By Phil Casey, PA Golf Correspondent
The 150th Open Championship gets under way on the Old Course at St Andrews on Thursday.
Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the talking points ahead of the final major championship of the year.
Can Tiger Woods contend for a third Open victory at St Andrews?
Woods was at the peak of his powers when he won his first Open title by eight shots at St Andrews in 2000 and returned five years later to lift the Claret Jug for a second time.
The 46-year-old, who suffered severe leg injuries in a car accident in February last year, withdrew from the US PGA after a third round of 79 and missed the US Open to ensure he could play at St Andrews, where he practiced extensively for four days and dismissed rumours he was planning on retiring.
Will we see an historic low score?
— Geoff Shackelford (@GeoffShac) July 22, 2017
Branden Grace created history when he became the first man to shoot 62 in a major during the 2017 Open at Royal Birkdale, while Ross Fisher holds the course record at St Andrews following a 61 in the Dunhill Links three months later.
Jack Nicklaus responded “So what?” when asked about fears of similar scores this week, while Rory McIlroy predicted that the firm and fast conditions would provide an adequate defence against some of the game’s biggest hitters.
Is it the last major for LIV rebels?
— OWGR (@OWGRltd) July 12, 2022
Officials confirmed late on Tuesday evening that LIV Golf’s application to be allowed to award world ranking points in its events had been submitted on July 6th.
That could be crucial to the future of the rebel circuit as a player’s world ranking is one of the main avenues into the majors, with the top 50 at various times of the year earning a place in the Masters and the Open, the top 60 getting into the US Open and the top 100 traditionally invited to the US PGA if not already exempt.
Can Rory McIlroy turn top 10s into an overdue win?
McIlroy finished runner-up in the Masters, was eighth in the US PGA Championship and fifth in the US Open this season, yet was never really in contention on the back nine in the final round of any of them as he seeks a first major win since 2014.
An ankle injury prevented him defending his Open title in 2015 at St Andrews, where he shot a 63 in the first round five years earlier. “The only thing I remember about the 63 is hitting a six iron into three feet at 17 and missing the putt,” a relaxed McIlroy joked in his pre-tournament press conference.
How will US Open winner Matt Fitzpatrick perform?
Fitzpatrick was not in the field the last time St Andrews hosted the Open in 2015, having only turned professional 13 months earlier, but the 27-year-old is rightly one of the favourites following his US Open triumph at Brookline.
A tie for 20th at Portrush in 2019 is his best Open result in six appearances, but he warmed up for St Andrews with a tie for sixth in the Scottish Open and could take inspiration from his pairing with Tiger Woods for the first two rounds.