ST. ANDREWS (Scotland) — The 150th edition The OpenDepending on what happens on Sunday at St. Andrews, it could end up being one of the most memorable in its long history.
Seven of the 12 top players in the Official World Ranking are within 8 shots from their co-leaders. Viktor HovlandAnd Rory McIlroyThey are 16 under and have an advantage of 4 shots going into the last 18 holes.
There are many storylines. McIlroy will try to end an eight-year drought with no major. Hovland, Cameron Young, Cameron Smith, Si Woo KimAnd Tommy FleetwoodThey will be looking for their first major wins. Scottie SchefflerFive shots behind, he will try to put a bow to one of the greatest seasons of golf history. U.S. Open winner Matt FitzpatrickWill try to win a second consecutive major.
Is there a shootout between McIlroy & Hovland? Or will the Old Course finally give in and allow others to join the fray?
Hovland replied, I don’t know. There are many things that could happen. These conditions and pin placements allow you to play well and shoot around even-par, which can bring in a lot more guys. It all depends on what the conditions will be. [Sunday], the pin positions, and just how we play.
Who will win Sundays Claret Jug? Here are the reasons why the top contenders will win, and why they won’t:
He can win:Hovland, who learned how to golf in an indoor facility at Norways Norse, is one the most talented young players around. Hovland, 24, has won twice on European Tour and three times PGA Tour. He also won the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba last November. He is the first Norwegian player who has held a lead or colead following a round at major.
Hovland stated, I don’t think there’s any other place that could top it. Growing up as a Norwegian, I watched the Open Championship more than any other Masters. It would be great to win a major close to home.
Hovland is a superb ball striker and drives the ball very well. He was ranked 10th in shots gained: approach to the green on the tour. Through the three rounds at the Old Course, he hit 44 of 54 greens. Hovland is also improving his ability to putt; he putts at 38 feet, 42 feet, and 19 feet during a streak that included four consecutive birdies on Saturday.
Why he can’t win: Hovland is as talented as he is. However, he hasn’t been great at the majors, even in limited opportunities. In his eight major pro starts, he hasnt finished in the top 10. His best finish in a major was a tie at 12th. This was his best result at the 2019 U.S. Open.
Will Hovlands putter, as good as it has been lately under pressure? What about his short game? His chipping skills have been poor in the beginning of his career. He was ranked 204th on the list of shots gained around the green. Will it bite him in round three?
He can win:McIlroy is the best player in the world this year, other than Scheffler. He has won twice on tour, and he finished in the top ten of each of his first three majors. This includes a solo second at The Masters. He drives the ball like no one else and is playing at a world-class level.
McIlroy hasn’t won a major for nearly eight seasons, but he has been exceptional on weekends of majors. Yes, some of his success was when he was out-of-contingency and back-doored his path to top-5 finishes. Still, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, McIlroy is 33 under in the final round of majors, best by any golfer in the Masters era. McIlroy will have the support of most of the gallery on Sunday and it feels like it is McIlroys turn.
Why he can’t win:How many times have you been here before? Since McIlroy won the 2014 PGA Championship in Valhalla, there have been 30 majors. McIlroy is one of only 22 major winners in that time period. Can he avoid the mistakes that have hampered his chances in the past
He can win: Since his second start on the PGA Tour, Young has looked like he belongs since he tied for second at Sanderson Farms Championship. Young finished second at Genesis Invitational and tied third at PGA Championship. In his first 20 starts, he already has five top-10s. Evidently, the New York product doesnt fear the big screen.
Young, who played at Wake Forest University, is one of the longest hitters from the tee. He averaged 369.6 yards per round on Saturday. Iron play has been even better this week. He led The Open field in shots won: teetogreen by more that a stroke in each the first two rounds.
Why he can’t win:Young is playing at his first Open, and its at the home of golf. Can you imagine more pressure than that? Its not true that first-timers do not win The Open in their debuts. Collin MorikawaLast year, it happened at Royal St. Georges. Young is a rookie and it has only been done 10 times in 150 years.
He can win: Smith is a big fan of birdie fests. His 34-under score at the Sentry Tournament of Champions is proof of this. No one on tour has done better at converting birdie opportunities than Smith this season. He has also performed well when under pressure. Smith won the Players in March with eight one-putts on the final nine holes.
The Australian is a world-class putter, and his flat stick was hot during the first round. He putt 253 feet when he shot 8-under 64 during the second round. Smith wont be lacking confidence on Sunday, even though Smith missed quite a few opportunities in round three. Given his shirt selection, its evident that Smith doesnt fear anything.
Why he won’t win:Smiths putter was great for the first 36 holes, but it wasnt very reliable Saturday. After making only 28 putts the first two rounds of the tournament, Smith needed 35 to win the third. Smith missed a 5-footer on his first hole, and made a bogey. He didnt get anything from there.
Smiths double bogey on the No. 12 hole of the Masters was a similar story to his tee shot at the same hole. Smiths bogey on No. 13 on Saturday may have cost him another chance to win his first major title.
He can win: The Open has produced some surprising champions over its 150-year history. Ian Baker-Finch (1991), Paul Lawrie (1999), Ben Curtis2003 Todd Hamilton (2004). Kim would be a good fit, considering his recent form and past majors.
But, give credit to the South Korean player. He is creative and has a lot of guts. He saved par with a spectacular flop shot from the Road Hole green. He is a three-time winner of the tour, so its not as if he has never won.
Why he can’t win: Kim probably asks too much to put together rounds that would bring down the best players around the world.
Kim was able to win his third PGA Tour title at the American Express in Jan 2021. But he hasn’t done much of this season. He has just one top-10 finish in 24 start, at the Sanderson Farms Championship last October. He also missed the cut in each of his previous three starts. He has never finished in the top-10 in 22 major starts. He had also missed more cuts (11) then he had made (10).
He can win: Scheffler is No. Scheffler is the No. 1 ranked player in the world, and has won more than anyone else this year. He had never won on tour before 2021, but he has now won four of six starts this spring, including at the Masters. He finished second in the U.S. Open.
Scheffler seems to be even-keeled and not bothered by pressure. He will be the author of one the greatest seasons of golf history if he wins The Claret Jug. Only four other players have won five times within a single season, including The Masters and The Open: Ben Hogan, 1953. Arnold Palmer1962 Tom WatsonIn 1977, Tiger Woods2005. Scheffler has been an elite member of this elite group for the past five months.
Why he wont be victorious: Is Scheffler too far back? Lawrie made a remarkable comeback in 1999 when he overcame a 10-shot deficit to win the Open 54-hole. Scheffler is not ahead of Jean van de Velde on the scoreboard. Padraig Harrington Ernie ElsCompared to 6 shots in 2007, and 2012, they were back.
Scheffler said, Guys are pretty great at golf. There is a lot of talent here and Im sticking it out. A few putts are going in, but thats it. [Saturday]Although I could have been closer to the lead, thats just how it is. I made many good putts. They are just trying to dodge the cup. But it looks like Ill likely be 6 shots back going in to [Sunday]. You never know what could happen.
He can win:DJ is one the most respected players in the world. He has won 24 times on tour, two majors included. How much talent does this man have? Johnson smashed his tee shot at No. Johnson made birdie on 18th hole, one of the most iconic holes in golf. He was able to get as low as 12 under in the third round, but he made too many mistakes down that stretch. He has the talent to return to the top if the leaders fail on Sunday.
Why he won’t win: The Open features 72 holes.