As is the case with many walks of life, some golfers only get better with age, entering their prime at a later date to some and posing as much of a challenge to their younger peers than some might believe.
This weekend, the Open Championship will have its fair share of veterans in the field, any of whom could stake a claim for the title on their given day.
Including only players aged 40 or above, one can expect the following names to challenge over the course of the four-day event, should they hit some of their finer form.
This year marks the first occasion that The Open has been played at Muirfield in over a decade.
The last time it was played there? 2002. The victor in that edition of the tournament? Ernie Els.
The four-time major winner makes his return to the links course as the reigning Open Championship champion, having edged Adam Scott in last year’s Lancashire showdown.
Although the 43-year-old missed the cut in last week’s Scottish Open, Els is generally quite accomplished in links golf and is bound to rediscover his relationship with the course at Muirfield.
What’s more, after beating Thomas Bjorn to the BMW Invitational Open last month, the South African has a confidence-boosting win to his name heading into this weekend’s activity—never a bad thing.
Unfortunate not to have a major to his name already in 2013, Angel Cabrera’s loss to Adam Scott at this year’s Augusta Masters will have undoubtedly been difficult for the Argentine to get over in the months since.
However, the South American took just a week to get back to winning ways following that defeat, winning the Abierto del Centro in Cordoba.
Also 43 years of age, the 2009 Masters champion will now look to translate some of his finer form to the Muirfield surface, although it’s debatable as to how he’ll react to links golf.
With just the one win to his name this year—and in his own native Argentina—Cabrera’s opposition to the colder climates may be in contrast to what The Open has to offer, so it’s fortunate the weather is looking up for Muirfield.
One of just a few World of Golf Hall of Famers in the mix this weekend, Fred Couples’ obvious knack for majesty on the course only needs to be stretched out in terms of consistency for the veteran to pose a real threat.
Who will finish highest out of these veteran picks?
At 53 years old, the 1998 Masters remains Couples’ only major, but that’s not for a lack of talent to say the least.
Having not taken part in an Open Championship since 2006, the seasoned pro will now hope to replicate the performance of 2005 when he managed an impressive top-three finish.
As reigning Senior Open champion, Couples already has more dates on his mind for when he defends his title later this month, but he has the potential to head into that campaign as Open champion, too.
The only candidate here without a major to his name, 43-year-old K.J. Choi will seek a major upset at Muirfield, having not done too great in his most recent tournaments, either.
The South Korean tied for 23rd and 33rd, respectively, at Greenbrier and the John Deere Classic earlier this month, meaning a major boost in form is needed in East Lothian if Choi is to succeed.
That being said, he’s done all right in his past two British Opens, coming 44th and 39th in 2011 and 2012, respectively, but really would need a breakout year to threaten seriously, even if he does have the talent to do so.
Choi’s outsider status is confirmed in his bookmakers’ odds, currently being listed by William Hill as a 150-1 shot at winning the tournament.