Rory McIlroy described winning The Open Championship at St Andrews as "the holy grail" of golf.

The 150th edition of the sport's oldest major is taking place at the home of golf this week, with McIlroy eyeing a second Claret Jug after his triumph in 2014.

McIlroy was unable to defend his title the following year – the last time it was staged at the Old Course – after suffering a knee injury while playing football.

And the Northern Irishman acknowledged that winning this landmark event at the most famous course in the world would represent an extra special achievement.

 

On Monday, Jack Nicklaus recalled Bobby Jones' remark that "a golfer's resume is not complete unless he's won at St Andrews", a notion that was put to McIlroy, who replied: "I don't know if a golfer's career isn't complete if you don't, but I think it's the holy grail of our sport.

"Not a lot of people are going to get that opportunity to achieve that, but that's what winning an Open at St Andrews is. It's one of the highest achievements that you can have in golf.

"There's a lot of great players that have won Opens and maybe not won Opens at St Andrews, so I think it's unfair to say that a golfer's career isn't complete without that.

"But it's certainly up there with one of the greatest things you can do in our game."

McIlroy still just needs a Masters win to complete the sweep of golf's majors and was asked if a green jacket was at this stage more desirable than prevailing at St Andrews, but he was quick to point out it did not have to be one or the other.

"I guess it's both," he said. "Obviously I'd love to win both. And I'll be greedy and say that I'll take both."

All eyes in the golfing world will be trained on St Andrews this week as The Open returns for its 150th championship.

The final major of a year of fracture for the sport will bring the biggest names together once more, but who is best placed to take home the Claret Jug?

Five Stats Perform writers have their say ahead of the tournament...

LIV AND LET LIVE? OOSTHUIZEN IS A ST ANDREWS MASTER – Pete Hanson

Is it time to live and let live (or rather LIV and let live)? The proverb is defined as being able to "tolerate the opinions and behaviour of others so that they will similarly tolerate your own", but in the instance of the LIV defectors it is increasingly difficult to accept the decision for jumping ship as anything other than a nauseating money grab. That being said, looking at this through a purely sporting lens, LIV players who have qualified for The Open are allowed to play this weekend and Louis Oosthuizen knows a thing or two about St Andrews. The South African romped to a seven-shot win at the home of golf in 2010 and only lost in a three-man play-off to Zach Johnson at the same venue five years later. He was also leading through three rounds at Royal St George's a year ago before a final round one over coupled with a Collin Morikawa masterclass saw him end up tied for third.

RORY WINNING POPULARITY CONTESTS AND NOW SEEKS ST ANDREWS SUCCESS – Ben Spratt

If the LIV breakaway has made villains of a number of star names, Rory McIlroy is the PGA Tour's hero. With news of each defector, McIlroy has stood firm in his opposition to the Saudi-backed series – all the while stringing together a superb run of form, finishing in the top 20 in each of his past seven entries and the top 10 in each of the first three majors of the year. Rory is a very real contender this week, and there could hardly be a more popular winner. He has unfinished business at St Andrews, too, having tied for third in 2010 and then missed the 2015 event – where he would have been the defending champion – through injury.

RED-HOT SCHAUFFELE IS THE MAN TO BEAT – Russell Greaves

Fresh from his victory at the Scottish Open – where other putative Open contenders floundered – Xander Schauffele is certainly one to watch. Last week's victory at the Renaissance Club, which came despite a two-over-par opening round, came hot on the heels of his triumph at the Travelers Championship, sending the Tokyo 2020 gold medallist to St Andrews as a man in form. The American has also been in the mix at golf's oldest major before, finishing tied second at Carnoustie in 2018, where a final-round 74 ended his hopes of a maiden major. That search will continue this week for the 28-year-old, with the Claret Jug firmly in his sights. 

MORE MORIKAWA MAGIC INCOMING? – Patric Ridge

Morikawa enjoyed a sensational 2021, triumphing at Royal St George's to claim his second major title aged just 24 and becoming the first player to win on his Open debut since 2003. Yet 2022 has so far failed to yield the same success for the defending champion. He went into the weekend with the lead at last month's U.S. Open, only for a wobble on the Saturday to prove costly. After recovering with a fourth-round 65 to finish tied for fifth, Morikawa said he had learned to "just go play golf", although that approach did not serve him particularly well at the Scottish Open, where he failed to make the cut. If he manages to find the composure that deserted him during that dismal third round in Boston, however, then the world number eight cannot be overlooked as a serious contender once again.

