British Open 2013: And the winner is......
Former world No. 1 Luke Donald is looking to capture his first major title (Getty Images).
July 17th, 2013
03:16 PM ET

British Open 2013: And the winner is......

If anyone tells you they know who's going to win this year's British Open Championship, and proffers betting advice, walk away. For they are both foolish and dangerous. That's not to say there are no educated guesses, but there lies no certainty here at Muirfield.

This is a course that, ever since the last decade of the 19th Century, has pretty much outlined the best player of the era. From Harry Vardon and James Braid to Walter Hagen and Henry Cotton. Not forgetting Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson as well as Nick Faldo (twice) and Ernie Els. So history suggests a class player.

However history here also suggests that Muirfield can sometimes be the first to identify that class.

Vardon won the first of his six Opens here, Player's first major of nine came on these links, Nicklaus's debut Open Championship too. More recently, Faldo's 1987 Muirfield Open was the first of his six career majors.

So, perhaps an emerging top-class talent. That narrows it down a little, but, this being the Open Championship, not a great deal.

So maybe we should be looking at the current course conditions for more guidance.

Every morning we're waking to blue skies, rising temperatures and a gentle breeze.

Carnoustie in October this is not. The fairways are golden and browning further. With four-foot high, whispy rough lining every tight fairway, the course resembles a part-harvested field of wheat on a glorious August afternoon.

In practice rounds, players are hitting one, maybe two drivers a day. Otherwise they're tackling long par-four holes with a controlled iron off the tee, and still coming in with short irons and wedges.

Quite simply, someone who misses more than the odd fairway here - and some are ribbon-like in their meager width - is not going to win at Muirfield. Their second is very unlikely to reach the green, and even if it were to, it's certainly not going to stop on it.

The only way to score is to come in from the fairway, with enough spin and elevation to control the ball when it lands.

When we spoke to Rory McIlroy earlier this week he told us he thought his naturally high ball flight would be a big advantage.

He's got a strong point there, I'm just not entirely convinced that after working on his swing so much this year he's going to be playing off the short stuff on every hole. If he were to crack that first part, though, he'd not be far away from the Claret Jug.

Rory's playing partner in the first two rounds, Phil Mickelson, arrives here fresh from his first victory on a links course, at last week's Scottish Open.

He says he's finally worked out putting on this type of green. He's certainly another of the favorites, and it would be his first Open, although Castle Stuart has fairways of much greater generosity. Perhaps.

Els, Louis Oosthuizen and now Adam Scott have all proved they can win at the highest level, withstanding the intense pressures of a major championship. They've all performed outstandingly on links course here in Britain: they also have the iron play to prosper here. All contenders.

But if you're looking for outstanding iron players with great short games, a couple of names stand out.

Neither has won a major. Both undoubtedly have the class to do so. Yes, Justin Rose has the talent, and has more than a decent shout, but surely two in a row would be just too much to ask?

So while betting on golf is not a path to riches, I'm tempted by the chances of Matteo Manassero and Luke Donald. Logic and history together. It'll never catch on.

Oh and I haven't even mentioned Tiger Woods, because, frankly, who knows. If he plays as he did at Hoylake in 2006, he'll win. We'll start to have an answer to that one by Thursday evening.

Play starts at 0632 on Thursday. Four long days later we'll have a champion. This being Muirfield, whoever it is, the odds are it won't be their last moment at the summit of the game.

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