The 151st Open Championship gets underway at Royal Liverpool on Thursday and there's one name on everyone's lips: Rory McIlroy. Can the Northern Irishman follow up his win at last week's Scottish Open by lifting his first Major in nine years? Here's more on how Rory is shaping up, and the lowdown on four stars who could challenge him at Hoylake.
5 likely contenders at the 151st Open Championship
The last time Rory won at Royal Liverpool, it seemed like the floodgates had opened. His 2014 Open Championship victory was his fourth Major title in three years, and it seemed unthinkable that nine years on, we'd still be waiting to see him lift a fifth. Unfortunately, that's where we find ourselves. There have been a few false dawns; notably in the Masters in April, when McIlroy looked in superb form in the lead-up, then buckled under the pressure of ending his drought. But there's a feeling that things are different this time around. Having won the Scottish Open title at the Renaissance Club last week with two birdies on the final two holes, Rory appears to be on a roll. He's the only player to have won at Hoylake in the field and if he can do it again, there would be no more popular champion.
The Masters champion has proved his links credentials before, winning the Irish Open in 2017 and 2019. And he's had an excellent 2023 so far, winning four PGA Tour events compared to McIlroy's one and world no.1 Scottie Scheffler's two. That said, the Spaniard's last outing wasn't ideal – he missed the cut at the Traveler's Championship in June.
Smith hit a final round of 64 to win last year's Open, finishing a stroke ahead of America's Cameron Young. That showed the Aussie's ice-cold demeanour in big tournaments and it wouldn't surprise many if he were to become the first player to win successive titles since Padraig Harrington in 2006-07. He's in good form too, having lifted the recent LIV Golf event in London. His near-flawless putting will mean he's close to the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.
Is 2023 the year of resurgent Rickie? The American was considered a hot prospect the last time The Open was staged at Royal Liverpool – a dead cert for Major-winning success. But nine years on and he's still not lifted one of golf's biggest prizes. His long wait could be about to come to an end though – Rickie's Rocket Mortgage Classic victory three weeks ago shows he's bang-on form, and his around-the-green play will stand him in good stead here.
Looking for an each-way bet? The 2019 Open champion finished ninth at Royal Liverpool in 2014 and is a links golf specialist. What's more, he's in decent form – Shane finished 12th at the Scottish Open last week in what was his third successive top-20 finish.
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