CANTLAY CAN COME GOOD ON THE MAJOR STAGE – John Skilbeck

As the rumour mill links him with an LIV Golf switch, Patrick Cantlay is keeping his focus on the course. The American had a win alongside Schauffele in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April and has achieved four top-fives and two top-15 finishes in his past seven events, including a tie for fourth at the Scottish Open. The elephant in the room is that Cantlay has mostly flunked the majors this year, tying for 39th at The Masters, missing the cut at the US PGA Championship and trailing home in a share of 14th at the U.S. Open. However, the 30-year-old is not fourth in the world rankings for nothing; his time is surely coming. Florida-based Cantlay ranks in the top five for birdie (or better) percentage on the PGA Tour when finding the fairway off the tee this year but is outside the top 70 when driving into the rough, so accuracy from the tee will likely determine his fate.

Whatever data Mark Horton is supplying his PGA Tour clients these days, it seems to be paying off.

The English statistician counts both Sam Burns and Billy Horschel among those coming to him for guidance in their golf games. And each registered Tour wins in consecutive weeks last month, as Burns captured the Charles Schwab Challenge before Horschel cruised to victory at the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday.

"Hortsy (Horton) is unbelievable," Horschel said after his win. "He's been on my team since 2014. First year he comes on the team we win the FedExCup. He's very English and he's very blunt, and we had a conversation before he joined my team about my record on the PGA Tour and things I didn't do well.

"My short game wasn't very good and I had stone hands. And this week I showed him finally that I have a short game that can live up to the golf course and save me at times."

Horschel's game at the Memorial wasn't just good, it was unprecedented. His +13.58 Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green was the most at an event in his PGA Tour career and best since the 2018 Wyndham Championship (+10.74, tied for 11th). It broke his long-time career record of +13.07, set a decade ago at the 2012 Sanderson Farms Championship.

He was the fourth Memorial winner since 2003 to rank first in both Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green as well as Greens in Regulation (53), joining Patrick Cantlay (2021), Jason Dufner (2017) and Tiger Woods (2012). He also finished the week ranked second in Proximity to the Hole, his third time on Tour ranking in the top-two and more than four feet closer than his previous average in eight previous starts at the Memorial.

Credit to Horschel for his performance. And in the meantime, Horton will keep crunching the numbers.

"He just tells me where I need to be on holes, where guys are making bogeys, where the birdies are coming from, the perfect way for me to plot my way around the golf course," Horschel explained. "That's what I love to do. I love to put my ball here, put the ball there. And he backs me up with that data that's he's been giving me for the last eight years."

SCHAUFFELE FINALLY CONVERTS

Xander Schauffele knew the record. The numbers don't lie.

0-4 lifetime. Oh for four. Goose egg.

That was Schauffele's career record on the PGA Tour when holding a 54-hole lead or co-lead. The now six-time Tour winner was still waiting to successfully convert a third-round position atop the leaderboard into a victory, and the Travelers Championship was one more opportunity to do it.

"In the past when I had a 54-hole lead or close to the lead, my Sundays felt really fast," he said. "And I'd be sitting back in the hotel or at a house on Sunday [afterward] thinking, 'What happened today?'"

This time, he said, Schauffele wanted to stay in the present and focus on the task at hand, which was each and every shot. They would all be critical to stave off Cantlay, who trailed him by only a stroke entering the final round, with more players not far behind.

"I told [my caddie] to hold me accountable on the first hole walking up there," Schauffele said. "And he did a really great job, and both of us were pretty much dialled in from the first hole."

That they were. Schauffele finished the week hitting 63 greens in regulation, leading the field and tying his most hit during an event on Tour in his career. He also hit 63 earlier this season at the WM Phoenix Open, where he tied for third, and hit 60 twice at both the 2020 Sentry Tournament of Championship (T2) and CIMB Classic (T3).

