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BRITISH OPEN '14: A capsule look at 10 top contenders

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HOYLAKE, England - A capsule look at 10 top players expected to contend at the 143rd British Open, to be played July 17-20 at Royal Liverpool Golf Club (players listed in predicted order of finish):


Age: 38.

Country: Sweden.

World ranking: 2.

Worldwide wins: 12.

Majors: None.

2014 wins: None.

2014 majors: Masters-T14, US Open-T4.

Backspin: Stenson began his big run at this time a year ago, with a tie for third in the Scottish Open, runner-up at the British Open and Bridgestone Invitational, third in the PGA Championship and three wins after that to capture the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai. He had a slow start in 2014, though he is rounding into form with top 10s in five of his last six tournaments.



Age: 34.

Country: Australia.

World ranking: 1.

Worldwide wins: 24.

Majors: Masters (2013).

2014 wins: Colonial.

2014 majors: Masters-T14, US Open-T9.

Backspin: Scott has had good chances to win the last two Opens, losing a four-shot lead at Royal Lytham & St. Annes and getting passed by Phil Mickelson last year at Muirfield. Few are better with a driver, and that could be an important club at a Royal Liverpool links that is more green and lush than last time. Scott is getting comfortable at No. 1 in the world — he has been there nearly two months now.



Age: 20.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 10.

Worldwide wins: 1.

Majors: None.

2014 wins: None.

2014 majors: Masters-T2, US Open-T17.

Backspin: His only victory remains the John Deere Classic a year ago when he holed a bunker shot on the final hole to get into a playoff. That he is No. 10 in the world speaks more to a body of work that includes everything but winning. He shared the 54-hole lead at the Masters and The Players Championship. Since that win at the John Deere, he has nine top 10s against strong fields, and four runner-up finishes. His greatest strength is an immaculate short game, particular out of the bunkers.



Age: 25.

Country: Northern Ireland.

World ranking: 8.

Worldwide wins: 12.

Majors: US Open (2011), PGA Championship (2012).

2014 wins: BMW PGA Championship.

2014 majors: Masters-T8, US Open-T23.

Backspin: Since opening with a 63 at St. Andrews in 2010, The Open is the major that has given McIlroy fits. McIlroy is a threat off the tee, though his putting can disappear at the worst of times. Holding him back this year has been the peculiar habit of blowing up over a nine-hole stretch, particularly on Fridays. If he can avoid that, he might find reason to love this championship again.



Age: 29.

Country: Germany.

World ranking: 12.

Worldwide wins: 12.

Majors: US Open (2014), PGA Championship (2010).

2014 wins: The Players Championship, US Open.

2014 majors: Masters-T31, US Open-1.

Backspin: Kaymer followed his eight-shot win at the U.S. Open by missing the cut, though it was in Germany during a week of celebrating his second major title. He returned to form at the French Open, and his wire-to-wire victories in two big events will only boost his confidence. Now that he has a full array of shots, the German needs to show a creative side on links golf. Only six players have won the U.S. Open and British Open in the same year — Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen and Bobby Jones. That's pretty good company.



Age: 38.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 7.

Worldwide wins: 90.

Majors: Masters (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005), US Open (2000, 2002, 2008), British Open (2000, 2005, 2006), PGA Championship (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007).

2014 wins: None.

2014 majors: Masters-DNP, US Open-DNP.

Backspin: Once a sure thing, now a mystery. Woods plays a major for the first time this year after back surgery on March 31 kept him out of the Masters and U.S. Open. His return at Congressional did little to inspire confidence except that he appeared to be physically fit. He put on a clinic at Royal Liverpool in 2006 to win by two shots. That was a brown course. This one will be more green. And while he might hit more than one driver this time, his week depends largely on his putting.



Age: 34.

Country: Spain.

World ranking: 9.

Worldwide wins: 24.

Majors: None.

2014 wins: Qatar Masters.

2014 majors: Masters-Cut, US Open-T35.

Backspin: Fives times, the Spaniard has gone into the final round of The Open within three shots or better of the lead, including his three-shot lead at Carnoustie in 2007. His game has been close this year, though he has not developed any momentum. The last time at Hoylake, he played in the final group with Tiger Woods and fell back early. No other player from his generation has had more chances in the majors without winning one.



Age: 44.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 13.

Worldwide wins: 45.

Majors: Masters (2004, 2006, 2010), British Open (2013), PGA Championship (2005).

2014 wins: None.

2014 majors: Masters-Cut, US Open-T28.

Backspin: Not even Mickelson thought he would ever win a claret jug until he delivered one of the great closing rounds last year at Muirfield. Perhaps even more surprising is that he has not won another tournament since then, and only once (Abu Dhabi) did he have a chance to win. All parts of his game have been in working order this year, just not at the same time. As always, he is at a stage in his career when great golf can show up when he least expects it.



Age: 33.

Country: England.

World ranking: 6.

Worldwide wins: 12.

Majors: US Open (2013).

2014 wins: Quicken Loans National.

2014 majors: Masters-T14, US Open-T12.

Backspin: Coming off a win at Congressional will only boost his confidence as Rose takes on Royal Liverpool for the first time. His game had taken a turn for the worse in 2006 and he didn't qualify for the Open. His best result remains a tie for fourth when he was a 17-year-old amateur at Royal Birkdale in 1998. The win at Congressional was a reminder of how he has learned to hang around the lead and close with authority.



Age: 35.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 18.

Worldwide wins: 3.

Majors: None.

2014 wins: Sony Open, AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-am.

2014 majors: Masters-T8, US Open-T9.

Backspin: Walker has been atop the FedEx Cup standings for all but one week dating to the start of the season in October. Three wins contribute to that, and he has quietly played very solid golf. Walker and Rickie Fowler are the only players to register top 10s in both majors this year. This is only his 13th major, however, and he still hasn't been in contention in the final hour. He is capable, even if hardly anyone notices. The drawback is his limited experience at links golf, though he played the Scottish Open this year.

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