BRITISH OPEN '13: Capsules of 20 players expected to contend at Muirfield

  • Article by: DOUG FERGUSON , AP Golf Writer
  • Updated: July 12, 2013 - 11:05 PM

A capsule look at 20 contenders for the British Open golf championship, to be played July 18-21 at Muirfield (listed in predicted order of finish):

___

TIGER WOODS

Age: 37.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 1.

Worldwide wins: 90.

Majors: Masters (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005), US Open (2000, 2002, 2008), British Open (2000, 2005, 2006), PGA Championship (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007).

At his best in 2013: He won four times by May, still the most victories of any player this year.

At his worst in 2013: Shot 44 on the back nine at Muirfield Village and later revealed he had a strain in his left elbow.

British Open moment: A three-time Open champion, no memory is as great as his eight-shot win at St. Andrews to complete the Grand Slam at age 24.

Pot bunker mentality: Woods is winning everything with regularity except the majors. He now has gone five full years since his last major win, and he comes into this British Open as somewhat of a mystery because of the elbow injury that has kept him out since the U.S. Open.

GRAEME MCDOWELL

Age: 33.

Country: Northern Ireland.

World ranking: 6.

Worldwide wins: 12.

Majors: US Open (2010).

At his best in 2013: Has won three times this year, the most recent at the French Open in his tuneup for the British Open.

At his worst in 2013: Missed the cut in the first two majors this year.

British Open moment: His chances ended last year when he topped a fairway metal into the bushes and never found the ball.

Pot bunker mentality: McDowell is in the ultimate feast-or-famine mode right now. Dating to the Masters, he has three wins and five missed cuts in his last eight tournaments. If he's on at Muirfield, he could be dangerous.

ADAM SCOTT

Age: 33.

Country: Australia.

World ranking: 4

Worldwide wins: 20.

Majors: Masters (2013).

At his best in 2013: A green jacket.

At his worst in 2013: He is 0 for 4 in top-10s since winning the Masters.

British Open moment: Making bogey on the last four holes at Royal Lytham & St. Annes to blow a four-shot lead.

Pot bunker mentality: Even in a crushing loss, Scott came away from the British Open last year believing for the first time that he had the game to win a major. A beautiful driver and solid iron player, he stands a reasonable chance to become the ninth player to win the Masters and British Open in the same year.

BRANDT SNEDEKER

Age: 32.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 7.

Worldwide wins: 5.

Majors: None.

At his best in 2013: In a three-week stretch, was runner-up to Tiger Woods, runner-up to Phil Mickelson and won Pebble Beach.

At his worst in 2013: Sat on his couch at home to recover from recurring rib injury.

British Open moment: Tied the 18-hole record at Royal Lytham & St. Annes with a 64 and tied the major championship record with a 130 through 36 holes.

Pot bunker mentality: Snedeker has given himself two chances in the last four majors, and with his ability, that's seen as experience instead of failure. Pops his putts, which has proven to be a good stroke in links golf. The key to his week is keeping his tee shots out of the hay.

GONZALO FERNANDEZ-CASTANO

Age: 32.

Country: Spain.

World ranking: 40.

Worldwide wins: 6.

Majors: None.

At his best in 2013: Never shot worse than 72 at Merion and tied for 10th in the U.S. Open.

At his worst in 2013: Hasn't been in serious contention all year.

British Open moment: He is a combined 19-over par in his four Opens.

Pot bunker mentality: This would be called a long shot considering his record in the Open, but he is steady under pressure. Tied for 20th in the Masters and tied for 10th in the U.S. Open. Childhood friend of Sergio Garcia. When Garcia said at the Masters last year that he didn't have what it takes to win a major, Gonzo replied, "If this guy doesn't have it, how about me?" He has enough game.

JUSTIN ROSE

Age: 32.

Country: England.

World ranking: 3.

Worldwide wins: 11.

Majors: US Open (2013).

At his best in 2013: Hit 4-iron into the 18th green at Merion to wrap up the U.S. Open.

At his worst in 2013: Not much to choose from, though he did miss the cut at The Players Championship.

British Open moment: Holing a wedge from 45 yards on the 18th at Royal Birkdale to tie for fourth in 1998 as a 17-year-old amateur.

Pot bunker mentality: There's little to fault in his game right now except for controlling his emotions as a major champion playing in the next major. He can join some exclusive company. Only six other players have won the U.S. Open and British Open in the same year — Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen and Bobby Jones.

ERNIE ELS

Age: 43.

Country: South Africa.

World ranking: 13.

Worldwide wins: 66.

