Henrik Stenson was victorious at the LIV Golf Bedminster tournament on Sunday, his debut event on the controversial breakaway tour.

Sweden's former Open champion completed his 54 holes on 11 under par, putting him two clear of Dustin Johnson and Matthew Wolff.

Stenson was stripped of his status as Europe's Ryder Cup captain after it was confirmed he was among the newest recruits to the Saudi-funded LIV Golf circuit.

He entered the third and final round with a three-stroke lead over Johnson, and posted three birdies and one bogey for a two-under 69 to get the job done.

Johnson, who was three under on Sunday, had to settle for matching the overall score of Wolff who put together the equal-best round of the tournament with his seven-under 64, finishing at nine under for the weekend.

Carlos Ortiz was alone in fourth at eight under, and Patrick Reed had sole possession of fifth at seven under.

With Johnson and Reed both collecting top-five finishes, and Talor Gooch being part of the five-man group at four under, their 4 Aces GC – along with fourth member Pat Perez (five over) – comfortably won the team competition, eight strokes clear of Stenson's Majesticks GC.

Brooks Koepka finished 11th at three under, alongside Martin Kaymer, while Ian Poulter was a shot back, and Charl Schwartzel snuck into the top 20 at even par.

It was a tournament to forget for Bryson DeChambeau (five over) and Phil Mickelson (six over), although Mickelson did close his weekend with his best round, shooting even par.

Henrik Stenson carded a two-under-par 69 to retain his lead after the second round of LIV Golf Bedminster, his first event on the controversial tour.

The Swede – stripped of Europe's Ryder Cup captaincy over his defection from the DP World Tour – showed steely focus on the fairways on Saturday at Trump National Golf Club.

The 2016 Open Championship winner moved clear of first-round co-leader Patrick Reed to top the standings outright at nine under, rallying after a double bogey on his third hole.

Stenson said: "I was hanging in there. I didn't feel I had my best stuff today, certainly a lot less than we played with yesterday."

Former Masters winner Reed slipped to a tie for third with a two-over 73, but he nevertheless retained a share of the lead in the team standings. Reed's 4 Aces GC team-mate Dustin Johnson moved second in the individual standings with a 69 to sit three shots off the lead at six under.

The 4 Aces advantage was cemented by a super round from Talor Gooch, who carded a best-of-the-day 64 to join Reed on five under through 36 holes, with Carlos Ortiz on the same mark.

It proved a miserable day at the office for Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau as they posted 73 and 74 respectively, with DeChambeau carding six bogeys in his round. He sits tied for 28th, with Mickelson in a share of 40th place on six over – a full 15 shots behind Stenson.

New signing Henrik Stenson is tied for the lead after the first round of LIV Golf Bedminster, shooting a seven-under 64 in his first event since committing to the controversial tour.

Stenson – who was stripped of his position as Ryder Cup captain due to his decision to leave the PGA Tour – collected eight birdies and one bogey, and helped his team Majesticks GC to second in the team standings at 10 under.

Tied for the individual lead is Patrick Reed, who also leads the team standings by one stroke along with his 4 Aces GC teammates Dustin Johnson, Pat Perez and Talor Gooch.

Alone in third place is Thailand's 23-year-old Phachara Khongwatmai at five under, and he is one stroke ahead of both Johnson and Carlos Ortiz, rounding out the top-five.

Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter, Brooks Koepka and Charles Howell III are all one shot further back at three under, while Lee Westwood headlines the group at two under, and Sergio Garcia is in the logjam at one under.

Bryson DeChambeau finished at even par after a late double-bogey, Louis Oosthuizen is at two over after posting a seven on the par-three seventh hole, and there are only three players below Phil Mickelson after he struggled to four over with five bogeys and one birdie.

Open champion Cameron Smith revealed his third-round slump provided all the incentive he needed to get his act together and claim victory with a stunning 64 at St Andrews on Sunday. 

The leader after 36 holes, it was widely thought Smith had blown his chances with a scruffy 73 on Saturday which left him four shots adrift of leading duo Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland.

