Tiger Woods gets in a practice round at Muirfield Sunday morning.
It may be the most unpredictable week in golf.
The Open Championship, this year at historic Muirfield Golf Club, can usually be counted on to create some wild and wacky golf.
Links golf courses, flighty conditions in the British Isles and the pressure of competing in the world’s oldest championship all contribute to the great atmosphere that always surrounds the event.
Here’s a list of 10 guys who are in the mix of favorites/contenders.
You can be sure they’ll contribute in some way to the wackiness that will ensue starting Thursday.
Nicolas Colsaerts is a man capable of making a lot of noise this week.
In a season dominated by a great deal of mediocrity, Nicolas Colsaerts finished in a tie for 10th at the U.S. Open. He came into the PGA Tour season with a great deal of hype, much of which came from his spectacular performance in the Ryder Cup last year.
He’s the longest driver on the PGA Tour, but he doesn’t hit fairways nearly enough and has putted badly for most of the year.
He’s the kind of guy who can make some noise for a stretch of the tournament but may not be consistent enough to finish it off.
Matt Kuchar missed the cut in his last outing.
Here's a guy who, just over a month ago, was the hottest player on the PGA Tour when he finished second in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and won the Memorial.
Matt Kuchar has only played once since then, finishing in a tie for 28th at the U.S. Open.
He did tie for eighth at the Masters, giving some validation to the thought that he’s ready to win a major.
He tied for ninth last year in the Open, his first top-10.
Graeme McDowell has won a major title and would love to add an Open title.
The little man from Northern Island has had a really strange season on the PGA Tour.
Graeme McDowell has played in nine events, made five cuts and missed four.
He has five top-10s, including a playoff win in the RBC Heritage.
But he’s missed his past two cuts: the Players Championship and the U.S. Open.
On the European Tour, he’s won twice but also had a tie for 96th in the BMW PGA Championship.
He’s proved that he knows how to win in the big events and should be in the mix for most of the Open.
Henrik Stenson had a real chance to win the Scottish Open Sunday.
Henrik Stenson hasn’t done much recently on the PGA Tour, but he comes to Muirfield on a run of five straight top-25s, including Sunday’s tie for third in the Scottish Open.
His mental state will be the key for him as he tries to recover from the three bogeys he made in the last six holes Sunday, taking him out of contention.
He’s a strong player and was playing strongly until the middle of the back nine.
Definitely a contender, but I don’t think he’ll be a factor on the back nine this Sunday.
Ernie Els will be the defending champion this week.
Very few people thought Ernie Els would be the guy holding up the Claret Jug in last year’s Open Championship.
The same sentiment would be appropriate this year, and the best guess would be Els would need some help from his friends to be a winner again.
But give the veteran credit—his last event was the U.S. Open, where he finished tied for fourth.
In a bit of a quirky thing, Els is a defending champion of sorts, having won the Open the last time it was played there 16 years ago.
Could this be the week for Brandt Snedeker?
Everything points to Brandt Snedeker being on the verge of being the next first-timer to win a major championship.
The Tour Championship last fall and a remarkable start to this season seem to have him fueled for that next big step.
Coming into this week, he finished in a tie for 17th at the U.S. Open and a tie for eighth at the National AT&T.
This is a guy who should be in contention all week and right in the mix come Sunday afternoon.
Adam Scott will be one to keep an eye on this week.
The defending Masters champion is coming off ties for 45th and 37th in his past two starts, hardly qualifying as brimming with confidence.
But nobody will be more motivated this week than Adam Scott.
A year after having the Open Championship slip through his hands with four holes to play, the Australian would like nothing more than to get into contention again and take advantage of the experience he had at Augusta National to get the Open Championship.
Tiger Woods faces the media prior to the National AT&T.
If he’s not the biggest question mark in the field, he’s on the short list.
That will include keeping the ball on those rock-hard fairways, relying on his pet 3-wood stinger and getting comfortable with the speed of the greens early in the week.
It’s been over five years now since Woods has won a major, and the pressure is building as he hangs onto that dream of surpassing Jack Nicklaus and his 18 majors on the all-time list.
Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Scottish Open.
Realize the magnitude of the risk involved in being so impressed by a Phil Mickelson performance that you leap on his bandwagon, but it sure feels like the right thing to do.
For a man who has had very spotty results on the other side of the ocean, Mickelson played Castle Stuart very well for most of four days.
He’ll be required to make all of those shots and a few more this week at Muirfield Golf Club.
He was amazing this week. Can he be two weeks in a row?
Unlikely, but the same could have been said of him playing as well as he did and winning the Scottish Open.
Justin Rose takes the U.S. Open trophy home.
If ever there was a course for a horse, Muirfield is the one for Justin Rose.
The course that lists a couple of handfuls of Hall of Famers among its champions requires great accuracy off the tee—a premier aspect of Rose’s game.
He’s one of the best driving the ball, ranked 27th on the PGA Tour in distance off the tee (296.8) and 12th in driving accuracy (68.07 of fairways hit).
Can he win consecutive majors?
It hasn’t been done since Padraig Harrington won the Open Championship and the PGA Championship in 2008.