The world of golf heads into the final round on Sunday as Rory McIlroy and Victor Hovland sit atop the leaderboard at the 150th Open Championship. Golf Championship.
McIlroy will be looking to break his eight-year drought at St Andrews, especially with the way he’s played at major championships so far this season, with top-10 finishes at the Masters (2nd), PGA Championship (8th) and US Open (T5). A victory for Hovland would cement his place among golf’s rising stars and put him in the 2022 major championship season, which will also feature four winners under the age of 30.
But what if the winner of the Claret Jug doesn’t come from the final pairing? What if someone charges a low number and both of our co-leaders are back in the pack? Who has the best chance to catch McIlroy and Hovland on Sunday?
Historically, the record for comeback in the final round at The Open was held by Paul Lawrie by playing three out of 10 shots to eventually win. But the chances of McIlroy and/or Howland blowing a three-shot lead at the 18th hole like Jean van de Velde did at Carnoustie that year are unlikely. Recent and realistic examples of notable final-round comebacks at The Open include Padraic Harrington winning by six strokes in 2007, Ernie Els winning six in 2012 and Phil Mickelson winning five in 2013.
But none of them are in St. Andrews. The winner of every 72-hole edition of The Open played at St Andrews, Clarett captured the jug 22 times to within four strokes of advancing to the final. According to Justin Ray. So here are five contenders who could catch the leaders of the 150th Open on Sunday. Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
Cameron Smith (-12): After two days of doing almost everything on the greens, Smith didn’t roll in the putts on Saturday with the same consistency as the championship’s 54-hole leader. Although he didn’t card many birdies, Smith held his round together until he double-bogeyed the 13th. Those mistakes and mistakes didn’t cost him much space on the leaderboard, but those two strokes put him in a great position to catch the leaders. As it stands, not only does he shoot somewhere near 65 or 66, but I hope McIlroy or Howland don’t score in the 60s. Odds: 11-1
Cameron Young (-12): One of the hottest PGA Tour rookies put on an impressive showing in his Open debut, including a 1-under 71 despite two bogeys and a double bogey on the final pair. After a 64 on Thursday, a 69 on Friday and then a 71 on Saturday, it would be remarkable if he reversed course and returned to that early tournament form. But that’s not usually how things work out, especially for players early in their prime careers. Odds: 25-1
Scotty Scheffler (-11): A strong 3-under 69 moved the reigning Masters champion up a spot on the leaderboard, edging closer to contending for a second major championship of the stellar 2022 season. Scheffler had his best day of the tournament so far when hitting approach shots on these old course greens, and it paid off to make five birdies on the day. You can count on 68 or 69 on Sunday, but that score won’t land him the Claret Jug unless Rory and Howland shoot par. Si Woo sits at 11 under with Kim Scheffler, but he has never finished in the top 10 in 22 major starts. Odds: 20-1
Dustin Johnson (-10): With driving length to the green on the short par-4s and a knack for lagging at St. Andrews, Johnson was in contention to win his third major championship. Unfortunately, those efforts were thwarted on Saturday afternoon as DJ had as many bogeys in his final six holes (three) as he did in the first two rounds. He has the ability to go very low on Sunday, but the way he was surrounded by the hills and bunkers of the old course late in the third round did not bode well for an epic comeback. Odds: 50-1
2022 Open Championship Last Chance Qualifiers
Kyle Porter, Senior Golf Writer: There are countless reasons for McIlroy to win his 150th Open. He has done an unimaginably good job of not letting himself get emotional during an exceptionally emotional week. His game is as polished as it’s been all year, and he’s firing the scores to prove it. St. Andrews is a magical place, and Tiger Woods winning in the same week Rory walked off the stage after two of the greatest victories in golf history is so impossible on this course that it only happens on the old course. Pick: Rory McIlroy (10/11)
Chip Patterson, Writer: There’s no reason to overthink it: The data suggests McIlroy has a little more than a 50% chance of pulling ahead of Hovland and stopping the Chase back on Sunday. The analysis is the confidence he exuded all week, and it’s time to reward a generational talent in his Hall of Fame career. McIlroy has never finished in the top 10 in four majors in the same season, and he’s set to break his eight-year major drought at St. Andrews. Pick: Rory McIlroy (10/11)
Patrick McDonald, golf writer: McIlroy is riding a wave of momentum, as if he can do no wrong on the old course. This week is a throwback to 2014, where he often played with the perfect mix of aggression and discipline. Eight years later, he would lift the Claret Cup again and join Chev Ballesteros and Byron Nelson as five-time major champions. Pick: Rory McIlroy (10/11)
Kyle Boone, Writer: How far back is too far? Five strokes – in these conditions, in this course, with This is Star-studded leaderboards — too much? According to Justin Ray, no winner of the Open at St Andrews has won after trailing by more than four strokes at the 54-hole mark. Still, it seems somehow plausible to Scheffler. After watching Justin Thomas climb out of a seven-stroke hole entering the 4th round at the PGA Championship in May, Scheffler’s charge to take the Claret Jug on Sunday doesn’t seem impossible. He’s played well all week, is second in the field in strokes gained on approach and has the stuff to make a big rally if his putter starts rolling. Pick: Scotty Scheffler (20-1)
Adam Silverstein, Managing Editor: Just because he stopped winning doesn’t mean McIlroy struggled to play well in the majors. Since 2014, he’s 10-16 in 30 chances this year alone. The problem is that McIlroy usually gets off to a slow start or wastes a low Round 1 score, often coming through the backdoor. That wasn’t the case this week as McIlroy continued to heat up with scores of 66-68-66 in the first three rounds. Rory clearly has the equivalent of home-course advantage at St. Andrews — the crowd is emotionally invested in his success — yet he manages to hold it back and play calm, intelligent golf. What better way to end an eight-year drought than to win a 150th Open? Pick: Rory McIlroy (10/11)