All of this helps to add a palpable sense of urgency to the 2013 British Open.
It should be a fabulous tournament, as the best players on the planet head to East Lothian, Scotland, for some links golf that will entertain us Americans over our morning crumpets.
Check out all the viewing vitals, and then I'll break down the chances of the above mentioned headliners.
When: July 18-21
Where: Muirfield Golf Links in Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland
TV and Live Stream Schedule
All Times ET. Live stream mirrors the TV schedule and can be found at WatchESPN.
Rounds 1 and 2: ESPN from 4 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Round 3: ESPN from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Round 4: ESPN from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tiger Woods enters this tournament with zero momentum. He has been suffering from an elbow injury that kept him out of action since he tied for 32nd at the U.S. Open. Also, at his start prior to the U.S. Open, he finished 65th at the Memorial.
Despite this, he is still the overwhelming favorite on every place posting odds (like Bovada) that I've seen.
There is, of course, good reason for this. He's Tiger Woods! Even beyond that, though, Woods was in amazing form prior to the Memorial, as he had won three of his past four PGA starts.
Woods has won the British three times. In 2002, the last time the Open was held at Muirfield, Woods finished 28th, but that is a little misleading. He was derailed when he fired an 81 while playing in the insanely difficult conditions Saturday afternoon.
Given his long layoff, it is hard to know what to expect from Woods. However, I certainly wouldn't put it past him that he would come out and dominate...as long as his elbow holds up.
There was a time not all that long ago when I wouldn't bother considering Mickelson for the British Open. His high-lofted game found him getting destroyed in the winds, which always play a factor in this event.
However, those days are a thing of the past. The stubborn Mickelson has finally made adjustments that allow for him to shine on links courses.
Mickelson did not crack the top 10 in the British Open until 2004. He hasn't been a consistent factor at this event since his breakthrough, and he even missed the cut last year, but he was runner-up to Darren Clarke in 2011.
More notable than any of that for this tournament, however, is the fact that Lefty is playing tremendously right now. He was runner-up at the U.S. Open, and he showed his developed acumen for links golf by winning last week's Scottish Open, which was aided by the masterful chip captured in a vine by CBS' Kyle Porter:
Mickelson was 66th at the 2002 Open at Muirfield, but that should hold little bearing on his chances this week due to the above mentioned evolution of his game.
There is a lot to like about Lefty's chances this week.
McIlroy needs a quick turnaround, or he can go ahead and chalk 2013 up as a lost season. The 24-year-old is still looking for his first win of the year.
McIlroy started off the year terribly but looked like he had turned the corner. When he tied for eighth at the Players Championship, he had four straight top-25 finishes that included a second at the Texas Open.
Things have landed back on the wrong track for McIlroy since. He missed the cut at the BMW PGA Championship, tied for 57th at Memorial, tied for 41st at U.S. Open and missed the cut at Irish Open in his last start.
On top of his bad recent form, McIlroy's game is not well suited for the links. Like Mickelson, he is a very high-lofted player, and he struggles when conditions are poor.
He was 60th in the Open last year and 25th the year before that.
Still, he was third in 2010, so it's not like he is completely inept on the links. Also, McIlroy has the uncanny ability to reverse bad form at any given moment.
There is very little to suggest that McIlroy will succeed at this tournament, but those are the kinds of conditions that can fuel this phenom to new heights.
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