2022 British Open predictions, picks, odds: Four who could edge Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland at St. Andrews
With Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland sitting atop the leaderboard at the 150th Open Championship after posting matching 66s on Saturday, the golf world heads into Sunday’s final round wondering whether we will see a historic finish to what’s already been an exhilarating anniversary edition of the world’s oldest golf championship.
McIlroy snapping his eight-year major drought at St. Andrews would be one of the greatest stories of the year in golf, especially given the way he has played in major championship so far this season with top-10 finishes at the Masters (2nd), the PGA Championship (8th) and the U.S. Open (T5). A win for Hovland would cement his place among golf’s rising stars, adding him to a 2022 major championship season that would have all 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 makes a charge with a low number and both of our co-leaders fall back to the pack? Who, then, has the best chance of catching McIlroy and Hovland on Sunday?
Historically, the record for a final round comeback at The Open is held by Paul Lawrie’s charge from 10 shots back to make a three-man playoff and eventually win. But the chances of McIlroy and/or Hovland blowing a three-shot lead at the 18th hole like Jean van de Velde did at Carnoustie that year seem unlikely. More recent and realistic examples of notable final-round comebacks at The Open include Padraig Harrington winning from six strokes back in 2007, Ernie Els winning from six back in 2012 and Phil Mickelson winning from five back in 2013.
But none of those were at St. Andrews. The winner in every 72-hole edition of The Open played at St. Andrews was within four strokes of the lead heading into the final found, capturing the Claret Jug all 22 times, according to Justin Ray. As such, here are the five contenders who could potentially catch the leaders of the 150th Open on Sunday. Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
Cameron Smith (-12): After two days of making nearly everything on the greens, Smith wasn’t rolling in putts with the same consistency on Saturday as the championship’s 54-hole leader. Though he wasn’t carding as many birdies, Smith did hold his round together until a meltdown of a double-bogey at No. 13. Those mistakes and mishits didn’t cost him too many spots on the leaderboard, but those two strokes would have put him in a much better position to catch the leaders. As it stands, he needs not only to shoot somewhere close to 65 or 66 but hope that neither McIlroy nor Hovland score in the 60s. Odds: 11-1
Cameron Young (-12): One of the hottest PGA Tour rookies has delivered an impressive showing in his Open debut, including the way he salvaged a 1-under 71 despite two bogeys and a double-bogey from his spot in the final pairing. After a 64 on Thursday, a 69 on Friday and then a 71 on Saturday, it would be remarkable to see him reverse the trend and tap back into that early-tournament form. But that’s usually not the way things go, especially with players early in their major careers. Odds: 25-1
Scottie Scheffler (-11): A strong 3-under 69 moved the reigning Masters champion one spot up the leaderboard and a little bit closer to being able to contend for a second major championship in this stellar 2022 season. Scheffler had his best day of the tournament so far when it comes to hitting approach shots into these Old Course greens, and it paid off to set up five birdies on the day. Scheffler’s a high-floor proposition where you can almost count on a 68 or 69 on Sunday, but that score would still leave him short of hoisting the Claret Jug unless Rory and Hovland shoot over par. Si Woo Kim sits at 11 under with Scheffler, but he’s never even had a top-10 finish in 22 major starts. Odds: 20-1
Dustin Johnson (-10): With length to drive the green on short par-4s and a knack for lag putting, St. Andrews seemed to set up well for Johnson to contend to win his third major championship. Unfortunately, those efforts unwound on Saturday afternoon as D.J. had as many bogeys across his final six holes (three) as he did in the first two rounds combined. He’s got the potential to go really low on Sunday, but the way he was knocked round by the Old Course’s mounds and bunkers late in the third round does not bode well for an epic comeback. Odds: 50-1
2022 Open Championship last-chance picks
Kyle Porter, senior golf writer: There are myriad reasons McIlroy will win the 150th Open. He has done an inconceivably good job of not letting himself get carried away emotionally during what is an exceptionally emotional week. His game is as tidy as it’s been in year, and he’s shooting the scores to prove it. St. Andrews is a magical place, and Rory winning in the same week Tiger Woods exited stage right after two of the best wins in golf history at this course is so improbable that it seemingly could only happen at the Old Course. Pick: Rory McIlroy (10/11)
Chip Patterson, writer: There’s no reason to overthink this: Even the data says there’s slightly better than a 50% chance that McIlroy is going to pull ahead of Hovland and hold off the chase pack on Sunday. The confidence that he’s displayed all week back up the analytics, and it’s time for a generational talent to be rewarded in yet another peak in his Hall of Fame career. McIlroy has never finished in the top 10 of all four majors in a single season, and he’s set to not only do just that but 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, and it is as if he can do no wrong at the Old Course. This week has been a throwback to 2014 where he often played with the perfect blend of aggression and discipline. Eight years later, he will once again raise the Claret Jug and join Seve Ballesteros and Byron Nelson as a five-time major champion. Pick: Rory McIlroy (10/11)
Kyle Boone, writer: How far back is too far back? Is five strokes — in these conditions, on this course, with this star-studded leaderboard — too many? No winner of an Open hosted at St. Andrews has won after trailing by more than four strokes at the 54-hole mark, according to Justin Ray. Yet it somehow seems plausible with regards to Scheffler. After seeing Justin Thomas dig out from a seven-stroke hole entering Round 4 at the PGA Championship back in May, Scheffler charging to take the Claret Jug on Sunday doesn’t seem impossible. He’s played well all week, ranks second in the field in strokes gained on approach and has the goods to make a huge rally if his putter starts rolling. Pick: Scottie Scheffler (20-1)
Adam Silverstein, managing editor: Just because he stopped winning does not mean McIlroy has struggled to play well at majors. Since 2014, he has 16 top 10s in 30 such chances with three of those coming this year alone. The problem is that McIlroy usually either starts slow or wastes a low Round 1 score, often coming through the backdoor. That is not the case this week as McIlroy has stayed consistently hot with 66-68-66 scores through 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’s been able to block it out and play calm, smart golf. What better way to end an eight-year drought than by winning the 150th Open? Pick: Rory McIlroy (10/11)