By Brandon Raper @Brandon__Raper on July 15, 2014
It's time for the Open Championship, and fans - at least on this side of the pond - are stocking up on coffee and energy drinks with some early morning golf in our future. It's a great week for a great tournament.
The caffeine will help, but to truly prepare for Royal Liverpool, make sure you're watching the following storylines as the year's third major kicks off. Let us know what you'll be watching for in the comments below!
Ever since Lefty won the 2013 Open at Muirfield in stunning fashion, he's become rather attached to the Claret Jug, traveling the world with it, sharing it with family and friends, and even drinking really, really, REALLY expensive wine out of it.
Mickelson could become just the third player to defend in the last 30 years if he can win this week. Although he hasn't been stellar in 2013, how cool would it be to see Mickelson do it again?
It's been a year since Jordan Spieth established himself as one of the rising stars of golf, and at 20 years old he's a strong contender this week. It's not just him. Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Jason Day; the field is littered with 20-something stars.
Of course, the last three Opens have been won by players in their 40's, and players who have more links experience stick around. Youth is favored now, but don't count out the veterans, either.
While experience definitely helps in the unique conditions of the Open, we've seen our share of first-time major champions raise the Claret Jug, as well. In fact, it's happened seven times since 2000, and that's counting Padraig Harrington and Tiger Woods repeating.
Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar are the early favorites to pull the feat off this week, and several of the other top contenders are in the hunt for a career-defining victory.
Give Adam Scott credit - he plays a limited schedule, but when he shows up, he takes care of business, and looks every bit like the No. 1-ranked player in the world.
He's been in the top three each of the last two Opens, and he had the 2012 edition all but locked up before bogeying his final four holes to lose to Ernie Els. In 2014, he's got six top-tens and a win in ten starts, and all the pieces are in place for him to make a run.
Whether you love him or hate him, everybody will be watching to see what Tiger can do in the hunt for major No. 15. This is such a big deal that ESPN will have an all-Tiger simulcast online throughout the Open.
He's been hurt, but Tiger's won hurt before. This time just feels different. We've seen Woods once since surgery, and nobody really knows what to expect. Whatever happens, this is the story everybody will be talking about this weekend.
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