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British Open Kicks Off Thursday

More than 150 golfers will be taking part in the 131st British Open this week at the Muirfield course in Scotland. But, the pre-tournament talk centers on one man, American Tiger Woods.

This is the eighth time since World War II that the British Open is being held at the course on the southern shores of the Firth of Forth, near Edinburgh. The course - its fairways and greens, its roughs and dunes and much-feared bunkers - is often described as tough, but fair.

Although 156 golfers are entered in this year's British Open, many average British golfers agreed: the winner will be Tiger Woods.

"He is so focused," one British golfer commented. "That is the key to it. Every single time he is so focused, so zoned in. You cannot play against a machine, and he unfortunately is a machine. That is the issue."

"Is he though?" another asked.

"Well, he is," replied the first.

"No one has rattled him, have they?" the other said.

"That is what I am saying, he is a machine. He is very hard to rattle, and that is what this game is all about," the first golfer said. "Once you get to those types of standards, it is all psychological."

Tiger Woods is at the halfway point of winning all four of the world's major golf tournaments in a single year. But, Graham Sharp from the British bookmaking chain William Hill says that, win or lose, Tiger Woods will be the star attraction in the British Open.

"I think people will watch, A., to appreciate his ability and then, B., to say 'well this is exciting,' if he is not quite 'firing on all cylinders,'" Mr. Sharp said. "Can he come back from four strokes behind after two or three rounds? That type of thing just maintains the interest and excitement. And you would rather have somebody that people have a strong opinion about, whether it is for or against. It keeps them watching, for whatever reason, either to see him win, or to see him beat."

However, British golfer Nick Faldo also has high hopes. Faldo won the British Open the past two times the tournament was held at Muirfield, in 1987 and 1992. Other top players in the tournament include Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, and Justin Rose.