Golf’s glorious predawn extravaganza – predawn for those of us in the United States, at least – returns this week. The Open Championship – or British Open, for the Americans – returns to St. Andrews, and the week promises to be yet another memorable tournament in a year that’s had more than its share of golf drama, both on and off the course. Here’s what you need to know heading into the season’s final major.
There’s no more historic course in the world than St. Andrews’ Old Course, the iconic stretch of Scottish paradise that’s challenged players for well over a century. The links course, which is a public park every Sunday, is about as far as you can get from the manicured beauty of Augusta National, but it’s no less challenging … as this demonstration of the course’s present speed shows:
— Caddie Network (@CaddieNetwork) July 11, 2022
The course will play at about 7,300 yards, and each of the individually-named 112 bunkers poses a threat to scorecards and sanity. The entirety of the Old Course is a majestic beauty, but the Road Hole in particular – the 17th, and one of the most challenging par 4s in golf – is likely to shatter the hopes and dreams of many players this week.
Who are the key players coming into this championship?
All eyes – and a significant number of wagers – are on Rory McIlroy, who’s now gone nearly eight years without a major. But McIlroy continues to draw ever closer to that elusive fifth major, and all signs are lining up right for him to capture it this week. The question is, can he carry through on four straight days of major-level competition?
Right behind McIlroy is Xander Schauffele, who’s coming off a big win at the Scottish Open and is riding a hot streak to rival Masters winner Scottie Scheffler’s earlier this year heading into Augusta. Jordan Spieth appears to be shaking off whatever doldrums plagued him since his last major victory in 2017. Collin Morikawa is the defending champion, and is playing well enough to reclaim the Claret Jug. Justin Thomas and Matthew Fitzpatrick could tack on their second major of the year, after the PGA Championship and U.S. Open, respectively. And Will Zalatoris, golf’s perpetual bridesmaid, gets one more chance to finally snag a major.
How will Tiger Woods play?
Woods, still recovering from a devastating February 2021 accident, is limping his way through the 2022 majors season. He willed his way through four days at the Masters, then withdrew from the PGA Championship and didn’t even attempt the U.S. Open. But he’s had this date circled on his calendar for years, if not decades; there’s no way he would miss a chance to play one more time at St. Andrews. Play, that is, not win. Woods is unlikely to make any more than a token splash on the leaderboard, but winning isn’t really the point anymore; finishing out the round is.
What will the LIV effect be?
Some prominent LIV players – including past Open champion Louis Oosthuizen – will be in attendance at this year’s 150th championship. Greg Norman, a two-time Open champion, wasn’t invited to the 150th celebration for fear that his presence would detract from the event. Norman hasn’t played the Open in many years, and no longer has automatic eligibility to play. (Past winners have until age 60 to keep playing.)
What’s significant about this major in relation to LIV Golf is that this could – emphasis on could – be the last major where LIV players can count on automatic qualifications based on past performance. If the Official World Golf Rankings decide to turn their back on LIV players, their eligibility to play in majors where they haven’t won exemptions will run out in a hurry. This, then, is the last major likely to be contested without a court battle looming overhead.
Odds to win the 150th Open Championship
McIlroy is the odds-on favorite at +1000 (bet $100 to win $1000). Right behind him stands a logjam of top players: Schauffele (+1400); Spieth (+1600); and Rahm, Fitzpatrick, Scheffler at +1800. Further down the line, PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas comes in at +2200, 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry is +2200, defending champion Collin Morikawa and major-winner-in-waiting Will Zalatoris are at +2800, and Dustin Johnson leads the LIV contingent at +3300.
If you’re looking to liven up your Open, you can bet on whether the winner will be in the final group in the final round (-250) or not (+180). You can also wager whether this tournament will feature two or more aces (+300) or whether we’ll have a wire-to-wire winner (+1200). Will there be a playoff? Decide for yourself whether the question is yes (+350) or no (-500). And if you want drama, place your bet on the proposition that the winning margin will be a single stroke (+240) and not four or more strokes (+350). All odds via BetMGM.
What will the weather bring?
St. Andrews’ best defense is the cold wind off the North Sea, and the icy gusts can annihilate even the best players’ scores. There’s something of a sadistic pleasure in watching players struggle in sideways wind and rain, but if you’re looking for that particular blend of pain, you might be out of luck this week. Gusts are expected to surge to around 25 mph this week, but not much more than that. Rain is in the forecast for Friday, but the weekend could be dry and warm.
Get that Peacock subscription fired up and start the coffee, because you’re going to be jumping around the NBC family of networks and streaming services. Here’s how it shakes out (all times Eastern):
Thursday, July 14
Peacock: 1:30 a.m.-4 a.m.
USA: 4 a.m.-3 p.m.
Friday, July 15
Peacock: 1:30 a.m.-4 a.m.
USA: 4 a.m.-3 p.m.
Saturday, July 16
USA: 5 a.m.-7 a.m.
NBC: 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
Sunday, July 17
USA: 4 a.m.-7 a.m.
NBC: 7 a.m.-2 p.m.
The complete groupings for the 150th Open Championship have a strong mix of stars and up-and-comers. A few notable pairings:
2:30 a.m.: Phil Mickelson, Lucas Herbert, Kurt Kitayama
2:41 a.m.: Patrick Reed, Tom Hoge, Joo-Hyung Kim
2:52 a.m.: John Daly, Bryson DeChambeau, Cameron Tringale
3:03 a.m.: Cam Smith, Brooks Koepka, Seamus Power
3:14 a.m.: Francesco Molinari, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose
4:58 a.m.: Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele
5:09 a.m.: Shane Lowry, Justin Thomas, Viktor Hovland
5:20 a.m.: Will Zalatoris, Hideki Matsuyama, Tony Finau
7:53 a.m.: Stewart Cink, Sergio Garcia, Aaron Jarvis (a)
8:15 a.m.: Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman
8:26 a.m.: Scottie Scheffller, Joaquin Niemann, Tyrrell Hatton
9:59 a.m.: Tiger Woods, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Max Homa
10:10 a.m.: Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahhm, Harold Varner III
This is the final men's major for nine months, so enjoy it while it lasts. And get some sleep, Thursday’s tee times will be here early.
Contact Jay Busbee at email@example.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.