The Open Championship is the most prestigious of the four major golf championships. Not only is it held in the United Kingdom—the land where golf originated from—but it is also the oldest tournament in the world, having been first contested back in 1860.
Muirfield is a course worthy of this history.
Designed by Old Tom Morris and opened in 1891, Muirfield has hosted The Open Championship 15 previous times. The last year the British Open was contested at Muirfield was in 2002, when Ernie Els won the tournament for the first time.
Narrow fairways lined with long, shaggy rough will challenge players to hit accurate tee shots. The course is lined with pot bunkers strategically placed in probable landing spots surrounding fairways and greens.
Furthermore, weather will inevitably be a factor, as Muirfield is located right on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. Strong winds will likely be the normal, and contending players will need to have the chops to deal with the difficult conditions.
The following men have what it takes to master the course, the conditions, their competition and themselves. They will certainly be in contention over the weekend, and nobody should be surprised if one of these three ends up winning the 2013 British Open.
Since Woods injured his elbow during his win at The Players Championship, he just hasn't been sharp on the course. It's understandable, of course, as elbows not only play an important role in a golf swing but are extremely painful to deal with when inflamed.
Some fans look at his poor showings at the Memorial Tournament and U.S. Open as surefire evidence that Woods will never again win another major championship.
Forgive me if I don't jump to such conclusions.
Woods has been resting his sore elbow for nearly a month now, and he's not taking any risks of reinjuring it before the tournament begins. On Sunday, he opted to play just nine holes at Muirfield for his practice round, as noted by Ewan Murray of The Guardian.
When healthy this year, Woods has been unreal on the golf course. Before his recent plummet back down to earth thanks to his balky elbow, he'd won four tournaments and finished in fourth place at the Masters.
Tiger says that his elbow "feels good" heading into the British Open, as noted by Murray, and we should take him at his word.
The biggest reason Woods isn't my pick to win the tournament is that I believe he'll be shaking off a bit of rust after his long layoff.
Rest assured, though, Tiger will be in contention on Sunday.
It's hard to believe Mickelson had never won a tournament in the United Kingdom until this past weekend. His playoff win over Branden Grace at the Scottish Open was his first, as noted by Golf.com's Mike Walker, and I'm betting it won't be his last.
Links courses have given Mickelson fits throughout his career.
He's at his best firing towering shots into greens, which is why he's had the most success in major championships at the Masters. Strong wind and rolling landscapes don't cater to his favored style of play, which is why he's traditionally struggled in the UK.
Lefty showed in improved repertoire of shots at the Scottish Open and proved he's figured out how to win on a links golf course.
In general, Mickelson has been playing phenomenal golf for the past couple of months. Barring a shaky first round at the Greenbrier Classic and a poor showing at The Players Championship, he's been in position to win every tournament he's entered since his disappointment at the Masters in mid-April.
Now, all he has to do is keep his hot play going for another week and he'll win his first British Open.
It seems like no matter what kind of season Els is having on the PGA Tour, he can be counted on to be in contention at The Open Championship.
The two-time champion (2002 and 2012) has logged an impressive 13 top-10 finishes at the British Open and has only missed the cut three times in 22 previous tournaments.
While it's true Els missed the cut in 2010 and 2011 before winning in 2012, he has played well enough in major championships this year to give me confidence his victory last year wasn't a fluke. The South African finished in 13th place at the Masters in April and then finished in fourth place at the 2013 U.S. Open.
Els isn't flashy, but he knows how to get the job done on tough golf courses. He'll certainly be in the mix for the title this weekend.
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