That precision helped Schauffele finish with a Strokes Gained: Total of +16.39, the most at an event in his career. His previous best total was +15.31, set in 2020 at The CJ CUP.

Schauffele trailed Sahith Theegala by one stroke as he approached the last, but the tournament leader closed with a double-bogey before Schauffele hit his approach to 3 feet, setting up the winning birdie. It marked his first individual PGA Tour title since the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions.

"It's been a year where my stats have been very solid, just haven't really put in four good rounds of golf," Schauffele said afterward. "I think subconsciously or without myself even really knowing I was getting a little impatient. And this week I was just trying to be self-aware as possible to just stay as patient as possible. I had to just realise that I put the work in and if I can just sort of do what I've been doing and just focus a little bit more throughout the day that it will pay off in a big way, and fortunately it did."

MCILROY DIALS IT IN

When Rory McIlroy looked ahead to the final-round forecast at the RBC Canadian Open, a simple glance at the wind direction told him all he’d need to know about his chances for victory.

"Seeing that southerly wind again, I knew I needed to go out and shoot 5-or-6-under par to have a chance to win," he said.

Simple enough. McIlroy posted an eight-under 62 to edge Tony Finau by two strokes for his 21st PGA Tour victory.

"You needed to keep your foot down, you needed to keep your foot on the pedal," McIlroy said of his mindset. "I got off to a faster start today than I have done the previous few days."

McIlroy has feasted in final rounds this year, joining Finau as one of only two players on Tour with four final rounds of six-under or better this year. Prior to his eight-under 62 in Canada, he also posted a pair of six-under 66s at The Players Championship and The CJ CUP to go along with an epic eight-under 64 at The Masters.

It marked his third final round of 62 or better en route to a PGA Tour win, something no other winner has done more than once since 1983. He also shot a final-round 61 to win the 2019 RBC Canadian Open, as well as a 62 at the Wells Fargo Championship.

The Northern Irishman was buoyed by an incredible approach shot performance, as he averaged just over 3 feet to the hole from 100 to 125 yards out, 14 feet closer than the field average in the final round.

The WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai has again been cancelled "due to ongoing COVID-19 related restrictions", the PGA Tour has announced.

The event was last played in 2019, when Rory McIlroy took the title.

But the breakout of coronavirus in 2020 denied McIlroy the opportunity to defend his crown, before the tournament could not be held again the following year.

While the PGA Tour is now back in full swing, remaining COVID restrictions in China will again prevent the WGC-HSBC from taking place.

The Tour announced the Bermuda Championship would be played with full FedEx Cup points and an elevated purse of $6.5million.

Rory McIlroy believes players who have joined the LIV Golf Invitational Series should not be "having their cake and eating it" by being eligible to compete on other tours.

On Monday, Ian Poulter was informed he could play at this week's Scottish Open after an appeal against his ban was upheld, despite the DP World Tour barring him from playing.

Poulter was also one of several high-profile players to have been indefinitely suspended by the PGA Tour by signing up with LIV Golf.

One of the more vocal supporters of the PGA Tour, McIlroy insisted players should have to live with the consequences of choices to earn more money if they do sign with the breakaway competition.

"I think at this stage, if you go over and play on a different tour, then go over and play on a different tour," he said.

"You're sort of basically leaving all your peers behind to go make more money, which is fine. But just go over there. Don't try and come back and play over here again.

"This whole having your cake and eating it type thing is what the resentment [stems from] within the membership."

McIlroy's comments follow Branden Grace taking out LIV Golf Portland last weekend, with Billy Horschel also saving harsh criticism in the lead up to the Scottish Open, which will be an important preparation for the Open Championship.

Fronted by former world number one Greg Norman, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund is the majority shareholder of LIV Golf Investments, allowing for substantially larger prize money and an eased schedule.

Horschel, who won the Memorial Tournament in June, believes it is hypocritical of defectors to cite a lighter schedule and then play on multiple tours.

"They shouldn’t be coming back over here to play the DP World Tour or the PGA Tour, he said. "To say that they wanted to also support this tour or the DP or PGA Tour going forward, while playing the LIV Tour, is completely asinine in my opinion.

