The Open Championship boasts a history practically unmatched in the sporting world, with the famous St Andrews primed to host the 150th edition of golf's oldest major this week.

As the world's best players prepare to tee it up at the home of golf, all in the field will be hoping to write their names into the pages of this storied event.

Ahead of what promises to be a thrilling week of action on the east coast of Scotland, Stats Perform has delved into the history books to bring you the most intriguing facts and figures surrounding the most historic of golf's majors.

HARD LUCK JACK AND HAPPY HARRY

Nobody boasts more Open triumphs than the six claimed by the legendary Harry Vardon, who first prevailed in 1896 and last lifted the Claret Jug in 1914.

But for every winner there are those who nurse the heartbreak of narrowly missing out, and nobody became more familiar with that feeling than Jack Nicklaus.

With 18 major wins to his name, including three at The Open, it might be a stretch to summon too much sympathy for Nicklaus, but he had to make do with finishing second or in a tie for second on no fewer than seven occasions. 

IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED...

When Collin Morikawa won at Royal St George's last year, he became the 10th player to taste success on debut.

That tells you that most players have to be patient when it comes to laying hands on the famous silverware, and for some that wait never ends.

But there are those for whom persistence has paid off handsomely – namely Darren Clarke and Phil Mickelson, who both finally triumphed at the 19th time of asking.

 

WIRE-TO-WIRE WINS ARE RARE

Only seven players have enjoyed wire-to-wire victories at a 72-hole Open, whereby they have held the outright lead at the end of all four rounds.

Rory McIlroy was the most recent example, achieving the feat at Royal Liverpool in 2014.

The last player to manage it at St Andrews was a certain Tiger Woods in 2005 – the second of his three Open wins as he retained his title the following year.

START FAST, FINISH STRONG

In 2010, St Andrews was the stage for the lowest opening round by an eventual winner as Louis Oosthuizen flew out of the traps with a 65.

Jordan Spieth equalled that with his first-round effort at Royal Birkdale in 2017, which was the year after Henrik Stenson had showed the importance of finishing with a flourish when his closing 63 saw off the challenge of Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon.

It also helps if your middle two rounds are solid, but very few players manage to put together four consistent sets of 18. Indeed, Woods is the only player to card four sub-70 rounds at St Andrews, doing so en route to his 2005 victory.

DON'T THROW IT AWAY NOW!

There is arguably no other sport that tests the psychological limits of its protagonists more than golf, which has seen more than its fair share of mental meltdowns.

Many will be familiar with the nightmare story of Jean Van de Velde's Open collapse in 1999 when he below a five-stroke lead after 54 holes – his hopes left to drown in Carnoustie's Barry Burn.

But that is not the biggest lead surrendered at The Open, with that dubious honour still belonging to Abe Mitchell, who led by six after two rounds in 1920 but ended up four adrift of champion George Duncan.

Everything has led to this.

That is the slogan for this year's Open Championship, with golf's oldest major celebrating its 150th edition this week.

Delayed a year by the COVID-19 outbreak, which forced the postponement of the 2020 tournament at Royal St George's – the first time since 1945 that the Open had not been played – this proud old competition will bring up its landmark at St Andrews, the home of golf.

Even against the backdrop of the LIV Golf furore, nothing can detract from the grandeur of an Open Championship at this famous links course.

The Saudi-backed breakaway tour has of course been a recurring topic here on Scotland's east coast this week, but the truly enlivening subject – the one which has prompted the most passionate discussion – has been the Open itself; its history, its prestige, its status as an iconic event that transcends the sport itself.

And that sense of occasion is heightened by The Open's homecoming to the handsome Old Course – the oldest in the world – which clings to the Fife Coast still now, 470 years after being established there.

It may be considered good form for players to speak kindly of any host venue, but none has ever drawn such glowing praise as this storied links, which is staging The Open for the 30th time – more than any other venue on the rotation. 

 

Those who have had the honour of playing here many times before and those who are set to embrace the St Andrews experience for the first time are united in their excitement for what is in store.

Reigning champion Collin Morikawa, whose maiden Open appearance ended in glory down in Kent last year, experienced the golfing equivalent of love at first sight when he pitched up at the Fife track.

"I love it. I can see why guys love it. I can see how special this week can be. I can see how the course can play a million different ways, depending on the weather," he breathlessly declared.

