Last Week's Pick to Win (Scott Stallings) - Tied for 2nd
Last Week's Darkhorse (John Rollins) - 6th
NOTES: Can Tiger Woods win his 15th major title and first since winning the U.S. Open in 2008? Will Rory McIlroy bounce back from recent poor play to win his secondU.S. Open title and third major championship? Will Phil Mickelson win his fifth major and first U.S. Open? Can Adam Scott win his second straight major afterwinning the Masters in April? Will Webb Simpson become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to win two straight U.S. Opens? Can Matt Kuchar, JustinRose, Brandt Snedeker, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Dustin Johnson or Steve Stricker break through and win their first major championship? These questions will all be answered this week as the world's best make the trek to Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania as it hosts the U.S. Open for the fifth time.
World No.1 Woods is coming off his worst finish of the year last week at the Memorial, where he tied for 65th. However, he already has four victories on the season and is having his best year since 2009.
McIlroy is still looking for his first victory of 2013, following a brilliant 2012 in which he claimed five wins worldwide. He finished tied for 57th in his last start at the Memorial.
Scott won the Masters in April for his first major championship. He has a chance to become only the sixth player ever to win the Masters and U.S. Open titles in the same year. Ben Hogan (1951, 53) did it twice. The others were Craig Wood (1941), Arnold Palmer (1960), Jack Nicklaus (1972) and Woods (2002).
Kuchar is in outstanding form coming into the U.S. Open. He won the Memorial for his second victory of the season. Kuchar and Woods are the only multiple winners on tour this year. It is the first time in his career that Kuchar has won multiple times in one season. He is currently ranked No. 4 in the world, the highest he has been in his career.
The last back-to-back winner of the championship was Strange, who titled in 1988-89. Since 1991, only Graeme McDowell, Woods and Retief Goosen have finished better than 40th in trying to defend their Open crowns. McDowell finished tied for 14th in 2011; Goosen finished tied for 11th in 2005 after holding a 3-stroke lead after 54 holes; Woods finished 12th in 2001; he was tied for 20th in 2003; and tied for sixth in 2009.
An American has won this event in 22 of the last 31 years. Only South Africa's Ernie Els (1994, 97) and Goosen (2001, 04), New Zealand's Michael Campbell (2005), Australia's Geoff Ogilvy (2006), Argentina's Angel Cabrera (2007) and Northern Ireland's McDowell (2010) and McIlroy (2011) have won the title in that span. In the last 59 years, American players have captured 47 U.S. Opens.
Ten past champions are in the field - Cabrera, Campbell, Els, Jim Furyk, Lucas Glover, McDowell, McIlroy, Ogilvy, Simpson and Woods.
Not only will the winner receive a check for $1,440,000, but the victor also receives an Open exemption for the next 10 years, an invitation to the next five Masters, an invitation to the next five British Opens, an invitation to the next five PGA Championships, an invitation to the next five Players Championships and exempt status on the PGA Tour for the next five years.
The championship is open to any professional or amateur golfer with a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 1.4. The deadline for entries was April 24th. The USGA accepted 9,860 entries this year, the highest total in history. The previous mark was set in 2009 when 9,086 entries were received for Bethpage Black.
Last year, Simpson carded his second straight 2-under 68 in the final round to come from behind and win. Simpson finished at 1-over-par 281 to win by one stroke over Michael Thompson and Graeme McDowell. He started the weekend tied for 29th, which means he came from farther back than any other champion since 1934.
In 2011, McIlroy rewrote the U.S. Open history book at Congressional. The 22-year-old Northern Irishman shot four rounds in the 60s and won by a staggering eight shots. He finished at 16-under 268, which set records for lowest score and lowest score in relation to par in U.S. Open history. McIlroy reached 17-under par, which was a first at the U.S. Open. He became the youngest winner of this championship since Bobby Jones in 1923. All totaled for the week, McIlroy broke or tied 12 U.S. Open records. He joined Lee Trevino and Lee Janzen as the only players ever to shoot four rounds in the 60s in regulation -- Trevino in 1968 and Janzen in 1993.
The 20 sub-par totals for 72 holes at Congressional Country Club in 2011 were the second-most all-time in U.S. Open history behind 28 sub-par totals at Medinah Country Club in 1990. The 108 sub-par rounds recorded were the second- most all-time behind the 124 at Medinah in 1990. The 32 sub-par scores in the final round are the most all-time, breaking the previous record of 18 at Baltusrol Golf Club in 1993.
Northern Ireland's McDowell became the first European in 40 years to win in 2010, shooting rounds of 71-68-71-74 for a 1-shot victory over Gregory Havret of France. Tony Jacklin was the last European player to win when he captured the event in 1970.
In 2009, Glover won exactly two weeks to the day after he qualified to play in it. Glover never even made a U.S. Open cut before 2009. Scratching his way to a 3-over 73 in the final round, he beat Mickelson, David Duval and Ricky Barnes by two shots at 4-under 276. Glover became only the sixth qualifier since 1960 to win. It was the second time Mickelson took runner-up on the Black course at Bethpage State Park, as he lost to Woods in 2002. Glover, No. 71 in the world when he arrived at Bethpage, became the fourth-lowest ranked golfer to win this event since the rankings were instituted in 1986.
Woods finally beat Rocco Mediate on the 91st hole on Monday's 2008 championship, ending a classic major championship with a par at the 19th hole of a playoff. Woods made a birdie to send the scheduled 18-hole playoff into sudden-death, then needed only a routine par at the next hole after Mediate bounced a bunker shot off the cart path and against the bleachers. It brought to an end one of the longest U.S. Opens in history, a tournament whose first four rounds played out in primetime on the East Coast. Millions watched one of Woods' most compelling victories. With his win in 2008, Woods recorded his ninth USGA national championship title, matching the record set by Bobby Jones.
Cabrera, from Argentina, won in 2007 with a 1-under 69 in the final round to hold off Woods and Furyk for his country's first major championship in 40 years. Cabrera ended at 5-over 285, carding two of the eight sub-70 rounds yielded by tough Oakmont all week, to beat Woods and Furyk by a shot. Roberto DeVicenzo won Argentina's only previous major championship at the 1967 British Open at Hoylake, but is probably best remembered for a scoring gaffe that cost him a chance to win the 1968 Masters. Furyk became the first player to post back-to-back second-place finishes since Palmer in 1966-67.
In 2006, Mickelson found a trash can, a tent, and yet another way to finish runner-up. Mickelson's try for a third straight major championship ended in a collapse at Winged Foot when he double-bogeyed the 18th hole to all but hand Ogilvy the win. Ogilvy chipped in for par at 17, made par from a sand divot on 18 and closed with a 2 over 72 to become the first Australian since David Graham in 1981 to win. He celebrated in front of a television monitor, having finished one group ahead of Mickelson. Ogilvy won by one shot over Mickelson, Furyk and Colin Montgomerie, who all stumbled down the stretch.
New Zealand's Campbell overcame a 4-shot deficit in 2005 and a hard charge from Woods in the final round to capture the title at Pinehurst No. 2. Campbell was the only one in the championship to finish at par or better with a 4-roud total of even-par 280. It was Campbell's first major victory and first title in the United States. Campbell joined Bob Charles as the only players from New Zealand to win major championships. Charles captured the 1963 British Open.
It's happened seven times, but only six players have won wire-to-wire: Walter Hagen (1914), James Barnes (1921), Hogan (1953), Jacklin (1970), Woods (2000, 2002) and McIlroy (2011)
The PGA Tour moves to Connecticut next week for the Travelers Championship, where Marc Leishman captured his first PGA Tour title last year.