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McIlroy Favored to Win British Open Over Woods After U.S. Open

Rory McIlroy is favored to win golf’s British Open next month after his eight-stroke victory at the U.S. Open, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.

McIlroy, who at 22 is the youngest major champion since Tiger Woods in 1997, opened as a 6-1 favorite at the Las Vegas Hilton’s Race and Sports Book.

McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, set 12 U.S. Open records in his win at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, including the lowest winning score in the tournament’s 111-year history at 16-under par. His victory came two months after he blew a four-shot lead during the final round at the Masters Tournament, the first major of the season.

“Rory is the well-deserved favorite coming off his dominating performance in the U.S. Open,” Jeff Sherman, the assistant manager at the Las Vegas Hilton, said in an e-mail. “He very well could be heading into the Open Championship with two majors in hand had he not given away the Masters.”

Lee Westwood of England is the second-favorite at 10-1, followed by Woods and Luke Donald, the No. 1 golfer in the Official World Golf Ranking, at 15-1.

The British Open, the season’s third major championship, is scheduled for July 14-17 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich on the English coast, 77 miles (124 kilometers) southeast of London.

Third in 2010

During his post-tournament news conference two days ago, McIlroy three times referred to winning his first major and said he planned to add to that tally. McIlroy has finished third or better in three of his past four majors. He tied for third at last year’s British Open at St. Andrews in Scotland even after following a first-round 63 with an 80.

“I’m going to take three weeks off, I think, get myself ready for the Open Championship,” McIlroy said after shooting four straight rounds in the 60s to win the U.S. Open. “I want to give myself a great chance to prepare well for that and hopefully give myself a good chance to win.”

The last player to win consecutive major championships was Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, who in 2008 captured the British Open and PGA Championship. Woods was the last golfer to win the U.S. Open and British Open in the same year, in 2000, when he also won the PGA Championship.

Woods, 35, last week missed the U.S. Open for the first time since 1994 as he recovers from leg injuries. He hasn’t won a tournament since November 2009 and has fallen to 17th in the world rankings, 13 spots behind McIlroy. Woods captured the last of his 14 major titles at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Head to Head

Woods’s opening Las Vegas odds to win the British Open are the same as they were for the U.S. Open when he pulled out.

“Hopefully he can get healthy and can get back playing good golf, because the game of golf is a better place with him playing well,” McIlroy said. “It would be great to be able to get in contention one day, whether it be a major or just a regular event and go down the stretch with him because I’ve never really had that experience.”

During Woods’s dry spell, the past five major titles have been won by non-American players for the first time in history.

Martin Kaymer of Germany, the 2010 PGA Championship winner, has 20-1 odds of winning the British Open next month, followed by Phil Mickelson of the U.S. at 25-1. Mickelson has had one top-20 finish at the British Open since he placed third in 2004, his best career performance at the tournament.

Jason Day 30-1

Australia’s 23-year-old Jason Day has 30-1 odds to win after runner-up finishes at the Masters and U.S. Open. Also at 30-1 are Sergio Garcia of Spain and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, the 2010 U.S. Open champion.

McIlroy said while he didn’t expect to get his first major title by this stage of his career, he’s excited to challenge for more. At the same time, he shrugs off comparisons to Woods, who has 71 U.S. PGA Tour wins and is four major titles behind record holder Jack Nicklaus.

Woods has missed the cut for weekend play six times since turning professional in 1996, while McIlroy has six missed cuts in PGA Tour events over three years playing in the U.S.

“It’s nice that people say, ‘He could be this’ or ‘He could be that’ or ‘He could win 20 major championships’, but at the end of the day I’ve won one,” McIlroy said. “I just want to add to that tally.”

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