Dustin Johnson

Age: 26. Home town: Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Worldwide wins/ World ranking: 4/9

Best 2011 finish: 2, WGC-Cadillac Championship

Best U.S. Open finish: T8, 2010

A year ago at Pebble Beach, Johnson played beautifully for three days, built a three-shot lead going into the final round, parred the first hole, striped his drive at the second — and imploded. He made a triple bogey at 2, a double at 3, and shot an 82. That he bounced back to contend at the PGA — missing a playoff only because of a penalty on the 72nd hole — shows his immense talent. But Johnson has only one top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since January. He has switched caddies. Does he have the focus to contend here?

How he qualified: 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 50 leaders on World Golf Rankings as of May 23, 18. Top 50 leaders on World Golf Rankings as of May 13.

Graeme McDowell

Age: 31. Home town: Portrush, No. Ireland

Worldwide wins/ World ranking: 7/7

Best 2011 finish: 3, Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Best U.S. Open finish: 1, 2010

Does McDowell have the game? Certainly, and not just because he won this event last year. Does he have the mind-set? Absolutely, and one need only to look at his Ryder Cup performance last fall to assess his ability to grind. But facts are facts, and the fact here is that, since Ben Hogan won the Open in 1950 and '51, only one player has successfully defended his title, Curtis Strange in 1989. Add in the fact that McDowell just went through a two-month period where "I couldn't find the center of the club face," and it seems it will be someone else's turn.

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 15 money leaders from 2010 PGA European Tour money list, Top 50 leaders on World Golf Rankings as of May 23, 18. Top 50 leaders on World Golf Rankings as of May 13.

Rory McIlroy

Age: 22. Home town: Holywood, No. Ireland

Worldwide wins/ World ranking: 2/8

Best 2011 finish: 2, Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

Best U.S. Open finish: T10, 2009

McIlroy is already familiar with being around the lead in majors. He led the British Open last summer after the opening round. He finished third in each of the last two PGA Championships. He led this year's Masters by four shots after 54 holes. The problem: In too many instances in his young career, there have been wasted opportunities. His opening 63 at St. Andrews was followed by an 80. He needed to play the last four holes in even par to be in a playoff at last year's PGA, and went 1 over. And, holding that Masters lead, he shot an 80 to collapse. Eventually, he'll hang on to one. Here?

How he qualified: Top 30 money leaders from 2010 final PGA Tour money list, Top 15 money leaders from 2010 PGA European Tour money list, Top 50 leaders on World Golf Rankings as of May 23, 18. Top 50 leaders on World Golf Rankings as of May 13.

Ian Poulter

Age: 35. Home town: Hitchin, England

Worldwide wins/ World ranking: 12/13

Best 2011 finish: 1, Volvo World Match Play Championship

Best U.S. Open finish: T12, 2006

Put aside, for a moment, Poulter's bluster (see: his hair, britches and mouth). He is a brilliant short-game player who embraces competition enough that he has won the two most significant match play tournaments in the world — last year's Accenture Match Play and this year's Volvo World Match Play. But his record in major championships is spotty at best: 32 appearances, with three top-10 finishes. He has established himself as a top-10 player in the world. Will he in majors?

How he qualified: Top 15 money leaders from 2010 PGA European Tour money list, Top 50 leaders on World Golf Rankings as of May 23.

Steve Stricker

Age: 44. Home town: Edgerton, Wisc.

Worldwide wins/ World ranking: 10/4

Best 2011 finish: 1, The Memorial

Best U.S. Open finish: 5, T5, 1998, 1999

Who is the highest ranked American golfer in the world? Yep, that would be Stricker, who jumped Phil Mickelson with his win at the Memorial. Stricker has quietly become one of the PGA Tour's most consistent forces, but has not been a regular factor in majors. His best chance at the Open: 2007, when he tied for the lead — and began Sunday's back nine with consecutive double bogeys. Stricker could win, but it'd likely be from behind. "When you're going through it," he said of holding a lead at the Memorial, "your stomach is in a knot." A front-runner he's not.

How he qualified: Top 30 money leaders from 2010 final PGA Tour money list, 2010 Tour Championship qualifiers, Multiple winner on PGA Tour between June 20 and June 12, Top 50 leaders on World Golf Rankings as of May 23, 18. Top 50 leaders on World Golf Rankings as of May 13.

See how he's played Congressional in the past

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