With Rory McIlroy and Victor Hovland sitting on top of the 150th Open Championship leaderboard after posting a 66-second match on Saturday, the world of golf heads into the final round on Sunday wondering if we’ll see a historic end to what was already an impressive anniversary edition of the world’s oldest. Golf Championship.
McIlroy will be capturing the great drought he experienced for eight years in St Andrews, especially considering the way he’s played in the major tournaments so far this season with the top ten in the Masters (second), the PGA Championship (8) and the US Open (T5). Hovland’s win will cement his place among golf’s rising stars, adding him to a 2022 major championship season in which the four winners will be under 30.
But what if the winner of the claret flask doesn’t come from the last pairing? What if someone made a low number charge and each of our fellow leaders went back to the group? So, who has the best chance of catching McIlroy and Hovland on Sunday?
Historically, the record for a last-round return in The Open is that held by official Paul Lawrie of 10 shots back to make a three-man playoff and win at the end. But McIlroy and/or Hovland’s chances of blasting three shots into the 18th hole as Jan van de Velde at Carnoustie that year seem unlikely. More recent and real-world examples of a notable final round comeback at The Open include Padraig Harrington’s six-stroke win in 2007, Ernie Els’ six-stroke win in 2012 and Phil Mickelson’s five-stroke win in 2013.
But none of those were in St. Andrews. The winner of every 72-hole edition of The Open played in St Andrews was four strokes from the lead heading into the final found, and has captured a Claret Jug all 22 times, According to Justin Ray. As such, here are the five contenders likely to catch up to the 150 Open Championship leaders on Sunday. Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
Cameron Smith (-12): After two days of making almost everything on the Greens, Smith wasn’t rolling in shots with the same consistency on Saturday as the 54-hole championship leader. Although he wasn’t combing many sparrows, Smith kept his run together until a double bogey collapsed in 13th place. These mistakes and fouls didn’t cost him many points on the leaderboard, but those two hits put him in a much better position to catch the leaders . As it stands, he not only needs to shoot somewhere near 65 or 66 but hope neither McIlroy nor Hovland will score in the 1960s. Odds: 11-1
Cameron Young (-12): One PGA Tour rookie put in an impressive showing on his open start, including how he saved a 1-under 71 despite two stealths and a double bogey from his spot in the last pairing. After 64 on Thursday, 69 on Friday, then 71 on Saturday, it would be great to see it reverse trend and get back into its early championship format. But that’s not the way things are, especially with players at the beginning of their major careers. Odds: 25-1
Scotty Scheffler (-11): A powerful 3-under 69 propelled the one-point-winning Masters champion to the leaderboard and a bit closer to being able to compete for a second major championship in this fantastic 2022 season. Schaeffler had his best days in the tournament yet when it came to hitting close shots at the Old Course greens, and it has yielded to create five birds a day. Scheffler is a high bid where you can almost count on a 68 or 69 on Sunday, but that score would still be less than the Clarett Jug lift unless Rory and Hovland shoot on equal terms. Si Woo Kim sits at the age of eleven under with Scheffler, but has never made the top ten in 22 main starts. Odds: 20-1
Dustin Johnson (-10): With a length to lead the green in short 4s distances and a talent for trailing, St Andrews looked well-prepared for Johnson to compete for his third major championship. Unfortunately, those efforts fizzled out on Saturday afternoon as the DJ had as many stealth across his last six (three) slots as he did in the first two rounds combined. He has the potential to hit really low on Sunday, but the way he was hit by the hills and bunkers of the old field late in the third round doesn’t bode well for an epic comeback. Odds: 50-1
Last Chance Picks for the 2022 Open Championship
Kyle Porter, Senior Golf Writer: There are countless reasons for McIlroy to win the 150th Open. He did an unimaginably good job of not letting himself get emotionally carried away during an exceptionally emotional week. His game is as tidy as it has been in the year, and he pays off scores to prove it. St Andrews is a magical place, and Rory’s win in the same week Tiger Woods walked off the stage right after two of the best wins in golf history on this course is so improbable that it seems like it could only happen on the old course. Pick: Rory McIlroy (10/11)
Chip Patterson, writer: There’s no reason to overthink this: Even the data says there’s a slightly better than 50% chance that McIlroy will get ahead of Hovland and postpone Sunday’s chase. The confidence he’s shown all week backs the analytics, and it’s time to reward a generational talent at another peak in his Hall of Fame career. McIlroy has never finished in the top 10 out of all four of the majors in a season and is not only ready to do just that, but to break the major drought he endured for eight years at St Andrews. Pick: Rory McIlroy (10/11)
Patrick MacDonald, golf writer: McIlroy is riding a wave of momentum, and it looks as if he can do no wrong on the old pitch. This week marked a return to 2014 where he often played with the perfect blend of aggressiveness and discipline. Eight years later, he will once again raise the Clarett Jug, joining Sword Ballesteros and Byron Nelson as the five-time main champion. Pick: Rory McIlroy (10/11)
Kyle Boone, writer: How far back is too far? are five strokes – in these circumstances, in this course, with this is Star-studded leaderboard – Too many? No winner has won an Open Championship hosted by St Andrews after trailing by more than four strokes at the 54-hole mark, according to Justin Ray. However, it does seem fairly reasonable with respect to Scheffler. After seeing Justin Thomas come out of a seven-stroke hole and enter the fourth round in the PGA Championship back in May, pushing Scheffler to take a pitcher claret on Sunday doesn’t seem like an impossible task. He’s played well all week, is second on the field in hits earned on approach and has the goods to make a big splash if his racket starts to roll. Pick: Scotty Scheffler (20-1)
Adam Silverstein, Managing Editor: Just because he stopped winning doesn’t mean McIlroy struggled to play well in the big business. Since 2014, he has 16 top 10 out of 30 chances like this, and three of those have come this year alone. The problem is that McIlroy usually starts slow or wastes a low score in the first round, often coming through the back door. That is not the case this week as McIlroy has stayed consistently hot with 66-68-66 points over the first three rounds. Rory clearly has the advantage of the home course at St Andrews – the crowd is emotionally invested in his success – and yet he was able to fend off her and play calm and intelligent golf. What better way to end eight years of drought than by winning the 150th Open? Pick: Rory McIlroy (10/11)
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