Tiger Woods — Tiger has to be considered the favorite this week. He's won four times already this season in only eight appearances; he leads the Tour in scoring average (69.12) by a substantial margin; and he ranks fifth in the all-important category of strokes gained-putting. If Woods can keep it in the fairway this week, he could threaten double digits under par.
Vegas odds: 9-2
Graeme McDowell — The affable McDowell is a popular pick this week, with good reason; he's been the most accurate driver of the golf ball on Tour this season (71 percent) and the best scrambler. That's a potent combination on a U.S. Open track.
Vegas odds: 20-1
Phil Mickelson — This choice may be largely sentimental, given Phil's advancing age (he turns 43 on Sunday) and his struggles with arthritis. But his game has shown flashes of brilliance this season, with a win in Phoenix and a T2 last week in Memphis. The weather at rain-soaked Merion this week hearkens back to Bethpage in 2002, where Mickelson made a stirring run at the title. Plus, after five runner-up finishes, the Open owes him one.
Vegas odds: 16-1
Rory McIlroy — Rory is starting to pop up on milk cartons thanks to his disappearing act this season. The 2011 winner enters the week coming off a missed cut in Europe and a T57 at the Memorial. One positive trend: His ballstriking has been better than you would think; he ranks fourth on Tour in Greens in Regulation. If he can get a few putts to drop and avoid too many trips to the knee-high rough, he'll contend.
Vegas odds: 20-1
Matt Kuchar — Besides Woods, Kuchar is the only other multiple winner on Tour this season, and both his wins have come against elite fields: at the Memorial and the WGC Match Play. Throw in last year's win at The Players, and you realize that Kooch is a major waiting to happen. His unmatched consistency — 35 top 10s since the start of 2010 — could finally pay off at a major.
Vegas odds: 20-1
Adam Scott — Scott is the only player with a shot at a Grand Slam. Far-fetched though that may be, he could be a factor this week. His worst finish in seven appearances on Tour this season is a tie for 30th, and now that he has the major monkey off his back, he'll approach this week with a relaxed mindset. Throw in the tasty subplot of his — and Steve Williams' — pairing with Tiger Woods, and Scott is a player to watch.
Vegas odds: 22-1
Webb Simpson — Nobody's talking about the defending champion, and that's probably just how Simpson likes it. He's been alarmingly inconsistent, with three top 10s offset by four missed cuts. Nevertheless, he ranks in the Tour's top 30 in both par-4 and par-5 scoring, and a hot putter could put him in contention again.
Vegas odds: 40-1
Justin Rose — Rose's statistical profile — he ranks 17th in driving accuracy and seventh in greens in regulation — fits that of a U.S. Open champion, with one glaring exception: He ranks 156th in strokes gained-putting. Rose will need some putts to drop, and if he climbs into contention, the pressure could start to mount for a player who has yet to close out a major.
Vegas odds: 22-1
Brandt Snedeker — Sneds' torrid start to the season — two runner-ups and a win in a three-tournament stretch — has given way to some maddening inconsistency, much of it injury-induced, as he's battled a rib injury that derailed his momentum. But a solid short game, and the equalizing lack of length at Merion, could mean a shot at the trophy if his putter gets hot, which it very well could. But if he does climb into contention, will the leftover demons from a frustrating Masters get in his head?
Vegas odds: 28-1
Charl Schwartzel — Much of Schwartzel's success this season has come in Europe, but he's been sneaky consistent wherever he's played, with 11 top-10 finishes in his last 16 stroke-play starts worldwide. One alarming stat that will need to change for him to win this week: He's fourth in scoring average prior to the cut, but 122nd in Round 3 scoring average.
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