2013 Open: Who will be flying the flag for Britain at Muirfield?
It’s an event that golf fans worldwide have marked clearly on their calendar, but UK-based golf enthusiasts have more reason than most to be excited about the Open.
Looking at the list of favourites for this year’s event, there’s the usual cast of talented superstars from stateside as well as the Southern Hemisphere, while continental Europe will have their own pretenders to the crown.
While the likes of Tiger Woods, recent Scottish Open winner Phil Mickelson and Masters Champion Adam Scott will be fancied to do well, a lot of attention will be focused on the British contingent. As some main challengers are from the UK, some home favourites are expected to lead the charge.
Historically, British success has been all too rare at the Open. In the past decade, Darren Clarke was the sole UK representative to lift the famous trophy two years ago at Royal St George’s.
Meanwhile, genial Irishman Padraig Harrington managed to win back-to-back Opens in 2007 and 2008, being the closest to a home champion that many had expected at the time.
In recent years, surprise packages such as American journeymen Todd Hamilton and Ben Curtis lifted the Claret Jug, but old favourites like Woods and defending champion Ernie Els have experienced success in the third major of the year.
Clarke became the first player from the UK in 19 years to win the Open Championship, with three-time winner Nick Faldo the penultimate British victor back in 1992, but who from these isles can follow in their footsteps?
Here, we look at the favourites from Britain to challenge for the much-coveted Claret Jug, as well as some lively outsiders who might make a name for themselves by the time they’ve played 72 holes.
The main challengers
Given his lofty position in the World Rankings, you might expect Rory McIlroy to be a major threat this week. However, since changing his clubs as part of a new sponsorship deal , he hasn’t played anywhere near his best and could be one to avoid backing.
Someone with a better chance of succeeding is US Open champion Justin Rose. Having broken his major duck, Rose has the game to succeed on a links course and his superior putting could make the difference.
Other leading contenders for the Claret Jug this year include Graeme McDowell, who is now back in the world’s top 10, the big-hitting yet erratic Lee Westwood and the steady Luke Donald. Of the three, G-Mac has the best game for links golf.
Having experienced a mixed season, Ian Poulter will want to show everyone that he’s capable of challenging for major honours. The Open might represent his best opportunity yet. However, he will have to battle through a star-studded field just to remain close to the leaders.
The dark horses
On home soil, the America-based Scot Martin Laird will represent the best chance of someone from his home nation of qualifying, but he’s got company.
Following the withdrawal of John Daly from the event, Stephen Gallacher came in as a late replacement. Eager to make the most of his opportunity and build on some decent form, Gallacher could surprise a few people and at least get a top-10 finish.
Another Scot playing this week is Paul Lawrie, who saw his fortunes turn around in the past couple of seasons. He hasn’t quite done so well this year, so making the cut might seem like a success.
Two more players who might ruffle a few feathers are David Lynn of England and fast-rising Welshman Jamie Donaldson. Lynn is now in the World’s top 50, while Donaldson has been in good form on the European Tour and given their odds of 100-1, they look like decent each-way value.