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U.S. Open capsules / The top 20 players

Doug Ferguson, the Associated Press golf writer, takes a look at the top players in the U.S. Open, to be played Thursday to Sunday at Oakmont Country Club, listed in his predicted order of finish:

>ADAM SCOTT

Age: 26.

Country: Australia

World ranking: 4.

Majors: None.

Worldwide victories: 12.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 21-28-MC-MC-MC

Backspin: He's been on the slow, steady track to the top for four years. Felt the Sunday nerves in a major for the first time at Medinah last year in the PGA Championship, but had a disappointing Masters.

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>GEOFF OGILVY

Age: 30

Country: Australia

World ranking: 8.

Majors: U.S. Open (2006).

Worldwide victories: 3.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 1-28-DNP-MC-DNP

Backspin: Curtis Strange was the last player to win back-to-back in the U.S. Open, and Ogilvy is as good a candidate as any to be the next. He hasn't won since Winged Foot, but lost in the final of the Accenture Match Play and was third at the World Golf Championship.

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>TIGER WOODS

Age: 31.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 1.

Majors: Masters (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005), U.S. Open (2000, 2002), British Open (2000, 2005, 2006), PGA Championship (1999, 2000, 2006).

Worldwide victories: 67.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: MC-2-17-20-1.

Backspin: Recent memories of the U.S. Open are watching the final round from his boat. Memories of Oakmont are nil, except for his practice rounds. This will be more about position than power, and Woods probably won't have to hit driver more than about six times. He should have an advantage on the two par 5s, and might be one of the few who can get home -- or get close -- on the 677-yard 12th.

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>VIJAY SINGH

Age: 44.

Country: Fiji.

World ranking: 6.

Majors: Masters (2000), PGA Championship (1998, 2004).

Worldwide victories: 53.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 6-6-28-20-30.

Backspin: A player whose success usually is determined by the putter now must rely on his driving to be in contention. He already has won twice this year, but he hasn't done much in between victories at Kapalua and Bay Hill.

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>PHIL MICKELSON

Age: 36.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 2.

Majors: Masters (2004, 2006), PGA Championship (2005).

Worldwide victories: 31.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2-33-2-55-2.

Backspin: A wrist injury during practice at Oakmont makes him a question mark. Already has tied the U.S. Open record with four runner-up finishes, all in the last eight years. Has been haunted by short putts at the U.S. Open, and given the slick greens of Oakmont, that could break him.

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>RETIEF GOOSEN

Age: 38.

Country: South Africa

World ranking: 11.

Majors: U.S. Open (2001, 2004).

Worldwide victories: 28.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: MC-11-1-42-MC

Backspin: He was poised to win the Masters until the birdies dried up along the final six holes, including the two par 5s. He's shown he has the mettle for a U.S Open title -- two of them -- but his play has been more sporadic than usual this year, especially missing the cut at the Wales Open last week.

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>ZACH JOHNSON

Age: 31.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 14.

Majors: Masters (2007).

Worldwide victories: 3.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: MC-MC-48-DNP-DNP.

Backspin: Winning the Masters was no accident, and he proved at Sugarloaf he is playing well. Oakmont might work in his favor if the fairways are firm and he keeps it between the hay. His biggest challenge will be handling the expectations as a major champion.

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>PADRAIG HARRINGTON

Age: 36.

Country: Ireland.

World ranking: 10.

Majors: None.

Worldwide victories: 14.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 5-MC-31-10-8.

Backspin: Won the Irish Open last month and has played the U.S. Open better than the other three majors. He took a three-week break after the Masters, during which he had early stages of skin cancer removed from his head.

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>LUKE DONALD

Age: 30.

Country: England.

World ranking: 9.

Majors: None.

Worldwide victories: 4.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 12-57-DNP-DNP-18.

Backspin: One of several players capable of ending Europe's eight-year drought in the majors and 37-year drought in the U.S. Open. He played in the final group with Tiger Woods at the PGA last year, and probably won't wear a red shirt if he gets that chance again.

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>TREVOR IMMELMAN

Age: 27.

Country: South Africa.

World ranking: 15.

Majors: None.

Worldwide victories: 5.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 21-DNP-55-MC-DNP

Backspin: South Africans have won four U.S. Opens since 1994, and if another one is to claim the title, this might be the best bet. Had a strong rookie season on the PGA Tour last year by winning in Chicago and finishing at No. 7 on the money list. A parasite essentially knocked him out of the Masters, and he lost some 20 pounds in the weeks that followed. Starting to regain his strength just in time.

