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For Tiger, the Time is Now. Or Is It?

US Open PreviewAfter his electrifying victory at the Memorial, is there any doubt that Tiger Woods is really, truly, finally back?

Of course there is. And the questions will linger unless and until Woods wins that elusive 15th major. The next one is right around the corner – the 112th U.S. Open, June 14-17 at San Francisco’s lustrous, legendary Olympic Club – so opportunity knocks.

Woods is the clear-cut favorite at the moment, with Rory McIlroy’s focus having gone AWOL and Phil Mickelson coming off a first-round 79-WD at Memorial. (If you were one of those clicking a camera phone in his backswing, shame on you!)

The coming days will bring us constant reminders that Woods won Bay Hill earlier this year only to flop to a T40 finish at the Masters two weeks later.

To me, something feels different this time. Maybe because at the Memorial, he played almost flawlessly down the stretch to overcome a two-shot deficit, compared with his relatively easy five-stroke win at Bay Hill.

Maybe because with two more months of work, you assume his remodeled posture and mechanics are more deeply rooted. Or maybe it’s just the after-effects of Woods’ colossal final-round hole-out on No. 16, over which the golf world is still abuzz.

Whatever the reason, Woods’ long-expected comeback looks like the real deal this time. Count me among those who see major No. 15 in his near future.

U.S. Open Faves and Failures

Momentum aside, odds are Woods won’t win the U.S. Open. Who’s most likely to steal it from him? And who’s headed for an epic fail? My personal non-Tiger picks, which I reserve the right to change up to the moment the first ball is struck:

  • Five favorites: Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Jason Dufner, Justin Rose, Luke Donald
  • Big names in (mostly) solid form: Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Rickie Fowler
  • Not-so-dark darkhorses: Carl Pettersson, Angel Cabrera, Fredrik Jacobson, Brandt Snedeker
  • Count ’em out: Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Kyle Stanley, Sergio Garcia

Who do you like?

Daniel MitchellDaniel Mitchell is a golf writer and contributor who lives in Jupiter, Fla., a few miles from Tiger Woods as the crow flies but worlds away in every other respect. An avid golfer since age 12, Mitchell carries a (shaky) single-digit handicap, investing far more time in his dogs than his swing.

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