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Now, he has a chance at even more history in a gray old town dripping with it.

No one has ever won the claret jug three times at St. Andrews. Woods remains the betting favorite, and not even his biggest rivals dispute that he likely will be a factor.

“I think he’s going to play well here because he has a lot of heart, he’s got an incredible short game and he hits the ball a long ways,” Phil Mickelson said. “His irons are as good as anybody’s in the game, and I think the golf course … he’s obviously won on it twice. He has gutted out two fourth-place finishes in majors when he probably didn’t have his best stuff, and this course sets up very well for him.

“So he will be in contention on Sunday,” Mickelson said. “I don’t know how anybody can question that.”

Yet there remain so many questions.

Woods caused a small stir last week when he flew to Ireland for a two-day charity event that ended Tuesday, and instead of sticking around to get adjusted to links golf, flew home to Florida to spend time with his children.

Five years ago when he last won the Open at St. Andrews, he had been married nine months. He now can barely escape a press conference without getting questions about the chaos in his personal life.

His image is not what it once was, although Woods doesn’t think that matters when he puts a tee in the ground.

“I’m here to play a championship, and this is the Open Championship at St. Andrews,” he said. “I mean, this is as good as it gets. It’s the home of golf. I’m just like every other player in this field. … I would like to win no matter what.”

His game is about as predictable as the weather in these parts, and that could be anything.

Woods contended at the Masters and the U.S. Open, tying for fourth in both those majors. He hasn’t finished in the top 10 in the four regular PGA Tour events he has played, and didn’t even finish two of them.

And he has never gone this deep into a season without winning.

“I understand how to play this golf course,” Woods said. “It’s a matter of going out there and putting it together, and putting it together at the right time.”

The list of contenders is greater than ever, even at St. Andrews.

Mickelson has played the majors even better than Woods, winning the Masters and tying for fourth in the U.S. Open. He has yet another chance to move past Woods at No. 1 in the world.

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