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McIlroy, a 23-year-old from Northern Ireland with that unique combination of power and balance, had been trending in this direction. He shot 63 at St. Andrews the summer before. He led wire-to-wire at the Masters last year until imploding in the final round. But he showed resiliency in bouncing back with a performance unrivaled to win the U.S. Open and become the youngest major champion since Woods won the Masters in 1997 at age 21.

Comparisons to Woods, who already had won 10 majors and the career Grand Slam twice before turning 30, can be dangerous. McIlroy is finding that out the hard way, especially after missing the cut three times in a row. The last weekend off at least gave him time to see Olympic before arriving for his title defense, and then he headed to Tennessee for the St. Jude Classic, adding the tournament with hopes of getting back into form.

Woods‘ form couldn’t be any better. The question is how long it will last.

He is desperate to win his 15th major and get back on track in pursuit of the record 18 won by Jack Nicklaus. But he’s not the only player in dire need of a major. Luke Donald is going on his 47th week at No. 1 in the world, longer than all but five players in the 25-year history of the ranking. All that’s missing is a major. Lee Westwood and Steve Stricker head the list of best without a major, along with Sergio Garcia.

Phil Mickelson holds the wrong kind of U.S. Open record _ five times a runner-up, more than anyone.

Don’t be surprised if Woods or Mickelson get into contention. And don’t be surprised if they lose out to someone not quite as famous.

Olympic has a knack for doing that in the U.S. Open.

The four U.S. Open champions at Olympic combined for seven majors in their career. The four players who were runner-up combined for 27.