How do you top what happened on Sunday?

That question will be asked by the R&A in the next few days ahead of the 148th Open Championship after a weekend of phenomenal sporting drama.

At Lord's, hosts and pre-tournament favourites England won the men's Cricket World Cup for the first time in the most dramatic of circumstances.

Ben Stokes' heroics with the bat took England into an unlikely Super Over with New Zealand, after a scarcely believable final six balls yielded the 15 runs England required to tie the game.

The drama was not over there, not even close.

England posted New Zealand a target of 16 in their additional over. The Black Caps could only match their opponents despite Jofra Archer coughing up a wide on his first delivery and then being hit for six from the next, meaning Eoin Morgan's men won by the way of boundary count in a finale befitting any Hollywood blockbuster.

Just down the road at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer served up a five-set classic in the men's singles final.

The two modern-day greats went toe to toe as Wimbledon's new rule enforced from 2019 saw a final-set tie-break come into play at 12-12. It was Djokovic who defended his title to deny Federer a ninth Wimbledon crown and 21st slam overall after almost five hours of gruelling, gripping tennis.

A Super Over, a super tie-break, a super day of unimaginable sport. 

Which is why there will be so much expectation on golf's biggest stars to deliver when The Open returns to Royal Portrush for the first time in 68 years.

If the action on the course can be as mesmerising as the picturesque backdrops surrounding the Dunluce Links then it will be job done. There is a growing sense that the game's biggest stars need to deliver a show, though.

How tournament organisers would love a repeat of Tiger Woods' dramatic Masters triumph in April, which ended his 11-year wait for major glory.

A fourth Open triumph was on the cards a year ago at Carnoustie when Woods surged into contention, only to fall away in what was a familiar story in 2018 as Francesco Molinari claimed a richly deserved win.

The crowds following Woods that day were 10-people deep, desperately scrambling for the best vantage point of the global icon. That is the draw he has - how timely it would be for golf if he could generate that same buzz at Portrush.

One man who will draw the crowds regardless of performance is Rory McIlroy, who will carry the weight of an expectant home crowd on his shoulders.

It was back in 2005 as a precocious, curly haired 16-year-old that McIlroy took Portrush to bits in the North of Ireland Championship to fire a course-record 61.

Changes to the course since mean such heroics are unlikely to be repeated, but McIlroy will be aware that now is the prime time to end a barren run of five years without a major title.

Brooks Koepka is another with the skills to bring the thrills having turned himself into a major-winning machine. Were it not for Gary Woodland's fantastic performance at Pebble Beach, he would have had a third consecutive U.S. Open to his name last month.

The rest of a star-studded field can play their part too, with recent history suggesting we can get a tournament to rival the dramas that unfolded elsewhere on Sunday. It is three years since Henrik Stenson outbattled Phil Mickelson in one the most memorable final days in Open history at Troon, while a year later it was Jordan Spieth's recovery from an infamous meltdown to deny Matt Kuchar that stole the headlines at Birkdale.

A daunting gauntlet has admittedly been laid down by the events at Lord's and Wimbledon, but golf will hope the star turns can take centre stage at Portrush.

Francesco Molinari described winning The Open as a life-changing experience and admits he was not prepared for the level of expectation that comes with being a major champion.

A year ago, Molinari made his major breakthrough at Carnoustie after a fine bogey-free two-under-par final round saw him clinch a two-shot victory.

Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were among the star-studded cast to have challenged unsuccessfully against Molinari, who went on to take five points from five matches in Europe's winning Ryder Cup effort at Le Golf National.

Molinari is excited by the prospect of defending a major title, even if nothing could have prepared him for the additional responsibilities attached to winning one of golf's big four.

"No, I wasn't prepared for that [the rising expectation levels]. It was quite a big challenge, especially at the beginning, to get used to it," he said.

"I guess it's something you learn to deal with, especially obviously the win last year came after a certain period of time where I played some really good golf. So, expectations kept rising almost every week I was playing.

