When 49 of the top-50 golfers in the world are competing on the same golf course, let alone where the sport of golf originated, excitement is an understatement.
The British Open returns to St. Andrews Golf Course in Scotland and officially begins Thursday, July 15. St. Andrews' 600-year history, rolling fairways, slippery greens, and aura of repute distinguishes it from all other British Open venues.
Some critics believe the Old Course doesn't challenge the pros with the same grueling, arduous conditions as that of courses like Turnberry or Royal Troon.
But it's the illustrious history of the greatest champions ever, both at this course and in this event, that generates an unyielding, tangible presence and pressure that players can't escape until tapping in their final putt come Sunday at the Open.
As the British Open returns to it's golf roots, professional golf persists through its transitional phase.
Tiger Woods, the world's No.1 ranked player, continues to struggle in his recovery from his traumatic hiatus. Meanwhile, a plethora of talented, ambitious golfers, from Justin Rose to Graeme McDowell, continue to soar and threaten his dominance in the world of golf.
Whether or not Tiger can regain his strength at St. Andrews, where he won in 2001 and 2005, is yet to be seen.
But he is not the only mystery at the Open Championship this week.
Not Knowing Never Felt So Good
Some firmly believe Justin Rose has this Open in the bag after two wins and a top-10 in his last three events.
Others assume Graeme McDowell will ride his momentum from wins at the US Open and Wales Open to St. Andrews in hopes of capturing his second major victory this season.
But let's not forget that the world is still anxiously waiting for its No.1 golfer, Tiger Woods, to shed his mediocre play of late and unveil his mental and physical domination over the Open field.
Realistically though, can we rule out the sweet swinging "Big Easy," Ernie Els? Or the lengthy, yet master of the greens, Phil Mickelson?
More than ever before, it's anyone's Open. And not knowing who has the upper hand never felt so good.
Anything can happen at the British Open.
Just think back to last year's Open when 59-year-old Tom Watson played absolutely stellar golf for 71 holes, only to lose in a playoff to Stewart Cink.
Similar to how Watson's lead and possible win was unlikely, so too could the leader after the first day of this year's Open be some amateur debuting in his first professional event.
Pairings to Keep An Eye On
There are a few pairings at this year's British Open that are sure to thrill with miraculous shots, perplex with inability to produce, and most definitely inspire golf fans worldwide.
Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Camilo Villegas
- Woods: Tigermania may have subsided, but it still retains a palpable presence at every event Woods competes in. The fact that Tiger has finished fourth at both majors thus far this season begs the question: will his elusive 15th major come at St. Andrews?
- Rose: This guy has become a blueprint for perfect rhythm, whether on the tee, from the fairway, or on the putting greens. His two wins so far this season are a testament to his improvements in mechanics, but also his developing confidence down the stretch.
- Villegas: This guy is just downright fun to watch. Villegas fuses a deliberately steady, smooth takeaway with a whipping, forceful downswing. He thinks his way around the golf course and tends to perform best when competing against players who are more accomplished than him.
Phil Mickelson, Colin Montgomerie and Retief Goosen
- Mickelson: After winning the Masters and finishing in the top-10 four other times this season, Lefty is due for some major success. If he can control his gargantuan length (and I'm talking about a 9-iron from 170 yards) while harnessing his strengths on and around the greens, look for Mickelson to be holding the trophy come Sunday.
- Monty: Colin Montgomerie is still a favorite among many European fans. He has come close many times to winning the British, and who knows if he will be able to pull it off this year.
- Goosen: Though he consistently makes cuts (10 of 11 this season) and has six top-10 finishes on the year, Goosen has underachieved. He drives the ball too long, hits his irons too precise, and putts too fluidly to not be a constant threat on the PGA Tour.
Other Notable Pairings:
- Tom Watson, Ryo Ishikawa and Padraig Harrington
- Jim Furyk, Graeme McDowell, Geoff Ogilvy
- Rickie Fowler, Angel Cabrera, Paul Casey
Wait for another in-depth preview tomorrow featuring the top-10 players to watch at this year's British Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews.