2013 British Open: The Contenders
The Muirfield course is viewed as the fairest among the nine venues now used as part of the Open rota. The usual links bounces are not as abundant, and the layout has two nine-hole loops, meaning numerous different wind directions. There's no doubt that Muirfield will produce a worthy champion; names like Nicklaus, Player, Trevino, Watson, Faldo and Els have all kissed the Claret Jug at the storied links course.
Tiger Woods would like to join that list. He arrived at Muirfield in 2002 holding the first two legs of the Grand Slam before a third-round 81 ended his chances. Perhaps Woods feels that Muirfield owes him one after that brutal encounter with some of the worst weather conditions in major championship history. He calls the British Open his favorite major.
Best British Open finish: 1st (2000, 2005, 2006)
The U.S. Open champion been around long enough to have been part of the conversation at Muirfield 11 years ago, and at Royal Birkdale five years before that. Now that he has that breakthrough major under his belt and his confidence is surging, anything is possible.
Best British Open finish: T4 (1998)
Lefty has a shockingly poor British Open record despite his brilliant, creative short game and his status as the world's best wedge player. But he's come to love links golf, and his win at this past weekend's Scottish Open gives him confidence and momentum.
Best British Open finish: T2 (2011)
Scott had the Claret Jug in his hands until a heartbreaking four-bogey finish at the 2012 Open Championship. His undeniable talent could put him right back in the mix in 2013. If so, we’ll see if there are any lingering demons. After his Augusta breakthrough, that seems unlikely.
Best British Open finish: 2 (2012)
How’s this for feast or famine: McDowell’s last eight appearances on the PGA and European Tours include three wins and five missed cuts (two of which came at The Masters and U.S. Open). Which Graeme will show up at Muirfield?
Best British Open finish: T5 (2012)
Long considered a lock to win a major, the Englishman is running out of chances. The Open is likely the major he covets most. His disappointing season still includes top-15 finishes at both The Masters and U.S. Open.
Best British Open finish: 2 (2010)
McIlroy has not been at his best during Opens, but Muirfield is the most straightforward of any of the links courses on the Open rota and could very well fit into his game. Nevertheless, there are severe red flags. The World No. 2 hasn’t played like it this year, with only four top 10s in 2013, and this week, analyst Johnny Miller had this to say about Rory's relationship with Caroline Wozniacki: "I think he’s in love for the first time. It’s a wonderful feeling, and it’s distracting." We'll see if McIlroy can regain his focus.
Best British Open finish: T3 (2010)
The defending champion provided one of 2012’s biggest thrills with his improbable comeback at Royal Lytham. Open golf clearly suits the Big Easy, who boasts two wins apiece at the U.S. and British Opens. His last two tournaments don't offer much clarity heading into his title defense: a win at the BMW International and a missed cut at the Scottish Open.
Best British Open finish: 1 (2002, 2012)
Snedeker matched the 36-hole scoring record at the 2012 Open, showing an aptitude for Open golf before scuffling through the weekend. His surging confidence could allow him to overcome a few miscues this time. He is putting together an alarming ledger of major disappointments, though, including a final-round falter at this year's Masters.
Best British Open finish: T3 (2012)
We're going to keep beating the drum for this mega-talent until he breaks through at a major. The British may seem an unlikely spot, but Johnson was one loose swing away in 2011, and he posted a top 10 last year. Of course, if Caroline Wozniacki is a distraction to Rory McIlroy, what's Paulina Gretzky?
Best British Open finish: 2 (2011)