Rory McIlroy, deprived by injury of defending his title when the tournament was last played here in 2015, described winning The Open at St Andrews as "the holy grail" of golf, and all the ingredients are there for another memorable edition this time around.

The course has been basking in sunshine all week and attendees will continue to enjoy fine weather for the remainder of it, while the course set-up in general means a star-studded field will fancy their chances of carding some low-scoring rounds.

Monday's Celebration of Champions event, which saw the likes of McIlroy and Jordan Spieth entertain sizeable crowds alongside all-time greats such as Gary Player and Tom Watson, also welcomed Tiger Woods back to the course where he lifted the Claret Jug in 2000 and 2005.

His presence always adds another level of intrigue, ensuring grandstands are full and even casual observers have a familiar name to lure them in to the spectacle of it all. The man himself said "this does feel like it's the biggest Open Championship we've ever had".

Woods is one legendary name to adorn the pages of The Open's illustrious history book, and whoever lifts the Claret Jug at the 150th championship at St Andrews will join the 15-time major winner in achieving a kind of sporting immortality.

Everything has indeed led to this.

Tiger Woods was desperate not to miss the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews, revealing playing at the home of golf was his focus once he knew he could compete at a high level.

Woods' future in the sport was in doubt following a car accident in February last year that left him with compound fractures in his right leg and a shattered ankle.

He said in November that his full-time career as a pro was over, however, he committed to playing a few events a year and made the weekend at The Masters in April.

Woods then played at the US PGA Championship, only to withdraw after three rounds due to a pain in his right leg, and did not compete at the U.S. Open last week.

Yet the 46-year-old was determined to tee off at St Andrews, where he won the first two of his three Claret Jugs and will tee off in a group also featuring U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and Max Homa.

He told a media conference on Tuesday: "For the most part of my rehab I was just I was hoping that I could walk again, you know, walk normal and have a normal life and maybe play a little hit-and-giggle golf with my son or my friends at home.

"But lo and behold, I've played championship golf this year. And once I realised that I could possibly play at a high level, my focus was to get back here at St Andrews to play in this championship being, as I said, it's the most historic one we've ever had. I just didn't want to miss this Open here at the home of golf.

"This has meant so much to me. This is where I completed the career Grand Slam. At the time I had the record in scoring in all four major championships. So it meant a lot to me. This venue has meant a lot.

"I remember coming around here, my very first practice round, I couldn't believe how stupidly hard this place is because I played every hole into the wind. I happened to have the tide change, and I played every hole into the wind. Where do you drive some of these par-fours? This is not what people say it is. All of a sudden it changes, and I see, no, these bunkers are now in play.

"It's amazing the ingenuity that they had then that this golf course has stood the test of time to the best players."

Asked earlier if the build-up feels different as The Open celebrates 150 years, Woods replied: "It really does. It feels more historic than it normally has. And it's hard to believe that because we are coming back to the home of golf. It is history every time we get a chance to play here.

"But there's so much that's going on this week that to be able to play yesterday with Lee Buck and to hear him chatting the entire time over every shot as he's hitting the shot, and just to be able to have that type of experience. And tonight we're going to have our Champions' Dinner, because we only do it here.

"It's hard to believe, it's been 150 years we've played this tournament, and it's incredible, the history behind it, the champions that have won here. As I said, it's hard to believe it's more historic, but it really is. It does feel like that. This does feel like it's the biggest Open Championship we've ever had."

Tiger Woods and U.S. Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick will feature in a headline threesome in the opening two rounds at the 150th Open Championship.

In what could be his last Open at St Andrews, where two of his three Claret Jug triumphs have come, Woods will tee it up alongside Fitzpatrick, fresh from his maiden major triumph at Brookline.

The pair will be joined by Max Homa and head out at 14:59 BST (local time), long after Scotland's Paul Lawrie has had the honour of hitting the opening tee shot at 06:35.

Reigning champion Collin Morikawa is in another group sure to draw a big following, with four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and the in-form Xander Schauffele for company.

World number one Scottie Scheffler goes out at 13:26 alongside Joaquin Niemann and Tyrrell Hatton, while Jon Rahm is also an afternoon starter in a group that includes 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year Jordan Spieth.

