Tiger Woods is an American professional golfer. He is quite famous. He is not what one would call "bad at life." One might call him successful even. Except in major championships that have begun after June 2008—a flaw he will try to rectify this week in Merseyside as part of the 2014 Open Championship.
And, while you may not have heard about this, there will be other golfers attempting to vie for the same thing. Some American, some not, all at once thankful Woods has returned—his presence will probably increase viewership twofold—and tired of answering questions about "what it all really means."
Luckily, golfers actually stepping to the tees to play the sport they love is less than 24 hours away. The first group, which features American David Duval, will get underway at 1:25 a.m. Eastern. The five-hour time difference leaves American fans on both coasts having to make a choice between precious rest and watching one of golf's premier events.
For example, Woods (4:04 a.m. ET) and McIlroy (4:26 a.m.) will probably be done with their rounds before most have their morning coffee. While the time difference will suss itself out for the contenders over the weekend, it's nonetheless a daunting task to keep up with everything going on.
With that in mind, let's do the only thing we can do before golfers tee off during our slumber: Speculate! Here's a look at the latest Open Championship odds and a quick breakdown of some of the favorites.
The Dude We're All Talking About
Tiger Woods says he feels good. Even after missing the cut at a tournament he's twice won and hosts two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans, Woods says his own personal history of coming back from injury means he's a threat at Royal Liverpool.
"I've proven I can do it," Woods told reporters after his practice round Tuesday. "It's just a matter of putting my game and giving myself the best chances this week to miss the ball in the correct spots, to be aggressive when I can and obviously to hole putts. That's a recipe you find for every major championship, but I've just got to do it this week."
The oddsmakers are certainly giving him a shot. At 16-1, he's still right among the five favorites for the event. Not the favorite as he's so often been, but far closer to the top of the board than any other player would be in his situation. There's an understandable respect that comes with having 14 major championships on your mantle.
Whether it's warranted in this case is another question entirely.
This has been said a half-billion times, but Woods is more than six years removed from winning his 14th major. When he was playing on one leg and battling through injury to win the 2008 U.S. Open, he was 32 years old—near the peak of most golf careers. He had won the 2007 PGA Championship. It was his second major win in three tries, and his sixth in a four-year span.
Two-thousand-and-eight Tiger is not 2014 Tiger. You have access to a calculator on whatever device you're using to read this, so there shouldn't be a need to tell you Woods is now a 38-year-old man. Thirty-eight-year-old men are rarely better at physical activities than they were six years prior. When you're at the pinnacle of your profession like Woods, that's almost never the case.
Woods may have won a major while injured in the past. He's never won a major while injured, while aging and while being more than a half decade removed from a major. I've graduated high school and college and got a job in the time it's taken between Woods' major wins.
He might break the streak this week. I just wouldn't bet on it.
The Other Dude We're All Talking About
Rory McIlroy is, from a pure talent standpoint, the best golfer in the world. Has arguably owned that title for three years now. He's long off the tee, good with his irons and is better than average most rounds with the putter. Driving accuracy is an issue, but it is for plenty of the game's big-distance guys.
For McIlroy, his Achilles' heel has never been his game. It's always been what's going on inside his head. McIlroy would have at least one more major championship (2011 Masters) and maybe more if it weren't for his propensity to implode in one of four rounds. The collapses created something of a domino effect, as McIlroy went from near-misses in majors to going the entire 2013 season without a win on Tour.
His confidence and mental makeup have been called into question numerous times. Before he called off the engagement, his relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki came constantly under fire—some even blaming her for his struggles.
McIlroy's 2014 campaign has been better in some respects. He's earned six top-10 finishes, including a tie for eighth at the Masters. Although he hasn't won on the PGA Tour in 21 months, he did take the European Tour's BMW Championship in May and narrowly missed out on a triumph at the Honda Classic.
It's all promising. And, yet, these bugaboos continue to surface. In last week's Scottish Open, McIlroy played three of the four rounds 14 under. The fourth, his second round, was a seven-over 78 that took him from possible contention to irrelevance. The Friday struggles are not lost on McIlroy, who has admitted his past sometimes comes back to haunt him.
"I just got it into my head," McIlroy told reporters this week. "I may be putting too much pressure on myself, going out on Fridays and trying to back up a (good) score."
Based in large part on his talent advantage over the field, McIlroy is considered the favorite at 10-1. Like Woods, though, we may be putting too much stock into a big name. McIlroy has finished 25th, 60th and was cut in his last three Open Championships. Although he tied for third in 2010, that's his only career top 20 finish across the pond.
I'm in I'll-believe-it-when-I-see-it-for-four-rounds mode.
The Dudes We Should Probably Pay Attention To More Than the Ones We're Blabbering About
Justin Rose (16-1): Rose is the hottest player on the planet. He's won each of his last two tournaments, taking Woods' Quicken Loans National in a playoff and grabbing the Scottish Open by two strokes on Sunday. In Scotland, Rose went in the 60s in every round and pulled away from the field with a 31 on the front nine. If there were ever a time for Rose to break his Open Championship curse—his only top 10 came in 1998 when he was an amateur—it's now. Winning a third straight tournament might be too tall a task, though.
Jordan Spieth (25-1): It's only a matter of time. If there's anything this 2014 PGA Tour season has taught us, it's that. You won't find many people around golf who feel Spieth will fail to win a major within the next two years. The 20-year-old is fifth in the FedEx Cup rankings, has moved into the top 10 in the world and has hung around in each of the year's two major championships. His game, based on above-average distance and beautiful putting, also lends itself well to the Open Championship course style. Strange as it is to say, I have more faith in Spieth sniffing the leaderboard this weekend than Woods or McIlroy.
Adam Scott (14-1): He is the No. 1 player in the world. He has finished 15th or better in nine of his last 10 major appearances. He finally got over the mental hurdle of being the best who has never won one last year at the Masters. He finished second at the 2012 Open Championship and a tie for third last year. Only twice all PGA Tour season long has he finished outside the top 15. Adam Scott is very good at golf, and he's also my pick to win this week. Do with that what you will.
All odds have been provided by OddsShark.com. Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter: