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  1. HF Test946.02:41:25.4346041
Besides megawatt grouping, keep eyes on these guys
Updated 6/13/2012 7:59 PM ET
Yes, the "what to watch at the U.S. Open" begins with the megawatt grouping of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson. But it doesn't end there. Here are some other groups that could deliver distinctive dramas (all times Eastern):

The No. 1s: Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland; Luke Donald, England; Lee Westwood, England. Donald and McIlroy have been trading the top spot in the last couple of months, and Westwood is a recent No. 1 who has been hovering in the top three all season. McIlroy is the defending U.S. Open champion, running away to an eight-shot win last year at Congressional in Bethesda, Md. Donald and Westwood each are chasing their first major title, and for each it's just a matter of time. And this could be the time. Of course, we say that every major. (4:29 p.m. Thursday off No. 1; 10:44 a.m. Friday off No. 9.)

The long view: Adam Scott, Australia; Keegan Bradley, USA; Webb Simpson, USA. These three are young — Scott, 31; Bradley, 26; and Simpson, 26 — and they are coming off strong seasons, particularly Simpson (two wins, second on the money list in 2011) and Bradley (two wins, including the 2011 PGA Championship). One other interesting link: All three use long putters. The long putter — the player anchors the end of the putter to a part of his body — has been a long-running controversy in golf. Might this be a message from the USGA, the governing body for golf in the USA and Mexico, suggesting, we are watching? (11:32 a.m. Thursday off No. 1; 4:47 p.m. Friday off No. 9.)

MORE: Opening holes could deep-six chances SCHEDULE: U.S. Open tee times PHOTOS: The best images from the U.S. Open

Whoa! Andy Zhang, China; Hiroyuki Fujita, Japan; Mark Wilson, USA. Wilson, 37, is a known commodity, a veteran and five-time winner on the PGA Tour. Fujita is 42, he's played before in a U.S. Open (2010) and he has won 13 times on Japan's tour. And then there's Zhang, who is 14 — believed to be the youngest player in U.S. Open history. Imagine your first foray into big-time golf, and it's the U.S. Open. Zhang on Tuesday was meeting his idols, collecting and signing autographs. "I am a huge Tiger fan," he said. "I grew up watching him on TV. This morning I shook his hand, and I said, 'Wow, I just shook Tiger's hand.' " Players Championship winner Matt Kuchar noted that when he was 14, he was still trying to break 90. "It sure will be fun to watch," Kuchar said of Zhang. (11:21 a.m. Thursday off No. 1; 4:36 p.m. Friday off No. 9.)

Not cart path only: Casey Martin, USA; Cameron Wilson, USA; Dennis Miller, USA. Miller is a 42-year-old club pro from Youngstown, Ohio, who earned his spot with an ESPN SportsCenter friendly qualification-clinching putt that hung on the edge for a couple of tantalizing seconds before dropping in. He earned his spot in one of the toughest sectionals, Columbus, Ohio, competing against PGA Tour veterans. Wilson is a 19-year-old amateur who plays for Stanford. Martin, though, will be the focus of attention. Because of a degenerative circulatory condition in his right leg, he sued the PGA Tour and controversially won the right to ride in a cart 14 years ago. The last time the Open was at Olympic, Martin rode his cart to a tie for 23rd. Currently, he is the golf coach at the University of Oregon. (3:45 p.m. Thursday off No. 1; 10 a.m. Friday off No. 9.)

Sleeper? Steve Stricker, USA; Ian Poulter, England; Matt Kuchar, USA. Stricker has never won a major but seems to have the game to win a U.S. Open — straight driver, outstanding with wedges and putter. Kuchar's steadiness and consistency showed up in his victory at The Players, when he played the final round with Kevin Na, who that weekend turned slow play into a four-letter word. Steadiness, consistency and the ability to shut out distractions seem like part of a pretty good recipe for success in a U.S. Open. (4:36 p.m. Thursday off No. 9; 11:21 a.m. Friday off No. 1.)

Substance and style:Rickie Fowler, USA; Ryo Ishikawa, Japan; Dustin Johnson, USA. Fowler and Ishikawa can wow ya with their fashion sense, of course, but both can really play. Ishikawa, now 20, won his first pro event at 15 and has 10 pro wins in Japan. This is a bigger stage, of course, but he has played in two Opens and tied for 30th last year. Fowler is coming off a big May, with his first win (Wells Fargo) and a tie for second (The Players). Big-hitting Johnson has been close before — he was the 54-hole leader at Pebble Beach in 2010 before crashing and burning in the final round — and he is coming off a win Sunday in Memphis. (4:58 p.m. Thursday off No. 9; 11:43 a.m. Friday off No. 1.)

And, yes, you read that right. Players will be teeing off at Nos. 1 and 9, not the usual 10th. The 10th hole at The Olympic Club is down a hill, a long ways from the clubhouse.

Contributing: By Joe Fleming and Steve DiMeglio

Posted 6/13/2012 2:05 PM ET
Updated 6/13/2012 7:59 PM ET
Fowler of the USA will play the first two rounds with Ryo Ishikawa and Dustin Johnson.
By Andrew Redington, Getty Images
Fowler of the USA will play the first two rounds with Ryo Ishikawa and Dustin Johnson.

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