Mud balls highlight top 10 storylines of the 2013 US Open

Tiger Woods will be storyline No. 1 (as usual). (USATSI)
Tiger Woods will be storyline No. 1 (as usual). (USATSI)

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US Open eve is winding down and the nation's tournament is quickly approaching. We've had three days of press conferences and chatter about Tiger Woods and the weather and speeding up those weekend foursomes.

But now, what we're all here for: golf.

These are the 10 storylines (or potential storylines) I'm most looking forward to over the next four days.

1. Tiger - It's always Tiger, isn't it? This is his world, his tournament to lose, his history to make. He's going to win a major at some point and golf "experts" like me are going to say "I told you so!" Should be noted that we'll also have to say "I'm one for my last 19 in picking Tiger for majors!"

2. Sergio Garcia + Tiger -- Dear golf gods, please let them be paired together on Saturday or Sunday (or, gasp, both days). I ask for very few things -- to break 95, good coffee, strong Sunday afternoons -- I know this is a monster favor, but I think you understand.

3. Mud balls! -- The weather will be a factor, we already know this. The USGA has said it will not allow golfers to lift, clean and place their ball even if it's in the fairway (a common practice in golf). I just hope the tournament isn't decided because Phil Mickelson hits a mud ball at a 90-degree angle on No. 18 on Sunday. Oh and what dies a mud ball do? Webb Simpson explains in GolfDigest here:

"If the mud is on the right side, the ball tends to go left and vice versa if it's on the left side. Usually, if it's on the top or the bottom, it takes the spin off and it just kind of knuckles."

4. Philly Mick? -- That's your headline on Monday (minus the question mark) if Phil Mickelson sheds his bridesmaid dress and finally captures the title that has so eluded him. It would be the golf story of the year.

5. Rory's story -- The downfall of Rory McIlroy has been greatly exaggerated (he has four top 10s so far this year) but it is true that he hasn't won since signing with Nike. His last three US Opens: cut, win (big), and cut. Nobody knows what we're getting this year.

6. A foe for Woods -- There is no No. 2 in golf right now. The evidence of that is that Tiger is 9-2 odds to win the tournament and nobody else is better than 20-1. Adam Scott can establish himself as a firm No. 2 with back-to-back majors. So can Kuchar. And Rory can re-establish himself. But it needs to happen soon.

7. Which amateur emerges? -- Last year Beau Hossler danced with the imagination of a golf world for three rounds before finally exiting stage right on Sunday. In 2009 Canadian Nick Taylor was T7 after three rounds. In 2008 Rickie Fowler, then a college golfer at Oklahoma State, trailed by two after round one. The US Open always provides a compelling amateur storyline, who will seize it this year?

8. Matt Kuchar's quest -- Is he the best player without a major? I don't know. He is the best player right now without a major though. The only man besides Tiger to win twice on Tour this year. A win at Merion on the 15-year anniversary of his stellar amateur performance would be the crown jewel of his career.

9. More history? -- Merion has held more USGA events than any course in the United States so it's no surprise that it's so well-known for so many big moments. From Hogan's 1-iron in 1950 to the Lee Trevino-Jack Nicklaus playoff in 1971 to today. Will there be another classic Open played here (i.e. 2008) or will we get a snooze-fest like we did with Lucas Glover in 2009?

10. No. 18 - The 18th hole is a 521-yard par-4 monster. Graeme McDowell said this of the closing five holes (of which No. 18 is the longest): "You have to hang on for dear life those last five holes. Those last five are as tough a finish I can't think of a tougher finish that I've seen at a U.S. Open."

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnGolf and @KylePorterCBS on Twitter or Google+ and like us on Facebook.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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