Each week of the season, our experts share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.
This week, the PGA Tour is at Pinehurst No. 2 for the 114th U.S. Open.
Horse for the Course
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Phil Mickelson
Sure, Pinehurst No. 2 looks different than it did when Lefty finished second here in 1999, but there are few players in the field this week capable of matching his touch and creativity around these turtleback greens
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Mickelson
If loving the course creates any positive energy, then Lefty has it going into the U.S. Open. He has made no secret of his appreciation for the renovations at Pinehurst, and feels the setup suits his style of play and even offers him an advantage
Alf Musketa, ESPN Insider professional sports handicapper: Dustin Johnson
Pinehurst No. 2 will play to a maximum of 7,562 yards. It will feature wiry rough and difficult to hold turtleback greens. Getting as close to these greens to hit in higher approach shots will pay dividends for Johnson.
Gene WojciechowskI, ESPN.com columnist: Adam Scott
Same rationale for picking him to win (see below). Scott has played well in recent weeks, and this type of course will seem familiar to him.
Evans: Bubba Watson
In his last three events, Bubba has a win at the Masters, a tie for 48th at the Players and a third at the Memorial, where a late decision in the final round to hit a driver cost him the tournament. Otherwise, he would have two wins in his last three starts.
The Masters champion might not make a lot of birdies this week, but he's been the best player this year, having won twice and with two runner-up finishes. He's coming off a solo third at the Memorial.
Musketa: Jim Furyk
Perhaps for the U.S. Open we should rename this category "Par Buster" because as we know, par is a good score at any U.S. Open track, and birdies will be rare. Furyk ranks No. 1 in scrambling on the PGA Tour at just under 70 percent through 48 rounds. The ability to get up and down could be the ticket to winning another U.S. Open for this former champion.
Wojciechowski: Matt Kuchar
He's been a top-10 machine this year. He did the smart thing by not playing at Memphis and getting some rest to do prep work for the U.S. Open. He's due to win his first major one of these days.
Evans: Miguel Angel Jimenez
The 50-year-old Spaniard has missed the cut in seven of his 12 previous U.S. Open appearances, but in the championship he does have a tie for second in 2000 and tie for sixth in 2008. In April, he had a fourth in the Masters. Then he went on to earn wins on both the Champions Tour and the European Tour. His precise iron play and deft touch around the greens should keep him near the leaders on the weekend.
Harig: Bill Haas
His U.S. Open record is poor -- three missed cuts in five appearances -- but Haas is a solid player who has underachieved in the major championships. A five-time PGA Tour winner, he has three top-10s this year, including a tie for eighth at the Memorial.
Musketa: David Toms
At 175-1 in the future book odds, Toms is worthy of a super sleeper play. If hitting the fairway and avoiding the unpredictable rough becomes the key factor this week, driving accuracy moves way up the ladder and so will Toms, who ranks No. 2 in that stat on the PGA Tour.
Wojciechowski: Steve Stricker
A T-8 at last year's U.S. Open and a putting stroke to die for. That will come in nicely on greens that will expose crummy putters.
The 35-year-old seven-time PGA Tour winner will become the ninth player in the last 10 U.S. Opens to make the tournament his first win in a major. He's been too consistent over the last five years not to win one of the big four. It's his time.
Harig: Rory McIlroy
Big ballpark, room off the tee. Those attributes at Pinehurst suit McIlroy, who might also wish for some rain and a softer golf course, under which circumstances he really excels. McIlroy has had his ups and downs this year, but his game has generally been solid. Avoiding a Friday downfall -- he's shot 40 or higher for nine holes in four of his last five PGA Tour events -- might be the biggest hurdle.
Musketa: Phil Mickelson
The sentimental choice if there ever was one. Mickelson has six runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open. You've heard it over and over how Mickelson needs one more major, the U.S. Open, to join an elite club of only five players to win all the majors at least once. I believe Mickelson plays better under pressure and he has that pointed directly at him this week having come so close here before. I expect his short-game magic around the greens to be the difference.
Wojciechowski: Jason Day
Yes, I know he's been injured this season. I also know he's played in three U.S. Opens and finished second twice. And he's played more than a few rounds on sandhill-type courses in his native Australia.