In any ordinary year, the U.S. Amateur is already among the most difficult tournaments to predict a winner. Try identifying one golfer from the 312-player field you know with all certainty won't have a rough nine-hole stretch in stroke-play qualifying that keeps them from advancing to match play and then won't get squeezed by the (un)luck of the draw and face a series of college All-Americans in the opening round. You'll have better luck predicting which middle school kid is going to win the National Spelling Bee.
Making the 2010 edition of the USGA's oldest championship even more cumbersome to forecast is this year's venue. Chamber Bay's reputation proceeds it—the municipal facility outside Tacoma, Wash., has been deemed worthy enough to be trusted with holding the U.S. Open in five years—but just how it will perform when hosting its first significant national event remains to be seen. Smart money suggests players with imagination and creativity to manage their way around the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design as if they were playing a links course on the British Isles will have the best chance at success.
With that, here are five golfers to keep an eye on as the competition begins in earnest tomorrow. Additionally, check out a video on how Chambers Bay, which could play as long a 7,742 yards, might fare conducted by Golf World contributor Thomas Dunne.
The Stanford junior carries the most momentum into the event, having won the Porter Cup and Western Amateur less than a month ago. Aside from being a impressive match-play performer, the 20-year-old from Fayetteville, N.C., also knows the rigors of getting through a match-play bracket at a USGA event, having reached the final of the U.S. Junior in 2004.
[__2. Peter Uihlein
](http://www.okstate.com/sports/m-golf/mtt/uihlein_peter00.html)Back in 2007, the then accomplished junior golfer choose to play in the AJGA's Canon Cup at The Honors Course in Tennessee because he knew it was going to host the 2010 NCAA Championship when he was in college and he wanted to gain some local knowledge. In the same vein, the Oklahoma State junior entered the field at the Sahalee Players Championship outside Seattle last month because the event was going to be played on The Home Course, where the second stroke-play qualifying round for the Amateur will be contested. Additionally, when he was in the area he played two rounds at Chambers Bay, doing some early scouting in hopes of getting farther in the Amateur than a year ago, when he lost in the quarterfinals.
The 21-year-old from Augusta, Ga., is a dogged match-play competitor, having gotten to the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur in 2008 at Pinehurst No. 2 and having won all three contests at the NCAA Championship last spring (including a victory over Uihlein) when Augusta State claimed the national title. If he gets into the 64-player bracket, he can survive a tough draw or dominate an easy one.
[__4. Andrew Putnam
](http://www.pepperdinesports.com/sports/m-golf/mtt/putnam_andrew00.html)The Tacoma-area native's home course is The Home Course so the 21-year-old Pepperdine senior will have the shortest commute of any player in the field. Local knowledge might give Putnam an edge over many opponents. The question will be whether the U.S. Open qualifier feels any extra pressure to perform well in front of friends and family.
[__5. Blayne Barber
](http://auburntigers.cstv.com/sports/m-golf/mtt/barber_blayne00.html)Having had to sit out the past college season while transferring from UCF to Auburn, the 20-year-old played in seemingly every amateur event in 2010 to keep his game sharp. The results have been impressive as Barber has finished in the top-five at the Jones Cup, Southern Amateur and Players Amateur and in the top-11 at the Azalea and Dogwood. He also got to the third round of the North & South and the Sweet 16 at the Western Amateur.