14 July 2023

5 contenders as Cameron Smith seeks first successful Open defence since 2008

14 July 2023

Australia’s Cameron Smith will defend his title when the 151st Open Championship takes place at Royal Liverpool Golf Club from July 20-23.

Smith is bidding to become the first player to retain the Claret Jug since Padraig Harrington (2007-08) as the Open returns to Hoylake, nine years after Rory McIlroy’s wire-to-wire victory.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the main contenders for the year’s final major championship.

Rory McIlroy

McIlroy enjoyed a purple patch of form the last time Hoylake staged the Open in 2014, holding off Sergio Garcia to claim a wire-to-wire victory and then winning his next two starts for good measure. The last of those, the US PGA Championship at Valhalla, remains his most recent major title and he was unable to convert a share of the 54-hole lead at St Andrews last year. McIlroy also finished second in the US Open, muttering “St Andrews all over again” to his manager after a closing round containing a solitary birdie at the opening hole.

Scottie Scheffler

Scheffler has been consistency personified in 2023, winning twice and finishing no worse than 12th in any event. A share of 10th in his title defence in the Masters is also his worst result in a major, the world number one finishing second in the US PGA and third in the US Open. Leads the PGA Tour in numerous statistical categories off the tee and into the green, but ranks a lowly 131st in putting and is contesting just his third Open at Hoylake.

Cameron Smith

Smith had already won twice in 2022, including the prestigious Players Championship, before securing his first major title thanks to a brilliant final round of 64 in the 150th Open at St Andrews. The Australian joined LIV Golf the following month but despite being unable to earn ranking points on the Saudi-funded breakaway, remains in the world’s top 10 thanks to finishing ninth in the US PGA and fourth in the US Open. Won his second LIV event in Hertfordshire 10 days before the start of the Open.

Rickie Fowler

Fowler was joint second behind McIlroy in 2014, a year in which he finished in the top five in all four majors, and won on a links course in 2015 when the Scottish Open was stage at Gullane. Suffered a loss of form in recent years but equalled the lowest round in major history last month with an opening 62 in the US Open at Los Angeles Country and ended a four-year winless drought on the PGA Tour two weeks later.

Tommy Fleetwood

Fleetwood came agonisingly close to winning his maiden PGA Tour title in last month’s Canadian Open, with home favourite Nick Taylor holing from 72 feet for an eagle on the fourth play-off hole. A week later the Ryder Cup star carded a final round of 63 in the US Open for the second time, earning him a tie for fifth. Runner-up to Shane Lowry in the 2019 Open and fourth last year, albeit having never been in contention at St Andrews. The Southport native will have plenty of support at nearby Hoylake.

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