Golf has never been a sport where identifying the winner comes as an easy process. Given the right conditions, a sudden burst of form with the right blend of confidence and assurance can rocket any player up a leaderboard and into contention for the trophy.
This is further emphasised at majors, where six of the previous nine winners have been first timers and, in recent years, the favourites have often struggled.
As attention turns to the 2013 Open Championship, which of those slightly less favoured names could be making an impact at Muirfield this week?
Using Skybet and including only those with odds of 50-to-1 and higher, here’s a look at a few contenders.
Padraig Harrington: 50-1
After landing a trio of major titles between 2007 and 2008, many expected Padraig Harrington to be a dominant force for years to come. However, his consistency deserted him over the following seasons and he’s yet to find the form needed to land another major.
Harrington’s recent progress hasn't been anything spectacular leading up to this tournament, but he’s come close at Muirfield before. Eleven years ago a bogey on the final hole saw him miss out on a playoff by one shot.
The Irishman recently recalled that performance for the Scotsman.com, saying:
It was a strange week for me because I never hit the ball as well continually tee-to-green, but I had an awful time around and on the greens.
British and Irish sport has been riding a huge wave of momentum in recent weeks, with Justin Rose, Andy Murray, the English cricket team and the British and Irish Lions all victorious in their respective disciplines. The likes of Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy are more likely candidates to continue this trend, but if Harrington finds some form, he has the experience, mentality and game needed to prosper.
Thomas Aiken: 200-1
Thomas Aiken is a far more unheralded choice to be a relevant factor this week, but there are certainly signs he could grab a few headlines at Muirfield.
The 29-year-old South African is yet to make a name for himself in America but has saved his best form for the Open, twice claiming a top-10 finish.
The first came in 2009, while he was again impressive last year, finishing tied for seventh.
Two of the past three Open winners have been South African and Aiken referred to this in a recent interview with SportingLife.com, also stating how contending for a major is the next step for him:
Yes definitely. I think what a lot of players do to their own detriment is put too much pressure on themselves in the majors. Yes, sure, they're the four biggest tournaments in the world and the ones that mean the most, but in the end they're still just golf tournaments
Aiken’s form has been patchy of late, somewhat lengthening his odds. However, if he can recapture the confidence that saw him romp home at the 2013 Avantha Masters, he could well enter the reckoning at some stage this week.
Thomas Bjorn: 55-1
Despite not claiming a win in 2013, Thomas Bjorn comes into this tournament in fine form, twice finishing second at both the BMW International Open and the Lyoness Open.
The Dane also boasts two further top-10 finishes this year and has been desperately unlucky not to land the Open on a couple of occasions during his career.
Since competing in his first way back in 1996, Bjorn has accumulated five top-10 finishes and has been runner up twice.
One of his top-10 finishes was at Muirfield back in 2002, so he will know his game stands up well to the course. If Bjorn—who had his place confirmed last week—can maintain his current form, he may just get a chance to finally land that elusive major.