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Ranking the 142nd Open field: Nos. 1-20

Adam Scott
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Zero point six-four-one percent.

That is the correct mathematical answer whenever a single player is invoked in the question: What are his chances of winning The Open Championship?

Of course, not all competitors’ chances are created equal, and so being one of 156 leaves some with a much higher percentage of winning than others.

Who will claim the claret jug at Muirfield? Who will contend? Here are 20 players – in predicted order of finish – who may own more than a 0.641 percent chance.

1. Adam Scott

Over the past three years, he’s learned how to better prepare for majors, with eight top-25 results in 10 starts. He avenged last year’s Open collapse with a Masters win; with another one this week, he could erase it altogether.

2. Graeme McDowell

He’s been all-or-nothing lately, winning three of his last eight starts while missing the cut in the other five. After getting himself into Sunday contention a year ago, here’s guessing he’ll be closer to the former than the latter.

3. Phil Mickelson

On his relationship with links golf, Lefty says, “It’s a hate-love. I used to hate it and now I love it.” He also loved winning the Scottish Open last weekend, clearly embracing a style of play that could parlay into another title contention this week.

4. Martin Laird

Call this one outthinking some overthinking. I had Laird in this spot at last month’s U.S. Open. It didn’t happen for him at Merion, but fresh off a strong performance at Castle Stuart, the Scotland native may finally be ready.

5. Tiger Woods

The world’s No. 1 player will never fly under the radar, but the attention has been deflected a bit entering this one. He maintains his sore elbow is ready to go. If it stays that way on this firm course, we could see Hoylake revisited.

6. Thomas Bjorn

With Muirfield’s terrain broaching extra crispy proportions this week, brains should prevail over brawn. As such, expect a few crafty veterans to find their way onto the leaderboard – and there aren’t many craftier than Bjorn.

7. Nicolas Colsaerts

With top-10s in two of the last four majors – including a T-7 at this tournament last year – the Belgian Bomber is proving that he’s much more than just a big hitter. Knocking on the door of bigger things soon.

8. Jason Day

Much like his mate Adam Scott, the Aussie has put a premium on preparing for the major championships. That strategy has resulted in three runner-up finishes in the past three years for a 25-year-old mature beyond his years.

9. Branden Grace

Still largely unknown to many fans in the U.S., the South African established himself with four European Tour wins last year. He enters this one in form, fresh off reaching a Scottish Open playoff, which he lost to Mickelson on Sunday.

10. Ernie Els

Since famously failing to qualify for last year’s Masters, the Big Easy’s major results read as following: 9-1-48-13-4. Call him a double defending champion this week, as he won both last year and the last time Muirfield hosted an Open.

11. Luke Donald May be waiting in the fescue for that first major title to come this week.
12. Rickie Fowler Few young American players have figured out links golf as well.
13. Matteo Manassero Not the longest hitter, but possesses a mesmerizing wedge game.
14. Hideki Matsuyama Twice made the Masters cut as an amateur; was T-10 at Merion.
15. Hunter Mahan Could he – not Tiger – be the next Sean Foley pupil to claim a major?
16. Rory McIlroy He hasn’t been great this year, but he can turn things around quickly.
17. Gonzalo F-Castano Quietly posted top-20 finishes in each of the year’s first two majors.
18. Brandt Snedeker First two major champs this year were 32 and seeking first major.
19. Padraig Harrington Harrington has three major titles and two claret jugs.
20. Tom Watson Sure, he’s 63, but don’t discount the U.S. Ryder Cup captain.