"To play the PGA Tour, you’ve got to play 15 events and their [LIV] schedule is eight events, [planned to be] 14. So to say they are going to play 29 events a year and still hold membership on the PGA Tour is ridiculous. They decided to go play on a tour and they should go play that tour.

"The last week’s events I’ve been really frustrated by because there are a lot of guys who are hypocrites that are not telling the truth and lying about some things."

Brooks Koepka has no issue with Rory McIlroy's criticism of his decision to join the LIV Golf Invitational Series, a move he said was taken to allow more flexibility over his schedule.

Former world number one Koepka had previously stated his allegiance to the PGA Tour and commented in February that "somebody will sell out and go for it".

Koepka was not involved in the first event at Centurion Club earlier this month and was critical of reporters for casting a "black cloud" over the U.S. Open when players were probed about the controversial Saudi-backed series, which has been accused of sportswashing.

However, the four-time major winner has now signed up for the breakaway series and will tee off in Portland this week, joining the likes of Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson in doing so.

When asked about Koepka's decision last week, McIlroy said: "Am I surprised? Yes, because of what he [Koepka] said previously. That's why I'm surprised at a lot of these guys, because they say one thing and then they do another. It's pretty duplicitous on their part to say one thing and then do another thing."

Asked about McIlroy's comments, Koepka replied: "Look, I've got respect for Rory as a player. He's good. He's phenomenal. 

"I'll be honest with you, I didn't see it. I didn't hear about it until basically like a day ago. So, look, he's entitled to his opinion. He can think whatever he wants. He's going to do what's best for him and his family, I'm going to do what's best for me and my family, and I can't hate on anybody for that."

Koepka insists he had not made a decision until after the U.S. Open. Asked what had changed since, he said: "Just my opinion, man. My opinion changed. That was it. 

"You guys will never believe me, but we didn't have the conversation 'til everything was done at the U.S. Open and figured it out and just said I was going to go one way or another. Here I am."

Koepka has slid down to world number 19 after contending with a series of injuries to his hip, knee and wrist.

The 32-year-old believes signing up to the LIV series will allow him more time to recover physically.

"What I've had to go through the last two years on my knees, the pain, the rehab, all this stuff, you realise, you know, I need a little bit more time off," Koepka said. 

"I'll be the first one to say it, it's not been an easy last couple of years, and I think having a little more breaks, a little more time at home to make sure I'm 100 per cent before I go play in an event and don't feel like I'm forced to play right away [is good]."

Asked about accusations of sportswashing levelled against the series, Koepka replied: "You know, we've heard it. I think everybody has. It's been brought up.

"But, look, like we said, our only job is to go play golf, and that's all we're trying to do. We're trying to grow the game, do all this other stuff. And we're trying the best we can."

While several players have resigned their PGA Tour membership, including fellow defector Patrick Reed, Koepka has not done so as yet.

It remains to be seen long term what decisions will be taken by the major championships over the participation of players who have jumped ship to LIV Golf.

Koepka insists he is comfortable with whatever outcome occurs.

"You play anywhere around the world, you'll be just fine. You'll get into them. I made a decision. I'm happy with it, and whatever comes of it, I'll live with it," he said.

Xander Schauffele was the beneficiary of an 18th-hole double-bogey from leader Sahith Theegala, going on to win the Travelers Championship by two strokes with a birdie at the last.

Schauffele finished the tournament at 19 under with rounds of 63, 63, 67 and finally a 68 on Sunday as wind picked up and the scoring conditions worsened.

The win is the sixth of his PGA Tour career and his first singles win since January 2019, also collecting the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in a team format with Patrick Cantlay in April of this season.

It was Theegala controlling the final stages after he moved to 19 under and the outright lead with birdies at 13, 15 and 17 down the stretch, but after finding the fairway bunker on 18, he muffed his first attempt to get out, requiring another two shots to get to the green, before his bogey putt lipped out.

It meant Schauffele only needed par to claim the championship, and he went one better, finishing in style with a perfect drive, approach and putt for birdie.

Speaking on the 18th green after his winning putt, he said it felt incredible to convert a 54-hole lead for the first time in his career.

"It's incredible," Schauffele said. "I was looking at birdie just to get into a play-off and saw there was a bit of a hiccup with Sahith when I was standing on the tee.