However, a run of five birdies in a row after the turn in his final round put Smith in the ascendancy and he never looked back, showing nerves of steel to save par on 17 before making another gain at the last to render playing partner Cameron Young's eagle immaterial. 

The Australian roared to his maiden major after undercutting crowd favourite McIlroy's Sunday score by six strokes, while he was a huge 10 shots better than Hovland across the concluding 18 holes.

Speaking about Saturday's backslide, Smith – who finished on 20 under, a shot ahead of Young – said: "I think I was really frustrated with how the round went.

"I just really put it down to links golf. I think you really have those days on these courses where you get a bit of a weird bounce here and there and puts you in a bad spot.

"So, I shrugged it off pretty good, I think, last night. I really didn't dwell on it too much.

"But to go out there and really stick my head down and keep making birdies and keep making putts, yeah, it was really cool. I think that [Saturday's disappointment] definitely helped."

Smith will have to wait before he can properly celebrate with his close family and friends, as his dad made what proved to be an ill-advised decision not to head over to Fife to see his son in action at the 150th Open Championship.

"I don't have any family here. I've got all my team here," he said. 

"My dad was actually meant to come over, and he pulled out in the last minute basically. I had a quick chat with him before. He's kicking himself now.

"I really wish he was here, too. It would have been such a cool week, even without this, to be at the home of golf. Dad loves his golf as well. It would have been awesome."

The Champion Golfer of the Year – whose score of 268 is a record in an Open at St Andrews – had some warm words of praise for McIlroy, who missed out on a second Claret Jug and first major since 2014.

"He's obviously a great player," said Smith after finishing two strokes clear of the Northern Irishman.

"He's one of those guys that you can't help but stop when he's hitting balls on the range, and he just keeps knocking on doors every week, it seems like.

"He's probably the most consistent player out here.

"He's going to get a major, I'm sure, very soon. He's just really solid. For me, I've played with Rory a few times, and there's really nothing that you can fault."

Asked about the mullet hairstyle that makes him so distinctive and whether he would keep it, the 28-year-old added: "I think it's going to stay, mate!"

Cameron Smith surged to victory at The Open with a stunning final-round 64, edging out Rory McIlroy and Cameron Young to claim his first major.

The Australian started Sunday's round four shots back from leading duo McIlroy and Viktor Hovland but kept his cool to triumph over Young by one stroke on a thrilling day at St Andrews, finishing on 20 under.

He extinguished McIlroy's hopes of ending an eight-year major drought at the 150th edition of golf's oldest major, where record crowds were treated to a memorable tournament, even if they were denied the champion the majority wanted to see lift the Claret Jug.

McIlroy's closing 70, during which he passed up a series of birdie chances, was only enough for third spot as Young eagled the last to take second and Hovland faded to finish six shots off the pace, alongside Tommy Fleetwood.

The focus initially was firmly on the final pairing, who sat on a four-shot advantage, and it was Hovland who blinked first, three-putting for a bogey five on the fourth and McIlroy's lead was two when he birdied the fifth. 

But as Hovland stalled, it was Smith who led the charge of the chasing pack, making gains in five consecutive holes after the turn to move to the summit on 19 under. 

He showed nerves of steel to hole a tricky putt for par on the 17th and then made a birdie at the last after Young had found the hole for an eagle.

That left McIlroy needing a two at the par-four last to force a play-off as fans poured onto the 18th fairway at the home of golf, but he could only manage a par as a new major champion was crowned.

 

Rory McIlroy said he and co-leader Viktor Hovland "fed off each other" in a thrilling third-round pairing at the Open Championship.

The duo each carded 66s on moving day at St Andrews to share the 54-hole lead on 16 under par, four shots ahead of nearest rivals Cameron Smith and Cameron Young.

McIlroy's stunning hole-out eagle from the bunker on 10 was the highlight of his round, though he gave a shot back on 17th after clattering into the wall down the right side of the notoriously tricky Road Hole.