"But I think now I've learned to do a decent job of managing that. Obviously this week is going to be extra special, and any week that you defend is special. And especially at a major championship. So, it's going to be another new experience for me.

"It changes your life, really, especially for a guy like me who likes to go a little bit under the radar and doesn't really need the attention.

"It changes a lot in terms of everyday life, getting recognised by more people, commitments. Every tournament you play there's more things to do. And obviously time with the media, but also with sponsors and various different things to do. That's been the other adaptation that I needed to get used to.

"It's even more impressive to think of the guys who have won a lot more major championships and they face a different challenge to some other guys."

Molinari had the opportunity to add to his Claret Jug with a green jacket at the Masters in April, but a disappointing last-round 74 left him in a tie for fifth as Woods ended an 11-year wait for major glory.

The Italian had led through three rounds and he says only time will tell if he has learned from the experience.

"I don't know [if I can learn anything], it depends in what position I get into on Sunday," he added.

"All kind of experiences help you going forward. I'm sure if I'm going to be lucky enough to be in contention on Sunday, obviously the experience from Carnoustie last year will help me, the experience from the Masters will help me. But many, many others that I've had through my career.

"When you lose, in a way you want to forget about it as quickly as possible. But obviously then you analyse it and see what's going wrong, if something has gone wrong."

Tiger Woods will start his quest for a fourth Open Championship alongside compatriot Patrick Reed, while home favourite Rory McIlroy joins U.S. Open victor Gary Woodland for the first two rounds at Royal Portrush.

American great Woods, who won a 15th major title at the Masters in April, tees off at 3.10pm local time alongside the man who presented him with his latest green jacket, and Englishman Matt Wallace.

McIlroy will be backed by fervent home support at Portrush, where he set a course-record 61 as a 16-year-old in 2005. 

In his threesome is Woodland and Paul Casey, the former having made a major breakthrough at Pebble Beach last month.

Reigning champion Francesco Molinari starts his defence shortly before 10am on Thursday and the Italian has Bryson DeChambeau and Adam Scott for company in a marquee group.

Four-time major winner and world number one Brooks Koepka has been paired with 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen and Shubhankar Sharma, while Dustin Johnson is alongside Jason Day and Keegan Bradley.

The honour of the opening tee shot goes to local hero Darren Clarke, who clinched the Claret Jug eight years ago.

While Royal Portrush will be uncharted territory for the majority of the field at the 148th Open Championship, there is a strong sense of familiarity for Rory McIlroy.

The four-time major champion set a course-record 61 at one of the toughest links venues – which has not held The Open since 1951 – as a 16-year-old in 2005.

A lot has changed in the 14 years since but McIlroy's knowledge of Portrush, coupled with the fervent backing of a partisan home crowd in Northern Ireland, should aid his cause.

But there is a star-studded cast – led by world number one and four-time major victor Brooks Koepka – who will all be desperate to deny McIlroy a dream home coming.

Here, three Omnisport writers pick out their players to watch in the battle for the Claret Jug.



Favourite: Brooks Koepka

Koepka's phenomenal record in major tournaments includes a couple of top-10 placings at The Open. A year ago, Koepka was a distant 39th at Carnoustie, but that was sandwiched by triumphs at the U.S. Open and US PGA Championship. He secured another PGA title in May, and only a wonderful four days from Gary Woodland denied him a third consecutive U.S. success. Koepka often feels he does not receive the acclaim he deserves but the fact the attention will be focused on McIlroy should play into his hands at Portrush.

