British Open Favorites 2013: Showcasing Best Competitors in the Field

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British Open Favorites 2013: Showcasing Best Competitors in the Field
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Two of golf's four major championships have come and gone in 2013, and the eyes of the sport will shift to Scotland this week for the third. 

The 2013 Open Championship (otherwise known as the British Open) will be held at Muirfield Golf Links, marking the 16th time the course will be used to crown a winner of the claret jug. 

Which golfer ranked inside the top five of the World Golf Rankings will post the best finish at the 2013 Open Championship?

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Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo headline the list of former British Open winners who took home the trophy at Muirfield, and Ernie Els has the rare designation of being both the defending champion and last man to win the event at this specific course. 

Looking at the 2013 field, the odds are shaping up to be what many golf fans would expect. Shane Bacon of Yahoo! Sports had a look at the odds when they were released in mid-June, and things have stayed pretty consistent with the initial numbers used to handicap the field for those betting on the tournament. 

As you can see in this Golf Channel collaboration, opinions are mixed about the favorites at this year's Open Championship. 

We'll take a look at the names you should be paying attention to as the focus shifts to Scotland, starting with a glance at the best competitors in the field. 

*For a complete look at other details surrounding the 2013 Open Championship, click here (via TheOpen.com). All odds courtesy Bovada.lv. 

 

Tiger Woods (8-1)

David Cannon/Getty Images

Woods continues to dominate major championship headlines as he searches for the kind of game it's going to take to win major No. 15. 

That being said, his place as the betting favorite shouldn't surprise anyone. 

With the most wins (four) on the PGA Tour in 2013, Woods has shown he's still one of the world's best golfers when healthy and dialed in. He finished fourth at the Masters but limped to a tied-for-32nd finish at the U.S. Open, lending to the idea that the consistency we once saw is still not quite there. 

He hasn't played since the U.S. Open in June and should be well rested. However, an elbow injury is threatening to serve as a crutch if things don't go well at Muirfield. As reported by Golf Channel's Will Gray, Woods doesn't expect the elbow to be a problem, but it's still something to monitor during his first two days in Scotland. 

Is this the week Woods finally breaks through at a major? It's been over five years since Tiger has hoisted one of the four trophies that drive professionals everywhere, and he faces an uphill physical and mental battle to keep climbing toward Nicklaus' 18 major championship victories. 

 

Rory McIlroy (18-1)

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McIlroy has had an up-and-down 2013 season.

He's missed the cut in all three European Tour events he's participated in, most recently at the Irish Open in late June. On the PGA Tour, he hasn't been inside the top 25 at either 2013 major but does have four top-10 finishes.

With 18-1 odds, it's clear there's a lot of faith that his game will turn around soon. Though his 2013 appearances so far have been marginal at best, one would have to think McIlroy turns it around at some point this year. 

As you can see in this Golf Channel Twitter post, some people aren't holding out hope until the Irish star can make some adjustments in his game:

A poor season so far hasn't changed the fact that people still expect McIlroy to compete for his third career major championship win. At this point, it would almost be more shocking to see McIlroy contend than it would be to see him flirt with the cut line. That being said, he certainly has the talent to make good on his early odds. 

 

Adam Scott (18-1)

The 2013 Masters winner is really surging on the PGA Tour. He's finished in the top 10 at five of his last 10 majors, and that includes his first-ever major win at Augusta. 

Scott has unfinished business to conduct with the Open Championship, having led two of the first three rounds in 2012. He took a four-stroke lead into Sunday but shot a disappointing five-over down the stretch to give away what would have been his first claret jug. 

Although he broke through at the Masters, Scott has to feel the sting of his 2012 collapse as he returns to Europe this year. 

Coming off a disappointing showing at the U.S. Open (his worst major to date), Scott will try to exorcise his 2012 Open demons and build off his Masters victory with a strong showing at Muirfield next week. 

 

Justin Rose (18-1)

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The other major championship winner of 2013 is Justin Rose.

Which 2013 major championship winner has the best shot to win the British Open?

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One of the most consistent golfers on the PGA Tour this year, his lowest finish came at Augusta (tied for 25th). He has six top-10 finishes on the PGA and European Tours this year, and his win at Merion at the 2013 U.S. Open was his first career major victory.

As an amateur in 1998, Rose captured a national audience by finishing tied for fourth at the Open Championship. He hasn't had a top-10 finish at the event since then, and he finished tied for 22nd the last time golf's third major was held at Muirfield in 2002. 

Padraig Harrington was the last man to win back-to-back majors (in 2008), and Rose will try to break that five-year streak when he takes to the links in Scotland with an eye toward his second major crown. 

 

Others to Watch

Ernie Els: A two-time British Open winner, Els is both the defending champion and the last man to win at Muirfield (2002). Els finished tied for fourth at the 2013 U.S. Open and is a strong candidate to pace the field in Scotland.

Lee Westwood: Golf's "bridesmaid but never the bride," Westwood has never broken through at a major championship. Since 2008, he's finished in the top five at majors seven different times, including a disappointing runner-up finish at the Open Championship in 2010.

Graeme McDowell: It's hard to peg the 33-year-old Irishman's game right now. He's missed the cut six times on the PGA Tour and European Tour but also has three top-10 finishes to pair with two tournament wins (RBC Heritage and French Open). Which McDowell shows up at Muirfield.

Brandt Snedeker: After flaming out on Sunday at the Masters, Snedeker has missed two cuts and finished tied for 17th at the U.S. Open. He finished tied for third at Royal Latham & St. Annes in 2012 and is still looking to change his career trajectory with a major championship win.

Phil Mickelson: The No. 2 spot at the U.S. Open continues to haunt the lefty, and things won't get any easier at the British Open, as Mickelson has just two top-10 finishes at the event. After finishing tied for second in 2011, he missed the cut in 2012. 

 

Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter. 

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