1. Tiger Woods. Never is there a tournament where Tiger Woods is teeing it up, especially if it’s a major, and he isn’t the most talked about player. Often times he isn’t playing in a tournament, and the media still finds a way to focus on Tiger. Such is life when you are chasing the “best to ever play the sport.” However, this week, the storyline with Tiger is more centered around his return from injury and efforts to get back into form, rather than being the odds-on favorite to win as is usually the case. Instead, Tiger has been given 20-1 odds in this year’s Open. Still, he was the last player to win an Open on this course – in 2006 – and if anyone can battle back from injury to win an unlikely major, it is Tiger Woods. How do I think he will end up this week? I think he proves his doubters wrong and actually makes the cut, showing improvement from his rusty performance at Congressional, but he won’t get in contention on Sunday. Expect a finish somewhere between 25th and 45th place.
2. Justin Rose. Normally, the second most talked about spot would be reserved for the world number one (when Tiger doesn’t hold that title as well), and Adam Scott will be next on the list, but Justin Rose has trumped him, in terms of hype, for three very import reasons. 1. He won at Congressional two weeks ago. 2. He won at the Scottish Open last week – for two consecutive wins, a very rare accomplishment in professional golf. 3. He is an Englishman. So, local hero coming into the Open as the hottest player of the month? Yes, please. Vegas seems to agree with all the above, as they have made Justin Rose the overall favorite with 14-1 odds. How do I think he will end up this week? Well, consistency is a hard thing to obtain in this sport, but Justin Rose has shown a great deal of consistency in his career. I am not predicting he gets the third-consecutive win on his native soil this week, but I do expect a top 20 finish for the Englishman.
3. Adam Scott. The world number one comes into Royal Liverpool with an impressive British Open pedigree. In the last three years he has finished no worse than T25, and in the last two years he kicked it up a few more notches to earn a runner up, during his memorable collapse at Royal Lytham in 2012, and a T3 in last year’s tournament. Though he revenged his Open loss by finally breaking into the major winner’s circle at the 2013 Masters, a win and a chance to finally hold the Claret Jug would feel quite sweet for the Aussie, and seems to be next on his to-do list. Vegas has given Scott a tie for the second best odds at 16-1. He is coming off a season where he has already won on the PGA Tour, and earned a T14 in the Masters, and a T9 in his last start at the U.S. Open. How do I think he will end up this week? I am not predicting an Adam Scott win – holding the world number one honors comes with its fair share of pressure – but it would not surprise me. I think he will start Sunday just out of contention, but a strong final performance will help him earn a favorable pay check. Expect a top 15 finish.
4. Rory McIlroy. Next to Tiger Woods, Rory is a player who will never be able to escape the media, regardless of his current form. It just so happens, however, that Rory comes to Hoylake in pretty decent form. The form seems to be good enough to give McIlroy 16-1 odds to win this week. With a top 10 finish in the Masters, he failed to make a weekend splash en route to a T23 finish in the U.S. Open. Still, he has 6 top 10s in 10 starts on the PGA Tour, including no finishes worse than T25, and from the other side of the pond, he has a runner-up finish early in the season in Abu Dhabi, as well as a win in the European Tour’s flagship event (the BMW Championship), and a course-record 64 (that included a 400+ yard drive) last week at the Aberdeen. He followed up the 64 with a 78, which mirrors his 63-78 at the Memorial Tournament earlier this season, so there is a big question as to whether or not he can string four solid rounds together. If he can, we have all seen what Rory McIlroy can do in a major when he plays solid, consistent golf. How do I think he will end up this week? Well, you heard the scouting report. McIlroy will need to play well from the beginning or he may not even make the cut. He could also play inconsistently and make the cut, but never be in contention. I think he will uncharacteristically grind it out due to the importance of this tournament, and avoid any inconsistencies, which will make him a very difficult player to beat. Expect Rory McIlroy to be your 2014 Open Championship winner.
5. Henrik Stenson. So many people are talking about last year’s FedEx cup winner to finally get back on track and become a first-time major winner this week. Stenson has little to show for his 2014 season, but has quietly played some great golf, with 5 top 10s on the European Tour, and another 2 on the PGA Tour, including a T4 in his last start at the U.S. Open. He also earned a T14 at the Masters. Stenson has made it very clear that the Open Championship is his most prized major, and thus he would clearly love to get his first major title here this week. Vegas puts his chances at 16-1, tied for Scott and McIlroy for the second-best odds. How do I think he will end up this week? Of the top 5 in the OWGR right now, Stenson is the most difficult to judge. Yes, he had one of the all-time best seasons last year, but it was largely considered a comeback season, because of how far he’d fallen in the rankings up to that point. Still, he has remained in the conversation this year with strong finishes, none more so than the U.S. Open performance he is coming off of leading into this week. Will it be enough to carry the momentum toward a strong finish in the Open? I think no. Expect Henrik Stenson to struggle to make the cut and finish no better than top 30.