Historic Merion Golf Club hosts the U.S. Open this week for the fourth time, but the first since 1981. Long seen as too short to accommodate today's bombers, the USGA feels Merion is up to the test, although the rain-soaked course has certainly lost some of its bite.
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Webb Simpson defends the title he captured last year at The Olympic Club. Here are 10 players to watch this week:
1. Tiger Woods: We'll chalk up Woods' T-65 finish at the Memorial as proof that he is human, and this can be a maddening game even for him. Aside from that, he's clearly been the best player in the world this year. He's No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, he leads the PGA Tour money list and he's won four times on Tour in only eight events. Playing on a shorter course might actually help Woods, in that he can leave his sometimes wayward driver in the bag.
2. Matt Kuchar: No one, including Woods, comes into this week looking more impressive than Kuchar. Fresh off his second victory of the year at the Memorial, he has ascended to second on the Tour money list and fourth in the world. The 2012 Players champion is poised to win a major, and his record this season shows he's ready. He's registered six top-10 finishes and hasn't missed a cut.
3. Adam Scott: The newly-minted Masters champion has played a light schedule this year, teeing it up in just seven events on Tour and rarely finishing outside the top 20. He comes to Merion fresh, having played just twice since the Masters. With the pressure off, expect Scott to be a fixture on major leaderboards from now on. Just don't mention that ticking clock to the anchoring ban.
4. Graeme McDowell: McDowell may be a surprise ranked this high, but not when you look at his U.S. Open record. The champion in 2010 finished T-14 in '11 and one shot back of Simpson last year. His game obviously suits Open courses, and he's won twice this season, at Harbour Town and at the Volvo World Match Play Championship.
5. Phil Mickelson: He's been up and down this season. So what's new? A third-place finish in Charlotte, a missed cut at Sawgrass and then a tie for second last week in Memphis. That's Mickelson's career in a nutshell. He could miss the cut this week or win, but we'll go with the glass half full, based on his strong Open record.
6. Lee Westwood: A quality ball-striker like Westwood has to be considered a threat, especially with his long list of near-misses in majors. He's put together a nice run lately, stringing together five straight top-10s, before he withdrew from the Memorial after the first round.
7. Rory McIlroy: McIlroy blitzed the field by eight shots in the 2011 Open at Congressional to claim his first major. Last year at Olympic, however, he missed the cut and continues to search for his game this year. He seems to have found something, finishing inside the top 25 in four consecutive events until his disappointing play at the Memorial.
8. Brandt Snedeker: He has struggled recently, but Merion sets up well for Snedeker who is one of the most accurate drivers on Tour and one of the best putters. While his best play was clearly at the start of the year when he won at Pebble Beach, he did finish in the top 10 at both the Masters and The Players. If it weren't for the fact that he's missed his last two cuts, he would be ranked higher.
9. Webb Simpson: The defending champion has made no secret of his affection for Merion, and last year at Olympic, he proved his game is suited to Open conditions. While he hasn't won since the Open, he has been consistent this year, finishing in the top 25 eight times.
10. Jim Furyk: The 2003 champion has a U.S. Open-type of game. He hits it straight, and he never stops grinding. His collapse down the stretch last year at Olympic was tough to watch, but he did finish tied for fourth, just two shots behind Simpson. He hasn't been at his best this season, but he always seems to show up for the Open.