Ernie Els

Age: 41. Home town: Johannesburg

Worldwide wins/ World ranking: 52/23

Best 2010 finish: T15, WGC-Cadillac Championship

Best U.S. Open finish: 1, 1994, 1997

After winning twice last year as a 40-year-old, Els's 2011 has been nothing short of a struggle. "For some reason there's been so many gremlins in my head this year with putting," he said. "I don't know if it's a midlife crisis or what it is." Could Congressional, where he won the Open in '97, bring his game back around? Or maybe it's the Open that could do that. Remember he was tied for the lead midway through the final round a year ago. If he's got one more major in him, this would be a place to do it.

How he qualified: U.S. Open winners past 10 years, 10 lowest scores and anyone who tied for 10th place at 2010 U.S. Open, Top 30 money leaders from 2010 final PGA Tour money list, 2010 Tour Championship qualifiers, Top 15 money leaders from 2010 PGA European Tour money list, Top 50 leaders on World Golf Rankings as of May 23.

Jim Furyk

Age: 41. Home town: West Chester, Pa.

Worldwide wins/ World ranking: 16/19

Best 2011 finish: T9, twice

Best U.S. Open finish: 1, 2003

Here is how the PGA Tour's 2010 player of the year has performed in his last 13 tournaments: one top-10 finish, four missed cuts, three more finishes outside the top 30. In the entire 2010 season, he had eight finishes outside the top 30 or missing the cut. Furyk's caddie, Mike "Fluff" Cowan, is a member at Congressional, and Furyk himself professes a love for the course. But will the 2003 Open champ bring his game in better shape?

How he qualified: U.S. Open winners past 10 years, Top 30 money leaders from 2010 final PGA Tour money list, 2010 Tour Championship qualifiers, Top 50 leaders on World Golf Rankings as of May 23.

See how he's played Congressional in the past

Padraig Harrington

Age: 39. Home town: Dublin

Worldwide wins/ World ranking: 18/52

Best 2011 finish: T8, Shell Houston Open

Best U.S. Open finish: 5th/T5, 2000, 2006

Back in 2008, when Harrington won the two major championships Tiger Woods missed following leg surgery, there was no one more dangerous and prominent in the world. He is also, though, constantly tinkering with his game, and in 2009 he began tweaks to his swing that he thought would pay off in the long term. So far, they haven't, and he has astonishingly missed four of his last five cuts at majors. He is now battling a knee injury that caused him to withdraw from a European Tour event last month. Now, or ever: Will he regain his form?

How he qualified: British Open winners past five years, Top 50 leaders on World Golf Rankings as of May 23.

Anthony Kim

Age: 25. Home town: Dallas

Worldwide wins/ World ranking: 3/65

Best 2011 finish: T6, Farmers Insurance Open

Best U.S. Open finish: T16, 2009

Kim's record at Congressional is exceptional. He won the AT&T National there in 2008, and was tied with Tiger Woods headed into the final round in 2009. That was back when Kim was supposed to begin regularly contending in majors. Instead, he's almost an afterthought. Injuries forced Kim from last year's U.S. and British Opens. He has made it to the weekend in just one of the last five majors. He's still talented, but will his health allow him to harness it? Kim's 26th birthday is on Sunday, the final round. Will he be at Congressional to celebrate?

How he qualified: Top 30 money leaders from 2010 final PGA Tour money list.

See how he's played Congressional in the past

Rory Sabbatini

Age: 35. Home town: Durban, South Africa

Worldwide wins/ World ranking: 6/49

Best 2011 finish: 1, Honda Classic

Best U.S. Open finish: T51, 2007

Sabbatini has played some brilliant golf lately — winning in West Palm Beach, Fla., contending in both Charlotte and at The Players Championship. But the fiery one can scarcely keep fans' focus on the course. The AP has reported that he got into a profanity-filled exchange with fellow player Sean O'Hair in New Orleans, apparently stemming from Sabbatini's berating of a volunteer earlier in the season. Washington fans will remember Sabbatini, a swift player, walking to the 18th tee with playing partner Ben Crane still in the 17th fairway. Always a story, not always for his golf.

How he qualified: Top 10 money leaders from 2011 PGA Tour money list through May 23, Top 50 leaders on World Golf Rankings as of May 23.

Profiles by Barry Srvluga - The Washington Post. Published June 8, 2011.