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>ERNIE ELS

Age: 37.

Country: South Africa.

World ranking: 5.

Majors: U.S. Open (1994, 1997), British Open (2002).

Worldwide victories: 58.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 26-15-9-5-24

Backspin: A star was born 13 years ago at Oakmont when Els won the first of his three majors. This might be his best chance at a major this year, given his history, although it's hard to tell which Els will show up. He got back in the major game last summer at Hoylake and finished third, but he is without a PGA Tour victory since 2004.

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>JIM FURYK

Age: 37.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 3.

Majors: U.S. Open (2003).

Worldwide victories: 15.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2-28-48-1-MC

Backspin: Even though he rose to No. 2 in the world for the first half of the season, he has gone nearly 10 months without a victory. This will be close to a home game for Furyk, who grew up in western Pennsylvania and made his U.S. Open debut in 1994 at Oakmont. Length shouldn't be a big issue this year.

***

>HENRIK STENSON

Age: 31.

Country: Sweden.

World ranking: 7.

Majors: None.

Worldwide victories: 9.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 26-DNP-DNP-DNP-DNP

Backspin: After surviving a severe slump early in his career, he has emerged this year as Europe's highest-ranked player. Won in Dubai by holding off Tiger Woods in the final round, then won the Accenture Match Play over Geoff Ogilvy with a combination of power and resiliency. Hasn't shown a lot of variety in his game, and that could limit him in the U.S. Open.

***

>LUCAS GLOVER

Age: 27.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 55.

Majors: None.

Worldwide victories: 1.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: MC-DNP-DNP-DNP-MC

Backspin: In a year when the younger Americans are starting to show their worth, a major would go a long way toward establishing Glover as the player everyone thinks he should be. His only victory remains Disney, when he holed a bunker shot on the 18th. He has the tools -- length, fearless attitude -- but has to be a little more patient.

***

>SERGIO GARCIA

Age: 27.

Country: Spain.

World ranking: 12.

Majors: None.

Worldwide victories: 16.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: MC-3-20-35-4

Backspin: His year already was off to a shaky start. After being caught on television spitting into a cup after missing a short putt, he virtually disappeared until his backdoor runner-up finish at The Players Championship. The U.S. Open has been his best major since he turned pro in 1999.

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>DAVID TOMS

Age: 40.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 25.

Majors: PGA Championship (2001).

Worldwide victories: 12.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: WD-15-20-5-45

Backspin: He has been very quiet since winning the Sony Open last year and finishing second to Tiger Woods at Doral. Only finished one major last year, withdrawing from the U.S. Open and British Open with back injury. He still gets high marks for his smooth putting, which could go a long way here.

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>SCOTT VERPLANK

Age: 42.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 33.

Majors: None.

Worldwide victories: 6.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: MC-MC-40-10-MC

Backspin: Ended a six-year victory drought at the Byron Nelson Championship and had a chance at the Colonial until faltering in the final round. This should be his best shot at a major given his accuracy off the tee and reputation as a good putter, although he has gone home on the weekend three of the last five years. Tied for 18th last time the U.S. Open was held at Oakmont.

***

>PAUL CASEY

Age: 29.

Country: England.

World ranking: 16.

Majors: None.

Worldwide victories: 8.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 15-WD-MC-MC-DNP

Backspin: One of the few players who managed to break par in the final round at Winged Foot last year. Finished second on the Order of Merit in Europe last year on the strength of two big victories, and started the 2007 season by winning Abu Dhabi before blowing a weekend lead at Bay Hill.

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>STEVE STRICKER

Age: 40

Country: United States

World ranking: 21.

Majors: None.

Worldwide victories: 5.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 6-DNP-MC-DNP-16

Backspin: After winning PGA Tour comeback player of the year, has continued to play well and is missing only a victory. The U.S. Open would figure to be his least likely opportunity in the majors given his erratic play off the tee. But he got back into the top 50 by hitting the ball well, and his putting is as good as anyone in golf.

***

>CHARLES HOWELL III

Age: 27.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 20.

Majors: None.

Worldwide victories: 2.

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 37-75-36-53-18

Backspin: Not many played as well as Howell in the first three months, with his victory at Riviera and two runner-up finishes. But he disappeared after the Masters.

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