The 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club features a deep and talented pool of players that could produce a winner from almost anywhere. Not surprisingly, the British Open odds reflect precisely that.
Rory McIlroy enters the tournament as the de facto favorite, but he is far from a sure thing. Much of the field is bunched up in terms of betting odds, which makes predicting a winner an extremely difficult exercise. The Open Championship is always volatile based on the weather and course layout as well, so there are plenty of factors to consider.
Contenders to Watch
Perhaps no player on tour is more talented than McIlroy, so it comes as little surprise that the 25-year-old Northern Irish star enters The Open Championship as the No. 1 guy in terms of betting odds. With that said, McIlroy has yet to win a British Open, and his inconsistent play over the course of the season makes him a risky selection.
McIlroy has one victory between the PGA and European Tours this year, although he has knocked on the door several times. His Achilles' heel has been his inability to back up spectacular first rounds with strong second rounds. That was the case once again in last week's Scottish Open as he shot seven under par to start the tournament only to wipe it out with a seven-over par second round.
Even McIlroy himself has admitted that the second-round struggles are starting to mess with his psyche, according to Chris Cutmore of the Daily Mail.
I'd like to stop it this week. It's got into my head and I've been going out on Friday trying to back up my score. ... I've got to go out and pretend it's a Thursday again. I don't know. I've got to go out and play, play a few solid holes and get the round underway. Hopefully this week I can turn around that second round thing.
Odds-on favorites generally have a bit more confidence than that, so it's fair to call McIlroy's status in that regard tenuous at best. It's tough to say how he'll perform from one tournament to the next, though, so perhaps he'll be able to put four excellent rounds together.
McIlroy has a game plan in mind and it focuses largely on taking advantage of the birdie opportunities presented by par-five holes, per NBC Golf Central:
Rory McIlroy was great @The_Open as usual. Says par 5s will be key this week at Hoylake, and he'll hit 2-iron four or five times a round.— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) July 15, 2014
If McIlroy is able to capitalize, then he has a real chance to come out on top. If his second-round woes return, however, there may be more disappointment.
It has been six years since he last won a major and eight years since he last took The Open Championship, but Tiger Woods is still considered to be among the top contenders this week at Royal Liverpool. That is partially due to the fact that Woods conquered this course in 2006 and won his third career British Open title in the process.
Woods hasn't played much this season due to a back injury, and few expected him to be back in time for this tournament. Tiger's recovery was rapid, though, and he has put himself in position to potentially vie for an Open Championship crown. It may be difficult to believe that he is in top form right now, but Woods claims that he is feeling great, per ESPN.com's Bob Harig.
I'm not favoring anything. The little baby steps worked. We were very diligent about what I was doing. Going into it we pushed it pretty hard to get my abs and glutes strong so when I did come back I was able to rebound fast. I can do whatever I want. I'm at that point now. We didn't think we'd get to that point until this tournament or the week after. ... Before I had the procedure, I was at the point I couldn't do anything. This is how I used to feel. I had been playing with (the back injury) for a while and I had my good weeks and bad weeks. Now they are all good.
That doesn't necessarily guarantee that Woods will have success, but feeling good physically is half the battle with him. Knowing that he hasn't won a major in eight years is a mental hurdle he must clear, and he has to overcome a deep and talented field as well.
Woods may very well be at 16-1 odds due largely to his name and past accomplishments, but he knows how to win at this course and may thrive while facing less pressure than usual on the heels of a significant injury.
Who is most likely to win the 2014 Open Championship?
After winning The Open Championship for the first time last year, one might think that Phil Mickelson would top the field in terms of betting odds. That isn't the case, though, as Lefty sits behind McIlroy, Woods and several others in that regard.
Mickelson is a hot-and-cold player who is better than anyone in the world when he is on his game, but there are times when his streakiness gets the best of him. The best version of Mickelson showed up during the final round of last year's Open Championship, and many are hopeful that he will be able to pull off a repeat performance.
Count Mickelson among them, as winning the British Open is something that he cherishes a great deal, according to The Open on Twitter:
Unfortunately for Mickelson, the 2014 season hasn't been among his best. He has yet to win a tournament and has missed four cuts. Mickelson is capable of turning it on out of nowhere and dominating the competition, but it is difficult to predict when or if he will find that form.
Based on the fact that he is an all-time great and now knows how to win this tournament, Lefty may not be a bad bet at 20-1. He has a penchant for performing at his best when the chips are stacked against him, so don't be surprised if Mickelson turns in a virtuoso performance despite his uneven form this year.
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