US Open Golf 2013: Smartest Bets for Top 10 Contention

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IJune 11, 2013

ARDMORE, PA - JUNE 10:  Tiger Woods of the United States hits a shot during a practice round prior to the start of the 113th U.S. Open at at Merion Golf Club on June 10, 2013 in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

I've scoured over the field for the 113th U.S. Open and pulled out the three golfers with the best chance to finish inside the top 10. 

This, of course, is an inexact science. Golf is as unpredictable as it gets in the sports prognostication business. With the talented and deep fields in the PGA, and the streaky nature of the sport, leaderboards for majors will always feature a few surprises. 

However, these three guys have been consistently excellent enough that it is safe to expect them to work there way into contention at the site of this year's U.S. Open: Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.

*All stats via PGATour.com

Tiger Woods

I don't think I'm going out on a limb by including Tiger Woods on this list. The 14-time major champion knows how to perform in majors, and he's been outstanding this year.

He's already won three PGA events this year, and that includes The Players Championship. That victory is notable for U.S. Open analysis, as Sawgrass, the home of the Players, takes similar approach that will be needed at the U.S. Open.

At the U.S. Open and Sawgrass, it is important for players to hit fairways off the tee. This has been a struggle for Tiger. However, Woods hit 67.9 percent of his fairways in that tournament. At the time, that was a season high for him. 

He bested that mark by hitting 82.1 percent of his fairways at the Memorial. Of course, he also posted his worst finish (65th) of the year at that event. 

The reasons for Tiger's struggles at that event are mostly owed to his putter. Tiger is fifth in strokes gained-putting for the year, but at the Memorial he finished at -1.190. 

Woods will have to get his putting stroke dialed in, but there is no reason to doubt he won't be able to do that.

Matt Kuchar

Matt Kuchar has developed into one of the tour's most consistent players, and he is in great form right now. 

For the first time in his career, Kuchar has won multiple events in a single year, and both have come at big-time events. His first was at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championships and the second was at Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament.

Kuchar has yet to claim his first major, but he certainly has made a routine of putting himself in contention. He was eighth at the Masters this year. In 2012, he was ninth at the British Open, 27th at the U.S. Open and third at the Masters. 

That 27th at the U.S. Open was actually his worst finish in the year's second major since 2010. He was 14th in 2011, and sixth in 2010. 

It's only matter of time before Kuchar claims his first major. He has a great chance to do that at this U.S. Open, but even if he falls short, he will be right in contention. 

Brandt Snedeker 

After a remarkable start to the year, Brandt Snedeker suffered a rib injury and has been inconsistent upon his return.

Snedeker, who began taking medication to increase the bone density in his ribs, was the best player on tour to start the year. That all culminated with a win at Pebble Beach, which followed consecutive runner-up finishes for Snedeker. 

However, it was after Pebble Beach when Snedeker's ribs forced him from action for six weeks. Snedeker has played in seven PGA events since his return and has missed four cuts. 

However, he does have two Top 10 finishes in that span, and both came in big tournaments. He was eighth at The Players Championship and sixth at the Masters. 

Of course, that Masters performance was marred by a Sunday failure at Augusta. Still, to his credit, Snedeker found a way to get himself into contention, which has become safe to expect from the 32-year-old. Since 2012, Snedeker has become a consistent force on the tour. 

Last year, he was 19th at the Masters and third at the British Open. His ribs kept him out of the U.S. Open in 2012, but he has the driving accuracy and putting that leads to success in U.S. Opens. That was on display when he finished in 11th in 2011.

Snedeker will again find a way to work himself into contention at this major. 


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