George McNeill ... Tiger Woods famously won at Royal Liverpool just 81 days after his father's death in 2006. Runner-up Chris DiMarco lost his mother 19 days prior to his career tying-best finish in a major. McNeill's sister died on the day he finished alone in second place at The Greenbrier Classic (on July 6) to punch his ticket into his second Open Championship (MC, 2010). While he's played above-average golf most of the season, he competes with a modified purpose this week.
Paul Casey ... As promised, he returned to Europe following a steady stint in the U.S. that concluded with a thud at the U.S. Open (T56), but he's picked up steam again with top 25s in Germany and Scotland. And, of course, the native Englishman should feel at home at Royal Liverpool this week. He has two top 10s in The Open Championship, the last coming in 2010 at St. Andrews (T3) when he was camped out inside the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Robert Karlsson ... Once as high as No. 6 in the Official World Golf Ranking, the Swede is attempting a bit of a career resurrection akin to what fellow countryman Henrik Stenson enjoyed in 2013. It would be unfair to label Karlsson's goals as identical to the incredibly lofty standards set by Stenson, who is seven years younger, but the progress is evident. Sitting as low as 313th in the OWGR in early November, Karlsson is currently 140th following a T8 at the Scottish Open. It's the third top 10 in his last five starts. This week's Open Championship marks the 25th anniversary since the 45-year-old first competed in the tournament.
Pablo Larrazábal ... The casual fan will associate the Spaniard with his harrowing experience evading hornets in Malaysia in April, but he properly deserves attention for his play all year. Since opening 2014 with a win in Abu Dhabi, he's added four top-11 finishes, including a T8 during that memorable week in Kuala Lumpur, a T8 in Germany three weeks ago and a T11 in Scotland this past Sunday. The terrific putter ranks 15th on the European Tour in scoring average. He's 3-for-4 in The Open Championship.
Danny Willett ... If converging trends matter, then expect to see a considerable amount of the 26-year-old Brit all week. He tied for 15th in last year's Open Championship at Muirfield and he arrives having finished no worse than T11 (Scottish Open) in his last three starts. Overall, he's recorded eight top 20s in 2014. However, a modicum of caution must be exerted as he's played through a shoulder injury all year, but excluding three withdrawals since February, he hasn't officially missed a cut anywhere since late September of 2013.