Majors: US Open (1994, 1997), British Open (2002, 2012).

At his best in 2013: Won the BMW International Open in Germany.

At his worst in 2013: Couldn't hit the hole from 3 feet with his belly putter at the start of the year.

British Open moment: Sitting quietly in front of his locker at Royal Lytham & St. Annes last year, staring at the silver claret jug he had just won.

Pot bunker mentality: Not since Greg Norman in 1994 has a player been the defending champion and the last winner at the links (Turnberry) where the Open was played. Els won his first Open at Muirfield in 2002 and won last year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

TOM WATSON

Age: 63.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 994.

Worldwide wins: 51.

Majors: Masters (1977, 1981), US Open (1982), British Open (1975, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983).

At his best in 2013: Took only 22 putts in the final round and tied for 38th at The Greenbrier Classic.

At his worst in 2013: Rounds of 79-78 at the Masters.

British Open moment: The only man to win the Open on five courses.

Pot bunker mentality: It has been 30 years since he won his last major, but this is Tom Watson, and this is the Open Championship. He came inches from winning at Turnberry in 2009, instead losing in a playoff to Stewart Cink. No other contemporary understands links golf like Watson.

RORY MCILROY

Age: 24.

Country: Northern Ireland.

World ranking: 2.

Worldwide wins: 10.

Majors: US Open (2011), PGA Championship (2013).

At his best in 2013: Runner-up at the Texas Open.

At his worst in 2013: Every other tournament.

British Open moment: Tying the major championship record with a 63 in the opening round at St. Andrews in 2010.

Pot bunker mentality: There is scant evidence that McIlroy will contend at the Open except that he is Rory McIlroy, and he is very good. He has a history of going into mini-slumps, but this is bordering on something more. Changed all his equipment at the start of the year, and is in the process of changing management again. Time is running out for him to join Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus as the only players in the last 50 years to win a major in three successive seasons.

LUKE DONALD

Age: 35.

Country: England.

World ranking: 9.

Worldwide wins: 12.

Majors: None.

At his best in 2013: Starting the final round of the U.S. Open two shots behind.

At his worst in 2013: Missing the cut at Wentworth going for a third straight BMW PGA Championship title.

British Open moment: Closing with a 67 at Turnberry and a 69 at Lytham for his only top-fives.

Pot bunker mentality: The first time since 2010 that he hasn't won before the British Open. His driving has held him up, and his short game is still better than most, but not at the level that took him to No. 1. Played seven straight majors at No. 1 in the world. Now close to falling out of the top 10.

MATT KUCHAR

Age: 35.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 5.

Worldwide wins: 6.

Majors: None.

At his best in 2013: Won the Match Play Championship and the Memorial.

At his worst in 2013: Has finished out of the top 20 eight times this year.

British Open moment: Catching the bad end of the draw and opening with an 81 at Royal Birkdale in 2008.

Pot bunker mentality: He has finished under par only twice in the eight times he has played the British Open. He has a very reliable swing and a solid putting stroke, and he doesn't get too rattled.

PHIL MICKELSON

Age: 43.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 8.

Worldwide wins: 43.

Majors: Masters (2004, 2006, 2010), PGA Championship (2005).

At his best in 2013: Came within a fraction of an inch of a 59 in the Phoenix Open.

At his worst in 2013: Couldn't hit the 13th green at Merion with a wedge.

British Open moment: Making a terrific charge at Royal St. George's before losing momentum by missing a 3-foot putt. He tied for second.

Pot bunker mentality: Mickelson's record suggests he can't play links golf, though he came awfully close at Royal Troon in 2004 and Royal St. George's in 2011. He can be loose off the tee, and with Muirfield's tall grass off the fairway, this wouldn't be a good place for that. Hard to predict how he will be after another debilitating U.S. Open loss at Merion last month.

JASON DAY

Age: 25.

Country: Australia.

World ranking: 18.

Worldwide wins: 1.

Majors: None.

At his best in 2013: Finishing third at the Masters and second at the U.S. Open.

At his worst in 2013: Failing to make the key shots down the stretch in the Masters and the U.S. Open.

British Open moment: Withdrew from the Open last year after his wife gave birth.

Pot bunker mentality: Day has shown in the last few years that he plays his best in the toughest circumstances. He twice has contended at the Masters, once at the U.S. Open, and he tied for B-flight honors at another U.S. Open. But for all his attention geared toward the Grand Slam events, it is startling that in his sixth year on the PGA Tour he still has only one victory.

ANGEL CABRERA

Age: 43.

Country: Argentina.

World ranking: 56.

Worldwide wins: 41.

