British Open Golf Field 2013: Golfers to Watch on Day 1

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2013

British Open Golf Field 2013: Golfers to Watch on Day 1

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    We are not going to let our head get way out over our skis.

    There is little doubt that getting off to a good start is usually important in any major tournament. However, you can't win a major on the first day of competition.

    Can you lose it? Almost certainly. A brutal start can take the heart out of most of the top pro golfers, knowing that there are problems with their game and that they have a a long way to go to catch up.

    A great start, on the other hand, will give a golfer the confidence that he can contend and stay with the leaders.

    Here's our take on the players to look at on Day 1 of the British Open.

    (Tee times listed in the following slides are all Eastern Time.)

10. Keegan Bradley

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    Tee Time: 4:22 a.m. (with Billy Horschel and Ian Poulter)

    Why You Need to Watch: Keegan Bradley is a big hitter, and if he can keep it straight, he has a chance to put his imprint on this tournament. Bradley is an emotional player, so getting out of the first round with his confidence intact is critical to his chances to contend for his second major. He won the PGA Championship in 2011.

    What Makes Thursday a Success: Bradley needs to play a solid round and demonstrate that he can contend with adversity. How will he respond to a double bogey or consecutive bogeys in the early part of the round? He needs to stay calm and not let the bad shots linger.

    Prediction: Bradley does not have to come out of the gate sizzling. If he can come home with an even-par round of 70, he should feel good about himself and have the confidence to jump into contention in Round 2.

9. Justin Rose

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    Tee Time: 4:11 a.m. (with Ernie Els and Brandt Snedeker)

    Why You Need to Watch: Justin Rose has a chance to join golf's elite players by winning the British Open after winning the U.S. Open last month. Rose is one of the most accurate hitters on the tour, as he finds the fairway on 68.07 percent of his drives. His accuracy will play a key role on a links course like Muirfield.

    What Makes Thursday a Success: Rose has shown the ability to win on the biggest stage, so he doesn't have to race out to a huge lead on the first day of the British Open in order to contend. If Rose is within four strokes of the lead, he will be in good shape for the remainder of the tournament.

    Prediction: Look for Bradley to get off to a fairly even-keel start with a round of 71 on Thursday.

8. Dustin Johnson

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    Tee Time: 3:44 a.m. (with Bubba Watson and Nicolas Colsaerts)

    Why You Need to Watch: Dustin Johnson is a huge hitter who loves to go for it and regularly eschews a cautious game. That's the kind of game plan that can get a golfer in trouble on a links course that requires accuracy. However, Johnson has proven he can play well in the British Open, finishing tied for ninth last year and tied for second two years ago.

    What Makes Thursday a Success: Johnson has been struggling in his recent efforts. He tied for 55th in the U.S. Open, withdrew after one round at the Players Championship and failed to make the cut at the Memorial. If he can have a steady round on Thursday and keep from going on a bogey-fest, Johnson should be ready for another strong showing in the British Open

    Prediction: Johnson has had surprising success in the last two British Opens, so look for him to find his game and shoot a one-over 71 on the first day of the tournament.

7. Graeme McDowell

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    Tee Time: 9:45 a.m. (with Tiger Woods and Louis Oosthuizen)

    Why You Need to Watch: It has been the most inconsistent of years for Graeme McDowell. In his last four tournaments, McDowell failed to make the cut in three of them and won the fourth, the RBC Heritage Open. McDowell wants to set the tone early with a good start, because he knows that if he makes the cut, there's an excellent chance he'll contend during the weekend.

    What Makes Thursday a Success: McDowell has one of the best swings in the game, but he has clearly had his ups and downs this year. He'd like to eliminate any doubt that he won't be around for all 72 holes by firing an under-par round and announcing his presence.

    Prediction: Look for McDowell to thrive at Muirfield and fire a two-under 68 in the opening round.

6. Brandt Snedeker

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    Tee Time: 4:11 a.m. (with Justin Rose and Ernie Els)

    Why You Need to Watch: Brandt Snedeker is on the cusp of greatness. If he can win the British Open and take his first major championship, he will smash down the door. Snedeker has been close in majors before, including leading the British Open last year after two rounds. He also has a win, two seconds and a third-place finish this year and nearly $3.7 million in earnings.

    What Makes Thursday a Success: Snedeker's test will come later in the tournament. There's no reason to think that Snedeker won't be strong early on. He needs to break par on Thursday.

