U.S. Open Rounds 1-2: Who to follow at Merion

U.S. Open Rounds 1-2: Who to follow at Merion

June 12, 2013, 11:30 am
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ARDMORE, Pa. -- The first group will go off the first tee of the 113th U.S. Open at 6:45 Thursday morning.

In the event you get out to Merion early, or that the Golf Gods cut the course a break this week with the weather -- unlikely -- here's a list of notable pairings you should make a point to follow on Thursday and Friday. (The complete list of groupings and tee times can be found here.)

Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Nicholas Colsaerts
Thursday: 11th tee, 7 a.m.  /  Friday: 1st tee, 12:30 p.m.

These three kick off a listing of seven straight tee times you don't want to miss Thursday morning and Friday afternoon. If you're looking to camp on a hole, watch five groups play through, and then hop out ahead of them to watch them play through again, these are the groups to do it with.

As for these three in particular, they're three of the longest hitters on tour, and although Merion is going to neutralize much of their length, any one of these three could choose to get aggressive if the course gets even softer. If someone ends up driving the 10th green, they'll likely be in this group. Unless they're Phil Mickelson, speaking of which ...

Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley
Thursday: 11th tee, 7:11 a.m. / Friday: 1st tee, 12:41 p.m.

Mickelson, by the sounds of it, is more or less going to walk off his flight -- back to Philadelphia from San Diego -- and onto the first tee. Phil has made a habit of breaking hearts with his performances in U.S. Opens (see story), but he's got another chance to win his first this week. Mickelson will be paired with Steve Stricker and his former Ryder Cup partner, 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley.

Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker
Thursday: 11th tee, 7:22 a.m. / Friday: 1st tee, 12:52 p.m.

Just like the world's No. 1, 2 and 3 players will tee off together in the afternoon, Nos. 4, 5 and 6 are scheduled to play together. Kuchar has won at the WGC Match Play and at Memorial already this season, Snedeker is another popular pick to win his first major and Justin Rose has already won in the Philadelphia area, at the ATT National at Aronimink in 2010.

Names in the next four groups after this tee time include 2011 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia, major champions Stewart Cink and Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter, Jason Dufner and Ricky Fowler. 

Onto the afternoon ...

Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer
Thursday: 1st tee, 12:52 p.m. / Friday: 11th tee, 7:22 a.m.

In 60 major-championship starts, Lee Westwood has 15 top-10 finishes, nine top-5 finishes, seven top-3 finishes, five third-place finishes and two runner-ups. He has never won a major. Neither, for that matter, has Luke Donald, the former world No. 1 who is one of the favorites to potentially win this week. Unfortunately for those two, no Englishman has won a U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970. They'll be paired with 2010 PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer.

Jim Furyk, Graeme McDowell, Zach Johnson
Thursday: 1st tee, 1:03 p.m. / Friday: 11th tee, 7:33 a.m.

These three are all major champions and two have them have won U.S. Opens. Furyk did it in 2003, McDowell did it in 2010, and Zach Johnson won the Masters in 2007. Both Furyk and McDowell contended at Olympic Club last year -- McDowell finished second and Furyk had an unfortunate breakdown in the 16th fairway on Sunday. Given their skill sets, all three are reasonable picks to contend yet again at Merion. 

And finally, the big one ...

Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott
Thursday: 1st tee, 1:14 p.m. / Friday: 11th tee, 7:44 a.m.

Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the world. No real introduction needed here, but we will get a look at Tiger and his former caddie Steve Williams back together in the same group. Williams was on the bag for 13 of Tiger's 14 majors, but the two had a very public breakup in 2011, when Woods was involved with another, more public breakup. Williams now loops for Adam Scott, this year's Masters champion.

Once those three make their way onto the course, defending champion Webb Simpson will tee off on No. 1 at 1:35 Thursday afternoon and 7:55 Friday morning.