Likely challengers: Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele and Tommy Fleetwood

Rahm's three attempts to win The Open have hardly been a success story – a tie for 44th two years ago his best result. But the passionate Spaniard has two top-10 major finishes in 2019 and won the Irish Open this month, so will be feeling confident at Portrush. For a while now it has appeared a matter of when not if Schauffele becomes a major champion. Respective finishes of second and third at the Masters and U.S. Open further enhanced his major pedigree and he proved his ability to contend on tricky Open courses when ending as runner-up at Carnoustie a year ago. Fleetwood's form in recent months has been patchy, but the amiable Englishman has the sort of clutch-scoring ability that should suit Portrush.

Outside bet: Graeme McDowell

The halcyon days of winning the U.S. Open in 2010 may seem like a distant memory for the former world number four, who last year was ranked as low as 239. But 'G Mac' has shown signs of improvements this year, recording top-10 finishes at the Texas Open and Canadian Open, while he flirted with contention at last month's U.S. Open before finishing 16th. And do not discount the power of local knowledge. While the majority of the focus will undoubtedly fall McIlroy's way, Portrush native McDowell will be desperate to impress in front of home support.


My favourite: Francesco Molinari

When Molinari lifted the Claret Jug in 2018, he did so to little fanfare. On that Sunday at Carnoustie, his name was not the most illustrious of the contenders. Rory McIlroy was up there, as was Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and, of course, Tiger Woods. What separated this quiet, unassuming Italian from that star-studded field was his immense calmness under pressure. He went bogey-free in a two-under par 69 in tricky conditions that will likely be replicated at Portrush. When the going gets tough, this guy will get going.

Likely challengers: Koepka, Spieth and Fleetwood

Because since when does Koepka not challenge at a major? It is what he does. Time and time again. How Spieth would yearn for that kind of consistency now, but he did make a decent fist of retaining his title last year and it can never be declared a surprise to see him in the mix. Fleetwood was the focus of much of the pre-tournament attention when Spieth triumphed, with Royal Birkdale his home course. He may not have the same intimate knowledge of this track, but how poetic it would be to see the Claret Jug passed from one half of the Ryder Cup 'Moliwood' partnership to the other.

Outside bet: Matt Kuchar

Kuchar came mighty close to glory two years ago, but Spieth's stunning revival from his 13th-hole woes kept his compatriot at arm's length. Back then, Spieth said Kuchar would win a major one day. This could be his year.


My favourite: Fleetwood

Fleetwood is without a win in 2019 but has recorded four top-10 finishes. He is likely to enjoy the conditions at Portrush. The links course on the upper tip of Northern Ireland is defended primarily by the wind which could play into the hands of a man brought up on the blowy north west coast of England. Fleetwood is overdue a major breakthrough and will enjoy considerable support.

Likely challengers: McIlroy, Koepka and Spieth

No real surprises here. McIlroy holds the course record at Portrush. Expectation could be an issue in his home country but he has the tools to dominate. Spieth won the Open in 2017 and was tied for the 54-hole lead 12 months ago before falling away. He hasn't won since his Birkdale triumph but seems to thrive in UK conditions. And Koepka because, well, it's Koepka.

Outside bet: Adam Scott

Scott, like Spieth, is very much at home at the Open. Four consecutive top-10 finishes from 2012-2015 - he should have claimed the Claret Jug in 2012 but bogeyed the last four holes to finish second to Ernie Els by a shot - show a pedigree on this type of layout. The swing has never been a problem and his putting is, very belatedly, not proving a hindrance.

The 148th Open Championship begins at Royal Portrush on Thursday as the world's best golfers battle it out for the Claret Jug.

For just the second time in the storied history of the tournament, the sport's oldest major will be staged in Northern Ireland, the home of 2014 champion Rory McIlroy.

And that is not the only interesting piece of trivia behind The Open, as these facts from Opta prove.


- Northern Ireland's tally of six major wins is more than any other European country since the turn of the century – Rory McIlroy (4), Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke (one each).

Francesco Molinari – victorious at Carnoustie last year – is looking to become the first player to win back to back Opens since Padraig Harrington in 2007 and 2008.

- Brooks Koepka is 30 under par in the 2019 majors,13 shots better than any other player (Dustin Johnson -17).

