better recently. He had a career-best finish at the major in 2010, finishing tied for sixth, and has made the cut in every year since. He's been consistent off the tee and on the green all year, ranking 21st in driving percentage and 12th in strokes gained from putting.
He'll have plenty of competition, but with how well he's played this season, Kuchar is a legitimate contender to win his first major.
David Dusek, Golfweek.com
Predicted winner: Adam Scott
Golfweek senior writer David Dusek isn't afraid to pick a favorite to win this year's U.S. Open, as he has 2013 Masters winner Adam Scott taking home his second major in as many years, saying:
Pinehurst is going to demand outstanding iron play, and the World No. 1 can hit ‘em high and far and accurately. The Aussie has the majors figured out, and with Steve Williams on his bag, he’s ready for anything Donald Ross, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore can through [sic] at him.
Scott has looked very sharp in recent majors, especially last season, finishing in the top five in three of the four. However, he's never been able to break the top 10 at the U.S. Open, according to Porter.
Adam Scott top 10s at the US Open: 0— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) June 9, 2014
The No. 1 player in the most recent world golf rankings, Scott has started to heat up lately, finishing in the top five in three of his last five tournaments. He's been great recovering from shots in bunkers, ranking third on the PGA Tour with a 62.67 sand save percentage.
He's had plenty of success recently in other majors, and now Scott will be hoping that he can finally have another strong finish at the U.S. Open.