"I knew I had to hit that fairway and hit it anywhere on the green to make par."

Theegala finished tied for second at 17 under along with J.T. Poston, who was one of three players to shoot 64 or better on Sunday (also Chesson Hadley and Scott Stallings).

In outright fourth was Michael Thorbjornsen following a week he will never forget, finishing at 15 under after being the only amateur to make the cut, closing his week with rounds of 65, 66 and 66 to make a statement about his future on the PGA Tour.

Hadley held outright fifth place at 14 under, going bogey-free with four birdies and an eagle for his 64, while Keith Mitchell and Kevin Kisner shared sixth place at 12 under, with Kisner carding a disappointing 71 on Sunday to take himself out of contention.

The round of the day came from Stallings, who went bogey-free with seven birdies for his 63, rounding out the top 10 in a tie for eighth along with Brian Harman, Chez Reavie, William McGirt and Nick Hardy.

A star-studded group finished tied for 13th at 10 under, featuring world number one Scottie Scheffler, number six Cantlay and fellow top-20 American Tony Finau. It was tough work for the stars, with an even par 70 for Scheffler on Sunday, while Cantlay entered the day one stroke off the lead and carded a 76.

Rory McIlroy and recent winner Lee Kyoung-hoon were in the group that completed out the top 20.

Xander Schauffele shot his second consecutive 63 to head into the weekend at the Travelers Championship at 14 under – five strokes clear of the chasing pack.

Remarkably, Schauffele is yet to post a bogey in the tournament, with 14 birdies and 22 pars through his 36 holes.

He started beautifully in his second trip around TPC River Highlands, birdieing three of his first five holes, and capped off his round by birdieing the picturesque 17th hole for the second day in a row.

Schauffele was one stroke behind J.T. Poston and Rory McIlroy after Thursday's action, and tied for the round of the day on Friday along with Harold Varner III.

At 14 under, Schauffele has tied the TPC River Highlands 36-hole record, and it ties him with Justin Rose back in 2010 for the lowest 36-hole score at the Travelers Championship since 1984.

The five-man group tied for second place at nine under is made up of Americans Patrick Cantlay, Harris English, Nick Hardy and Kevin Kisner, as well as Australia's Cam Davis. Hardy and Kisner were the pick of that group on Friday, shooting 64s.

McIlroy and Poston sit one shot further back at eight under after the first-round leaders both shot even-par 70s, and are joined at eight under by a group including Lee Kyoung-hoon and Matthew NeSmith.

Webb Simpson is at seven under, rounding out the top-20, along with Michael Thorbjornsen, who is the only amateur to make the cut after rounds of 68 and 65.

World number one Scottie Scheffler is at five under, along with Varner, with the pair taking very different routes to that number. Scheffler has been consistent, with a 68 and a 67, while Varner has been the opposite, following his opening 72 with a 63.

With the cut-line at two under, Danny Willett and Mito Pereira were two of the players to miss out on the weekend despite being under par, while Sam Burns finished his week even, Jordan Spieth was one over, and the talented duo of Rickie Fowler and Joaquinn Neimann were at three over.

Rory McIlroy continued to lead the way both on and off the course, shooting a bogey-free eight-under 62 at the Travelers Championship on Thursday.

After defending his title at the Canadian Open for a 21st PGA Tour win a fortnight ago, following up with a top-five finish at the U.S. Open, McIlroy opened with five birdies over the front nine on the TPC at River Highlands course.

The most vocal of critics against the LIV Golf Invitational Series, the in-form Northern Irishman then closed with two birdies over the final four holes, including a birdie on the par-four 18th to punctuate a blistering opening round.

The birdies were flying at the opening day in Cromwell however, with JT Poston taking a share of the opening-round lead with an eight-under of his own.

They hold a one-stroke lead over Xander Schauffele, who closed with four birdies over the final six holes on Thursday to finish on a seven-under 63, tied for second with Scotsman Martin Laird.

Schauffele was in fine touch with his approach game, hitting the ball particularly cleanly and could have finished with an even lower score had he capitalised with his putter.

They were followed by a three-way tie for third, with Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson and Charles Howell III all posting scores of six-under in the opening round.

