Sunday's 18 holes of the 2013 Open Championship will see players finally close out their four-round excursion at Muirfield Golf Links, mercifully so for almost the entirety of the field.
The Scottish course has made for some of the most frustrating play in recent Open Championship history. The conditions—ideal for your weekend hacker just trying to go out and get some sun—have made things nearly impossible for players trying to go low and win a major title.
Without humidity and rain, the greens and fairways have browned, making for lightning-fast conditions that send balls skipping up and down the links like they're playing on concrete. Only 12 players were able to go under par during Round 3, and the course has played in a similar fashion on Sunday.
Lee Westwood, the 40-year-old Englishman looking to win his first major title, has navigated the conditions best and is the man to beat Sunday. Westwood stands at three-under after 54 holes, with a two-stroke lead over Tiger Woods and Henrik Stenson, the latter being his playing partner for Sunday.
Masters champion Adam Scott has been quiet through the week, but has been consistently lurking just on the fringes of contention. Scott is even-par through his third-round effort and should again play a major factor—especially if Westwood comes back to the pack a little bit.
Elsewhere on the leaderboard first-round leader Zach Johnson is one-over for the event while Phil Mickelson is five strokes behind at two-over. Johnson and Mickelson, both Masters champions, have unsurprisingly excelled in the fast conditions and are looking for their first Claret Jug.
With the players on the range working out kinks in their game, let's take one last look at the leaderboard and preview the biggest things to watch for in Round 4 action.
Also, be sure to check in periodically throughout the day with the live leaderboard, which will update with all the latest scores.
2013 Open Championship Live Leaderboard
Round 4 Storylines to Watch
Westwood's Quest for History
Doesn't it seem like Westwood should have a major championship already? The Englishman may hold just two PGA Tour wins to his name, but has been a juggernaut on the European Tour for the past decade-and-a-half and is one of the most consistent contenders in golf's biggest events.
A late-bloomer stateside, Westwood's mid-to-late-30s have been filled with close calls. He's finished inside the top three in each of the four major events, including a heartbreaking defeat at the 2010 Masters—the last and only other time he's held a 54-hole lead at a major.
Over the course of his career, Westwood has nine top-five finishes and 11 top-10s, including a brilliant run over the last four PGA Tour seasons. Since 2010, Westwood has seven top-10 finishes and four top-three finishes, working on the precipice of triumph without ever getting quite there.
In fact, Westwood's seven career top-three finishes are the most since the Masters era without coming away victorious, per ESPN's Justin Ray:
Perhaps this Open Championship, the one where everyone seems to be dropping like flies, will finally be the one where Westwood stands tall.
It sure looked that way Saturday. Playing alongside the world's top-ranked golfer, the Westwood-Woods pairing made all others seem inconsequential. Miguel Jimenez and Henrik Stenson may have played in the day's final group, but there was no one at Muirfield who thought for a second that the victor of Westwood vs. Woods wouldn't be the man carrying the 54-hole lead.
Westwood came out on top, thanks to some timely putting and key sand saves that pushed him to a two-hole lead. A 40-foot eagle on the par-five fifth left mouths agape and was arguably the finest putt of the whole weekend considering the circumstances. Westwood supporters would also rightfully point to another par-five, the 17th, where he won two strokes on Woods, ostensibly creating the root cause for his 54-hole lead.
The question is whether Westwood will be able to keep it up. He's struggled in ball-striking this week, hitting 57.1 percent of his fairways and 57.4 percent of his greens in regulation. Those numbers are teetering on the edge of below-average and are the worst of anyone in the top 10. (Phil Mickelson is tied in fairways hit.)
Sand saves and clutch putts have kept Westwood afloat for these first few rounds, but it's hard to see him keeping the lead without a noticeable improvement with his big clubs.
Five Years Later...Does Tiger Woods Still have Major-Championship Fortitude?
There aren't many things left in this world for Tiger Woods to accomplish. He's one of the two or three best golfers in the history of his sport, no matter where you want to rank him on that hierarchy. He's hobnobbed it with Oprah, had his own video game and had more endorsement deals than a NASCAR team. He's made a billion dollars (*cue obligatory The Social Network joke*).
As you're well aware, the one thing Woods hasn't done in his professional life is make a comeback in a major championship. At his peak, there was a thing known as the Tiger Charge, where he'd come roaring (get it?) from behind and capture the lead at a major championship. Those charges, almost uniformly, came on moving day.
According to ESPN's Justin Ray, Woods has entered the final round of a major trailing by one or two strokes six times. He's never broken 70 in any of those outings:
That's not good for those who were hoping to see Woods finally break out of his major tournament slump this week. The 37-year-old Woods was in his early-30s the last time he won one of golf's four biggest events, a 32-year-old married man whose personal life we knew nothing about. He was the cerebral assassin of the course, winning the 2008 U.S. Open essentially on one leg as president George W. Bush enjoyed his final days in office.
Let's just say a lot has happened over these last five years. For one, new prez. So that's always fun. But the part we're focusing on is Woods' majors performance, where he's become a Westwood-like contender, always this close to breaking the slump and never quite doing it.
Can Woods both make his first major comeback and get his first win in a half-decade? Seems like a difficult task.
Here is where you say past performance doesn't always indicate future performance. That tournaments are individual capsules, and applying any of those statistics would be flawed logic at best. You're partially right. But it's also true that the sample size is large enough with Tiger to indicate he likes front-running and intimidating rather than being the one doing the chasing. This Tiger does not like going on the prowl (sorry again).
Under the guise of treating the Open Championship like a confined event, it's perhaps fair to say that Tiger deserves favorite status. The world's top-ranked golfer has played some of his finest major rounds in recent memory considering the conditions at Muirfield. He's eschewed his love of the driver and clubbed down, leading to a 78.6 driving percentage. At one point Saturday Woods was over the 85 percent mark and was the tournament's leader.
Couple that with his excellent putting, most of which was continued to the first two rounds, Woods has played statistically better golf in nearly every facet.
Except the one that matters most. We'll just have to see if the law of averages wins out, or if Tiger will forever wonder about what happened on that fateful 17th hole Saturday.
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