Which direction will the pendulum swing this week at Royal St. George’s at the 149th British Open?
At every major championship, we analyze who is hot among the top stars of the game and who is not.
John Rahm enters this week and is hot. It’s not Rory McIlroy. Brooks Koepka is trendy. Dustin Johnson isn’t.
Then there are the players who are due, like Xander Schauffele, who at the age of 27 has already achieved nine top 10 placements (including six Fop-Five) in the only 17 major championships he has played.
You could also say Louis Oosthuizen is due. He was runner-up six times in major championships, including once at the British Open, where he clinched his only major career win in 2010 in St. Andrews. Oosthuizen finished solo runner-up at the US Open last month and tied runner-up in the PGA Championship on Kiawah Island in May.
Johnson, who has just lost his number 1 in the world rankings to cream at the US Open, has had a strange couple of years. In 2020 he won the Masters, finished second at the PGA and sixth at the US Open, tied on points. This year’s majors were very different for Johnson, who missed the Masters and the PGA and managed an inconspicuous draw for 19th place at the US Open.
However, no star player is a bigger question mark than 32-year-old McIlroy. He participates in every major as one of the betting favorites, but is so mixed that it is difficult to figure out which McIlroy will show up in any given week.
When McIlroy won the Wells Fargo Championship in May, it seemed like a big summer was ahead of him. What followed that tournament in Quail Hollow, however, was a tie for 49th place at the PGA, a tie for 18th place at the Memorial and a tie for seventh place at the US Open in Torrey Pines, where he won through his participation teased, but was never able to mount a final round of charge.
Then there was his missed cut at the Scottish Open last week. McIlroy’s game seemed to be in neutrality for two days.
Suffice it to say that McIlroy is not taking part in this Open Championship with verve.
This isn’t the first time McIlroy’s form has worn out, just when you thought she was going to skyrocket.
In 2019, McIlroy was named PGA Tour Player of the Year, FedEx Cup Champion, four-time winner and holder of the Vardon Trophy. But after winning the WGC HSBC Champions in November 2019 (at the start of the 2020 PGA Tour season), McIlroy was 18 months between wins and spanning 27 tournaments.
During this time, its world rankings fell from number 1 to number 15, its lowest position since 2009.
However, through his inconsistencies, McIlroy has maintained a healthy, positive attitude. He often speaks of knowing that great golf is “in there” for him. Now he hopes he can take it to the biggest stage.
“All everyone asks themselves to give themselves a chance on Sunday,” McIlroy told reporters ahead of the Scottish Open. “You can only win if you give yourself this chance. And I gave myself a chance [at the U.S. Open]. I was right there on Sunday. So, I’m going there. “
A key for McIlroy this week is going to be a great start. Sometimes he struggled with it, chasing low scores after mediocre opening rounds.
“That’s the thing about majors, you just have to hang around,” said McIlroy. “You don’t have to do anything spectacular. You can parry the course to death, pick up a few birdies here and there. It’s a different style of golf than we’re probably used to playing week after week and I like that. I like this challenge. ”
“At the old age of 32, I like that it’s probably more of a mental challenge than a physical one because I feel like I can use my experience to persevere.”
This experience could be useful at Royal St. George’s, given this insightful statistic: In the last two opens played there, only five players have finished these tournaments under par.
Recalling that prior to the 2011 Open at Royal St. George’s, McIlroy played a training round with the eventual winner, Clarke, and thought, “At that point, it didn’t look like Darren was going anywhere near winning the golf tournament .
“But that’s the great thing about golf: you just never know. I think the most important thing about St. Georges is that you know you might get some unhappy breaks, but you will get some good breaks too. The ball will make different jumps here and there. But if you just pack your patience and understand that it’s the same for everyone, the good and bad bounces should even out over 72 holes. “