British Open 2013: Recent Major Winners in Striking Distance Heading into Day 3

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IJuly 20, 2013

MAYNOOTH, IRELAND - JUNE 26:  Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland smiles during the pro-am prior to the start of the Irish Open at Carton House Golf Club on June 26, 2013 in Maynooth, Ireland.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The 2013 British Open will continue on Saturday with third-round action from Muirfield in East Lothian, Scotland. Tiger Woods headlines a handful of notable contenders who are still in the mix heading into the weekend's final rounds.

But while Tiger is a 14-time major champion and the odds-on favorite to claim the Claret Jug for a fourth time, it's been more than five years since he's stood atop golf's highest mountain, winning his last major at the 2008 U.S. Open.

So, what about those who have delivered?

Let's take a look at where some of the recent major winners stand heading into the weekend at Muirfield, highlighting a trio within striking distance with 36 holes left to play.

 

Adam Scott (+1)

Reigning Masters champion Adam Scott may not be playing his best golf heading into the weekend at Muirfield, but he still finds himself just four strokes off the lead heading into Saturday's third round.

Scott birdied just one hole during Friday's second round but showed tremendous patience and composure throughout, getting into the clubhouse at one-over for the round to stay within reach.

But it's impossible to talk about Scott and not mention his epic collapse at Royal Lytham last year. The 33-year-old Aussie shot a five-over 75 in the final round last summer, effectively handing the title to Ernie Els, who displayed nerves of steel down the stretch as Scott faded. 

Can Scott, a major champion this time around, withstand the pressure on top of challenging course conditions, or will the British Open swallow him up again in 2013?

 

Darren Clarke (+1)

Not many casual golf fans remember Darren Clarke winning the Open Championship in 2011 at Royal St. George's. But it happened.

Two years later, the 44-year-old is right behind the leaders heading into the final two rounds. A bit of a shocking fact considering Clarke shot a quadruple bogey on No. 6 on Friday, erasing a strong start that featured three straight birdies.

Although Clarke was sitting pretty at four-under heading into the third round when he won in 2011, Muirfield is a much different course and is proving awfully tough this summer.

The good news for the 2011 Claret Jug winner is that he's only a couple of good breaks away from being in position to threaten for the lead.

 

Charl Schwartzel (+1)

2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel has never finished better than tied for ninth at the British Open, but after shooting a three-under 68 in the second round, he's just four strokes off the pace through 36 holes.

A year ago, Schwartzel missed the cut after shooting a second-round 75 at Royal Lytham. So the fact that he's tied for 11th and locked into the weekend is phenomenal news for him and his confidence.

If he can continue to avoid the huge mistakes and costly double bogeys that put him in a big hole in the first round, he'll be in contention on Sunday.

Something to keep in mind heading into the weekend: Two of the past three British Open champions (Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen) hail from South Africa. If he could pull it off on Sunday, Schwartzel would become the third South African winner in the past four years.

 

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