The 142nd Open Championship starts Thursday at Muirfield Golf Links in East Lothian, Scotland. The par-71 layout will measure 7,192 yards. New extended tee boxes, more green-side bunkers and tighter fairways have made the course even more difficult. The early reports from players after practice rounds this past weekend are that Muirfield is playing very firm and fast.
The forecast for the week looks similar to that at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open this past weekend, played in the northern part of Scotland at the Castle Stuart Golf Links in Inverness -- partly cloudy and sunny skies, temperatures in the low 70s and winds swirling and sometimes gusting between 12 mph and 25 mph.
For the pros who haven't played in a few weeks, or the ones who were at the John Deere Classic in lush, perfect conditions with fast greens and no wind, they will be forced to change their game overnight -- hitting knock-down shots, bump-and-running it and hitting putts much harder because of slower green speeds.
Let's take a look at my favorites and long shots to win the Open Championship this week.
Note: Odds courtesy of William Hill Sports Book in Las Vegas.
Phil Mickelson (15-1)
With Mickelson having just won the Scottish Open in a playoff, his odds have dropped from 18-1 to 15-1 (and 12-1 in some places). He went to Castle Stuart to prepare for the Open Championship and reacquaint himself with links golf. I did notice that his ball flight became straighter, driving shots low off the firm and hard conditions. Even though he has finished in the top 10 just twice at the Open Championship, it is well documented that Mickelson is most dangerous when he has played well leading up to a major. I expect no letdown.
Graeme McDowell (20-1)
To say that G-Mac's season has been inconsistent would be quite the understatement. In his past eight starts, he has three wins and somehow has missed five cuts. He also missed the cut at the Masters and the U.S. Open, but he won the French Open, the Volvo Match Play Championship and the RBC Heritage right after missing the cut at the Masters. He has the game to win an Open Championship, and he ranks fifth on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy percentage at 70.24 percent. He plays well in tough conditions. He is a solid wind player and a very solid putter on slow greens.
Tiger Woods (13-2)