A pair of birdies at the last ensured McIlroy and Hovland will head out on Sunday level pegging in pursuit of the Claret Jug at the landmark 150th edition of golf's oldest major.

"I thought it was really good," the Northern Irishman, who was crowned Champion Golfer of the Year in 2014, said of his round. 

"I missed some opportunities early and Viktor holed a couple of long ones early on.

"But I stayed really patient, got my first birdie of the day on five, and I feel like my patience was rewarded around the turn with a couple of birdies and that hole-out on 10.

"Overall, a really good day. We sort of fed off each other, and navigated the last few holes well. It was tricky coming in there.

"When you're a couple off the lead going into the third day of The Open and you go out and shoot a six under, you're always going to be pleased with that."

McIlroy had magnificent backing from huge crowds on a glorious day on the Fife coast and he was grateful for it, but keen not to get carried away.

"The support that I've gotten this week has been absolutely incredible," said the four-time major winner. 

"I appreciate it and I feel it out there, but at the same time I'm trying my hardest just to stay in my own little world because that's the best way for me to get the best out of myself.

"I try to acknowledge as much as I can, but I'm just trying to stay in my process, stay in my own little bubble and I just have to do that for one more day.

"I just have to just stick to my game plan, stick to the process. The more people bring up the result, the more I'm just going to harp on about process and sticking to my game plan, because that's the only thing I can do, and I've done that well for the last three days.

"It's put me in this position. I just need to do it for one more day."

Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland will form Sunday's final pairing as the 150th Open Championship heads for a thrilling conclusion.

The duo played together on Saturday and both shot third-round 66s to claim a share of the lead on 16 under at St Andrews.

However, it is not quite a two-horse race at the famous Fife links, with Cameron Young and overnight leader Cameron Smith four strokes behind, while Scottie Scheffler and Kim Si-woo are within five.

The highlight of McIlroy's round was a hole-out eagle from the bunker on 10, but he and Hovland were both wayward on their approach shots to 17 as signs of nerves started to show on the notoriously tricky Road Hole.

McIlroy was close up against the stone wall to the right of the green and ended up with a bogey five, while Hovland – whose shot came to rest on the gravel path – recovered to salvage par and restore parity at the summit of the leaderboard.

A pair of birdies at the last kept it that way, setting things up for what promises to be a memorable final day at the home of golf.

Elsewhere in the field on an exciting moving day, Shane Lowry carded back-to-back eagles on the ninth and 10th before the 2019 winner faded on the back nine to sign for a 69.

Patrick Cantlay threatened to join the fun at the sharp end of things when he got to 11 under through 12, but he dropped three shots in the remaining six holes to end up eight off the pace.

SHOT OF THE DAY

McIlroy turned a threat into an opportunity after putting his tee shot into the bunker at the 10th, with rival Hovland having landed safely short of the pin.

A superb bunker shot pitched just shy of the cup and rolled in for an eagle two that piled the pressure on Hovland.

To his credit, the Norwegian got down in two for a birdie that ensured he stayed level with his playing partner.

PLAYER OF THE DAY

On moving day in Fife, it was crowd favourite McIlroy who really clicked into gear.

A pre-tournament favourite, the 33-year-old found his groove to chart a course for his fifth major and first since 2014.

On this form, he will take some stopping on Sunday, even with Hovland for company.

CHIPPING IN

Jordan Spieth: "What's difficult about it is a lot of the pin locations are in these tiny little tucked corners where, if you hit it more than five feet by, it goes 50 feet away."

Shane Lowry: "It wouldn't take Einstein to figure out what went wrong on the back nine. My putting was horrific."

Bryson DeChambeau: "I don't think you ever know how to play this golf course fully. Every day it's different. It showcases a unique golf course each time the wind pops up or doesn't pop up. It's just different."

A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME

- When McIlroy won The Open in 2014, he was 16 under after round three.

- The pairing of McIlroy and Hovland produced just one bogey between them on Saturday.

- Every winner of The Open at St Andrews has been within four shots of the lead heading into the final round.