Majors: Masters (2009), US Open (2007).

At his best in 2013: Lost in a playoff at the Masters.

At his worst in 2013: Missed the cut in the U.S. Open.

British Open moment: Closed with a 70 at Carnoustie in 1999 and missed the playoff by one shot.

Pot bunker mentality: One of the most powerfully efficient swings, a big-time player and becoming one of the most unpredictable. He can disappear for two years and then be on the verge of winning a major, as he did at Augusta. Another chance for him to become the first grandfather to win a major.

LEE WESTWOOD

Age: 40.

Country: England.

World ranking: 12.

Worldwide wins: 37.

Majors: None.

At his best in 2013: Had a stretch of five consecutive top-10s this year.

At his worst in 2013: Tied for the lead at Quail Hollow on the back nine and then making back-to-back bogeys.

British Open moment: One of the greatest fairway bunker shots, a 9-iron that cleared the lip by an inch and reached the 18th green at Turnberry. But he three-putted from long range and wound up one shot out of a playoff in 2009.

Pot bunker mentality: He has to rate as the best to have never won a major because of his two Order of Merit titles, No. 1 world ranking and close calls in all four majors. The last player to win his first major after turning 40 was Darren Clarke (42) two years ago, one of Westwood's best friends.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON

Age: 42.

Country: Ireland.

World ranking: 72.

Worldwide wins: 15.

Majors: British Open (2007, 2008), PGA Championship (2008).

At his best in 2013: Switching to a belly putter in the Wells Fargo Championship, even though he is opposed to anchoring by principle.

At his worst in 2013: Missing the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship.

British Open moment: Becoming the first European in more than a century to win the Open in consecutive years.

Pot bunker mentality: Harrington's record this year does not suggest he will be a factor at Muirfield, though links golf can be a neutralizer. Was on the cusp of contention at Merion. He was leading at one point at Muirfield in 2002 during the rain and wind, and he finished one shot out of the playoff by hitting driver off the 18th tee into a bunker.

MATTEO MANASSERO

Age: 20.

Country: Italy.

World ranking: 26.

Worldwide wins: 4.

Majors: None.

At his best in 2013: Won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

At his worst in 2013: Missed the cut in the Masters and U.S. Open.

British Open moment: Low amateur in 2009 at Turnberry, where he played with Tom Watson the opening two rounds and finished four shots out of a playoff.

Pot bunker mentality: No one this young has won golf's oldest championship since Young Tom Morris in 1870. Manassero seems older because he already has won four times on the European Tour, including its flagship event in Europe. Length is his greatest asset. Length is not a primary weapon at Muirfield. Tiger Woods wears a red shirt on Sunday. Manassero wears green pants.

DUSTIN JOHNSON

Age: 29.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 24.

Worldwide wins: 7.

Majors: None.

At his best in 2013: Won the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, his sixth straight year with at least one PGA Tour win.

At his worst in 2013: The endless photos of him and girlfriend Paulina Gretzky.

British Open moment: Two shots behind with five holes to play, he tried to lay up with a 2-iron on the 14th hole at Royal St. George's and laid it up out-of-bounds.

Pot bunker mentality: The good news for Johnson is that he has played in the final group in three majors already — three different majors. The bad news is he is making more of a name for himself with activities outside the ropes, namely with one Paulina Gretzky. He is unpredictable. But he is very good.

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN

Age: 30.

Country: South Africa.

World ranking: 10.

Worldwide wins: 10.

Majors: British Open (2010).

At his best in 2013: Won his first tournament of the year at the Volvo Champions.

At his worst in 2013: Missed the cut in the Masters and withdrew from the U.S. Open with an injury.

British Open moment: His seven-shot victory at St. Andrews in 2010.

Pot bunker mentality: The most envied swing in golf for its simplicity, power and self-repeating nature. When he's on, he is as dangerous as any player in golf. When he's off, he doesn't seem to last very long.

SERGIO GARCIA

Age: 33.

Country: Spain.

World ranking: 14.

Worldwide wins: 23.

Majors: None.

At his best in 2013: Playful and energetic.

At his worst in 2013: Dour and listless.

British Open moment: Wearing an all-yellow outfit to play with Tiger Woods in the final group at Hoylake in 2006. One observer said he looked like a banana. "Second banana."

Pot bunker mentality: His season was derailed at The Players Championship when he complained Tiger Woods distracted the fans as he was ready to hit, got into a war of words with Woods, and then made a joke with racial overtones that required more than one apology. He played nicely at Merion on 16 holes. The other two (Nos. 14 and 15) he played 16-over par for the week.

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