7 groups to follow when the US Open tees off on Thursday

Tiger, Rory and Adam Scott take top billing for the first two days at Merion — but who else should you be keeping tabs on?

All times BST, Thursday

12:00 — Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Nicolas Colsaerts

IF YOU’RE LOOKING for big hitters, you’ve come to the right place. Watson, Johnson and Colsaerts are the second group out on Thursday morning and if there are any early-morning cobwebs, some booming tee shots should sort them out fairly quickly. Length isn’t necessarily a huge advantage around Merion though so it will be interesting to see how this group adjusts.

12:11 — Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley

Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, best buds at the Ryder Cup when everything they touched turned to awesome, are paired up with Steve Stricker in another of Thursday’s early groups. Mickelson seems to be forever the bridesmaid at the US Open, finishing as runner-up on no fewer than five separate occasions, but playing with Bradley on the opening two days should help him relax into his comfort zone. That, you suspect, can only help his chances.

Keegan and Lefty: they play with Steve Stricker on Thursday and Friday (Charlie Riedel/AP/Press Association Images)

12:22 — Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker

A group of top contenders and, without exaggeration, it will be no surprise if any of these three are top of the pile come Sunday evening. Kuchar and Snedeker have both been brilliant in the early part of the season and the pair are riding high at the top of the FedEx Cup standings (only Woods has racked up more points than them). Rose didn’t really fired at the Masters but his first Major win never seems to be too far away and he will be confident after finishing eighth at the Memorial two weeks ago.

13:06 — Rickie Fowler, Matteo Manassero, Jason Day

The young man’s group with just 69 years and two PGA Tour wins to show between them. One hundred years on from Francis Ouimet’s historic win at Brookline another 20-year-old, Manassero, is turning heads with a series of confident performances, not least in holding his nerve to win a three-way play-off at the BMW Championship. Day’s form has tapered off slightly since his excellent third-place finish at the Masters while Fowler will need to recapture his early-season form to have any chance of featuring.

Can Day or Fowler string a run together? (David Goldman/AP/Press Association Images)

17:52 — Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer

A strong European flavour as three of the continent’s victorious Ryder Cup team are reunited as they bid for individual honours on American soil. Though they are yet to break their Major duck Donald and Westwood will always feature on any shortlist; the latter in particular has a habit of finding himself in the shake-up of big events come Sunday, though he is invariably a shot or two too far back. Kaymer has done little of note this season bar his most recent outing when he finished in a tie for fifth at the Byron Nelson last month.

The lads (David Davies/PA Archive/Press Association Images)

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18:03 — Jim Furyk, Graeme McDowell, Zach Johnson

Is this G-Mac’s time? The 2010 US Open champion followed up his clutch play-off win at the RBC Heritage by taking the Volvo World Matchplay Championship in Bulgaria last month so, while he hasn’t played a huge amount recently, there’s little reason to doubt his form. Furyk, who has finished in the top five in the US Open on six occasions, showed a flourish of form ahead of the Masters and won’t be without friends this week.

18:14 — Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott

The world number one, the world number two, and the world number three — need we say any more?

(Wilfredo Lee/AP/Press Association Images)

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Niall Kelly

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