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US Open

Predictions: Who will win the US Open?

Can Tiger Woods climb back onto the top of a major tournament this week?

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Can Tiger Woods climb back onto the top of a major tournament this week?

If golf reporter Michael Whitmer has it right, some big names (Woods, Westwood, McDowell, Kuchar) will challenge, but a Rose will ultimately bloom at Merion.

Contenders:

Matt Kuchar

Age: 34. World ranking: 4

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US Open starts/cuts made: 10/5

Scoring average/low score: 73.27/68

Best finish: T6 (2010)

Might win because: Nobody’s playing better, with Kuchar going 1-2 in his last two starts: Second at Colonial, followed by his sixth PGA Tour win at the Memorial. Seems to have the makeup needed at a US Open: Drives it well enough, scrambles very well, solid with the putter, handles his emotions. He’s made 18 consecutive cuts, tops on tour, and already has six top-10s this year, including two victories. No major wins, but five top-10s in his last 12 major starts.

Lee Westwood

Age: 40. World ranking: 11

US Open starts/cuts made: 13/11

Scoring average/low score: 72.33/65

Best finish: 3 (2008, 2011)

Might win because: He’s regularly in the mix at US Opens, and with his recent form, why should this year be any different? Westwood has made the cut in his last eight US appearances, with no finish worse than a T36 and three top-10s included in that stretch. He tied for 10th last year (he was fourth before a final-round 73), and tied for third in 2011. Had four straight top-10s on the PGA Tour before a WD two weeks ago at the Memorial.

Graeme McDowell

Age: 33. World ranking: 8

US Open starts/cuts made: 7/7

Scoring average/low score: 72.39/68

Best finish: Win (2010)

Might win because: One of the best US Open players shows no signs of slowing. He’s never missed a cut in seven previous appearances, and has been especially strong the past four years: T18 in 2009, a win at Pebble Beach in 2010, T14 in 2011, and T2 last year at the Olympic Club. Pebble, Olympic, and Merion have some similarities. He’s missed the cut in both tournaments he’s played since winning the week after the Masters at Hilton Head.

Tiger Woods

Age: 37. World ranking: 1

US Open starts/cuts made: 17/15

Scoring average/low score: 71.22/65

Best finish: Win (2000, 2002, 2008)

Might win because: Sooner or later he’s going to end his majors drought, and this week figures to be as good a time as any. Actually, it’s an even better time, because Woods is back at No. 1 in the world, and he’s won a tour-leading four times this year. Still, questions persist: Can he overcome the weekend issues that dogged him at the majors last year? Has he corrected the mistakes that led to a 74-79-72 finish and a T65 at the Memorial? I’m thinking yes.

Winner:

Justin Rose

Age: 32. World ranking: 5

US Open starts/cuts made: 7/3

Scoring average/low score: 72.95/69

Best finish: T5 (2003)

Will win because: Doesn’t this feel like the kind of week that will crown a European champion? Preferably someone who plays well when the conditions aren’t ideal? Rose doesn’t have a great US Open record, with more cuts missed than made, and no start in which he’s finished 72 holes under par. That will likely have to change this week, and Rose is more than capable. His best major finish is a T3 at last year’s PGA. Until now.

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.
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