Tommy Fleetwood is hoping his strong finish to Saturday's round has put him in the mix to challenge for The Open Championship.

Fleetwood made gains at the 14th, 15th and 18th holes to sign for a 66 and get to nine under at St Andrews.

It put him among the chasing pack on a day when conditions on the Fife coast were conducive to low scoring.

And Fleetwood, whose best finish at golf's oldest major was the runner-up spot in 2019, is optimistic he will be among the contenders on Sunday.

"It felt important," he said of his birdie at the last. "I birdied 15, parred 17 and birdied 18, but they all felt really important just being in the position we're in.

"We just can't afford to be dropping back too much and giving away too many chances at this point when you know the leaders are a long way ahead of you and you're trying to catch up.

"I'd have taken it [a 66] at the start of the day, that's for sure. I've just got to sit back and wait and see where we end up.

"It will be nice teeing off [on Sunday] feeling like we have a chance and see if we can get some momentum going on the front nine.

"It would be very cool and very special to be able to have a go again like down the stretch on a Sunday at The Open.

"I'll just wait and see. It's not in my hands. We'll ee what those guys do and if they get too far ahead, I'll be doing my best anyway, but it will be nice to have a chance, that's for sure."

Viktor Hovland sat at the summit through seven holes, the Norwegian getting to 14 under after starting the day on 10 under.

Playing partner Rory McIlroy was two shots back, level with overnight leader Cameron Smith and Cameron Young.

The American trio of Dustin Johnson, Scottie Scheffler and Patrick Cantlay were 10 under.

Dustin Johnson has no plans to revisit memories of his 2015 St Andrews collapse after taking the lead at the 150th Open Championship.

The former world number one shot a second-round 67 to move to nine under and top of the leaderboard.

Johnson conceded he was unlikely to remain at the summit come the end of the day, but he will be out to avoid a repeat of his weekend slump at the home of golf seven years ago.

Back then, the American held the 36-hole lead but carded consecutive 75s to fall well short, and he was not keen to dig that out of the memory bank following Friday's fine showing.

"To be honest, I don't even remember the third round from seven years ago," he said. "I've played a lot of golf since then, and that was a long time ago.

"Obviously any time playing in a major and playing golf courses, you learn stuff about yourself, but that was quite a while ago.

"I don't want to go back to it, obviously. It wasn't very good."

Johnson is now waiting to see how the weather will impact his strategy for the weekend as he eyes a third major and first Open title.

"Once I see what the wind direction is and we get the pins later, we kind of go through and map out a game plan," he said.

"It's all based on the wind how you attack the golf course and kind of where you hit it and where you want to hit it.

"I feel like I'm swinging well. Obviously, it's just avoiding the bunkers as much as possible. It's really hard not to hit it in one of the bunkers. I've been in three so far, and two of them I had to chip out sideways, and the other one I had a shot.

"If I can just keep out of the bunkers and just keep playing kind of smart golf where, when I have a good number and a club that I can get it close to the hole, I can be aggressive. But when not, just kind of hit it to 30, 40 feet and try to two-putt."

World number one Scottie Scheffler's 68 kept him within one of the lead, while Tyrrell Hatton's 66 also had him at eight under.

Adam Scott, playing alongside Johnson, signed for a 65 to seven under, with Rory McIlroy a further stroke back ahead of his 14:59 BST (local time) tee-off.

After early rain, conditions have been proving favourable for low scoring, but Tiger Woods was primed to miss the cut after moving to seven over through 15 holes on Friday.

England’s Paul Casey, ranked 26th in the world, has become the latest player to join the Saudi Arabia-funded LIV Golf Invitational.

Casey has won 21 times as a professional, including three times on the PGA Tour and another 15 on the European Tour. He also represented Team Europe five times in the Ryder Cup.

A back injury has kept Casey sidelined since he took part in the WGC Match Play Championship in March. He played two holes of his opening match when he conceded due to back spasms, before withdrawing from the Masters, PGA Championship and U.S. Open.

