Jun 11, 2013; Ardmore, PA, USA; Tiger Woods walks to the first tee during the practice round of the 113th U.S. Open golf tournament at Merion Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

2013 US Open: Looking at the Contenders


So far this week, we’ve covered a lot regarding this US Open. It’s a unique event, a demanding test, blah, blah, blah. Most people just want to know one thing, WHO YA GOT?

Well, to start the year, I picked Tiger. But there are a couple other guys I am going to keep my eye on as well. Here’s a look at my top contenders this week at the 113th United States Open. 

Tiger Woods

Well, this is the easy one. No list of contenders can be considered complete without Eldrick T. Woods. The US Open is no exception. What makes me think he can capture his first major in five years? For starters, I picked him to start the season. So I am going to stick with that. As for actual golf reasons, let’s start out with the fact that he has been the best golfer on Tour this year.

It’s been talked about ad naseum. Tiger has won four times already and appears to be firing on all cylinders, save a bad week at the Memorial.

I think where Tiger has a decided advantage is between the ears. Since he joined the Tour in 1996, no one has been able to out think Tiger Woods around a golf course. That will come in handy this week. Merion is quirky golf course that includes monster par 3’s, short par 4’s, and lots of trouble. Add to that the fact that most golfers this week are unfamiliar with the course. The player that wins this championship is going need to be dialed in mentally. No one does that better than Tiger. And with the current state of his game being excellent to very excellent, you just get the feeling that this is his championship to lose.

Let’s also look at who he is playing with the first two rounds. Luckily for Tiger, he drew his BFF Rory McIlroy. Rory makes Tiger better. The last time they were placed in the same group for the first two rounds, Tiger shot 66 and 65 and Doral. Not too shabby.

That’s all well and good, but I want to talk about the other guy in the group, Adam Scott. I’m sure you all remember the very public split up with Tiger and his caddie Stevie Williams. Well Stevie is now on the bag for Adam Scott. As you also know, Stevie likes to talk about how he has won 14 majors. Obviously, 13 of those “wins” came with Tiger Woods doing the actual golfing. But that’s beside the point.

Stevie made it a point to say that winning the Master’s this year with Adam Scott was the “highlight of his career.” Me-ow.

Maybe it was the best moment of his esteemed career, but I know one person that didn’t take that quote lightly. Yep, that person is Tiger. Remember when Stephen Ames made a comment about Tiger being “beatable?” Eldrick didn’t really like that and put a beat down on Ames in the World Match Play Championships.

The point is, Tiger doesn’t like to be questioned or called out in the press, whether that is an obvious jab or a subliminal hit. Stevie Williams attempted to deliver the latter and don’t think for one second that Tiger doesn’t remember that.

That extra motivation, combined with being the best player in the world right now is just what Tiger needs to get over the hump.

Graeme McDowell

Does the weather this week at Merion remind you of anywhere? How about Northern Ireland? How about the Monterrey Peninsula in California where Graeme McDowell won the US Open in 2010?

Some golfers handle bad weather better than others and G-Mac is one of the best. If conditions are dicey, look for Graeme to excel this week. Even if the conditions aren’t that bad, McDowell has been playing just as well as anyone on the planet the past couple months or so. He won the Heritage at Harbour Town. He also won the Volvo Match Play Championships a few weeks back.

If my math is correct, that makes him a two time winner this year. There is no reason to think he can’t make it three at Merion. He has the demeanor to survive a US Open. Again, he won one in 2010. If he putts well this week, they will need to stock the Merion clubhouse with plenty of Guinness. 

Phil Mickelson

Phil is coming off a solid week in Memphis where he finished tied for second. Phil is also getting some major karma points this week as he will fly cross-country today to attend his daughter’s eighth grade graduation and fly back late tonight. He tees it up around 7 am tomorrow.

Will he be fatigued from the travel? Probably not. I don’t think Phil is taking Southwest Airlines to traverse. He will be well rested. Also, heading back to San Diego could prove beneficial. The weather in Southern California couldn’t be more different than the weather in Philadelphia this week. Phil may be able to get more practice time in than the rest of the field who will be battling weather delays all week.

Let’s add in the motivation factor here too. This is it for Phil. The US Open has been Phil’s white whale. He has come oh-so-close so many times. I think on some level, Phil knows he only has so many of these chances left. Look for him to play well this week. 

Henrik Stenson

Want an under the radar guy? I’ve got that covered with Stenson. Believe it or not Henrik leads the tour in driving accuracy, a prerequisite for success at the US Open. He’s pretty good at hitting greens too, ranking third. Hitting fairways and greens is a good way to put yourself in contention. Stenson will make or break his chances this week with the putter, however. He hasn’t been so good this year, ranking 110th in total putting.

That being said, if he gets the flat stick going, look out.

So that’s who I’m keeping an eye on. What about you? Lots of other intriguing picks out there. Matt Kuchar is playing well. Maybe Rory will bounce back? How about a guy like Hunter Mahan or Rickie Fowler? It will be an interesting four days at the US Open, that much I do know.

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Tags: Adam Scott Graeme Mcdowell Henrik Stenson Hunter Mahan Matt Kuchar Phil Mickelson Rickie Fowler Rory McIlroy Steve Williams Tiger Woods

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