Which contender will take the title?

6/17/2012 - Golf

With Tiger Woods' fall from the lead into a tie for 14th place heading into the final round, can he still challenge for a fourth U.S. Open on Sunday?

And of those trailing Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell, which golfer has the best shot at taking the title?

Our experts tackle those topics and more in our latest edition of U.S. Open Four-Ball.

1. What does Tiger have to do to have a chance to win Sunday?

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Tiger has to shoot 66 and then hope for a playoff. But with 67 being the best score Saturday, I don't see a 66 out there late Sunday.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: He needs a lot to happen. The best round of the tournament so far is 66, and he needs to match that. Even that would leave him one stroke behind Furyk and McDowell if they shoot even par -- although that is no easy task. Best bet is he posts the low number and watches the others crumble coming in on a harder golf course.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Tiger needs to do what I do on a golf course: hit it and hope. Seriously, though, if he can post a 67, he'll make a bunch of guys sweat down the stretch. I don't see it happening, but Olympic has been known to produce some pretty strange U.S. Open finishes.

Ian O'Connor, ESPNNewYork.com columnist: He needs a 67 and then to hope for a playoff. At some point, Tiger is going to win a major coming from behind, and Olympic has a long history of exactly that.

2. Give us a player not in the top 10 who could be in contention late Sunday.

Michael Collins: Martin Kaymer. He shot 1 under Saturday, and if he keeps playing the way he's playing, he won't be crazy aggressive even if the leaders start backing up. And that's smart.

Bob Harig: Retief Goosen. The two-time U.S. Open champion is five shots back, but he's gotten better each day after an opening 75. He shot 69 on Saturday and needs to go a bit lower Sunday.

Kevin Maguire: Lee Westwood. He's gone 73-72-67 so far this week, and while I don't suspect that trend will continue, it might not have to for him to get his first major victory.

Ian O'Connor: Outside of Tiger, Matt Kuchar, also at plus-4. He's a steady hand at the top of his game and a guy who, as an amateur, played well at Olympic in '98.

3. How crucial will it be to get through the first six holes in the final round relatively unscathed?

Michael Collins: For the leaders, it's not that big a deal if they go 1 or 2 over because they'll have the field in front of them. Now if someone from four or five shots back starts that way, he's done.

Bob Harig: It's been the key to the tournament. Tiger had played those six holes in even par through the first two rounds and was 3 over Saturday. That's a big difference, and while it could be overcome, it made the task that much more difficult. Any of the leaders who gets through those holes even on Sunday might very well win the tournament.

Kevin Maguire: The first six holes will be pivotal Sunday. I suspect they will provide a weeding-out process in which the golfers who make it through there with the fewest blemishes on their cards will have at least a shot to win it on the back nine.

Ian O'Connor: Extremely. A brutal start there will likely wreck the confidence of any contender. Play that first dirty half-dozen in 1 over, and you're on your way.

4. Pick your champion of the 112th U.S. Open and why he will win.

Michael Collins: Nicolas Colsaerts. Just because he's going to be the no-name to take a title from a big name for whom everyone is rooting.

Bob Harig: Graeme McDowell. This spot is eerily similar to his position two years ago at Pebble Beach. He was in the final group there, the golf course was treacherous and he managed to withstand the difficulties of the final day. Aside from Furyk, McDowell has two shots on the rest of the field. He will make it three in a row for Northern Ireland.

Kevin Maguire: Graeme McDowell. Coming down the stretch Sunday, the Northern Irishman will know what to expect in terms of dealing with nerves. Others on the leaderboard have also won majors, but most are nearly a decade removed from those experiences, while McDowell's is still fresh in his mind.

Ian O'Connor: I picked Tiger to win before the tournament and won't let one sour round knock me off it. He's only five shots back, and again, there will be a time when he wins on Sunday by erasing a deficit. Why not now, for major No. 15?