He plans to make his LIV debut later this month at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Casey joins a growing list of players to accept PGA Tour bans and join the breakaway series, fronted by CEO Greg Norman and funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson are some of the marquee names that have come on board with the promise of big signing bonuses, hefty prize purses and an eased schedule.

Branden Grace posted a seven-under 65 in the final round on Saturday, leapfrogging Dustin Johnson and Carlos Ortiz to win LIV Golf Portland.

Two shots behind the co-leaders at the start of the third round, Grace reeled off four birdies in the final six holes, including three consecutive birdies between 15 and 17, to take out the tournament.

With the victory, the South African follows up compatriot Charl Schwartel's win in London at LIV Golf's inaugural event in June.

The South African quartet that makes up Stinger GC - Grace, Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Hennie du Plessis – could only manage second in the team standings, though, with Johnson's 4 Aces GC taking out first.

"What a day. It's been like this the whole day, the crowd came out and I played flawless golf," Grace said afterwards. "I played, really, really well when I needed to do something special. It came up and I managed to pull it off, but what a great day.

"I knew the back nine, I had to kind of dig deep. Carlos was playing great golf, DJ was coming back and I think, one of the big things for me today was the birdie on 13.

"Then I thought, 'Now, I'm in with it.' Obviously, the finish was just amazing."  

Amid the news former Ryder Cup player Paul Casey defected from the PGA Tour to the Saudi-backed breakaway competition, Grace finished the tournament on 13-under, two strokes ahead of Ortiz who posted a three-under 69 on Saturday.

They were followed by 2020 Masters winner Johnson and another recent defector in Patrick Reed, who finished on nine-under after 54 holes.

Six-time major champion Phil Mickelson finished tied for 40th this week with a 54-hole score of 10-over. Through two LIV Golf events, Mickelson is a combined 20-over par.

Dustin Johnson and Carlos Ortiz are tied for the lead at LIV Golf Portland after two rounds of play, heading into the final day at eight under, two strokes clear of the chasing field.

Ortiz was the outright leader after his first-round 67, following it up with a three-under 69. Johnson was outright second after Thursday, posting a 68, and he proceeded to shoot another 68 in his second trip around Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.

Arguably the biggest star on the LIV Golf roster after Phil Mickelson, Johnson had six birdies and one bogey on the front-nine, with three bogeys and two birdies on the back-nine keeping him from running away with a lead.

In outright third place is Branden Grace at six under, while Justin Harding is alone at five under, with the group of Brooks Koepka, Louis Oosthuizen, Jinchiro Kozuma, Patrick Reed and Sihwan Kim rounding out the top-10 in a tie for fifth.

With Johnson and Reed both near the top of the leaderboard, it puts their team – 4 Aces GC, along with Pat Perez and Talor Gooch – atop the teams leaderboard at 15 under, four strokes clear of the South African team Stinger GC, consisting of Grace, Oosthuizen, Hennie du Plessis and Charl Schwartzel.

After an even par opening round, Bryson DeChambeau put himself back into contention with a three-under Friday, giving him a share of 10th with Sam Horsfield.

4 Aces partners Gooch and Perez are both at two under, tied for 12th, while Martin Kaymer, Matthew Wolff and Kevin Na are the last of the players under par.

Abraham Ancer is at even par, Sergio Garcia is at two over, and Mickelson shot his second consecutive 75 to finish play at six over.

Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen are the 36-hole leaders of the U.S. Open after an entertaining second round at The Country Club on Friday, tied at five under.

Dahmen was one stroke off the lead after the first round, and he followed it up with a strong 68 in windy conditions. He is one of three players to shoot 68 or better in the opening two rounds. Morikawa came into the day at one under, and shot the round of the day as the only player to get around in 66. 

One stroke back from the lead is a five-man group headlined by stars Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, along with American duo Hayden Buckley and Aaron Wise. Buckley and Wise were the two players along Dahmen to shoot back-to-back 68s.

Beau Hossler joined that group at four under thanks to a chip-in birdie on his final hole.

