10 Open Championship storylines you need on your radar
David Cannon/R&A/R&A via Getty Images
HOYLAKE, England — Greetings from England, where it’s Tuesday morning at The Open with a full slate of press conferences ahead. Brooks Koepka just spoke with the media, and Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa and Scottie Scheffler are all scheduled to speak soon. Rory McIlroy was on the schedule, but he canceled Monday afternoon.
McIlroy is obviously a huge storyline this week, so it’s a bummer we won’t hear much from him before the tournament, but there are plenty of other good talkers this week. Let’s get to them.
Storyline 1A and 1B? That might be the case, especially since McIlroy won the Genesis Scottish Open on Sunday. His game has been sharp, he’s come close at majors, he’s won here before, and now he’s coming off a victory. But here’s the thing — it gets old to continue trotting out these same old McIlroy talking points when it comes to majors, but at some point, some time, he’s going to win another…right?
A Cam Smith repeat?
He had a pretty quiet fall and spring, but he’s been really good lately and just won a LIV event a couple of weeks ago. The guy can putt with the best of ’em. Would it be surprising to see him repeat? I don’t think so.
The last two times The Open was played here, golfers were presented with two very different courses. Tiger Woods won in dry conditions in 2006, while McIlroy won on a soggy track in 2014. This year might be something in-between. It’s 11 a.m. local time right now, and it’s pouring outside. It doesn’t look like it will end soon.
Who’s ending the year disappointed?
A lot of people! They only hand out four major trophies a year, and three of them (Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka and Wyndham Clark) have already been claimed. For some guys, a major-less year is a failure, an Oh-fer during the prime of their career. Guys like Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas know the time is now to win majors. Others like Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay and Viktor Hovland don’t want to wait another year for their first.
Scottie’s had 19 consecutive top 12s. Nineteen! He’s admittedly pretty new to links golf and still figuring it out, but I can’t imagine many of you are skipping over him in your office pools.
The new par-3
One other thing to watch this year: the 17th, a short par-3 that plays in the opposite direction as it did in 2014. The view will be spectacular. Will the golf hole itself be? We’ll find out. So far, reviews are mixed.
“We all have to play the same holes. If you hit a good shot, you’ll definitely most likely have a birdie chance,” Rahm said. “If not, you’ll deal with it. I get you’re going for that on a championship Sunday. You have a one-shot lead, that hole can be pivotal.”
The future of LIV?
Could this be the last major in which we have PGA Tour golfers and LIV golfers? After the announcement of the merger, it’s still unclear what will happen to LIV. It could persist in some fashion, be used in some sort of team component or, to be frank, vanish. At this point, nothing would surprise us, but it’s possible the PGA Tour and LIV players only getting together at majors storyline could go away in the near future.
Ryder Cup implications
Speaking of LIV, for its players, this is their last chance to earn valuable OWGR points to secure a spot on the Ryder Cup team. They don’t earn them at regular LIV events, so they need to make use of majors, like Koepka did, with his PGA Championship win essentially securing his spot. (Although LIV players can still be a captain’s pick.) Koepka actually played a practice round with U.S. captain Zach Johnson on Monday, although Koepka said it was by chance. And, yes, he said, they did talk Ryder Cup.
The Fitzpatrick brothers
When Matt Fitzpatrick won the 2022 U.S. Open at Brookline, his brother, Alex Fitzpatrick, was behind the ropes watching. Fast forward to this week’s Open, and the Fitzpatrick brothers will both be teeing it up at Royal Liverpool.
Alex, 24, punched his ticket through Final Open Qualifying. It’s his first major start.
Matt was playing in Manasquan River in New Jersey when Alex was competing in the qualifier.
“Oh, I was so happy. I was buzzing,” Matt said on Monday at Hoylake. “I was playing golf, and I was just refreshing the scores constantly. It was taking a while to update. My girlfriend was just literally like, ‘Put it down. It’ll load in a minute.’ I was just constantly refreshing, texting my mom, ‘What’s he doing? Where is he hitting it?’ I was so happy for him.”
Brooks is back
Well, he’s been back all year, but can he continue his major resurgence this week? Koepka tied for second at the Masters and then won the PGA. He tied for 17th at the U.S. Open. He’s won five majors in his career, but only once (in 2018) has he won two in a season. He has a chance to do that again this week.
He said on Tuesday his creativity bodes well for links golf, and he said he remembers hitting stingers as a 10-year-old in Florida because he saw the pros doing it at the Open Championship.
“You can hit 10 different shots, you can hit lob wedge, you can hit it from 80 yards, you can bump and run it with some kind of 3-wood or hybrid, whatever you got, or 6-iron,” he said. “It doesn’t favor one player.”