With the third major of the 2013 calendar lying just around the corner, The Open Championship will once again pit the world’s elite against one another at Muirfield Golf Links.
Tiger Woods heads to the Scottish meeting as firm favourite to come out on top in East Lothian but, as always, there’s a stream of other stars itching to stake their claim at the title.
More often than not, the pressure of living up to a “favourite” tag can prove detrimental to the play of many professionals, and Muirfield once again promises to test the resolve of those expected to do well.
With that in mind, read on for predictions of how The Open’s favourites will fare in the British leg of their tour.
Almost six years without winning a major now, Tiger Woods has done terrifically to regain enough faith as to be considered favourite for his coming links outing.
There’s no question regarding the talent in the 37-year-old’s locker; more over the injury to his elbow, which restricted Woods from challenging for the US Open last month.
However, outside of the majors count, Woods has been as busy as any other this calendar year, raking in four victories since January.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the veteran recently commented:
I'm looking forward to it. This is one of the most fantastic championships on one of the best venues. It's playing really fast out there, it has that bit of speed to it. It's playing a little bit slower, I think they may have put a bit of water on it last night, but it is certainly pretty quick. The golf course is set up perfectly and I feel very good about my game going into these championships.
Oddschecker has Woods as 10-1 favourite heading into this tournament almost seven years after the player won his first Claret Jug.
Completely dependent on just which side of Woods will turn up to this competition, one simply can't rule out the legend to pull this one out of the bag as long as those injury hassles remain at bay.
Forever involved in the talk of possible winners heading into almost any major tournament, Phil Mickelson couldn’t be in a more buoyant mood coming to Muirfield.
Having just come off the back of his Scottish Open triumph, the 43-year-old will be in high spirits for the coming examination.
Mickelson was one of only a few real stars who chose to turn up for last weekend’s final qualifier, but practise never hurt anyone and he could be set to reap the benefits.
Numerous professionals struggle to cope with the demands of a links course, simply because it won’t match up to their style.
However, with an extra week’s preparation in the Scottish climate, Mickelson’s confidence is bound to have taken a boost thanks to his decision to play Castle Stuart.
Paddy Power list the American at 18-1 to go ahead and win the whole thing at Muirfield, not that far behind leader Woods.
Judging by some of the shots Mickelson was playing at Castle Stuart last week, he's in just the right kind of form to justify such a high favourite tag, and would be a pick to be in the mix come Sunday.
Victor in the US Open, Justin Rose will seek to join an elite club of golf professionals this weekend as he strives to earn back-to-back majors.
Only a handful of players have ever managed the feat and replicating such an achievement would see the 32-year-old join such hallowed company as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and of course a man whom Rose will be competing against over the next four days, Tiger Woods.
No British player has achieved back-to-back majors since the 19th century when Bob Ferguson was named Champions Golfer of the Year between 1880 and 1882.
As is explained by former British golf great Tony Jacklin in a recent Daily Mail article, home territory will give Rose that extra confidence in going about his attempts, but won’t count for too much among such lauded talent.
All that said, back-to-back wins just aren't that easy to come by and it's debatable as to whether Rose has the type of top class consistency needed to not just challenge for honours, but to also go out there and win them.
For the first two rounds of The Open, at least, Graeme McDowell has been paired with tournament favourite, Tiger Woods, and will look to inconspicuously impress alongside such evident talent.
The Northern Irishman currently stands at World No.6, but is considered joint-fourth favourite to win with most bookies, currently being priced with Adam Scott as 25-1.
Instead of competing at the Scottish Open last week, McDowell was victorious elsewhere, emerging with the win at the Alstom Open de France.
McDowell has just the one major to his name, having come out on top of the 2012 US open, and will be looking to prove some doubters wrong after missing the cut at his last two major tournaments.
According to Oddschecker, most bookmakers have "GMac" priced between evens and 11-10 to make the cut at the halfway stage this time around.
While his 2010 US Open triumph really did put McDowell on the world's map, Muirfield could be a little out of McDowell's depth at the moment and the Claret Jug a little too far out of his grasp.
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