ESPN.com picks the U.S. Open winner

Who will win the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club on Sunday?

ESPN.com's crack staff of columnists, analysts and reporters have their picks for the top three finishers.

Follow along during Sunday's final round to see how the selections play out.

There's the feel-good stories and there's reality. The feel good story would be for Steve Stricker to beat Phil Mickelson by making birdies on the final three holes and crying more than Lee Janzen and Bubba Watson combined. All while Billy Horschel primal screams his way into a tie for second with Phil by making a 25-footer on 18 to save par.

Michael Collins Collins

Now for reality.

Phil will come down the stretch with a chance to win the U.S. Open and on the 18th tee he'll reach in his bag and the driver won't be there. He'll hit that 2-wood into the fairway and win his first U.S. Open on his birthday, Father's Day, the wife and kids will all run over and they'll cry together. Still a pretty good ending, right?

As far as the bridesmaids? Charl Schwartzel finishes in second with an even-par round of 70. The South African has a green jacket, and the experience of pressure on the back nine on Sunday won't faze him. He reminds me of Retief Goosen when his putter gets hot, and has a very similar demeanor.

Stricker finishes third as his steady consistent play is really good, but not offensive enough to win this major in crunch time. If not for the double-bogey on the 9th hole Saturday, he'd be the leader starting the final round. I will say this: If he makes it to the 10th tee and has a one-shot lead ... see the first paragraph for how it will end.

-- Michael Collins

Phil Mickelson has accomplished just about everything in golf, except winning the U.S. Open. Five second-place finishes in the championship have done little to tarnish his desire to win one of the game's most coveted titles.

Farrell Evans Evans

This is his time. He's owed this one. There might not be many more opportunities for him to contend at the Open. His hair is growing gray around the temples.

Mickelson will win his first U.S. Open on Sunday, but not without a fight from Jason Day and Hunter Mahan.

Three shots back, Day has work to do to catch Mickelson, but his 68 in the third round that included five birdies indicates that he can handle Merion at its toughest.

In 2011 at Congressional, Day finished second at the Open behind Rory McIlroy. The 25-year-old Australian will make a surge up the leaderboard to grab another second this week.

And Mahan will play better than anyone from tee to green on Sunday, but it won't be enough to pass Mickelson and Day.

-- Farrell Evans

If nothing else, Phil Mickelson has a good bit of karma working for him at the U.S. Open.

Bob Harig Harig

That whole thing with his daughter, Amanda, being born the day after his near-miss at Pinehurst in 1999, then Phil jetting back to Southern California for her eighth-grade graduation earlier this week ... and then leading the U.S. Open three days later?

That is too hard to ignore.

So is Mickelson's rather impressive ball striking, his course management and overall solid play for three days. Had he had a few more putts drop, Mickelson could have a four- or five-shot lead.

What about the major championship pressure? Sure, that's a factor, but no less for anyone chasing. Only one other player in the top 14 -- Charl Schwartzel -- has a major championship to his name. Phil has four, and has dealt with plenty of pressure in his career.

Who could beat him? Steve Stricker is certainly a nice sentimental choice, a guy who decided to stay home more with his family this year, cutting back his schedule but still playing some of his best golf. At age 46, he'd be the game's oldest first-time major winner.

For someone to come out of the pack, Jason Day would be the choice. He is three back after an impressive 68, the lowest of the third round. Day has plenty of game, if not the victories to show for it. But a win for Day keeps the Aussie Slam intact.

-- Bob Harig

Some things in sports seem meant to be, and let's face it, Phil Mickelson has already suffered enough at the U.S. Open.

Ian O'Connor O'Connor

His 72nd-hole flameout at Winged Foot in 2006 represented enough misery to last a lifetime, never mind his other four runner-up finishes in this tournament. The New Yorkers in attendance (New Yorkers adore Phil, son of San Diego, for reasons never fully explained) hadn't been so depressed since an avid golfer named John Starks went 2-for-18 in Game 7 of the '94 Finals.

Mickelson has been the steadiest player at Merion all week, and there's no reason why he won't be that same guy Sunday, his 43rd birthday. He's won a major since Winged Foot (the 2010 Masters), and he appears to be at peace with his standing in Tiger Woods' sport, with his choice to skip practice for his daughter's eighth-grade graduation, with his choice to play the first round of the Open on a few hours' sleep, with his everything, really. Phil will be the last father standing on Father's Day.

Charl Schwartzel is a player who intrigues my 17-year-old son, who often wonders what happened to the "es" at the end of his given name. But recently my son said, "Charl must be pretty good, because he's always around that leaderboard." Yes, Charl is pretty good. Schwartzel will be the player who pushes Mickelson the most before settling for second place. Jason Day, who has three top-threes in majors since the start of 2011, will take the bronze.

-- Ian O'Connor

Eight players are within four shots of the 54-hole lead, so anything is possible. But the most possible is Phil Mickelson winning -- finally -- a U.S. Open.

Gene Wojciechowski Wojciechowski

The law of Lefty Averages has to take over at some point, right? I mean, how many times can you finish second in this thing without walking away with the trophy?

Mickelson has finished second in the U.S. Opens five times. But clearly he really likes this Merion course and has said so repeatedly. And what better way to celebrate his 43rd birthday and Father's Day than with his fifth majors victory. Nothing against those other eight players in the rearview mirror, but I like Phil's experience and his disposition.

I think it's a bake-off for second between Justin Rose and Luke Donald. I'd have no problem with Steve "Savage" Stricker winning, either, but even he says Merion's longer holes leave him with almost no margin of error. So Rose and Donald, both of whom are searching for their first-ever majors win, will tag team the second and third spots on the leaderboard.

-- Gene Wojciechowski

Here's a voter-by-voter breakdown of the results:

The Big Three

ESPN.com writers Michael Collins, Farrell Evans, Bob Harig, Ian O'Connor and Gene Wojciechowski give their predictions for the top-three finishers in the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.