On Thursday, the world’s top golfers will tee off at Muirfield with dreams of hoisting the claret jug Sunday evening as the winner of the 142nd Open Championship.
There are plenty of intriguing storylines leading up to this week’s event: Will Tiger end his major drought? Can Justin Rose make it two in a row? Can Ernie Els go back-to-back at the Open and at Muirfield after winning there in 2002? Will Phil Mickelson break through in the major tournament in which he has struggled the most?
With so much hype surrounding Muirfield and its would-be tamers, it’s hard for regular betting Joes to know where to put their money down.
That’s where we come in.
Here’s a look at the good, the bad and the sleepers for the 142nd Open Championship:
Note: All odds courtesy of Bodog
World ranking: No. 3
Justin Rose is the definition of consistency. The Englishman played it smart at the U.S. Open, coming away with his first major title while other golfers were swallowed up by Merion.
The 32-year-old has six top-10 finishes on the PGA and European Tours this season, missing the cut only once. Rose finished fourth as an amateur at the Open in 1998, but he hasn’t made the top-10 since. If Rose remains calm, cool and collected at Muirfield, he’s got a great shot.
World ranking: No. 4
After his epic collapse at the Open last year, Scott bounced back in a way nobody thought he could. The Aussie captured his first major this past April at the Masters, beating Angel Cabrera in a playoff, but that won’t stop Scott from looking to get redemption at The Open.
The No. 4 player in the world is one of the best ball strikers on tour and, despite his disappointing showing at Merion, has a great chance of becoming just the ninth golfer to win the Masters and the Open in the same season.
World ranking: No. 13
Els continues to fly under the radar despite playing better than most of the youngsters on tour this season. The defending champion won his first Open at Muirfield in 2002 and he can never be counted out.
Els finished tied for fourth at the U.S. Open following a strong round on Sunday and went on to win the BMW International Open in Munich last month. The South African always seems to be in the running at the Open and, at 28/1, is a great bet to repeat.
World ranking: No. 1
Due to an elbow strain, Woods hasn’t played since tying for 32nd at the U.S. Open but the world’s No. 1 golfer says he’s good to go. Woods has the most PGA Tour wins this season (four), but has struggled mightily in his last two outings.
The 37-year-old hasn’t won a major since 2008 and he also has 2002 working against him; the three-time Open champion shot a career-worst 10-over-par 81 in the third round at Muirfield, albeit in horrible weather conditions, 11 years ago, ending his chances at a Grand Slam.
Tigers’ recent struggles and his history at Muirfield make a bet on Tiger one to avoid.
World ranking: No. 2
If Justin Rose is the definition of consistentcy, McIlroy is the complete opposite.
Ranked No. 2 behind Tiger, the Northern Ireland native’s best finish this season was runner-up at the Texas Open. Despite the fact McIlroy has four top-10 finishes, the 24-year-old has not played well in major tournaments in 2013, tying for 25th and 41st in the Masters and U.S. Open, respectively.
Add in that McIlroy is still adjusting to new equipment, in the process of changing management and a third major for the young golfer doesn’t look good, at least this week. Keep your money away from McIlroy.
World ranking: No. 5
Undoubtedly still stinging from his crushing loss at Merion, Lefty ended his 20-year drought in Europe with his playoff victory at the Scottish Open this past Sunday and will now look to keep the run overseas going.
But a strong showing at the Scottish Open usually doesn’t bode well for the 43-year-old.
Phil Mickelson opens with 66 at Scottish. Not harbinger though for @The_Open – 3 top-20's at Scottish, didn't follow any w/ top-10 at Open.
— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) July 11, 2013
While Mickelson has finished second twice at the Open (2011, 2004), his aggressive style doesn’t transfer well onto a links course such as Muirfield.
Unless Mickelson decides to leave his driver at home, it’s best to stay away from him.
World ranking: No. 7
Which Graeme McDowell will show up at this Open Championship?
If McDowell is on his game at Muirfield he could do some major damage. The Northern Irishman has one PGA Tour win this season, at the RBC Heritage Open, and two wins on the European Tour.
However, the 33-year-old has missed six cuts, including at the year’s first two major tournaments.
If the 2010 U.S. Open champion can keep it together in Scotland, he’ll be near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.
World ranking: No. 17
Jason Day has had a major championship within his grasp too many times in his young career to ignore him. The 25-year-old has finished in the top-three four times in majors since 2011.
But Day’s performances at golf’s oldest major have been underwhelming. The 33-year-old has played in two Open Championships, in 2010 and 2011, finishing tied for 60th and 30th, respectively. He skipped last year’s Open for the birth of his son, Dash.
However, the Aussie has come excruciatingly close to winning his first major in 2013 at both the Masters (3rd) and the U.S. Open (T-2nd) and seems destined to end get his second PGA Tour win.
If Day is in the running on Sunday and can keep his composure down the stretch, he’s a good bet to win it all.
World ranking: No. 6
Matt Kuchar has had a spectacular season on the PGA Tour in 2013.
The 35-year-old has made the cut in all 15 tournaments he’s played, including six top-10 finishes, a second-place finish at Colonial and two wins, including the Memorial last month.
Kuchar seems primed for a major victory. Since 2010, he’s had five top-10 finishes in major tournaments, including tied for eighth at the Masters and ninth at the Open last year.
Kuchar is a great bet to capture his first major.
World ranking: No. 25
Matteo Manassero may have a chance to overshadow Jordan Spieth’s performance this past weekend at the John Deere Classic.
Although the 20-year-old missed the cut at both the Masters and the U.S. Open earlier this year, the Italian was the low amateur at the Open in 2009, finishing just four shots out of a playoff.
Manassero has won four times in his first four seasons on the European Tour, including the BMW PGA Championship in May, and at 20 would become the youngest winner of the Open since Young Tom Morris in 1870.
Manassero’s excellent short game could propel him, and those who put their money on him, to glory at Muirfield.