Philadelphia, PA – A look back at the past winners of the British Open Championship at Muirfield show a group that is highlighted by future Hall of Famers.
The last eight champions at Muirfield all went on to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. The group also had five straight winners in their 30s. The last winner not in his 30s was Jack Nicklaus, who was 26 when he won at Muirfield in 1966.
The average age of the last eight Muirfield champs is just over 31-years-old. Sir Henry Cotton was the old champ, 41 in 1948, and Gary Player was the youngest, 23 in 1959.
The last eight winners at Muirfield in order were Ernie Els, Sir Nick Faldo, Faldo again, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Nicklaus, Player and Cotton.
With that criteria for narrowing down the field of potential champions this week, let's take a look at some names. I've narrowed the list to seven players. That group is headlined by Tiger Woods.
Woods, 37, of course is still trying to win his first major since his epic 2008 U.S. Open victory over Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines. He is also playing for the first time since this year's U.S. Open at Merion.
One bad drive into the fescue could end Woods' title hopes as he returns from an elbow injury. But there is an old saying about being aware of the sick golfer.
Next on the list in descending order of wins is Masters champion Adam Scott. The 33-year-old Aussie has nine wins on both the PGA and European Tours. Clearly, the biggest among them was at Augusta earlier this year, but there are demons there.
Scott bogeyed the final four holes last year to cost himself the title. Also, he has played the least amount of golf this year as anyone in the field. The Open Championship will be his 10th start of 2013.
Another 33-year-old with 18 wins on the PGA and European Tours is Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard played through plenty of barbs at Merion after a little war of words with Woods.
Garcia was not a factor at Merion, but has played all four rounds at seven of the last eight Open Championships, and he shared eighth at Muirfield in 2002. Might be the best bet of this group to break through.
Next on the list is Geoff Ogilvy. He owns seven PGA Tour crowns and four on the European Tour. All four were dual-ranking events, three World Golf Championships and the 2006 U.S. Open.
The Aussie's three WGC wins are second-most behind Woods' 17. Ogilvy has been scuffling this year with eight missed cuts, a runner-up finish at the Honda Classic, and one other top-20 finish at the Volvo World Match Play Championship, where he went 0-1-1.
Luke Donald has 12 wins on the PGA and European Tours. The former world No. 1 has won one WGC title and is a two-time champion of the European Tour's flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship.
The 35-year-old Englishman is quickly running out of chances to win his first major. Firm and fast conditions at Muirfield this week could help his relative lack of distance.
U.S. Open champion Justin Rose has tallied 11 combined wins between the two tours, and is as hot as any player entering the year's third major. Along with his major, he also has a WGC win and victories at some tough courses, like Merion, Congressional, Doral and Muirfield Village.
It wouldn't be a stretch to call him one of the favorites this week, but who knows how Rose will handle the pressure in his first major championship after winning his first major crown.
The final member of the group is Graeme McDowell. He may have just two PGA wins, but he has won nine times on the European Tour. The Ulsterman has confounded of late with five missed cuts and three wins in his last eight starts.
McDowell has played the weekend in six of his nine Open Championship starts, and his share of fifth last year was his best finish.
Among the others in the age range, but maybe not Hall of Fame worthy were Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan, Ian Poulter, Brandt Snedeker, Nick Watney and Trevor Immelman.
Will the winner come from this group? It is certainly possible, but as we saw in 2002 at Muirfield, it's all about the weather. If you get the right end of the draw, that could be as important as how well you're playing.
I'll tab Garcia to make it 12 first-time major champions in the last 15 majors contested.
SPIETH CONTINUES TO MAKE A NAME FOR HIMSELF
Jordan Spieth started making a name for himself in 2009 when he won the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. He won that title again two years later, but made plenty of news in between.
The Dallas native accepted invitations to play the Byron Nelson Championship in 2010 and 2011. He made the cut both times. The first time he was 16-year- old and at the time was the sixth-youngest to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.
After winning the U.S. Junior for a second time, Spieth headed to the University of Texas. Three wins and a team-leading stroke average helped him gain conference Rookie and Player of the Year honors, as well as a selection to the first team All-American squad.
He never made it to his sophomore campaign because he decided to turn pro at the end of 2012. It was a wise move at the time because the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament only gets players onto the Web.com Tour starting at this year's event.
Spieth gave himself a year to earn PGA Tour status through Monday qualifiers and sponsor invites. In his 16th start of the year, Spieth downed former Masters champion Zach Johnson and David Hearn in a playoff to win the John Deere Classic.
His move to the professional ranks was clearly the right one. With the win making him an official tour member for the remainder of 2013 and the next two years, Spieth has soared to 17th on the money list, thanks to two top-5 finishes and six top-10s.
It might be a little early to say he has played his way into contention for this year's U.S. Presidents Cup team, but he should be a stalwart on that squad for years to come.
Spieth is clearly the next big thing for American golf.
* With six major tours playing last weekend, anything could have happened. On Sunday alone, there were three playoffs and Will Wilcox shot a 59 on the Web.com Tour. Wilcox, who was the fourth player in tour history to shoot 59, missed the extra session by a shot though.
* Inbee Park won three consecutive majors on the LPGA Tour. Kenny Perry has won the last two Champions Tour majors. Your turn Justin Rose. Think he can follow their lead?