Meanwhile, Cam Davis and Matthew NeSmith share fourth place after the opening 18 holes, finishing on five-under for the round.

While others shone in Cromwell, Jordan Spieth had a tough day out for his opening round despite three birdies over the last five holes, finishing with a five-over 75 for the day.

He will have plenty of work to do on Friday just to make the cut, while world number one Scottie Scheffler posted a two-under 68.

The PGA Tour has announced schedule changes and prize money increases in order to stem the flow of big-name players joining the rival LIV Golf International Series.

Brooks Koepka became the ninth major champion to sign up to the controversial Saudi Arabia-backed league, rocking the PGA Tour on Wednesday.

The American joined Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Bryson DeChambeau in the breakaway competition.

Defecting players were indefinitely suspended from PGA Tour events, but were allowed to play at last week's U.S. Open and participate in next month's 150th Open at St Andrews.

The PGA had been rumoured to be mulling over a switch to a calendar-year schedule, alongside increased purses and the creation of new no-cut international events featuring the Tour's top 50 players.

Commissioner Jay Monahan confirmed those alterations at a press conference ahead of the Travelers Championship, stressing the PGA's need to innovate to remain golf's leading competition.

"I want to talk about where the PGA Tour is headed. We don't expect to overcome this current challenge by relying on our legacy and track record alone," he said.

"We've been on a path for a number of years to strengthen and evolve our product for the benefit of our fans and players alike, those plans are obviously accelerated in light of the current environment.

"We have some exciting developments coming out of yesterday's policy board meeting that will further secure our status as the pre-eminent golf tour in the world.

"This includes moving forward with our future product model for the 2022-23 season and beyond, a return to a calendar-year schedule beginning in 2024, with the FedEx Cup contested from January to August, culminating with the FedEx Cup play-offs and followed by the fall events.

"[The Tour will also add] revised field sizes for the FedEx Cup play-offs in 2023 and beyond, [and] the creation of a series of up to three international events, to be played after the conclusion of the fall schedule, which will include the top 50 players from the FedEx Cup points list.

"Alongside these changes, the policy board also amended the resource allocation plan, to increase purse sizes at eight events during the 2022-23 season, with an average purse at $20million. 

"There is more work to be done, and details to confirm, but implementing substantial changes to our schedule gives us the best opportunity to not only drive earnings to our players, but also improve our product and create a platform for continued growth in the future."

Rory McIlroy, a vocal opponent of LIV Golf, had earlier stated he supported the changes, saying to Sky Sports: "I think having the FedExCup season go to a calendar year, that would be a pretty good idea.

"So then it gives guys the opportunity to play if they want to play in the fall, or if they don't want to play in the fall they don't have to, they're not forced to.

"You're trying to give playing opportunities and create prize funds for the lower half of the membership, but also trying to accommodate what the upper half of the membership want as well with an off-season, time away from the FedExCup schedule. So it's a balance."

Monahan added the PGA could not wish to compete financially with the rival tour, headed by two-time major champion Greg Norman, which he described as "irrational".

"I am not naive," Monahan said. "If this is an arms race and if the only weapons are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can't compete with a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to buy the game of golf.

"We welcome good healthy competition, the LIV series is not that. It's an irrational threat, one not concerned with the return on investment or true growth of the game. 

"Currently no one organisation owns or dominates the game of golf, instead the various entities work together to meet our own respective priorities but with the best interests of the game at heart.

"When someone attempts to buy the sport and dismantle the institutions that are intrinsically invested in growth and focus only on a personal priority, that partnership evaporates. 

"Instead we end up with one person, one entity, using endless amounts of money to direct employees towards their personal goals, which may or may not change tomorrow or the next day.

"I doubt that's the vision any of us have for the game."

Rory McIlroy labelled breakaway players joining the LIV Golf International Series as "duplicitous" before Brooks Koepka became the latest high-profile name to leave the PGA Tour.

McIlroy has been a critic of LIV Golf, the controversial Saudi-backed competition, with opponents accusing the breakaway league of sportswashing.

However, that has not stopped the likes of Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia leaving the PGA Tour, who have indefinitely banned the defectors from returning.

