US Open is Underway at Merion.

Tiger Woods
Tiger will need to avoid any of these situations if he expects to win the US Open.

I had every intention of getting this article out yesterday but much like ESPN, the temptation of Tim Tebow going to the New England Patriots was just too tantalizing to pass up. While some players are already on the course this morning, there is still plenty of time for me to offer a bit of preview of both the course and the favorites.

This year’s national championship is being held at Merion Golf Club just outside of Philadelphia. This will be the fifth time the club has hosted the event and the first since 1981 when Australian David Graham won. If you’d like an indication of just how much professional golf has changed since then then I offer up this nugget; When Graham won, he was awarded the winner’s share of $55,000. This year, whoever is fortunate enough to hoist the trophy will also get a check for $1.4 million. Not too shabby huh?

Merion is unique because of the wicker baskets atop the flagsticks on each hole. According to the story, when the course architect was studying the courses of England, he noticed that shepherds kept their lunch in baskets placed atop their staffs so that animals couldn’t get the food. He brought the idea to Merion. While the baskets make the sticks visible whether there is wind or not, they do nothing as far as direction of winds. Apparently they will be used for the tournament in some way.

I suppose I should get to the favorites for this year’s tournament but what makes breaking down this group so difficult is the long time between events at Merion. Normally you can get a feel for who has a game more suited to a certain course based upon recent performances in the US Open or PGA but that’s not the case here so I’ll do my best to break it all down.

Tiger Woods 5/1 – Tiger is the clear favorite despite a horrendous performance at the Memorial two weeks ago. Why is he such a heavy favorite? Because he has played in eight tournaments this year and has won four of them. That’s a pretty good average.

Charl Schwartzel 16/1 – The 2011 Masters’ Champion has not won a tournament in 10 tries this year but he has three top tens in his last four events. The South African has a game nicely fitted for the course at Merion.

Matt Kuchar
Kuchar would be an excellent choice based upon his season so far in 2013.

Matt Kuchar 18/1 –¬†Kuchar recently won the Memorial in Ohio and has played well most of the season. He has ascended to the second position in the FedEx Cup points standings and has another win this year under his belt. He could be a very nice play today.

Rory McIlroy 18/1 – New equipment has not helped McIlroy all that much in 2013 and while he is still one of the more talented players in the world he hasn’t shown me any reason to think he’ll get it going this weekend.

Adam Scott 20/1 – The reigning Masters’ Champion looks to collect the second leg of golf’s Grand Slam this weekend. Scott is currently 10th in FedEx Points and has not really done much since his Masters’ win collecting a couple of top 20 finishes.

Also at 20/1 are Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell

Two guys I like that are considered more of the long-shot variety are Steve Stricker at 28/1 and Jim Furyk at 40/1. Both guys are excellent around the greens and will take advantage of one of the shorter open courses.

Prediction: There was a time when you always took Woods to win a major but I can’t simply because he hasn’t won one since before his personal issues arose. Until then, I’m not touching him. The par 70 layout doesn’t help Woods either because he thrives on par fives. The course brings shorter hitters into play and guys that are excellent with their irons. The guy I like is Henrik Stinson who is listed at 50/1. Yes, 50/1! He is a top five guy in driving accuracy, ball striking¬†and greens in regulation. That’s huge in avoiding the rough at Merion.