Rory goes for Royalty at St. Georges

The Open Championship tees off Thursday morning at Royal St. Georges Golf Club in Sandwich, England, the first time the course has hosted the Open Championship since Ben Curtis won it in 2003. The last time the event was played here just one player – Curtis – finished under par, and only two were at even par, runners-up Vijay Singh and Thomas Bjorn.

Won U.S. Open and Open Championship
Same Season

Rory McIlroy tees it up for the first time since winning the U.S. Open by eight shots last month. He’ll be trying to join a select group by winning both the U.S. Open and the Open Championship in the same season. Since 1960, only three men have done that: Tiger Woods, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino.

Recent history doesn’t favor him, as just two of the past 10 U.S. Open winners have even finished in the top 10 in the following Open Championship. But McIlroy has been on a hot streak of late. He’s had a lead after seven of the last eight major rounds this season, and has finished in the top three in three of his last four majors played.

Phil Mickelson has traditionally struggled at the Open Championship in his career. He has just one top 10 finish in 16 appearances as a professional, a third-place finish in 2004. In fact, in 10 of his 16 starts, he’s finished 40th or worse, including a 48th place finish last year.

Luke Donald, the top-ranked golfer according to the latest Official World Golf Rankings, enters the Open Championship fresh off his victory at the Scottish Open. However, he’s historically not played well here, making the cut in just five of 10 starts. Furthermore, it’s been almost two decades since an Englishman won, when Nick Faldo hoisted the trophy in 1992.

Lee Westwood is perhaps the best player to never have won a major, with eight top-five major finishes and two second place finishes. Yet Westwood appears poised to finally break through, having finished among the top three in five of his last seven majors, including each of the last two Open Championships.

Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen will try to become the third man in the last six years to successfully defend his Open Championship title. Oosthuizen finished tied for ninth at last month’s U.S. Open, his highest major finish outside the 2010 Open Championship win. But overall Oosthuizen has largely been a non-factor at majors, with nine missed cuts in 12 majors played.

Having trouble picking a winner from the field? You’re not alone. Over the last 11 majors played, there have been 11 different winners. It's the longest stretch of its kind since 2002-05, when there were 12 consecutive majors won by 12 different players.

Your best bet might be to pick a golfer without a United States flag next to his name. The last five majors have been won by non-Americans, the first time that's happened in Major Championship Golf history. Three of the last four Open Championships have been won by non-Americans, and last year at St. Andrews, no American finished in the top five for the first time since 2002.