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US Open 2011: Odds, Storylines, Predictions

Round 1 of the toughest challenge in golf, the 2011 U.S. Open golf tournament begins Thursday morning at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, MD. The four-day event will begin at 7 a.m. when the first groups, which feature Dae-Hyun Kim (Korea), Chez Reavie (USA) and Shane Lowry (Ireland) ginning on hole No. 1, and Chad Campbell (USA), Harrison Frazar (USA) and Marcel Turnesa (USA) starting on No. 10.

Phil Mickelson's first-round  tee time is at 1:35 p.m., and his playing partners will be young guns Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland) and Dustin Johnson (USA), who begin on the 10th tee. Defending champion, Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland), begins at 7:55 a.m., and his partners are: Peter Uihlein (USA) and Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa), who start on No. 10. Luke Donald (England and ranked the world's No. 1 golfer), Lee Westwood (England, No. 2), and Martin Kaymer (Germany, No. 3), will tee off on hole No. 10 at 8:06 a.m. Erie Els, who was the winner of the '97 US Open, which was the last time the event was held at Congressional, will tee off at 8:10 a.m. Els will be playing with fan favorites Davis Love III and Jim Furyk, who will start on hole No. 1.

US Open television coverage begins at 10 a.m. on ESPN. At 3 p.m., NBC takes over for a couple hours before ESPN resumes its broadcast from 5-7 p.m. The same TV schedule will take place on Friday.

If you can't watch the event, no worries. SB Nation New York plans on giving frequent updates throughout the day, so please, check back. Not sure what to expect going into the tournament? Well, here's a few storylines to follow throughout the weekend.

US Open betting odds 2011: Luke Donald (England) and Lee Westwood (England) are 12-to-1 favorites.

According to, Donald, the world's No. 1 golfer, and Westwood, ranked No. 2, are the top two favorites at this year's event. Now, that's pretty solid betting odds considering that Phil Mickelson was a 6-1 favorite to win the Masters. Mickelson has 14-1 odds to win at Congressional, while Rory McIlroy is going off at 16-1. The defending champion, Graeme McDowell listed at 45-1, while Erie Els, who was the last player to win a U.S. Open at Congressional (1997), is 66-1.

(Click here for complete odds listings.)

The biggest storyline to look for (that doesn't revolve around Mickelson): Who's going to win their first major?

Out of the last eight U.S. Open championships, only two golfers, Tiger Woods and Retief Goosen, collected their second major title. Last year, McDowell snagged his first crown at Pebble Beach, while the previous year Lucas Glover came out of nowhere to win at Bethpage Black. From '05-'07 first-time major winners were: Michael Campbell ('05), Geoff Ogilvy ('06) and Angel Cabrera ('07). And, let's not forget Rocco Mediate's near miss at beating Tiger Woods in '08.

Recent history shows that come Sunday, a no-name will win America's championship.

Surprising rooting interest: Ty Tryon.

We all know the name and the story of the former teenage prodigy who has now become just another struggling golf pro. Last year, Tryon, who has spent a lot of time on the Nationwide Tour, qualified for the US Open, made the cut but finished way behind the leaders.

This year, Tryon again made the U.S. Open field through a sectional qualifier -- he made six birdies in his last eight holes to shoot 64. What a story it would be if the now 27-year old could find himself near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.

Dark horse: David Toms.

Just over a month ago, Toms missed a heartbreaking "tap-in" putt to lose the Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass. However, the very next week the 44-year old won at The Colonial. Already this year, Toms has collected four top-five finishes and is playing as well as anybody.

If the Louisiana native can keep it in the fairway -- which he does very well (72.33 driving accuracy) -- and make putts (the biggest key for a major championship) then look out.

SB Nation New York's predicted winner: As I mentioned before, the odds makers have the 111th edition of the U.S. Open as a crap shoot. But I have a feeling that if Mickelson can just play above average, this is his tournament to lose. So, with that I am going with "Lefty" to finally snag his first U.S. Open title.

For more information on the US Open check out SB Nation's golf blog Waggle Room,SB Nation DC's US Open storystream and SB Nation's pro golf hub.