There are several intriguing questions as the year's second major starts Pebble Beach on Thursday, but no questions are more central to this championship than the ones hanging over the game's top two players.
Phil Mickelson has never won a U.S. Open but has finished second five times. Is he fated to end his career without the trophy, as Sam Snead did? Does Mickelson lack some secret combination of fortitude and self-restraint? And will he ever take over Tiger's No. 1 ranking?
More vexing still: Where is the Tiger Woods who dominated the game like none other in 2000? Every so often, as he did with a stinger 2-iron during Wednesdayâ€™s practice round, he resurfaces, reminding us of that magical year when he won the U.S. Open at Pebble by 15 shots, but what a difference a decade makes.
Other questions: Can a Euro win for the first time since Tony Jacklin in 1970? Can a player in his 20s prevail, as has happened 10 times on Tour already this season?
Can 60-year-old Tom Watson, the only man in the field to have played all four previous Opens at Pebble, get in the hunt to win, as he did at Turnberry last year at the British Open? He famously chipped in on 17 to win here in '82, and he could do well again if he can tame Pebble's brawny, 502-yard, par-4 second hole, one of the only holes that will require much length this week.
And if you need help catching up on where things stand going into the U.S. Open and what to expect, check out Golf.com's preview of the championship.