5 talking points ahead of 149th Open Championship
Shane Lowry will defend the title he won in 2019 when the 149th Open Championship belatedly takes place at Royal St George’s from July 15-18.
Here, the PA news agency looks at five of the main talking points ahead of the year’s final major.
Can Rory McIlroy end his major drought?
The answer to that question now is considerably different than it was just a few months ago, when a dispirited McIlroy missed the cut in the Players Championship and the Masters and looked to coach Pete Cowen in a bid to turn his game around. Cowen duly worked his magic and McIlroy returned to action by winning the Wells Fargo Championship, and although he was never a factor in the US PGA, the four-time major winner held a share of the lead early in the final round of the US Open before finishing seventh. Much will depend on replicating the good start he enjoyed at Torrey Pines.
Will Royal St George’s produce another surprise winner?
Ben Curtis was playing his first major and ranked 396th in the world when he lifted the Claret Jug at Sandwich in 2003, while Darren Clarke was 111th when he claimed victory in 2011. After Keegan Bradley won the US PGA a month later ranked 108th, the next 36 majors were won by players inside the world’s top 50, a run only broken by Phil Mickelson – ranked 115th at the time – winning the US PGA at Kiawah Island earlier this year. It remains to be seen whether Jon Rahm’s US Open victory marks the start of another streak of majors being dominated by the game’s biggest names.
Can Rahm win back-to-back major titles?
It is easy to forget that Rahm has played in just four Open Championships, starting with a tie for 59th in 2016 in what was just his third event as a professional. Rahm was 44th in 2017 and missed the cut the following year, but finished 11th at Royal Portrush in 2019 and is a two-time winner of the Irish Open on links courses. His US Open win came just 15 days after he had been forced to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament after testing positive for Covid-19, the Spaniard receiving the news on the 18th green after establishing a six-shot lead after 54 holes.
Will Covid-19 cause problems?
The strict coronavirus protocols in place for players have caused mutterings of discontent – mostly from those used to far looser restrictions across the Atlantic on the PGA Tour – and could even trigger a number of withdrawals. As Britain’s Johanna Konta discovered ahead of Wimbledon, coming into contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19 could also force players out of the championship and the 156-man field will have to be exceedingly careful to avoid suffering the same fate.
Can Louis Oosthuizen finally double his major tally?
Oosthuizen had already completed the unwanted “runners-up slam” before recording his sixth second place in majors in last month’s US Open, Rahm making birdies on the 17th and 18th to deny the South African. A runaway winner at St Andrews in 2010, Oosthuizen came close to another victory over the Old Course five years later, losing out in a play-off with eventual champion Zach Johnson and Marc Leishman. Since then his Open record is nothing special, although he was 20th at Royal Portrush in 2019.
Golfers warned of further sanctions if they continue to play in LIV breakaway
The DP World Tour has issued fines of £100,000 and tournament bans to its members who played in the inaugural LIV Golf event earlier this month
DP World Tour hits members who played inaugural LIV series with £100,000 fines
They have also been banned from several forthcoming tournaments including the Scottish Open.
Rory McIlroy not impressed as Brooks Koepka becomes latest big name to join LIV
The world number two labelled the players who have joined the new series as “duplicitous” for the way they have handled their breakaway.
R&A confirms LIV Golf Series players will be allowed to compete at Open
The 150th Open Championship will get underway at St Andrews in three weeks’ time.
Matt Fitzpatrick turns to other major winners for advice on dealing with fame
Fitzpatrick won the US Open on Sunday.
Brooks Koepka set to join Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series
Koepka’s brother Chase played in the opening event at Centurion Club earlier this month.
Gary Player urges Matt Fitzpatrick to avoid ‘poison’ of modern-day coaching
Player tells US Open champion Fitzpatrick to learn from mistakes of recent major winners, saying: “The teaching today is the worst it has ever been.”
Matt Fitzpatrick’s caddie Billy Foster ready for ‘long party’ after US Open win
Foster won his first major after a 40-year career which includes spells working for the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.
Matt Fitzpatrick backed to become a dominant force after winning first major
The Englishman claimed his first major title at Brookline.
Matt Fitzpatrick: A Blade with plenty of support who can really cut it
The Sheffield golfer landed his first major – and first professional win in America – at Brookline on Sunday.