STORY LINES

1. Chambers Bay stars: Utterly "unique" venue was purpose-built to host U.S. Open but breaks the mold as a true links course with a variety of features never before seen in this event.

2. The New Order: No. 1 Rory McIlroy, new Masters champion Jordan Spieth and the emerging young guns on the PGA Tour have the driving distance and the physical stamina this Open demands.

3. Grumpy Old Tiger and Phil: The two biggest stars of the past 20 years each have struggled to control their drivers and gain consistency with their swing mechanics and feel the pressure of time slipping away.

4. Foreign Takeover: Eight of the past 11 U.S. Open champions have been non-Americans, including defending champ Martin Kaymer of Germany, and the links setup favors a continuation of that trend.

5. The Unseen Hand of Mike Davis: Player after player has pointed to USGA executive director Mike Davis, who is in charge of course setup, as the most important factor in determining how the Open will play out.

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BEST PLAYERS WITHOUT A MAJOR

1. Henrik Stenson: The Swedish star has Players and Tour Championship but heads a group without a major currently sixth to 10th in world rankings.

2. Dustin Johnson: Coming off rehab break, Johnson has a win and a playoff loss, and he lost 2010 PGA playoff at Whistling Straits, a similar venue.

3. Sergio Garcia: At 35, he's still waiting for the breakthrough, and links setup combined with his strong approach putting offers a good opportunity.

4. Rickie Fowler: Broke through for second win at the Players last month with stirring, go-for-broke late charge to win in playoff that is suited to links golf.

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5. Jason Day: One of the PGA Tour's big bombers, he can carry drives 300 yards when needed and has proven U.S. Open temperament.

DARKHORSES

1. Jimmy Walker: Five PGA Tour wins in past two years say he's no dark horse, but Walker hasn't made a big impact in majors -- yet.

2. Brooks Koepka: Big hitter claimed his first PGA Tour win at Phoenix this year and comes in hot after third-place tie at Memphis.

3. Patrick Reed: Ryder Cupper won Tournament of Champions in January and has experience at Chambers Bay in 2010 U.S. Amateur.

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4. Branden Grace: South African is not a big bomber, but he's won twice on the European PGA Tour this year and has shot-making skills.

5. Charley Hoffman: In November, Hoffman won a PGA Tour event in Mayakoba, Mexico and he has been in top 20 six of past eight events.

CHAMBERS BAY CHATTER

1. Jason Day: "I wouldn't be surprised if a bunch of European Tour players that have played a lot of British golf are at the top of the leader board, but I still think a long player is going to win."

2. Jordan Spieth: "Given here and Whistling Straits, they're going to play different than typical U.S. Opens and PGA Championships, being on linksy courses. You almost have three [British] Open Championships."

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3. Rory McIlroy: "A place like this can separate the field a lot. This golf course, if you're just slightly off, it'll magnify that. But it will really reward people hitting good shots and their short games are sharp."

4. Graeme McDowell: "The average player can probably have a putter in his hand up to 40 times around this course because you're putting from long range a lot. It's very hard to get your iron shots close."

5. Phil Mickelson: "We were involved in the bidding process [to design Chambers Bay], but it wouldn't have turned out anything like this, no . . . It's a wonderful course, but my vision was totally different."

TV (all times Eastern)

Thursday, Friday: FS1, noon; Ch. 5, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Sunday: Ch. 5, 2 p.m.