Rory McIlroy was there to take the 2022 British Open, and Cameron Smith swooped in and took it.
On golf’s most famous hole, standing behind the infamous Road Hole bunker, Smith led McIlroy by one stroke at -19, settled in and put in one of the strangest and most important shots of his career. The ball rolled around the bunker, giving him a short par put, leaving him for the most important ups and downs of his life.
One hole and one stroke behind it, McIlroy was doing his best to get his game out of third gear. McIlroy didn’t get a long putt to fall through all day, and in the end, it ruined it. McIlroy missed birdie chances on 16 and 17, and an eagle chance on 18, and could only see his chances run out. When Cameron Young eagled 18th and McIlroy was unable to birdie the hole, McIlroy finished singles third at 18.
Smith and McIlroy didn’t actually engage in a duel, per se; McIlroy, who entered the day with a four-stroke lead with Victor Hovland, had played conservative golf all afternoon. It would have been smart play if Smith had not been on a hot streak, but unprecedented in major championship golf: five straight birdies on the back nine as part of final-round 64, flying just behind McIlroy and claiming the claret jug. enough .
In the face of one of the most spectacular performances in major championship history, it was a bitter end to McIlroy’s long-time effort to win a fifth Major.
Before the Tournament: Tradition, Legacy and LIV
The week began with all the expected celebrations, pomp and circumstance and reverence. This year is the 150th Open Championship, and whenever the Open rolls around St Andrews, the air gets thick with heritage and tradition. Publishers from Jack Nicklaus to Lee Trevino to Tom Watson aired between the Lynx in St Andrews early in the week, with McIlroy easily joining the stalwarts of the past.
Not invited to the festival: Greg Norman, CEO of Breakaway LIV Golf Tour. Norman, two-time winner of the Open, would normally attend the Past Champions Dinner on Tuesday night – as would LIV notable and 2013 Open champion Phil Mickelson, who opted not to participate – but R&A decided That Norman’s presence would also prove to be too much of a distraction.
It was the right call. This year’s Open Championship could be the last where LIV players can rely on world golf rankings to qualify. If the official world golf rankings do not certify LIV – the 54-hole, no-cut Tour Tournament – then LIV players will drop the rankings for years to come.
R&A CEO Martin Slummers said, “We have been asked frequently about banning players. “And while we do so every year, we absolutely reserve the right to make changes, as our The Open Championship Committee thinks it appropriate. Players have to earn their place in the Open, and this is fundamental to its ethos and its unique global appeal.”
Tiger Woods also took aim at LIV players, criticizing the focus on money over legacy. “I think what he has done is that he has patted his back that has allowed him to take this position,” Woods said. “Some players have never had a chance to experience it. They’ve gone straight from the amateur ranks to that organization and never really had a chance to play here and what it’s like to play or play the tour schedule. Some big events.”
Tournament begins: Smith, McIlroy take charge early
And then the final men’s major of the year started, and all the LIV talk came into the background. McIlroy got a lucky early-to-late draw, and with some good weather and good luck scored a first-round 66. Only Young was better, finishing on 65 in his first Open appearance.
McIlroy has spent the past eight years trying to figure out how to recapture the magic that propelled him to four majors early in his career, and he’s spent the last seven years living up to the fact that he Last time I came to St. Petersburg. Andrews because he injured himself while playing football with friends. He was the defending open champion then, and what’s always a little bit? About that particular tournament.
Since then, McIlroy has specialized in assembling the back-door Top 10 at large companies, playing well only when the pressure is over. He has averaged two top 10s in four majors every year since 2014. But before Sunday, he had only once been in the final pair on a major Sunday: the 2018 Masters, where he started three strokes behind Patrick Reed and quickly fell on pace.
But something strange happened this year, beginning with his 64th round finish at the Masters, which dropped him in second place, his highest finish ever at Augusta. McIlroy began putting together more strong rounds in every major, with a vision to top the leaderboards at both the PGA Championship and the US Open. He didn’t win one, but he was getting closer.
McIlroy Open on Friday: The most notable scene in Tiger Woods’ trip around St Andrews was a bit player in what could have been the final. Woods, still recovering from injuries sustained during a car wreck in February 2021, missed the cut by a mile. But as he climbed the 18th fairway, tying his hat to McIlroy, he became clearly emotional.
In addition, Smith and Young in particular had greater success, Smith in particular. Smith posted the lowest 36-hole score in Open Championship history at -13. Young was two strokes behind, and McIlroy and a rising Hovland were three.
That quartet broke away from the rest of the field on Saturday. Despite ideal scoring conditions, no one in the field was able to charge deep. McIlroy and Hovland swapped places with the Cams, taking the lead on Sunday.
One of the benefits of rolling into a Major on Sunday with a four-shot lead is that you have room for others to score a run. Before McIlroy and Hovland even chipped in, Sam Burns dropped 64 and Sodom Kawkanjana and Abraham Anser dropped 65… and no one even came close to five strokes.
On the other hand, one of the drawbacks of rolling into a Major on Sunday with a four-shot lead is that you’re vulnerable to someone going on a five-birdie run. That’s exactly what Smith did for holes 10 to 14, catching and passing McIlroy along the way.
Meanwhile, Hovland faded into the distance. He blinked for the first time with a bogey on the fourth hole – his first since posting the field’s only bogey-free round on Saturday – and couldn’t keep pace with McIlroy and a streaking Smith. Young also couldn’t keep pace, unable to get a crucial birdie putt to drop at 16, which tied him with McIlroy at -18. He rolled into an eagle on the 18th, momentarily, for the lead, but Smith promptly put in a two-foot birdie in the shadow of the Old Course Hotel and R&A Clubhouse. The ending was as epic as the tournament deserved.
From Jay Busbee at [email protected] or on Twitter @jaybusbee. contact on,