The Claret Jug will be up for grabs this week at Muirfield, and it’ll be interesting to see if one of the top contenders is able to capture it come Sunday afternoon.
Winning a major tournament can do wonders for a golfer’s legacy, and having the opportunity to walk around with this for an entire year probably isn’t too bad either (h/t the official Twitter account for The Open Championship):
So, which of the top-ranked players in the world should you keep an eye on throughout this week and weekend in Scotland?
Here’s a prediction of where some of the biggest names in golf will finish in The Open Championship, with analysis on how they’ve done at the tournament in the past and what needs to happen in order for them to win.
Rory McIlroy has won two of the four major championships in his career, but he’s never had the chance to hoist the Claret Jug. Since finishing third at St. Andrews back in 2010, it’s been downhill ever since at The Open Championship. In 2011, he tied for 25th place. Last year, McIlroy finished in a tie for 60th.
While McIlroy hasn’t been cut from any of the PGA events he’s played in this year, he's missed three cuts in his last three tournaments on the European Tour, including the Irish Open just under three weeks ago. Since finishing in the top 10 at The Players Championship back in May, he’s yet to place in the top 40 at an official PGA Tour event. That includes the U.S. Open, where he was 14 over through four rounds.
In order to win his third major, Rory has to be better on par threes (93rd on Tour) and fives (71st). He’s the ninth-best on the tour at making birdie or better on par fours. He only makes birdie or better on par threes 12.88 percent of the time and 41.8 percent of the time on par fives. Making birdies on those holes are his key to victory this week.
Prediction: 15th Place
Aside from getting cut at The Players, Justin Rose has had a near-perfect season. He won the U.S. Open a few weeks ago and has five top-10 finishes. He’s also finished in the top 25 of every event that he wasn’t cut at. He shot six under and finished in a tie for 13th place at the Travelers Championship, his most recent PGA Tour event.
You have to go back quite a few years to find the last time Rose played very well at The Open Championship. For those who don’t remember, Rose hit about a 50-yard shot from the rough on the last hole to finish tied for fourth in 1998 when he was 17 years old. He’s been cut from the championship in two of the last three years.
While Rose has been successful in 2013, he has to capitalize on the shorter holes. He has only made birdie or better on par threes 9.56 percent of the time, which is the 172nd best on the PGA Tour. He’s the best on par fives, though, as he makes birdie or better on 57.14 percent of the holes. It’s the short ones that kill him.
Prediction: Ninth Place
Graeme McDowell has been nonexistent at major tournaments this season. That’s surprising considering how well he played at the four tournaments in 2012. Last year, he finished in the top five twice and in the top 12 all four times. In 2013, he’s failed to play the weekend at the Masters and the U.S. Open.
In fact, McDowell hasn’t made the cut at any PGA Tour even since the RBC Heritage in late April, which he won in a playoff. Early in the season, it appeared that it would be a good year for the Northern Ireland native. He placed in the top 10 in four of the first six events he played in 2013. Since, it’s been a disaster for McDowell.
The 2010 U.S. Open champion placed tied for fifth last year at The Open Championship, a year after getting cut. His biggest problem this season has been hitting greens. He ranks 151st on the PGA Tour in GIR percentage at 62.5 percent. If you don’t hit the green, it’s tough to make birdies. Without those, it’s tough to win.
Prediction: Third Place
Stats via PGATour.com.