3. Will someone shoot 62 (or lower) this week?
O'Donoghue: I wouldn't be surprised, but don't expect it. The last five holes will sort out anyone on a birdie rampage. I bet Mike Davis can't wait to sort out the wheat from the chaff, which is as it should be. That's what the US Open is all about. Going out on a limb, I fully expect one of the amateurs to really surprise us this week. They are all in form, particularly the three Cal boys and watch out for Ireland's top amateur Kevin Phelan, who medalled at Bradenton last week.
Van Sickle: I think 62 is in play because of the soft conditions. The hard part is, there are only two par 5s and one of them isn't eagle material. So to get to 62, you're going to need eight birdies and no bogeys. Merion's greens are not flat. That's a lot of putts to make. But I think one player on a hot streak can do it.
Passov: No. I can see somebody making eight, or even 10 birdies when conditions are soft, but the impossible rough and dinner plate-shaped greens (thank you, Lee Trevino) will bring double bogey into play with every missed shot. Nine birdies, two bogies (maybe 9 and one double) will mean 63. Then again, somehow, somebody named Lee Mackey shot a 64 in 1950, when the winning score wound up being 287, 7-over-par, so I can't say that 62 is so far-fetched.
Shipnuck: No. The wet rough will be fearsome, the greens are tiny and the bunkers very penal. I can see 65s or maybe 64 or even a 63 early in the week but even a rain-softened Merion has enough defenses to fend off a 62.
Ritter: It's possible, but I'll guess that 65 is the low round of the week.
Bamberger: I think it will happen, Thursday or Friday. A 62. And that person will not win. If you are a betting person, please note: EVERY time I make a bold statement like that, it's wrong.
4. What will the winning score be at Merion?
a. Even par or higher
b. one under to five under par
c. six under to nine under par
d. 10 under or better
O'Donoghue: It will be under par, but not that much, therefore B is a reasonable shout. These guys are good!
Bamberger: I think 10 under will win by one or two. You shoot 10 under, you have really golfed your ball.
Ritter: I'll say six to nine under wins it. While many of the par 4s are short enough to be played with a long iron off the tee followed by a flip wedge, three of the par 3s are crazy long and most of the fairways have been pinched. Scores will be lower than a typical U.S. Open, but I don't expect this to turn into the John Deere Classic.
Shipnuck: A lot depends on the weather, obviously. If the forecast holds the course will get firmer and more fiery as the week goes on. I could see -8 or -9 leading going into the weekend but -5 or -6 winning it.
Gorant: More than 10 under, but not by much, because I think there enough birdie holes out there (especially if the greens are softish) to play it at two or three under a day.
Van Sickle: The winning score will be 10 under or better. Not much better. Twelve, maybe. More like 10. Of course, if it gets windy, Merion will be an absolute nightmare with that rough.
Passov: Six under to nine under par. Scores should be low in the softer opening rounds, but forecast looks dry with a bit of breeze for the weekend. That, and the usual U.S. Open pressure should inflate the scores on Saturday and Sunday. I like 8-under 272.
Lynch: I'm calling 12-under. Even the medium-length hitters will probably hit wedge into almost half the holes, and these guys can do a lot of damage with that club, no matter how tucked the pins are. But note the yardage of the four par 3s: 256, 236, 115, 246. This might be the first Open venue at which the USGA is defending par on the curious beachhead of par 3s.
5. Pick your winner and your dark horse.
O'Donoghue: It's Tiger's to lose, but I'm going for Mickelson, who, after five runner-up spots, knows better than anyone the agony of defeat. A Father's Day victory would be the perfect birthday present for "Philly" Mick. My dark horse is Thorbjorn Olesen. He's Europe's next big star and showed at last year's Open at Lytham and in his Masters debut that he is fearless when it comes to the Majors. 90/1 with Irish bookmakers, I'm having some of that!
Van Sickle: I like Webb Simpson to defend his Open title because he's got as much experience at Merion as anyone in the field--a U.S. Am and a Walker Cup. He also wields a belly putter, which fulfills my dream of 12 straight anchored putters winning majors before the ban goes into effect. Dark horse is Tim Clark, who usually leads the Tour in proximity to the pin because he's a torrid iron player. My super-dark horse is amateur Gavin Hall. My sources at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., have been telling me about this kid for a year now. He's the real deal and, let's face it, just about anywhere he goes from Oak HIll is going to be easier. Hall could be the Jim Simons of this Merion Open.
Shipnuck: Winner: Tiger Woods. Golf's ultimate tactician will win this chess match. It's time. Dark horse: Tim Clark. One of golf's straightest hitters and he'd love to give the USGA the ultimate F-you.
Lynch: Graeme McDowell. He ranks No. 1 in driving accuracy on Tour and sports solid numbers putting from 10-20 feet, which can often decide an Open. He also plays difficult courses well and plays the Open well (obviously) with his last three finishes being 1st-T14-T2. My dark horse is Nicolas Colsaerts for one reason alone: he ranks first on tour in approaches from over 200 yards (see: par 3s, long).
Passov: His Memorial hiccup notwithstanding, I'm going with Tiger Woods. Merion winners have been masters of precision, either that week or in general and these days, when Tiger gets to play "small ball," there's nobody better at managing and executing. Second -- how dark does the horse have to be? Kevin Chappell finally emerged from his 2013 doldrums with a runner-up at Memorial, and he's had two top 10s the past two U.S. Opens; however, I'll pick Francesco Molinari. He's not having much of a 2013 either, but when he's on, he's a fairways and greens machine, and he has good karma from his brother winning the 2005 U.S. Amateur at Merion.
Ritter: Tiger deserves to be the favorite and he's my very unoriginal pick to win. Have we reached a point where anyone other than Tiger, Rory or Phil is a dark horse? Sign me up for Steve Stricker, who has played well this season with his shortened schedule. Maybe this is the week he finally breaks through.
Gorant: Winner: Tiger Woods. Dark Horse: Justin Hicks.
Bamberger: Bubba to win. King Louis dark horse. He's only a dark horse because nobody talks about him. Even though he's the King. With the best swing in golf. And a British Open at St. Andrews. And a sleeve in a green coat. And a frankly-Hogan-I-don't-give-a-damn attitude that serves him well in times of stress.