- Rory McIlroy's last four Open participations have seen him finish in the top five.

- Since the start of 2018, Jon Rahm has either finished in the Top 10 (four times) or missed the cut (three times) at majors.

- Tiger Woods last won the Claret Jug in 2006 at Hoylake – if he were to win at Portrush, it would be the longest gap between two Open victories.

Jordan Spieth has led (outright or share) at the end of five of the last eight rounds at The Open.

- Only Brooks Koepka (three) has had more top-three finishes in this year's majors than Xander Schauffele (two), who finished in a tie for second at Carnoustie in 2018.

- Only one of the last 23 majors has been won by a player from outside Europe or the United States: Australia's Jason Day (2015 US PGA Championship).

- Nick Faldo is the last English player to win The Open, that victory coming 27 years ago in 1992 at Muirfield.

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo claimed his second successive American Century Championship title.

Romo has taken a liking to golf and after retiring from the NFL in 2016, the four-time Pro Bowler began to try his hand at the game finding some success — most notably at the popular annual celebrity tournament. 

The 39-year-old successfully defended his title with a wire-to-wire victory at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course on Sunday.

"It's an honor to win this tournament," Romo said. "I came in with confidence and this is some of the best golf I've played these past few weeks.

"When I won last year, every shot mattered. This year, it was easier. That's why we practice so much."

Romo finished his round with a two-over-par 74. The tournament uses a modified Stableford scoring system, which awarded the Cowboys great 20 points in his winning efforts.

He finished at 71 for the tournament, well in front of runner-up and former MLB pitcher Mark Mulder (61)

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry finished in a tie for seventh at 50, ahead of the likes of Carson Palmer, Ray Allen, Aaron Rodgers, Golden Tate, Vince Carter, Andre Iguodala and Kyle Lowry.

Dylan Frittelli celebrated his maiden PGA Tour title after winning the John Deere Classic by two strokes.

South African Frittelli carded a seven-under-par 64 to hold off a red-hot Russell Henley and emerge triumphant at 21 under on Sunday.

Frittelli played steady golf all weekend and made just one bogey throughout the tournament, with the 29-year-old was mistake-free on Saturday and Sunday.

The win will propel Frittelli up the FedEx Cup standings, where he previously sat 153rd and earned him an invitation to next week's Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

It will be the third consecutive Open Championship Frittelli will compete in after missing the cut the two previous seasons.

"It's still sinking in," Frittelli – who will also appear in the first three majors next season – said. "It means a lot. My focus this week was to just try and get some FedEx Cup points and try to move up in that top 125, and now, perspective is going to change big time.

"Jump on that flight and head over to the Open next week. Hopefully, I can be calm by the time I get there. It's going to be a fun flight."

Henley put pressure on Frittelli after rocketing up the standings with the low round of the day – a 10-under-par 61 at TPC Deere Run.

The three-time Tour champion was seeking his first win since 2017 and used a spectacular final round to stay in contention. However, he was unable to leapfrog Frittelli.

Andrew Landry (69) rounded out the top three at 18 under, while Collin Morikawa (66) and Chris Stroud (67) were a stroke further back in a two-way tie for fourth.

Bernd Wiesberger recovered from a late wobble to defeat Benjamin Hebert in a play-off and secure his sixth European Tour title at the Scottish Open.

The Austrian came into Sunday's final round at The Renaissance Club two clear of his nearest challenger Erik van Rooyen but he was overtaken by an inspired Hebert, who carded a nine-under 62 to move atop the leaderboard.

Wiesberger had regained his lead with a birdie at the 16th but a subsequent bogey and a par to finish saw him close on 22 under for the tournament, level with Hebert.

Both men parred and then bogeyed on the first two trips back up the last before Hebert three-putted and Wiesberger holed his effort from five feet to secure victory.

