U.S. Open: Top 10 players to watch at Pinehurst

Two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson is one of the favourites heading into the 2014 U.S. Open. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

The U.S. Open returns to Pinehurst No. 2 for the first time since 2005. While the usual suspects have the best pre-tournament odds, the field is wide open — just like the course itself.

With 10 of the 18 holes stretching out longer than 450 yards, this course favours those able to get the most off the tee shots and tame the precarious greens.

Here are 10 names to keep an eye on heading into the 2014 U.S. Open.

Phil Mickelson

Country: United States
Odds to win: 18/1
World Ranking: 11
PGA Tour wins: 42
2013 U.S. Open finish: Tied for 2nd

Mired in legal trouble for alleged insider trading, you might expect Mickelson to be distracted heading into this weekend. However, Lefty is as focused as ever as he eyes the one major that has eluded him his entire career. Although he doesn’t have a top-10 finish in America this year, he has an astounding 10 top-10 finishes at the U.S. Open since 1995 (he has finished second or tied for second six times!). Mickelson hasn’t won a tournament since the 142nd Open Championship last July, but it seems like the San Diego, Calif., native might be due to complete the career Grand Slam seeing as this course could play into his favour.

Rory McIlroy

Country: Northern Ireland
Odds to win: 10/1
World Ranking: 6
PGA Tour wins: 6
2013 U.S. Open finish: Tied for 41st

McIlroy has said he plans on playing this course safe, which is somewhat out of character for the tournament favourite to win. But McIlroy, who recently went through a public breakup, is maturing on and off the course, which could help him this week in North Carolina. McIlroy has been the most consistent player on the Tour this year with eight top-10 finishes in 11 tournaments.

Adam Scott

Country: Australia
Odds to win: 12/1
World Ranking: 1
PGA Tour wins: 11
2013 U.S. Open finish: Tied for 45th

Scott bounced back from disappointing performances at the Masters and PLAYERS with a win at the Crowne Plaza Invitational and a top-four finish at the Memorial last week. He’s ranked No. 1 in the world for a reason and has the poise to back it up.

“I’m going into Pinehurst really confident. I think I’ve got good momentum going into the major,” Scott recently told the Sydney Morning Herald. I’ve just brought my game exactly where I want it to be. I’m swinging the club as good as I have this year and every other part of my game feels really good.”

Bubba Watson

Country: United States
Odds to win: 18/1
World Ranking: 3
PGA Tour wins: 6
2013 U.S. Open finish: Tied for 32nd

Watson is coming off his second Masters win. Historically, he’s fared well at the U.S. Open and the Pinehurst course suits his game. Bubba can absolutely hammer it off the tee and if he keeps his accuracy in tact, he should be in contention Sunday. He’s proven he gets it done when it counts most.

Justin Rose

Country: England
Odds to win: 25/1
World Ranking: 9
PGA Tour wins: 5
2013 U.S. Open finish: 1st

Apart from his missed cut at the Memorial last week, the 2013 U.S. Open champ has played well over the past few months. He can become the first to win back-to-back U.S. Opens since Curtis Strange did it in 1988 and ’89.

Jordan Spieth

Country: United States
Odds to win: 25/1
World Ranking: 10
PGA Tour wins: 1
2013 U.S. Open finish: Missed the cut

Anyone who didn’t know what the 20-year-old was capable of on the big stage certainly found out earlier this year at the Masters. His second-place finish at Augusta ensured there would be a spotlight on him at the U.S. Open. The greens at Pinehurst are tricky, but Spieth is one of the best putters out there right now, so as long as his iron game is solid, he’ll have a chance.

Graham Delaet

Country: Canada
Odds to win: 100/1
World Ranking: 32
PGA Tour wins: 0
2013 U.S. Open finish: Did not play

Although 2014 hasn’t been too kind to the lone Canadian in the field, the Weyburn, Sask., native will look to build off a strong showing at the Byron Nelson Championship. Delaet is one of the better golfers off the tee on the PGA Tour — currently ranked No. 1 in greens in regulation percentage — and that will be key to any success he might have this weekend.

Hideki Matsuyama

Country: Japan
Odds to win: 40/1
World Ranking: 13
PGA Tour wins: 1
2013 U.S. Open finish: Tied for 10th

The rising Japanese star is a dark horse to keep an eye on. The 22-year-old is coming off his first career Tour win, a performance that had one of the sport’s icons glowing.

“I think you’ve just seen the start of what’s going to be truly one of the world’s great players,” Jack Nicklaus said of Matsuyama after the Japanese golfer topped Kevin Na in a playoff to capture the Memorial Tournament last week.

Sergio Garcia

Country: Spain
Odds to win: 33/1
World Ranking: 8
PGA Tour wins: 8
2013 U.S. Open finish: Tied for 45th

Apart from missing the cut at the Masters, the Spaniard has been solid on U.S. soil this season. Garcia withdrew from the BMW PGA Championship last month with a knee injury, but by all indications he’s ready to go. The 34-year-old has four top-10 finishes at the U.S. Open including a third-place finish the last time this tournament was held on this course.

Jim Furyk

Country: United States
Odds to win: 40/1
World Ranking: 12
PGA Tour wins: 16
2013 U.S. Open finish: Missed the cut

The U.S. Open has historically been Furyk’s best major. In fact, his 2003 victory is the only major he’s won. The veteran has four top-five finishes at the U.S. Open and has played consistent, quality golf in 2014.

Betting odds courtesy of Bodog

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