    Prediction: Snedeker has the kind of game that should hold up well at Muirfield. He may have problems holding it together mentally later in the tournament, but he'll shoot a 69 on Thursday.

5. Phil Mickelson

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    Tee Time: 4:44 a.m. (with Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama)

    Why You Need to Watch: Prior to last week, there was little in Phil Mickelson's resume that would lead anyone to think that he had more than a puncher's chance at Muirfield. However, he broke a trend by winning the Scottish Open, his first European triumph in 20 years. Mickelson should be playing with full confidence, and he certainly has all the shots needed to make a run at the title.

    What Makes Thursday a Success: Mickelson can be up one minute and down the next. He doesn't always sustain momentum the way a player with his arsenal of shots is expected. Mickelson just needs to keep the ball in the fairway and avoid disaster if he is going to have a chance to win his first British Open.

    Prediction: Look for Mickelson to have a wild round with five birdies and four bogeys. A one-under 69 will put him in a position to assert himself.

4. Adam Scott

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    Tee Time: 9:12 a.m. (with Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald)

    Why You Need to Watch: Adam Scott had the biggest moment of his career earlier this year when he won the Masters in a playoff over Angel Cabrera. However, a year ago, Scott led the British Open by four strokes with four holes to play and let that lead get away, blowing the tournament in ignominious fashion. He wants to make amends at Muirfield.

    "This really has been the tournament I've been looking forward to most this year," Scott told Reuters in an interview published in the New York Times.

    What Makes Thursday a Success: Scott should be in good shape in the early going. The pressure won't be on him until later in the tournament. Finishing the round within five shots of the leader and playing steady golf would be a satisfactory way for Scott to start the tournament.

    Prediction: The charismatic Scott should attract plenty of attention during the opening round. Look for him to shoot an even-par round of 70 on the first day of competition at Muirfield.

3. Ernie Els

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    Tee Time: 4:11 a.m. (with Justin Rose and Brandt Snedeker)

    Why You Need to Watch: Ernie Els is a two-time winner of the British Open, and he took home the Claret Jug last year. He is a formidable player who has a chance to do it again. Els had a solid showing at the U.S. Open when he tied for fourth place and followed that with a win at Munich on the European Tour. When Ernie starts rolling his putts with confidence, he is difficult to beat.

    What Makes Thursday a Success: This veteran star has been through it all and should be in an excellent state of mind for the tournament. As long as he doesn't blow up in the opening round, he should be in position to make a move over the weekend. Els should play well at Muirfield, his favorite course.

    Prediction: Look for Els to announce his presence early in the tournament. A 68 in the first round is certainly within range for him.

2. Rory McIlroy

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    Tee Time: 4:44 a.m. (with Hideki Matsuyama and Phil Mickelson)

    Why You Need to Watch: A year after rising to No. 1 in the world, McIlroy has slumped badly, and it's difficult to believe that he will come out of it at Muirfield. He won four tournaments a year ago, but his best finish this year was a second-place finish prior to the Masters. McIlroy was questioned by Nick Faldo for not giving his game full concentration, and he responded with criticisms of his own for Faldo. If he has a bad hole or two, he may have a difficult time putting those problems in the past.

    What Makes Thursday a Success: McIlroy needs to string four good rounds together. He was the up-and-coming superstar in the sport, but he has faltered this season. If he can break par, it will be a good round for McIlroy.

    Prediction: Look for McIlroy to get off to a good start on the front nine, but he will struggle on the back nine and shoot a one-over 71 in the first round.

1. Tiger Woods

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    Tee Time: 9:45 a.m. (with Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen)

    Why You Need to Watch: How could you not watch? Love him or hate him, everybody wants to know how Tiger Woods is doing and whether he is in contention or not. Many want to see the best player in the world come into form at the oldest major, while others revel in his failures. When Woods is on top of his game, he is the best player in the world. While he has won four tournaments this year but has not won a major in five years. There's a lot of pressure on him to pick up his chase of Jack Nicklaus (18 major championships) by winning at Muirfield. A victory would provide him with his 15th major title.

    What Makes Thursday a Success: Woods has been at his best as a front-runner. If he can get the lead early in the tournament, he tends to play his best golf. A rough start may be difficult to overcome. Woods also needs to show that the left elbow problems he had earlier are no longer an issue.

    Prediction: If Woods is healthy and playing in favorable conditions, look for him to come out of the gate with an impressive 68 on Thursday.