British Open chances: Is it Rory McIlroy’s time to hoist the Claret Jug?

Leading up to the British Open, we'll offer up our thoughts on some of the game's best players and their chances to win at Royal Lytham and St Annes. We kick things off with the second-ranked golfer in the world, who comes into the week having missed the cut in four of his last six starts.

Rory McIlroy

His 2012 so far: McIlroy had a brilliant start to the season, posting five top-5 finishes in his first six starts and winning the Honda Classic to become the top-ranked golfer in the world back in March. But since his missed cut at The Players Championship, the season has been a major disappointment. Even though the 23-year-old has a couple of top-10 finishes in his last three starts, you can't overlook the fact that he's missed the cut in four of last six events.

His record at the British Open: With the exception of a T-3 at St. Andrews in 2010, his record at golf's oldest major has been a mixed bag. McIlroy took home low amateur honors with a T-42 in 2007, and finished T-47 (2009) and T-25 (2011) as a professional.

Why he could win: People tend to forget that we're talking about the second-ranked golfer in there world. Sure, he hasn't played his best golf of late, but when you have a major championship on your resume and one of the best swings in the game, you can't discount a guy's chances. He has as good a shot as anyone in the field -- especially if he brings his early season game to Royal Lytham.

Why he could fall short: McIlroy's had a lot of trouble keeping the ball in the fairway recently -- he ranks 136th in fairways hit percentage -- and that could really hurt his chances this week. With rough that resembles swamp grass, keeping it in the short grass will be a must if you want to keep the bogeys and dreaded "others" off your card. His recent T-10 at the Irish Open tells you he's headed in the right direction, but his erratic play off the tee makes him a question mark this week.

Our take: Rory McIlroy may hoist the Claret Jug before his career is over, but it's difficulty to see him being much of a factor this year. Unless he can figure things out off the tee and keep the mistakes to a minimum, we see the U.S. Open champ posting a solid top-25 finish.

And you? What's your take on Rory McIlroy's chances this week?

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