2012 US Open: Five Players Who Could Win the Biggest American Golf Tournament

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The US Open kicks off Thursday from the graveyard of champions, the Olympic Golf Course in San Francisco, Calif. The US Open always challenges golfers with the toughest courses in the world played under some of the most stringent conditions, and this year's tournament will be no different.

As with any major tournament there are big time storylines and big players to watch this week. Before the tournament kicks off, familiarize yourself with the stories and playersthat could play out large this weekend.

Tiger Woods:

As always, the top storyline at a major tournament is Tiger. Woods hasn't won a major since the 2008 US Open when he famously bested Rocco Mediate in a playoff while shredding his own knee. Since then, Woods has been stuck on 14 major championships, four shy of Jack Nicklaus' record 18. Woods won at the Memorial a few weeks ago, and looked like his old self doing it, he could be poised to return to form on the biggest stage.

Luke Donald:

The world's top ranked golfer has done many great things in his career, but he has never won a major tournament. Since the 2010 US Open, every single man to win a major had never won a major tournament prior to the event. If that trend holds in San Francisco, Donald would be the obvious choice.

Rory McIlroy:

Ben Hogan was the last golfer to win back-to-back US Open titles and he did it in 1951. The Irish golfer has also missed out on three of the last four cuts. The more interesting story here might be if McIlroy will become the first defending US Open champion to miss the cut the following year.

Andy Zhang

Zhang is a fourteen-year-old Chinese boy who made the field for the US Open this week. He is the youngest player to tee off at the Open since before World War II and he will undoubtedly bring even more notoriety to the amateur players in this year's field.

It is highly unlikely that Zhang can win, but he will be fun to follow over the course of the weekend, especially if he can make the cut.

Phil Mickelson:

Lefty was the guy who couldn't win a major for a very long time. He now has four to his credit, but he has never won the US Open. However, here are few men who have ever gotten closer to the US Open title without winning it than he has. Mickelson has been a runner up here five times and has four other top 10 finishes. If Mickelson can avoid the epic collapse that always seems to ruin his Sunday's at the Open, he could be an interesting candidate.

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