Hebert could at least console himself with qualification for The Open next week, while Andrew 'Beef' Johnston and Nino Bertasio also secured their spots at Royal Portrush for the final major of the year.

Johnston, who revealed last week he has been struggling with mental health issues, was emotional after reflecting on a stunning 62 that featured 10 birdies and a solitary bogey as he finished in a tie for fourth on 19 under.

"It's a nice feeling," a tearful Johnston told Sky Sports. "I guess it's been a hard year, so, yeah, I'm happy. I've tried so hard in the last year and to come out and shoot a score like that is just such a nice feeling."

Cameron Tringale and Andrew Landry earned a share of the one-stroke lead after the third round at the John Deere Classic.

Tringale carded a six-under-par 65 and fellow American Landry posted a penultimate-round 67 to rise to the top of the leaderboard on Saturday.

Seeking his maiden PGA Tour title, Tringale had seven birdies and a bogey as he climbed three positions at TPC Deere Run.

Landry – winner of last year's Texas Open – is also 16 under through 54 holes following a round which included six birdies and a pair of bogeys on the back nine.

Bill Haas, who has not won an event on Tour since January 2015, is one shot back following his seven-under-par 64, alongside Adam Schenk (66).

Four golfers are tied for fifth at 14 under, including Nick Watney (64) – who continues to have an under-the-radar solid season.

Meanwhile, Matthew Wolff continues to impress after his third-round 67 to be tied for 33rd.

Wolff won the 3M Open in just his third professional start last week, having won the NCAA individual title with Oklahoma State six weeks earlier.

"I would not be surprised if he was on that Presidents Cup team that went to Australia," Charles Howell III said on Wolff. "He would be a guy to look at if I was Tiger [Woods]."

Bernd Wiesberger moved two strokes clear atop the Scottish Open leaderboard with a six-under 65 in the third round on Saturday.

The Austrian came into the penultimate day as the joint-leader at The Renaissance Club alongside Erik van Rooyen and Lee Slattery, having posted a superb 61 on Friday – the lowest round of his career.

Another seven birdies and just one bogey, at the par-three 17th, moved Wiesberger to 20 under, the lowest score after 54 holes at this event, with South Africa's Van Rooyen sitting second following a four-under 67.

Wiesberger, who missed seven months last year with a wrist injury, is a man in form having won the Made in Denmark in May before finishing in a tie for second at the Irish Open last week.

Slattery dropped to five shots off the lead after a disappointing one-under 70, while Romain Langasque and Nino Bertasio are four adrift on 16 under.

Rory McIlroy followed up his two rounds of 67 with a 68, leaving the four-time major champion nine back in a tie for 31st.

Jhonattan Vegas is feeling it at the John Deere Classic, taking a one-stroke lead after the second round on Friday.

The 34-year-old Venezuelan shot a nine-under 62 in the second round to move into the solo lead at 13 under for the tournament.

He piggy-backed off his first-round 67, during which he had just one blemish on his scorecard with a double bogey on the par-four fifth hole.

On Friday, however, he went mistake-free and carded nine birdies on his way to the top of the leaderboard.

Vegas is looking for his first win on the PGA Tour since the Canadian Open in 2017.

Andrew Landry sits one shot back after a second straight six-under 65 moved him to 12 under.

The American has made just one bogey in two days.

Lucas Glover sits in solo third at 11 under. The 2009 U.S. Open champion had the highlight of the day with an albatross at the 10th hole.

He holed a shot from 255 yards to move to four under for the day before finishing with a 64.

Five men, including Daniel Berger, sit in a tie for fourth place at 10 under.

Bernd Wiesberger's resurgence continued with an outstanding 10-under 61 on day two of the Scottish Open on Friday.

The Austrian's sensational round at The Renaissance Club saw him join Lee Slattery and Erik van Rooyen at the top of the leaderboard in a three-way tie on 14 under.

