The Men to Watch at Merion: No. 1, Tiger Woods

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Jay Busbee
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This week marks the second major of 2013 and the first time the USGA has set foot on Merion Golf Club since 1981. The rough is thick, the course is wet and the yardage is under 7,000 yards. So who wins it this week? We give you five to watch at the U.S. Open (Check out past entries - No. 5, Phil Mickelson, No. 4, Dustin Johnson, No. 3 Matt Kuchar, No. 2 Justin Rose).

No. 1 — Tiger Woods

Major Championships — 14

U.S. Open appearances — 18

Best U.S. Open finish — 1 (2000, 2002, 2008)

Best Finish on the PGA Tour in 2013 — 1 (Farmers Insurance Open, WGC-Cadillac Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational, The Players Championship)

What he has to do to win — The days of "Tiger versus the field" are gone, and they're not coming back. Tiger's not quite as dominant as he once was, and the field is, end to end, better than it ever was.

That said, this is still Tiger's world we're living in. Rory McIlroy hasn't yet proven a consistent challenger, and nobody else on Tour can convince you that he can win on any given Sunday. Nobody except Tiger.

So what does he need to do this week at Merion? Play strategic golf, for starters. Woods tends to visit up close with the gallery at places like Augusta, where he sends tee shots in all directions before reasserting himself and breaking out a quality approach game and, at times, a transcendent putting game. You try that kind of any-way-you-can-get-it-down-the-fairway approach at a U.S. Open and you're asking for lost balls or extra shots.

He'll also need to rely on his putter; of concern is how bad he looked on the greens at The Memorial recently. He'll need to recapture some of that magic, because the greens are vicious enough that they can devour otherwise healthy scorecards alive.

Finally, he'll need to overcome the weekend yips that have plagued him for most of the last few years in majors. If he can post strong rounds Thursday and Friday and even reasonably competent rounds on the weekend, he'll be in excellent shape.

Just make sure there are no rules controversies this time, Tiger.

-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-