World number one Scottie Scheffler is part of the group at three under, and he shared the early clubhouse lead following a three-under 67. He is joined by Nick Hardy, Matthew NeSmith, Patrick Rodgers and Brian Harman to round out the top-10.

Overnight leader Adam Hadwin is a further shot back at two under with Sam Burns and Matt Fitzpatrick, while South Africa's M.J. Daffue – who was three strokes clear atop the leaderboard early in his round at six under – posted five bogeys and no birdies down the back nine to head into the weekend at one under.

Also at one under are hopefuls Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris, still well within striking distance, while Hideki Matsuyama and Brooks Koepka headline the group at even par.

Star-studded duo Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson are at one over, and the pair of Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau are at two over, one stroke clear of the cut-line.

Finishing right on the cut-line at three over was recent winner Lee Kyoung-hoon and Colombia's Sebastian Munoz, who has a pair of top-three finishes this season.

Plenty of big names missed the cut, with the international contingent of Spain's Sergio Garcia, Ireland's Shane Lowry, Chile's Mito Pereira and Canada's Corey Conners all one shot out at four over. Tony Finau finished five over, Cameron Smith was six over, and the pair of Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland were both at seven over.

 

Shot of the day

Cameron Young had a moment he will never forget when he conjured up a hole-in-one at the par-three sixth.

There were huge cheers after the American's dream tee shot at the 165-yard hole dropped in. Young was unable to make the cut – missing out by one stroke – but not without achieving a rare feat.

Player of the day - Collin Morikawa

Morikawa produced the round of the day to ensure he is the man to catch heading into the weekend.

The two-time major winner was not at his brilliant best, but five birdies and just the one bogey at the par-five fourth putting him in the lead.

Chipping in

Morikawa: "No one has taken it deep so far and kind of run away, but you know what, right now my game feels really good. The last few days is a huge confidence booster for me heading into this weekend, and hopefully we can kind of make some separation somehow."

Scheffler: "I've been number one in the world for a while now, and it doesn't really feel like it, so I kind of like just under the radar. I can show up and do my thing and then go home and rest."

 

A little birdie told me...

- Young's ace was the 48th in US Open history.

- Nick Hardy and M.J. Daffue emerged from the Springfield, Ohio qualifying. They both held a share of the lead on Friday.

- Scheffler is bidding to become only the second player to win this major while world number one since the Official World Golf Rankings began in 1986. Tiger Woods (2000, 2002 and 2008) is the only man to achieved that.

- Matthew Fitzpatrick is looking to emulate Jack Nicklaus by winning the US Amateur and US Open on the same course.

Dustin Johnson is confident his decision to join the LIV Golf Invitational Series will not hamper his chances of winning more major titles.

Johnson made a promising start to the U.S. Open with a first round of 68 at The Country Club on Thursday, but followed that up with a three-over second round of 73.

The former world number one is playing in his homeland this week for the first time since he sensationally quit the PGA Tour to join the controversial Saudi-backed breakaway circuit.

Johnson does not believe his defection from the PGA Tour, and the consequence of not playing as many tournaments against the best players in the world, will make him less of a force at majors.

Asked how sharp he thinks he will remain by playing on the LIV Tour, the American said: "Just as sharp as I would playing anywhere."

Johnson is in no doubt he made the right by call by signing up to LIV Golf.

"Yeah, obviously it was a tough decision, but I feel very confident in the decision I made," he said. "Yeah, I'm definitely happy and looking forward to obviously this weekend and the rest of the events this year."

The 37-year-old says he has not experienced any hostility from the crowds in Brookline, Massachusetts this week. 

He said: "No, fans have been great. Obviously, this is a good sports town, and a lot of people come out and support the event."

Johnson was in a share of 27th place on one over with the second round still ongoing when his compatriot Joel Dahmen moved into the lead on five under through eight holes.

The season's third major begins on Thursday in Brookline, Massachusetts as the U.S. Open gets under way at The Country Club.