Koepka was confirmed on Wednesday as the next big name to join and is the ninth major winner to sign for LIV Golf, with world number 20 Abraham Ancer also being linked with the tournament.

Four-time major winner Koepka refused to discuss LIV Golf at last week's U.S. Open, where he said he was "tired of conversations" and debates were "throwing a black cloud" over the third major of 2022.

Koepka subsequently withdrew from the Travelers Championship, which is the next PGA Tour event on Thursday, and will feature at the second LIV Golf event in Portland.

That has led to more debate around the breakaway league, and McIlroy feels his fellow golfers are not staying true to their word.

"Am I surprised?" McIlroy told reporters in Connecticut before Koepka's switch was confirmed. "Yes, because of what he said previously.

"I think that's why I'm surprised at a lot of these guys because they say one thing and then they do another, and I don't understand that and I don't know if that's for legal reasons or if they can't – I have no idea.

"But it's pretty duplicitous on their part to say one thing and then do another thing…the whole way through, in public and private, all of it."

McIlroy has enjoyed an upturn in fortunes over the last month, triumphing at the Canadian Open before finishing in a tie for fifth at the U.S. Open.

The 33-year-old admitted that tiredness is becoming a factor as he prepares for his fourth tournament in as many weeks, but remains excited to compete at the Travelers Championship.

"I got a night in my own bed down in Florida on Monday night, which was really nice," he added.

"But, yes, I came back up here yesterday and played the pro-am today and going to get an early night tonight. I've got an early start again tomorrow.

"But excited to get going and especially continuing the run of form I'm on. I'm playing some really good golf and I want to continue trying to do that.

"I think the three weeks that I've played, like Memorial's a very demanding golf course. Canada wasn't so demanding but when you get yourself in contention and you play a weekend like that, then that takes quite a lot out of you. And then you follow that up with a US Open. So I think it's a combination of everything.

"Mentally I'm totally fine, but it will be nice to sort of rest up this afternoon and get another good night's sleep and get ready to play tomorrow.

"But four weeks in a row is pretty rare for me these days. I haven't played four in a row in a while and you start to remember why!"

Rory McIlroy kept his good form rolling to finish fifth at the U.S. Open, but with nearly eight years since his last major win, he said he views it as "another missed opportunity".

The Northern Irishman is on an impressive run lately, finishing second at The Masters, fifth at the Wells Fargo Championship, eighth at the PGA Championship, and winning the Canadian Open in four of his past five starts.

He was in contention right from the word go this week, one stroke off the lead after the first round and four-under par heading into the weekend, but he shot a disappointing 73 on Saturday to take himself out of the group of real contenders.

Speaking to the media after his final round, McIlroy said while there were positives to take from the week, it "doesn't really mean anything" for him to bank another top-five finish.

"Another top-five in a major – I guess doesn't really mean anything," he said. "Yeah, the game's there. 

"I've got one more start next week in Hartford before I go to the Open Championship. I'll get two weeks of good rest before the Open and play some links golf and prepare and look forward to that. 

"Again, my game's in good shape. I've got one more chance this year to try to get that major.

"I feel like this is my fourth top-ten in a row coming off the back of three missed cuts in this event – so it's definitely been better – [but] it's still not quite close enough. 

"There was a few holes there today where I made the birdie and then did the reverse ones back with the bogey at the next. To win golf tournaments, you just can't do that.

"But it's there. It's close. I just have to stay patient. As I said, I've got one more opportunity this year to try to get a major, and I'm looking forward to that."

While he feels like this was "another missed opportunity", he said he knows he is playing well enough to win at the highest level.

"It will take a while [to reset and process the outcome] – I'll look back at this as another missed opportunity just as Southern Hills was," he said. "But missed opportunities are better than not contending at all – so that is a positive.

"I have to stay patient at this point because if I just keep putting myself in position, sooner or later it's going to be my day and I'm going to get one.

"It's not win or bust. It's not as if where I finished today is the same as not playing on the weekend. I guess when I look back, will I remember the fifth place I had at Brookline? Probably not.

"I played well enough to give myself a chance to win. I didn't get the job done, but I'm closer than I have been in a while, which is good."

