It may be the only major in 2022 where a career grand slam is not on the line, but the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews is unlikely to be short on drama.
Rory McIlroy was second at the Masters in pursuit of the victory he needs to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in winning all four major titles, while Jordan Spieth could only finish 34th in the US PGA Championship.
Phil Mickelson fared even worse in the US Open at Brookline, missing the cut to bring a mercifully early end to a week dominated by his defection to LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed breakaway circuit which has caused a deepening divide in the game.
Woods did not even play the US Open in order to give his battered body a rest, the 15-time major winner having made no secret of his desire to play at St Andrews, the scene of two of his three Open victories.
“This is a pretty historic Open that we are going to be playing,” Woods said after rounds of 77 and 74 in the JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor, where he was allowed to ride in a cart.
“I’m lucky enough to be part of the past champions that have won there, and I want to play there again, and I don’t know when they are ever going to go back while I’m still able to play at a high level.
“I want to be able to give it at least one more run at a high level.”
Woods missed the cut the last time St Andrews hosted the Open in 2015, when torrential rain on Friday and winds gusting up to 45 miles per hour on Saturday meant the championship finished on Monday for just the second time.
Zach Johnson eventually secured his second major title by defeating Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman in a four-hole play-off, with Spieth missing out by a single shot in his bid to win the third leg of an unprecedented calendar grand slam.
McIlroy was famously unable to defend his title after suffering an ankle injury playing football just days beforehand and is still seeking a first major win since 2014, when he followed his win at Royal Liverpool with victories in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and US PGA Championship.
The 33-year-old may have mixed memories of St Andrews after a brilliant opening 63 in 2010 was followed by a second round of 80 in terrible conditions, but his form in this year’s majors has raised hopes that he can end his drought in the game’s biggest events.
A closing 64 – capped off by a holed bunker shot on the 18th – saw McIlroy finish second in the Masters and he was eighth in the US PGA and fifth in the US Open, albeit without truly being in contention on the back nine in the final round.
“I’ll look back at this as another missed opportunity just as Southern Hills was, but missed opportunities are better than not contending at all,” McIlroy said after his final round at Brookline. “So that is a positive.
“I have to stay patient at this point because if I just keep putting myself in position, sooner or later it’s going to be my day and I’m going to get one.”
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