There will be a strange feeling at the tournament with it being the first major since the controversial LIV Golf International Series began.

The USGA has confirmed that players involved in the Saudi-backed breakaway who qualified for the U.S. Open will still be allowed to compete, despite the PGA Tour taking a harder stance and suspending those who played in last week's inaugural LIV Golf event in London.

That means the likes of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia will be present in Brookline.

Tiger Woods will not participate due to fitness concerns, but there are plenty of other potential candidates to go for victory at The Country Club, such as world number one Scottie Scheffler and defending champion Jon Rahm.

Stats Perform's experts have taken a look at who they believe could succeed.

RORY'S THE STORY AND HE'S PRIMED FOR MORE GLORY – Russell Greaves

Rory McIlroy has set the standards on and off the course in recent weeks, his win at the Canadian Open coming after he had pledged his allegiance to the PGA Tour in the midst of the inaugural LIV Golf event. That was the Northern Irishman's 21st PGA Tour title, fittingly edging him ahead of LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, a fact McIlroy himself was quick to point out. In Massachusetts, McIlroy can distinguish himself even further from the likes of two-time major winner Norman as he seeks a fifth such title and second at this event. With accuracy off the tee likely to yield a premium on this course, McIlroy has the game to match his momentum and will doubtless be well backed by punters and fans alike. Sunday also marks 11 years to the day since McIlroy won the U.S. Open, collecting his first major success in the process.

DJ READY TO PLAY THE VILLAIN – Ben Spratt

Sure, Rory's return to the winners' circle at a major would be great, but that story surely pales next to the possibility of one of the LIV Golf rebels swooping in and taking the title. Johnson likely remains the breakaway league's best bet. Of course, he would not be a popular winner in front of a presumably vociferous Boston crowd, and the form book is not in his favour either, but Johnson has the talent to spoil the party; a U.S. Open victory in 2016 was the third of three straight top-five finishes – and it was only 18 months ago he was dominating the Masters. The 37-year-old has not won any event this year, in what stands as a career first, but this would be some time to end that drought.

RAHM READY TO MAKE HISTORY AFTER PLEDGING PGA LOYALTY – Patric Ridge

"I've never really played the game of golf for monetary reasons. I play for the love of the game, and I want to play against the best in the world. I've always been interested in history and legacy, and right now the PGA Tour has that." Those were the words of world number two Rahm, who is out to defend his title this week. Rahm finished T23 on his first appearance at the U.S. Open as a low amateur back in 2016, before he failed to make the cut in the next two years. However, he was tied for third in 2019 and T23 in 2020 prior to clinching his first major crown last year, finishing with two birdies on the final two holes to become the first Spanish golfer to win the major. The 27-year-old ranks first on the PGA Tour for shots gained off-the-tee, and although he struggled at the US PGA Championship, he has the opportunity to make history and create the legacy he dreams of in Massachusetts.

ROSE CAN BE A THORN IN RIVALS' SIDE – Peter Hanson

On the face of it, tipping a player ranked 48th in the world without a win to his name since January 2019 (Farmers Insurance Open) looks a little right field. At the time of that triumph, Justin Rose was world number one, but it has been a pretty mixed bag since then. Momentum is king in golf, though, and the Englishman scored a tie for fourth at the Canadian Open last weekend after shooting a sensational 10-under-par 60 in round four. Moreover, to win a U.S. Open you have to fight and scramble for a good score – qualities Rose, the 2013 champion, certainly possesses.

THOMAS HAS THE ENGINE NOT TO TANK – David Segar

Having won the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in May, Justin Thomas comes into this full of confidence and with good reason. He showed incredible fight to edge victory against Will Zalatoris in a play-off in Tulsa, having trailed by eight shots with 10 holes to play in the final round. Ranked fifth in the world, Thomas has always had the talent but, like many, it was always a question of putting it all together when the majors came around. With the experience of doing so fresh in his mind, and showing good form with third place at the Canadian Open, Thomas could pull off the rare feat of back-to-back major wins.

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