The Open Championship, the third major of the season, is next week in Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland at Muirfield. There are a couple of spots yet to be determined in the field but the majority of the field is set.
For those that forget The Open Championship is the official name for the British Open. The British Open and The Open Championship are synonymous in culture today but at its foundation it is still The Open Championship. This will be the 16th time that Muirfield has hosted the British Open dating back to 1892. The list of champions crowned at Muirfield is second to none and include the likes of Harry Vardon, Walter Hagen, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson. Muirfield has delivered performances that make the list of Top-10 British Open Memorable Moments .
Last year’s British Open was played at Lytham and St. Annes in dramatic fashion. Adam Scott had not yet won a major and held a four shot lead with four holes to go and appeared a lock to win the British Open. However, he bogeyed 15, 16 and 17 while Ernie Els made a clutch putt on the 18th green. Scott would bogey the 18th, missing a seven foot par putt, giving Els his fourth major title. Most players would never recover but Scott broke through this year winning his first major title. Will there be that type of drama at Muirfield?
If 2002 is a preview than drama can certainly be predicted again in 2013. That year the British Open champion was determined in a playoff between Ernie Els, Steve Elkington, Thomas Levet and Stuart Appleby. The traditional three-hole playoff was not enough forcing Els and Levet into sudden death eventually won by Els. With 2002 in mind, this year’s British Open will be intriguing to watch but to better understand what this year’s field will face we must first understand Muirfield.
Murfield will play all of 7192 yards at a par of 71 during the championship. Much like any other Open Championship, the weather will play a huge factor in deciding a champion. Wind, rain and anything else Mother Nature can think of will eventually come into play regardless of weather forecast. However, even in benign conditions Muirfield is a challenge to the world’s best. Lets preview some of the key holes at Muirfield this year.
Players will not get a chance to ease their way into their round at the 2013 British Open. In fact the 447 yard par 4 1st hole at Muirfield is arguably the most challenging open hole in the British Open rotation. To make things worse a bunker has been added to the 1st hole 300 yards off the tee adding to an already challenging tee shot. Three bunkers will protect the putting surface from approach shots into a narrow green with a depression waiting to funnel golf balls into a challenging two putt.
The 461 yard par 4 6th hole has the chance to be ranked as the most challenging hole at Muirfield at this year’s British Open. The wind on the 6th is almost always blowing across the fairway making a semi-blind tee shot all the more challenging. If player can find a flat part of the fairway off the tee they will be faced with an approach shot into a green protected by three deep bunkers and two newly added hollows short and left of the putting surface. Players that can play this hole in even par or better will stand a great shot at hoisting the Claret Jug.
The par 3 190 yard 13th hole is not the longest on the schedule but what it lacks in distance it makes up for in difficulty. While only 190 yard it plays uphill all the way to a deep but narrow green. The green is 15 paces across at its widest and 46 yards deep while being surrounded by five deep and challenging bunkers. The back-to-front sloping green will penalize players that leave themselves a downhill putt.
The 475 yard par 4 14th hole will play into the prevailing wind making it an incredibly difficult par 4. 30 yards have been added to the 14th since the last British Open was played here in 2002. If players find the fairway they will play their second shots into a raised green that falls off on all sides with a devilishly placed bunker front right of the putting surface.
The 470 yard par 4 finishing hole, one of the greatest finishing holes in major championship golf, is made more challenging with the addition of 21 yards since the last British Open. The landing area on the 18th is protected by three deep bunkers making accuracy a premium. The approach will play into a green surrounded by bunkers including the menacing island bunker on the right side of the green. Players will earn their par at 18 without question.
Who really has a chance to win the 2013 British Open? Predictions and contenders will abound across the wire leading up to tee shots on Thursday morning. Will a young player break through at Muirfield this year? Will a veteran win another major? Will a player win their first major after many years of failure or heartbreak? I broke down my 2013 British Open Odds, Predictions, Contenders and Pick to Win in a different article that you just might be surprised with.
Bonus of the Week: A view of Murfield from the Sky
YouTube Video Courtesy of SkyEye Britain