Of the last 20 major golf tournaments we have crowned 19 different champions. This includes Tiger Woods' last significant title, the 2008 U.S. Open, and Rory McIlroy's two victories, at the 2011 U.S. Open and last year’s PGA Championship. Merion Golf Club on the outskirts of Philadelphia provides a unique venue for this year’s tournament. Players who are accurate off the tee, precise with short irons, and putt well will prosper. Now who are those players?
Nobody is playing better right now than Matt Kuchar. He has won twice this year including winning the Memorial in his last appearance two weeks ago. He finished second three weeks ago at The Colonial. Nobody has finished in the Top 10 this year more frequently than Kuchar's six times. He ranks second in the FedexCup standings and his game is well suited for Merion. Kuchar, perhaps the best player on tour not to win a major, ranks 13th on tour in putting, and 36th in greens in regulation.
Graeme McDowell won the U.S. Open four years ago at Pebble Beach. In 2011 he finished two under par in 14th place at Congressional. Last year McDowell missed by one stroke as Webb Simpson hoisted the title at The Olympic Club. In other words, he likes this event. In eight U.S. based tournaments this year McDowell has finished among the top 10 four times and won the Heritage in late April. Last month he won the European Tour's Match Play Championship in Bulgaria. He is the most accurate driver on the PGA Tour this year.
Brant Snedeker has finished in the top 10 six times this season including his win at Pebble Beach in February, and his sixth place finish at the Masters. He has finished in the Top 11 at the U.S. Open in three of the last five years and four times has finished top 10 in a major championship. He has been among the best putters on tour this year, ranks in the top 30 in save percentage, and top 40 in greens in regulation.
Woods has not won a major in five years but is ranked number one in the world and leads the PGA Tour in earnings and victories this season. He ranks third in putting average this year and 19th in greens in regulation. He played poorly at the Memorial two weeks ago, but won The Players Championship last month. If he continues to play the way he has the last year and a half he will win a major again at some point.
McIlroy has been highly inconsistent this year and that seems to be a trend in his young career. Since winning his first major at the U.S. Open two years ago, he has competed in seven major tournaments. He won the PGA last year, and finished outside the top 20 in the other six championships. This year on the PGA Tour he has hit the Top 10 four times in nine events. The other five tries he finished 25th or worse. In five European Tour events this year he played well once and poorly four times. He ranks fourth in greens in regulation. If he's playing well he can win, but it is anybody’s guess which Rory will show up.