Who is favored to take home the vaunted Claret Jug?
The early odds are in and the usual suspects reign as favorites to win The British Open at Scotland’s Muirfield Country Club the weekend of July 18-21.
But, the odds don’t always tell the story.
Adam Scott’s nerves got the better of him last year, giving up a seven shot lead that ultimately led to a second Open Championship win for Ernie Els who was a 30-to-1 shot.
Playing the 7,200 yard Muirfield will require the ability to gauge wind-fraught distances, fight off adverse weather conditions and hang tough against a field of the best golf has to offer.
The only sure bet is that the winner of the Claret Jug will have earned his keep.
Here’s a look at the favorites.
Odds courtesy of Bovada.
Here we go again.
As Tiger continues his quest for major No. 15, the questions persist. How will his elbow hold up? Will he regain the form that brought him four wins this year? Can he shrug off poor showings at his last two appearances?
Tiger has three Open Championship wins under his big white belt, so he knows how to manage the diversities of a links course set against the sea.
His performance stats, including being first in scoring average and second in total putting, coupled with his desire to win that coveted next major, set him apart from the field.
Ranked second in the world, yet seemingly at odds with his overall play, Rory will have to make quite a turnaround if he is to live up to his somewhat inflated position.
Yes, he has finished in the top 10 four times this year, but has imploded at the majors.
Young Rory has a lot to overcome, including his most recent childish act of club-bending at the U.S. Open.
Moreover, his stats have slipped along with his performance this year, and he is now ranked 23 in overall scoring average.
As the winner of the U.S. Open in 2011 and the PGA Championship last year, Rory certainly will go on to win more majors.
But, he remains a bit of a wildcard and would definitely surprise the world with a win in Scotland.
Adam Scott could have forever been known as that handsome Australian who gave up a seven shot lead at the British Open never to be seen at the top of a major again.
Instead, Scott steadied his belly putter and went out and won the Masters.
Scott should be a favorite to win at Muirfield. Despite a mediocre performance at the U.S. Open where he finished tied for 45, Scott has put together a stellar year that includes four top 10s.
He continues to drive the ball long and straight and is considered one of golf’s best ball strikers.
Currently ranked fourth in the world, he has faced what could have been a career-ending event and overcome it.
Scott could gain further redemption with a win at the British Open.
The bloom is on the Rose.
Coming off his first major win at the U.S. Open, Justin Rose is playing some of the best golf in the world right now.
This is really not a surprise, as the 32-year-old Englishman has been one of the most consistent performers on the tour for many years. For those who watched Rose at the Open, he maintained a remarkably cool demeanor while shooting picture perfect par golf, as his competition fell by the wayside.
That kind of straight shooting will benefit him at Muirfield, where he will look to master the wind, rain and any other British-style conditions thrown at him.
Rose currently ranks in the top 10 in greens in regulation and driving accuracy.
Don’t bet against another great performance.
Perhaps no one, other than Tiger, would love to hold the Claret Jug more than Lee Westwood.
He has yet to win a coveted major but has come so close so many times, placing second at the Masters and the British Open in 2010 and third twice at the U.S. Open and once at the PGA Championship.
Other than a dismal finish at the Travelers Championship last week where he placed 74, he has actually had a pretty good year that includes four top 10 finishes in a row. One of those was a tie for eighth at the Masters.
Perhaps an indication of playing issues he may be having is his ranking of 127 in total putting. The 40-year-old Englishman is also being continually outdriven by his younger peers.
The former No. 1 ranked player has 22 wins on the European tour, so he may be more at home at Muirfield, which could give himself a chance at his first major win.
You would think that Luke Donald is better than a 20-to-1 shot.
The one time No. 1 player in the world and the only golfer to have won the money title on both the PGA tour and the European tour in the same year, Donald remains one of the golf’s biggest stars.
Donald was ranked second in the world at the beginning of the year and is now seventh. But that is not necessarily a sign of indolence or disrepair.
Although he petered out at the U.S. Open, finishing in a tie for eighth, he has made 16 cuts in a row and is seemingly in the running in every tournament he enters.
Donald's desire to win a major is no secret, and he has worked diligently to improve his already mighty game. Once an inconsistent putter, he has improved tremendously and is now listed as fourth in total putting.
He has finished fifth twice at the Open Championship in 2009 and 2012 and deserves to be one of the highly favored players at Muirfield.
Don’t be too quick to write off Phil Mickelson at Muirfield.
Think back just a week or so when he ruled the field going into the final round of the U.S. Open. If not for a couple of quick doubles, he would be holding a fifth major championship in his hall of fame hands.
Mickelson was seemingly born to play on the big stage. In addition to his five wins, he has placed second at the U.S. Open six notorious times and second at the British Open in 2011.
His go-for-it mentality may not line up at a British Open style course where management and caution are often a key to winning. Laying up may be a four letter word to Mickelson, but he did show constraint at Merion where he didn’t even bring a driver to the course.
Mickelson needs a nice bounce back from his shell-shocked performance at Merion.
If he can bring the same kind of strategic thinking to Scotland, he will remain one of the odds-on favorites.
Amidst all of the craziness surrounding Sergio and Tiger and just plain old Sergio-style course meltdowns, we tend to forget what a great golfer he is.
So far this year, he has finished in the top 20 of seven out of nine PGA tournaments and is currently ranked fifth in scoring average.
Sergio is another top golfer without a major, and, if he can put his personal baggage behind him, he is a good bet to be in the running for the Claret Jug.
That may be a pretty big “if” especially if Tiger is anywhere near him.
What are we to make of Graeme McDowell?
One of the most consistent players on the tour, he is always a threat to win. After winning the U.S. Open in 2010, he tied for second in 2012 at Pebble Beach.
This year he won the RBC Heritage, his first win since the Open. While he has four top 10 finishes this year, he also missed the cut at his last two events, including the Open at Merion where he was one of the favorites.
What does that mean for his chances at the upcoming British Open?
It all depends on which McDowell shows up and whether he can harness the course management skills that have worked so well in his favor in the past.
Ernie Els gets no respect.
As a 33-to-1 shot, the winner of last year’s British Open winner is either a victim of age discrimination or just bad odds-making.
He should be more like a 10-to-1 shot.
Why, just in the last few weeks he has won the BMW International Open in Munich and finished in a tie for fourth at the U.S. Open after a rousing, last day 69. At one point at Merion, it looked like the 44-year-old with the smoothest swing in golf would actually win the thing.
Els continues to resurrect himself on the golf course, defying Father Time by driving the ball better, scrambling better and putting better than most of the players 15 years young than him.
By the way, Els also won the last time the tournament was played at Muirfield in 2002.
Els has shown himself to be a money player when the big tournaments are on the line.
Brandt Snedeker, Charl Schwartzel, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen and Padraig Harrington are all listed at 33-to-1 shots.
Of the group, Day, with his tie for second place at the U.S. Open and his third place finish at the Masters, seems to be the player with the greatest upside at Muirfield.
2011 Masters Champ Schwartzel is another international player who has the game to compete at the highest level. Before he shot a 78 on the last day of the U.S. Open, Schwartzel looked like he was marching to his second major win.
Consider two-time British Open winner Harrington a dark horse despite his obvious great history in the event. He has had a relatively uneventful 2013 season but remains one of those players never to overlook.
American players, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler are all 40-to-1 picks but each has been playing extremely well on the American circuit this year, and none should be counted out to win his first major event.