The 2013 British Open is approaching its conclusion on Sunday, and as the final groups prepare to go off, it's worth monitoring their progress early on.
Lee Westwood held sole possession of the 54-hole lead at three under-par—two shots better than Tiger Woods and Round 4 playing partner Hunter Mahan. The final pair of competitors in Westwood and Mahan are both gunning for their first major titles, while Woods is looking for No. 15.
Several other top stars are in proximity to the lead, as well as some wild cards who are difficult to judge despite their talent.
Below is a live updated leaderboard, along with more detailed analysis on some of the marquee golfers, which will be made current as the action progresses over the final 18 holes at Muirfield Golf Links.
Note: Statistics are courtesy of PGATour.com and EuropeanTour.com. British Open information was obtained from the official website. Tournament history can be located at the Official World Golf Ranking.
Phil Mickelson (+2)
Mickelson hasn't been firing on all cylinders yet at Muirfield, so he could be due for a spectacular Sunday round.
He is in the fifth-to-last pairing with Francesco Molinari, which may wind up working out perfectly.
"Lefty's" short-game prowess is unmatched and will come in handy under the Sunday pressure of a major, where he has thrived on four prior occasions.
In addition, his experience and recent affinity for links golf bode well for his chances at a first Claret Jug, which would put him just one elusive U.S. Open away from the career Grand Slam.
Ironically, the only other time Westwood held a 54-hole lead was at the 2010 Masters, when Mickelson shot 67 to Westwood's 71 to win by three strokes.
Adam Scott (E)
Collapsing at the Open in 2012 hardened Scott and molded him into a major champion at The Masters this season.
Now that he has that experience under his belt, he's striding in pursuit of the trophy that eluded him approximately 52 weeks ago.
He has always had the talent to win multiple majors but could never consistently stay competitive in golf's biggest events. That has changed as he's entered the prime of his career, and with his swing and recent breakthrough, there's no telling what his ceiling is.
The fact that he's paired with Woods on Sunday should make things interesting. His caddie is Steve Williams, who used to caddie for the world No. 1.
It isn't the first time Woods and Williams have been in the same grouping, but the stakes have never been this high. The calm Scott won't do anything to spark the fire, and the Aussie should be all business as he chases his second major of the year.
Tiger Woods (-1)
It's now been more than five years—at the 2008 U.S. Open—since Woods last experienced the joy of a major championship victory.
He has putted brilliantly and is showing no ill effects from the elbow injury that caused him to have a mini-slump and sit out of competition since the U.S. Open.
Although the end of his third-round 72 featured a couple of disappointing scores on the closing holes, he is still only two strokes behind. He's never won a major from behind but has had 14 comeback triumphs in regular PGA Tour events, as Justin Ray of ESPN observes:
His strategy this week of hitting irons off most tees has him tied for second in fairways hit and is reminiscent of the tactics that won him his last Claret Jug at Hoylake in 2006.
As long as Woods can continue to keep it in play, he will have a chance.
Lee Westwood (-3)
It would be devastating to see Westwood lose yet another major well within his grasp, but this is the best shot he's ever had.
With the way majors are trending this year, as highlighted by Shane Bacon of Yahoo!, it seems anything is possible:
Westwood's phenomenal work with the putter has him first in the field in one-putts, and he's needed just 26 total putts in each of the past two rounds. That helped him match Woods shot-for-shot on Saturday—and he even outscored him with a one-under 70.
The 40-year-old Englishman has consulted with 1991 Open champion Ian Baker-Finch for help on the piece of his game that he's struggled with most in his career. It's working wonders.
With slightly better play from tee to green and sustained greatness with the putter, it could be Westwood's overdue crowning in a major.
Jason Day (+3)
Day is a bit of a dicey proposition not only for his standing on the leaderboard but the fact that he seems to show up only in majors.
To be fair, he's only 25 years old and seems to only be knocking on the door of his upside as a pro. That's still been good enough for four top-three finishes in majors in his young career.
Day owns a third at The Masters and a joint runner-up finish with Mickelson at the U.S. Open in 2013. What is incredible is that he's won just one PGA Tour event.
Some players seem to love the big moment. When the stakes are highest, Day rises to the occasion. Nevertheless, he would need a grand effort to raise golf's oldest major championship trophy.
But for what it's worth, Ernie Els was last year's victor and started the final round six strokes off the lead—exactly where Day currently stands.
Henrik Stenson (+1)
The strong Swede has always been a bit of an enigma, fluctuating through ups and downs and never quite capitalizing on his gifts.
That may be the storyline that emerges from his British Open if he doesn't wind up winning it.
Stenson leads his fellow competitors in fairways hit at an 83.33 percent clip while tying the 19-year-old prodigy for the lead in greens in regulation percentage at 77.78.
Putting numbers will dip when ball-striking numbers are that strong, because it's too difficult to hit it close to the pin with how fast and dry Muirfield is right now.
Having said that, Stenson has to hole more putts than he has been to have a chance at his first major. He has the skills, but the resolve hasn't been quite good enough in the past for a win.
Angel Cabrera (+1)
Speaking of players like Day who seem to only show up at majors, that's precisely the perception of Cabrera, who lost to Scott in The Masters playoff.
Jason Sobel of Golf Channel poked fun at Cabrera for this tendency:
Had he won at Augusta National for a second time, it would have been the Argentine's third major title. In that case, he would have to be considered for the World Golf Hall of Fame if he hadn't been already.
The same goes for Sunday if he's able to walk away with the hardware, and it's definitely within reach.
When he got his initial major at the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 2007, he began the last round four strokes off the lead of Aaron Baddeley.
Cabrera seems oblivious to the bright lights and the big stage, so it would not be much of a surprise to close observers of the game if he pulled it off again.
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