1. Tiger Woods - I haven't given up hope on Tiger Woods winning a major in 2010 yet. He was tied for fourth at the Masters and U.S. Open, which signifies even with a million things swirling around in his head and a faulty golf game, he can still compete. Andy North said on ESPN Wednesday night that if Tiger wins a major this year, it should be considered a bonus to him in his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus after all he's gone through in the past year. I mostly agree with that statement because no one will truly fault him for not winning a major this year. St. Andrews is his favorite course (which seems to be a trendy thing to say this week) and it suits his golf game better than nearly any other course on the Tour. He's separated from his old Scotty Cameron putter and has chosen one more suitable for slow greens. The only question - how much does the putter get in this split?
2. Rory McIlroy - A hometown boy, McIlroy knows the course and how to play in the inclement weather that is sure to rear its ugly head throughout the next four days. McIlroy has shown he can compete with the big boys after winning the Quail Hollow Championship by four strokes. In 2010, we have seen a new scene of young golfers start to make their place on the Tour, and I don't have any intentions of counting McIlroy out on his home turf.
3. Justin Rose - Being paired with Tiger Woods in the first round used to be a very tall task, and in some ways it still is, but Rose is as hot a golfer there is on tour right now. He won the AT&T National and is the #3 ranked golfer in the world. With four Top 10s already in his bag in 2010, I'd be very surprised not to see Rose in contention on Sunday. Birdies are key at St. Andrews - so is avoiding hazards - but Rose ranks 3rd in birdies per round (4.07), so he'll have to reign in his driver (ranked 28th in driving accuracy) to round out his game.
4. John Daly - After seeing John Daly pose in his Jackson Pollack inspired sport coat for the Champions dinner, it's hard not to get behind him. His golf game is temperamental so he may shoot in the low-mid 60s one day and throw it all out the window the next... but I think he's due.
5. Phil Mickelson - Mickelson doesn't have a storied history at the British Open, but eliminating him from contention would be a huge mistake. He won the Masters and has five Top 10 finishes in 13 events this year. Oh, and he's also Top 10 in driving distance (7), birdies per round (6) and eagles (9). If he doesn't drive himself into hazards and take unneeded chances trying to remove himself from those mistakes, he'll be primed for a shoot-out on Sunday.
6. Stewart Cink - Cink battled Tom Watson in 2009 and edged him in a playoff for the victory. Taking a look at the leaderboard from last year will show their scores are the same at -2, but Cink walked away with the Claret Jug. There is always something to be said of a defending champion taking a run at repeating, but understanding the pressure he/she faces is something only the players can truly understand. He's only made 1/2 cuts at Majors this year, but his game is well-suited for St. Andrews.
7. Sergio Garcia - As long as Sergio doesn't spit in the hole or play mind games with himself, he should be able to compete at a high level and crack the Top 10. Then again, he's as inconsistent as John Daly at times and seems to be his biggest enemy. That being said, he can drive the ball a long way and is always a threat, but he seems to play his best golf when he's already out of contention. I believe he'll win a major one day, but not this one.
8. Steve Stricker - Golfers who win the week before a major rarely produce the same results the following week, but Stricker is red hot right now. Following a win at the John Deere Classic with a major win at the British open will be a tall task - not one I believe he'll achieve - but he's peaking at the right moment to make a run at it.
9. Dustin Johnson - He fell apart at the U.S. Open but one thing that's needed at St. Andrews is length off the tee - and Johnson has it. He'll need to improve his driver accuracy (ranked 160th) and rely on eagles (1) and birdies (10) to pull him through and recover from any off-the-tee mishaps. If his mental game is as strong as his golf game, you'll see him toward the top come Sunday.
10. Tom Watson - I'm putting him at 10, but I'd like to see him at 1 by the end of Sunday. He has so much history at this course and tournament and it is unknown how many more times we'll get to see him play here - especially at St. Andrews. Maybe he has one miracle left in him after falling a shot short in 2009.