US Open 2012: Previewing The Field At The Olympic Club

The 112th United States Open will get underway on Thursday morning at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, California, as dozens of the world's top golfers prepare for one of the most difficult challenges in the sport.

The par-70 Lakes course at Olympic Club most recently hosted a US Open back in 1998 when Lee Janzen edged Payne Stewart down the stretch, and is shaping up to be one of the most difficult major layouts in recent memory. In the marquee group for the first two days of action, Memorial champion Tiger Woods will be joined by 2012 Masters champ Bubba Watson and longtime nemesis Phil Mickelson in a group that will remain a fixture on television broadcasts.

Last year's champion, Rory McIlroy, will start his week at 1:29 pm ET on Thursday in a group that includes Lee Westwood and Luke Donald. McIlroy won the 2011 crown by a whopping eight strokes strokes over Jason Day at Maryland's Congressional Country Club in blowout fashion, and was powered by an opening round 65 that put him atop the field.

Minnesota's own Tim Herron will also be hoping to play well into the weekend, and has been paired with fellow US golfer Joe Ogilvie and Canada's Stephen Ames for the first two rounds. Herron, who finished a career-best sixth place at the '99 Open at Pinehurst No. 2, will tee off at 7:44 am ET on Thursday starting on the ninth tee.

For more 2012 US Open coverage, stay with SB Nation Minnesota's StoryStream. For more golf news and analysis, head over to SB Nation's golf hub.

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