Commentary | Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose take Tiger Woods' mantle as British Open favorite

July 17, 2014 

British Open Golf

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot onto the 5th green during a practice round ahead of the British Open Golf championship at the Royal Liverpool golf club, Hoylake, England, Tuesday July 15, 2014. The British Open starts on Thursday July 17.

SCOTT HEPPELL — AP Photo

Now that the FIFA World Cup's monthlong celebration, King LeBron James' free-agent decision and Major League Baseball's All-Star Game have concluded, all eyes are fixed across the pond for the oldest golf tournament in the world, the British Open.

The Open Championship, as everyone abroad calls it, is being contested at Hoylake (Royal Liverpool), where the tournament was last held in 2006.

Tiger Woods won that event in grand fashion. He dominated the field, barely using a driver on a hard and fast course.

But that was then.

Before rolling your eyes at another mention of Woods, this year's tournament isn't about him.

So what if Tiger is making his return from injury to compete for the claret jug this week?

Woods' dominance has long since faded, and he's a shell of the player he once was.

Despite his previous experience at the course, where he captured his third and most recent Open title, Woods isn't crushing the field like he did back then.

In fact, his performances in major championships of late haven't elicited any thought that he'll ever catch Jack Nicklaus' hallowed mark of 18 career major titles.

Woods has logged three top 10 finishes in his past eight majors, but he hasn't won one since 2008.

However, Woods should still be considered a contender because of his tie for third place in 2012 and a tie for sixth place in 2013 in his past two British Opens.

But Woods isn't the favorite.

That falls to Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, according to oddsmakers.

Neither played the Open the last time it was held at the historic Hoylake, where Bobby Jones secured the championship in 1930 as part of his Grand Slam of winning all four majors in the same calendar year.

Rose, though, is arguably the hottest golfer going. He has won the previous two weeks, capturing the Quicken Loans National at Congressional on the PGA two weeks ago and then the Scottish Open on the European PGA circuit last week.

Rose also shed the no major championship tag from his resume when he won the U.S. Open in 2013.

But it's awfully difficult to win three tournaments in a row, especially when the third is a major.

Meanwhile, McIlroy took a tie for 14th place at the Scottish Open. His opening round of 64 was a marvel, while the second round of 78 has inspired lingering questions about his consistency.

Sergio Garcia could finally break through and claim his first major.

Jordan Spieth should find his name high on the leaderboard this week, too.

There is an endless number of possibilities, which is the beauty of links golf.

The early reports are that the course won't play slick and feisty as it did in 2006, when the Open returned to Hoylake for the first time since 1967.

Mix in the usual blustery winds, and Sunday's final round should provide some thrilling moments.

With four of the five previous Open winners being first-time holders of the claret jug, it's safe to say that an unlikely champion should emerge.

Whoever it is, he will win golf's oldest tournament on the grandest stage.

And all eyes will be watching.

Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7017. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill.

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