British Open Golf 2013 Preview 

The excitement preceding Europe’s most prestigious annual golf tournament started as far back as April, when a “Bleacher Report” headline brashly declared, “Tiger Woods’ Best Chance for 2013 Major Is British Open at Muirfield.” Featured columnist Matt Fitzgerald went on to describe how 2013 was “being kind” to Woods with three PGA tour wins and “the way his game fits the venue … look for Woods to capture the Claret Jug in July.” A win at the Open would give Woods his 15th major title, just three shy of the record 18 held by Jack Nicklaus.

Muirfield, of course, is a renowned Scottish course just outside Edinburgh that has hosted the Open 15 times, most recently in 2002. South Africa’s Ernie Els was triumphant in that edition, which required surviving a grueling four-hole playoff against France’s Thomas Levet and a pair of Australians, Steve Elkington and Stuart Appleby. Last year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Els topped Australian Adam Scott by a stroke to claim the 2012 Open Championship, while Woods finished tied for third with American Brandt Snedeker, four stokes back.

The 2013 Open Championship will be played from 18~21 July following a full schedule of festivities. The preceding week, 11~13 July, the “Open in the Square” event will run from 11am to 7pm in St. Andrew Square. It is free and open to the public, with the opportunity to try golf on artificial practice putting greens, receive tips from PGA golf professionals and play some great Open courses on EA Sports games consoles. Visitors can also get their pictures taken with the Claret Jug.

But preparations for the Open have involved much more than arranging activities at Muirfield. Over a period of seven months, some 2,500 golfers on five continents have been competing to qualify for the field of 156 starters. International Final Qualifying events have contributed 9 participants from Europe, 8 from America, 4 from Asia and 3 each from Africa and Australasia. Local Final Qualifying over 36 holes ended on 2 July, contributing three successful players from each of four venues—Dunbar, Gullane No. 1, The Musselburgh and North Berwick.

The remaining 117 spots have been claimed by a variety of champions, medalists and top-ranked players from 29 different exempt categories. They range from past winners of the Open since 2003 and current Ryder Cup team members to the leading 30 qualifiers for the 2012 Tour Championship, selected Amateur Champions and winners of recent major tournaments.

Up for grabs is a total prize fund or £5,250,000, of which the winner’s share will be £945,000 in addition to the famous Claret Jug. To claim victory, however, the 2013 Champion will have to outmanoeuvre everyone else four times around an arduous track of 18 holes, with each circuit measuring 7,192 yards—158 yards longer than it was for the 2002 Championship.

The Official World Golf Rankings have Woods ranked number one going into the practice rounds, and he’s certainly had success before, winning the Open in 2000, 2005 and 2006. But if he wants to capture his 15th major at Muirfield, he will have to overcome not only last year’s victor Els and runner-up Scott (winner of the 2013 Master’s) but also the 2010 Open Champ Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, another top-ten contender.

Other strong players to watch include current #2 Rory McIlroy and #6 Graeme McDowell (winner of the 2013 French Open), both from Northern Ireland, as well as England’s top three entrants #3 Justin Rose (winner of the 2013 U.S. Open), #9 Luke McDonald and #12 Lee Westwood. Snedeker at #7 in the world will be back, too, along with three other American favourites—#5 Matt Kuchar, #8 Phil Mickelson and #11 Steve Stricker. It would also be a mistake to count out Spain’s Sergio Garcia, who comes into the Open rated #14.

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