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• Several venues have hosted both regular tour events and Opens. If a guy has played a course well in the past - under non-USGA conditions — it could mean he’ll play well in an Open there. Tiger Woods, for instance, won a regular PGA Tour event and an Open at Pebble Beach. So did Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Tom Kite. Mark O’Meara, on the other hand, won at Pebble more than anybody — five times — but was a disaster in his three Opens there, missing the cut in one and finishing out of the top 50 in the other two. So nothing is guaranteed.

This could be a factor in the days ahead because Congressional has hosted the AT&T National (2007-09) and the Booz Allen Classic (2005) as well as the 1997 Open. To a fair number of players in the field, it’s a familiar place. (That said, Greg Norman, who won two Kempers at Congressional, wasn’t helped much in ‘97 by the local knowledge he’d accrued. He shot 75-79 and missed the cut by seven strokes.)

• Quite a few players, in the years leading up to their Open victory, won a tournament the week before or the week after the Open (e.g. Tommy Bolt, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Hubert Green, Tom Watson, Larry Nelson, Raymond Floyd, Tom Kite, Scott Simpson, Steve Jones). Could biorhythms be at work here? Plenty of Open champs, I’ve found, just seem to win at this time of year (even those that didn’t capture a bunch of titles — like Lee Janzen, who won the Open in 1993, won the week before the Open in ‘94 and ‘95 and won the Open again in ‘98).

OK, enough stage setting. What I’m looking for is a player who fits the following profile:

• Is in his late 20s to late 30s.

• Has had some nice finishes this year but hasn’t won.

• Has missed at least one cut in his past five events.

• Has had at least one top 10 in the Open.

• Has played Congressional well.

• Has won a tournament in this part of the golf calendar.

The players who come closest to meeting these criteria are: Robert Allenby, Sergio Garcia, Hunter Mahan, Adam Scott and Lee Westwood. Could our next U.S. Open champion come from that group?

I’m going with Mahan. He’s 29. He’s had seven top-10s but hasn’t won. He’s missed a cut in his past five events. He tied for sixth in the 2009 Open. He’s finished T-8, T-12 and second in the AT&T (closing with a scorching 62 in his last visit two years ago). And he won the Travelers Championship the week after the ‘07 Open. The man is ready.

That’s my system, at any rate, and I’m sticking to it.