While seven of the top 12 players heading into Saturday’s third round at the U.S. Open made at least one double bogey in strong wind and cool temperatures, Rory McIlroy was not among them.

The 2011 U.S. Open champion and four-time major winner made just one birdie in his score of three-over 73 on moving day at Brookline, but his putter provided salvation late. 

He was able to keep himself within striking distance with a string of par saves, to sit three shots back from co-leaders Will Zalatoris and Matthew Fitzpatrick heading into the final round on Sunday at The Country Club.

"It was one of the toughest days on a golf course I’ve had in a long time,” McIlroy said afterwards.

"I just needed to grind it out, and I did on the back nine. To play that back nine at even par today was a really good effort, I thought. Just kept myself in the tournament. That's all I was trying to do. Just keep hanging around.

"I had some really good putts for pars coming in, 13, 15, great up-and-down on 16, good putt on 17. Then was really fortunate at the last to get that drop from the grandstand and be able to hit it on the green from there."

With only nine players under par for the tournament, blustery and overcast conditions provided palpable difficulty on Saturday.

"I know guys aren’t going to go out there and shoot the lights out," McIlroy said. "I mean, 67 from Will out there today is unbelievable. Such a good score. 68 from Fitz as well.

"I certainly thought I was going to be a few shots further back than I was at the end of the day, but Jon [Rahm] struggled there coming in.

"Even though it was such a tough day and feel like I battled well and whatever, to still only be three back going into tomorrow is a good thing for me."

Will Zalatoris and Matthew Fitzpatrick share the lead coming into the final round at the U.S. Open, finishing a tough Saturday on four-under par at Brookline.

Only nine players at this third major of the year have scores under par after 54 holes at the Country Club, and the tied lead between Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick only came after Jon Rahm's dreadful final hole in overcast and blustery conditions.

The world number two had the outright lead coming into his final hole on moving day, but three consecutive bunker shots and a two-putt led to a double-bogey on the par-four 18th and three-under after 54.

Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick have not won as professionals in the United States, with the former agonisingly finishing second at the 2021 Masters and this year's PGA Championship.

With Zalatoris finishing his round earlier in the day, Rahm finished as the conditions further cooled, placing particular difficulty on the approach to the green with club selection.

A visibly frustrated Rahm was able to compensate with some exceptional putting on the back nine, however, sinking a long birdie putt on the 14th to put him level with the two leaders. Three birdies between 14 and 17 were undone by the last hole, however.

Scottie Scheffler recovered from a double-bogey and three consecutive bogeys between 11 and 14 to finish Saturday on two-under, securing a birdie on the 17th before a massive par save on the last after hitting the bunker.

The usually stoic Scheffler did not hide his emotions with a triumphant fist-pump after the save, which left the world number one tied with Adam Hadwin and Keegan Bradley.

Joel Dahmen and Collin Morikawa fell down the leaderboard after opening Saturday with the lead on five-under. Morikawa's natural left-to-right game particularly suffered, shooting a seven-over 77.

Dahmen is joined on one-under by Sam Burns and Rory McIlroy, who only made seven greens in regulation but stayed in contention with a string of saves on the back nine.

 

Shot of the day

After two birdies and a bogey through his first seven holes, Scheffler really shone on the eighth.

His stunning eagle on the par-five hole saw him leap into a two-shot lead at the summit of the leaderboard.

Player of the day - Will Zalatoris

In a day characterised by survival in blustery conditions at Brookline, Will Zalatoris was one of the few on Saturday who thrived.

His ball-striking shone on an overcast day, scoring only one bogey as the rest of the field struggled to find the green.

 

Chipping in

Zalatoris: "Yeah, that was brutal. When I made a mistake, I made sure I was on the fat side of the green or having room where I could maybe at least chip one up there from eight to 10 feet."

Scheffler: "There's a lot of trees on this golf course, and it's gusty as well. So it's definitely unpredictable. I think that's what happens when you get these foresty golf courses, and then with the gusts, I mean, that little golf ball is just getting thrown around all over the place." 

 

A little birdie told me...

- Victory on Sunday would see Fitzpatrick emulate Jack Nicklaus, winning the U.S. Open at the same course he won the U.S. Amateur, after beating Oliver Goss at the Country Club in 2013.

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