The 33-year-old carded 11 birdies - six of which came in a row from holes five to 10 - to maintain his strong form.

Wiesberger missed seven months with a wrist injury but won the Made in Denmark event in May and finished in a tie for second at last week's Irish Open.

"It's been tough the last year. Coming off injury, it's been hard but winning in Denmark a couple of weeks ago is a big boost to me," he said.

"I really enjoy my time out on the golf course again, maybe take it not as seriously as I've done before and let it go and that really helped me, just feeding off rounds like this today. I hadn't shot 10 under in a professional event yet, so that was a nice bonus. It's just going with the flow and things worked out very well today."

Englishman Slattery hit seven birdies in a blemish-free 64 on day two, while South African Van Rooyen also finished on seven under for the second day in a row.

Players needed a score of five under to make the cut, with Rickie Fowler and Padraig Harrington among those to miss out.

Roberto Diaz earned a two-stroke lead after the first round of the John Deere Classic.

Diaz carded a nine-under-par 62 to set the early pace at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois on Thursday.

The 32-year-old – who has never won on the PGA Tour, and before 2019 he had not earned a top-10 finish since 2016 – enjoyed a bogey-free round.

Mexican Diaz had seven birdies and an eagle to top the leaderboard ahead of American duo Adam Long and Russell Henley.

After the top three on the course, there is a six-way tie at six under, which includes Martin Laird, Ryan Palmer and Vaughn Taylor.

Elsewhere on the course, Bill Haas shot a five-under 66, Matthew Wolff is four under and Luke Donald is a stroke further back.

Zach Johnson – the 2012 winner had a disappointing day as he sits one over following a 72.

Meanwhile, defending champion Michael Kim posted a first-round 73 to be in a tie for 134th.

Edoardo Molinari was a spectator when his brother Francesco won The Open last year, but he will be hoping to join him at Royal Portrush after surging into contention at the Scottish Open.

An eight-under 63 sees the Italian sit in a four-way tie for the lead after round one, alongside fellow Open hopefuls Romain Wattel and Nino Bertasio, with Matt Kuchar – runner-up at the 2017 championship at Royal Birkdale – completing the quartet.

The leading three players in the top 10 who are not already exempt will earn a spot at the world's oldest major in Northern Ireland next week.

"I'm in a good place at the minute," said Edoardo Molinari. "It seems like every week I'm playing better.

"I'm building something every week and when you play golf like this, it's quite easy but then everything can change in a very short amount of time.

"You just have to be careful and keep doing the same things and hopefully the results continue to improve."

There are some big names in action at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick, with four-time major winner Rory McIlroy among them.

He shot a 67 to sit alongside Justin Thomas on four under, while Rickie Fowler had to settle for an even-par round that included an eagle three at the 16th.

Henrik Stenson, another former Open winner, was blemish-free in his fine round of 65.

Rory McIlroy has vowed to give this week's Scottish Open his complete focus as he aims for a title boost before The Open Championship.

For the first time in McIlroy's lifetime, Northern Ireland will host The Open next week when the tournament comes to Royal Portrush.

The focus on him will be more intense than ever and McIlroy will want to justify the attention in front of a home crowd.

He sees this week's European Tour event, starting on Thursday, as a great opportunity to win in Scotland for the first time.

And if four-time major winner McIlroy achieves his goal of being in contention by Sunday afternoon at North Berwick's Renaissance Club it will have been a week well spent.

He said: "I'm here fully focused on this event. I think it's a little disrespectful when people come in and they are treating it as a warm-up."

McIlroy said the Scottish Open was an event of "stature", and the involvement of Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler underlines his argument.

World number three McIlroy added, according to the European Tour website: "I'm fully focused on getting out there and playing well this week and trying to get myself in the mix.

"I'm playing this event with two eyes firmly focused on the Scottish Open. I want to get myself into contention and have a chance to win a golf tournament.

"I think if I do that, that's the best way to prepare for next week."

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