The 2012 U.S. Open begins on Thursday, June 14. For many golf fans, this is about as good as it gets. The U.S. Open is known for challenging the best golfers in the world with a truly difficult course. Olympic Golf Club figures to be no different for the field of big names aiming for one of the most coveted title in sports. This year's U.S. Open has several big storylines that will only add to the drama of this tournament.
Here are the five best storylines entering the U.S. Open:
Can Tiger Woods win?
Woods has been stuck on 14 major titles since winning this event in 2008. If he is going to resume his quest to catch Jack Nicklaus, many think that this could be the starting point. Woods is coming off of a victory at the Memorial and owns two titles this year. In addition, his driving accuracy should help him perform well at this course. Still, winning won't be easy. He won an event shortly before the Masters and ended up in a tie for 40th there. With a field this strong, the same thing can happen again.
Will we see another first-time winner?
Starting with the U.S. Open in 2010, every major has been won by a golfer with no previous major titles. There are plenty of guys that can make sure that that streak continues. Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, and Dustin Johnson are just a few stars that are ready to achieve greatness. Out of the whole bunch, Donald might be the most intriguing. The world's top-ranked golfer has done just about everything but win a major.
Can Rory McIlroy repeat?
The last golfer to win consecutive U.S. Opens was the legendary Ben Hogan in 1951. Obviously, repeating at this tournament is not easy to do. McIlroy set records on his way to winning at Congressional in 2011. He enters this year's event having missed the cut in three of his last four tournaments. Still, you have to like his chances of contending into the final round.
How will 14-year-old Andy Zhang do?
You read that right. Zhang will tee off at the U.S. Open despite the fact that he hasn't even started high school yet. Zhang earned his way into the field by qualifying, so that means he can certainly play this game. There's no way that Zhang will win this tournament, but it will be fun to see how he plays. If he makes the cut, it will be one of the best stories of the year.
Can Phil break through?
Phil Mickelson has won four majors in his career, but the U.S. Open has been a house of heartbreak for him. Mickelson has finished in second place a remarkable five times at the U.S. Open and has four other finishes in the top 10. His most recent close call came when he finished in a tie for fourth in 2010. Collapse seems to find Phil at this tournament. It will be interesting to see if he can finally avoid the trend.* - Mark Paul is an avid golf fan. He has watched and played the game since high school.