Power Rankings: The Open Championship

Ah, The Open Championship. Perhaps the outcome of no other golf tournament in the world relies so much on the weather conditions than this one.

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Muirfield Golf Links hosts for the 16th time. During its last turn in 2002, wind and rain battered the Scottish coast along the southern edge of the Firth of Forth on Saturday of the tournament. Tiger Woods, who sat two strokes off the 36-hole lead, was a non-factor after a third-round 81 in the dreadful conditions. Also two shots back at the midpoint after a second-round 64, Colin Montgomerie blew up for an 84 on that saturating Saturday. The scoring average for the field that day was 74.61.

The forecast for this week's return to Muirfield is benign. Light winds from the prevailing west will flip by Friday and remain easterly for the weekend. A gradual warming from the high 60s into the low 80s is also expected throughout. Of course, don't be surprised if the elements change.

Even a casual golf fan would recognize each of the last seven champions at Muirfield. From Gary Player in 1959 to Ernie Els in 2002, there isn't a fluke among them. Jack Nicklaus completed his career Grand Slam here in 1966, and then named his home course in Dublin, Ohio after it. Muirfield Village, annual site of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance, will host the Presidents Cup for the first time this fall.

Lee Trevino won the second of his two consecutive Opens at Muirfield in 1972. Tom Watson claimed his five Open Championships on different courses, the third of which at Muirfield in 1980. And Nick Faldo won two of his three Opens here, doing so in consecutive editions in 1987 and 1992. He joined James Braid (1896, 1901) as the only multiple champions at Muirfield.

Despite its name, Muirfield Golf Links isn't a traditional links layout. The routing of the par 71 measuring 7,192 yards spirals twice. Holes 1-9 circle the perimeter of the property before holes 10-18 go in the opposite direction on the interior. The most important takeaway from this is that the direction of any wind is always changing. Patience, course management and proper preparation are at a premium.

NOTE: For similar characteristics among recent winners of The Open Championship, please look for "Stats Suggest" in The Stats Report on Wednesday.

Power Rankings: The Open Championship
Rank Player   Comment
Phil MICKELSON Phil MICKELSON Piled on a rapidly expanding monster year worldwide with a playoff victory at Castle Stuart on Sunday. It was his second win and sixth top-three finish in his last 13 starts. Tied for second in this major as recently as 2011.
Tiger WOODS Tiger WOODS The three-time Open champ tied for third last year. Four victories in 2013, including THE PLAYERS. Leads the PGA TOUR in adjusted scoring and the all-around ranking. Also 44th in greens hit and fourth in strokes gained-putting.
Justin ROSE Justin ROSE Arrives rested. In only start since winning the U.S. Open, he tied for 13th at the Travelers Championship. Leads the PGA TOUR in total driving, ranks 15th in GIR and second in adjusted scoring. Shared 22nd place at Muirfield in 2002.
Ernie ELS Ernie ELS The defending champion and short-game wizard has 13 top 10s in 22 appearances in this major, nine of which are top fives. Recent success at the BMW PGA Championship (T6), U.S. Open (T4) and BMW International Open (win).
Graeme MCDOWELL Graeme MCDOWELL Three victories in his last eight starts are accompanied by missed cuts in the other five, all of which prominent events for the Ulsterman. He's 6-for-9 at The Open Championship with a career-best T5 last year.
Charl SCHWARTZEL Charl SCHWARTZEL Hasn't played since placing 14th at the U.S. Open. Three top 15s in his last four starts, but he's enjoyed considerable success since late 2012. Sits third on the PGA TOUR in adjusted scoring. Three top 25s in The Open Championship.
Brandt SNEDEKER Brandt SNEDEKER En route to a T3 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes last year, tied the 36-hole scoring record and played his first 40 holes bogey-free. Finished T6 at this year's Masters, T8 at THE PLAYERS Championship and T17 at the U.S. Open.
Bill HAAS Bill HAAS Chased his title at the AT&T National with a T9 at The Greenbrier Classic. Leads the PGA TOUR with eight top 10s. Ranks seventh in greens hit, T2 in par-4 scoring and 21st in adjusted scoring. Tied for 19th in last year's Open Championship.
Jason DAY Jason DAY Didn't let a strained right hand suffered at Merion prevent a co-runner-up finish at the U.S. Open. After a week off, tied for 21st at the AT&T National. Ranks 21st in strokes gained-putting and 13th in adjusted scoring.
Sergio GARCIA Sergio GARCIA Despite his claim that he can't win majors, he deserves to be included among probable contenders. Seven top 10s at The Open Championship, including a T8 at Muirfield in 2002. Eighteen top 20s in his last 21 starts worldwide.
Adam SCOTT Adam SCOTT Infamously bogeyed the last four holes at Royal Lytham & St. Annes last year to lose by one stroke, so he's seeking redemption this week. Since breaking through at the Masters, he's played just four times. Ranks fifth in adjusted scoring.
Henrik STENSON Henrik STENSON Settled for a T3 at Castle Stuart after owning the 54-hole lead. Seven top 25s worldwide in last 11 starts. Two T3s in his last four starts at The Open Championship. Ranks fourth on TOUR in total driving and third in GIR.
Lee WESTWOOD Lee WESTWOOD Cooled after a stretch of five straight top 10s ending with a T9 at the BMW PGA Championship. Reemerged with a T15 at Merion a month ago. Three top-four finishes in this tournament. Ranks 17th on TOUR in adjusted scoring.
Zach JOHNSON Zach JOHNSON His playoff loss at the John Deere Classic was his fourth top-three finish at TPC Deere Run in the last five years. Since 2007, he's 6-for-6 at The Open Championship with three top 20s, including a career-best T9 last year.
Hideki MATSUYAMA Hideki MATSUYAMA Just 21 years of age and making his debut at this tournament. Qualified while still an amateur. Eight top 10s in his nine starts as a pro, including two wins and two seconds. Leads the Japan Golf Tour in earnings by a wide margin.
Dustin JOHNSON Dustin JOHNSON Despite overall inconsistency, he's shown an affinity for this tournament. In his last three appearances, he's placed T14 (2010), T2 (2011) and T9 (2012). Ranks T27 on the PGA TOUR in strokes gained-putting. Thrives in the wind.
Luke DONALD Luke DONALD While he's not contending as often, he was due to taper from an impossible pace in 2011 and 2012. Two T5s and a T11 in his last four starts in The Open Championship. Still among the best scramblers and putters on the planet.
Nicolas COLSAERTS Nicolas COLSAERTS Balancing full schedules on both sides of the Atlantic for the first time has yielded mixed results. Six top 10s this year. Closed out a T7 at last year's Open with field-low 65. Leads PGA TOUR in distance off the tee; 24th in GIR.
Matt KUCHAR Matt KUCHAR His only top 25 among two cuts made in eight starts in this tournament occurred last year (T9), but his career is missing just one trophy -- a major. Sits sixth on TOUR in adjusted scoring. Two victories this season.
Rory MCILROY Rory MCILROY Arguably the most polarizing figure in this feature given a largely disappointing year despite four top 10s on the PGA TOUR. But it's his ability to turn it around quickly that lands him here. He's also 5-for-5 at The Open Championship.