It's finally that time of year. Every golf fan will have his alarm set entirely too early from Thursday through Sunday to watch the game's best battle at the 2014 British Open.
Royal Liverpool plays host to past champions such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson along with several blooming stars hoping to win their first. That next tier includes the likes of Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth, each of whom comes in with great odds to win the tournament.
In a loaded field of golfers, several other players also have a chance to step up and take the Claret Jug. But with Woods returning to the course, fans can expect all of the buzz to surround the 14-time major winner.
Before play gets underway at Royal Liverpool, here's a look at the odds for the top players and betting tips ahead of the 2014 British Open.
Of the top names on the list, the most enticing might be Woods.
While the three-time British Open champion hasn't taken the title since 2006, that tournament was held at Hoylake. Woods won that tournament with a final score of 18-under, mastering the course and running away from the field.
Though he hasn't quite shown that same dominance in recent years, he put on a great performance at last year's British Open. ESPN Stats & Info notes just how close he came to earning the title in 2013:
In his elusive chase to surpass Jack Nicklaus for major wins, Woods has come up drastically short several times in recent years. But maybe returning to a course he has blistered in the past will make a difference for the 38-year-old.
For anyone planning on betting on Woods, one comparison to keep in mind is where Nicklaus was heading into the Open at 38, provided by Golf Central:
Then there's McIlroy, who is apparently working to mimic what Woods did back in 2006. The Northern Irish golfer has tweaked a few things about his game to provide improved results at Royal Liverpool.
Who will win the 2014 British Open?
One of those changes was leaving behind his 5-iron in favor of a 2-iron, as he told Mark Tallentire of The Guardian.
"I'll use it on the first two holes definitely," McIlroy said. "It will be an important club, I might use it four or five times in the round. I'll probably use it just as much as I use the driver."
Ditching the club might have a lot to do with the weather at the challenging course. With the Hoylake wind likely playing a huge factor, it's anyone's guess how McIlroy will actually play when the tournament gets underway.
The 25-year-old shared his thoughts on tournaments decided by weather conditions during the final press conference of the 2011 British Open:
Yeah, I'm not a fan of golf tournaments that the outcome is predicted so much by the weather. It's not my sort of golf. ... My game is suited for basically every golf course and most conditions, but these conditions I just don't enjoy playing in really. That's the bottom line. I'd rather play when it's 80 degrees and sunny and not much wind.
Well, wouldn't we all just love that. Though he hasn't clinched a major this year, McIlroy might be worth the risk depending on the conditions at Royal Liverpool.
For bettors looking to play it safe, competitors such as Scott, Justin Rose and maybe even defending champion Mickelson look like great choices. As for some slightly further down the list, Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar might be in line for their first major title.
Regardless of whom bettors go with, the 2014 British Open will be an intriguing one for every golf fan. Be sure to set the alarm for early enough each day to catch all the action, as it all tees off on Thursday at 6:25 a.m. BST (1:25 a.m. ET) from Royal Liverpool.
Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.