U.S. Open chances: Can Jonathan Byrd contend at the U.S. Open?

This week before the U.S. Open tees off, we'll be sizing up the chances of many of golf's top players. Our last choice will be a sleeper, and Jonathan Byrd definitely fits the bill.

Jonathan Byrd

Current world ranking: 39

So far this year: Byrd's year started with a victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Championship; not a bad way to kick off a season. After his win, Byrd has been his usual consistent self, posting four top-20 finishes, including a playoff loss at the at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Record at the U.S. Open: His record at the tournament is almost non-existent. While he's had success on the PGA Tour in recent years, he's only played twice in the U.S. Open, posting a T-15 in 2003 at Olympia Fields and missing the cut in 2008 at Torrey Pines.

Why he could win: Because Byrd's recent success shows us that he's got the game to contend in a major championship. He's won twice in the last two seasons and is considered one of the better ball strikers in the game. Plus, Byrd ranks in the top 25 on tour in scoring average and greens in regulation, which means he knows how to score when he gets on the green. He won't be making birdies in bunches this week, but if he can hit a ton of greens in regulation, he's got as good a chance as anybody in the field. Another reason he could be in the mix? His four top-20 finishes this year have come at Doral, Muirfield, Quail Hollow and Innisbrook -- four of the toughest tour stops on the schedule. The guy thrives on difficult tracks.

Why he could fall short: He does have recent success on the PGA Tour, but playing a U.S. Open course is an entirely different beast. Byrd missed the cut at this year's Masters, and he doesn't have a lot of experience playing the National Open courses, which could come back to bite him this week.

Our take: Byrd is a super sleeper this week, but that doesn't mean his game should be overlooked. He's got all the tools to contend at Congressional that makes you believe if he could be in contention through 54 holes. But like most guys with little experience in major championship, the pressure may be too much to handle. I expect him to post a very respectable top-15 finish.

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