Conditions appear favourable on the Fife coast, with the fairways firm and receptive greens, although wind speeds may cause some problems at various points across the four days of competition. 

 

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.

Trey Mullinax sunk a clutch birdie putt on the final hole to secure his first PGA Tour victory, winning the Barbasol Championship by one stroke.

Mullinax, who only has one top-20 finish this season back in October at the Sanderson Farms Championship, was in fine form all week, shooting rounds of 65, 65, 67 and finishing with a six-under 66 to post a score of 25 under for the tournament.

In his last final trip around the Keene Trace Golf Club's Champions course, the American shot five birdies and two bogeys on an action-packed front-nine, and then went bogey-free down the back.

In one of the final groupings of the day, Mullinax and playing partner Kevin Streelman were tied for the lead, two strokes clear of the chasing field, heading onto the final hole. 

Both played strong approach shots, but while Streelman's putt narrowly missed, Mullinax's attempt from the edge of the green found the hole for the win.

Speaking to The Golf Channel after the win Mullinax talked about the nerves on the final hole, calling the opportunity "what we dream about".

"Me and Jules, my caddy, all week were trying to commit to everything we were doing in the process," he said.

"No matter what Kevin did with his tee-shot, it didn't change what I was going to do, we just really tried to stay focused. I stayed focused for 72 holes.

"I missed a couple of opportunities with my putter, but I just told myself 'keep putting, you've been putting great' – and I've been hitting my irons beautifully all week. 

"That was definitely the strongest point of my game this week – we had a pretty comfortable number (from the 18th fairway), we worked on it at the range and we knew we would have that shot a few times, and I hit a great shot at the right time.

"I said when we were walking up the 18th fairway 'this is what we dream about' – an opportunity to hole a putt for the win."

Streelman was the only other player to finish with four rounds of 67 or better, finishing outright second at 24 under.

Mark Hubbard was alone in third at 22 under, who shot a 65 for Sunday's round of the day, with Germany's Hurly Long the top international performer in outright fourth with a score of 21 under.

Vince Whaley rounded out the top-five at 20 under, Canada's Adam Svensson was one further back alone in sixth, and Michael Kim was outright seventh with 18 under, with a number of players finishing tied for eighth at 17 under.

Xander Schauffele warmed up for The Open Championship in superb fashion after securing back-to-back tournament wins with a one-stroke triumph at the Scottish Open.

The American, who overcame a two-over first round on Thursday to bulldoze his way through the pack, shot an even 70 to hold on for victory at seven under for the week at the Renaissance Club.

Following victory at the Travelers Championship last time out, it means the Tokyo 2020 gold medallist is in supreme form as he heads into the final major of the year at St Andrews.

Schauffele is yet to win one of golf's biggest prizes, having previously posted career-best T2 finishes at The Open at Carnoustie in 2018 and then a year later at Augusta for the Masters.

His performance proved just enough to keep Kurt Kitayama at bay after the 29-year-old shot a four-under 66 to sit one stroke behind Schauffele, taking second outright.

Kitayama had appeared poised to pip Schauffele at one stage, when the overnight leader carded three bogeys over four holes heading into the turn.

But golf's form man recovered his composure and even a further bogey at the 18th could not deny him – Kitayama's momentum also crucially slowing down the stretch.

Kitayama at least had the consolation of qualifying for The Open through his finish, as did Jamie Donaldson and Brandon Wu (both T6).

Jordan Spieth was back at T10 after a disappointing 72, having been in position to challenge Schauffele after Saturday's third round.

Two of Jamaica's promising junior golfers are in Scotland for the three-day R&A Junior Open which tees off on Monday at the Monifieth Golf Links. Sixty-five countries including Jamaica were invited to field two representatives - a girl and one boy - at the tournament which is held every two years.

Mattea Issa and Ryan Lue, both 15, were invited to play in the tournament after posting the lowest scores at Jamaica's national junior trials held in April at the Caymanas Golf Course.  The invitees had to be in the 12-16 age group.

The pair will be in a field of 110 golfers who are expected to attend Sunday's opening ceremony after the practice round earlier in the day.

The top 80 golfers who make the cut after round two on Tuesday will move on to the final round on Wednesday.

Alison Reid, Jamaica’s team manager to the recently held 34th Caribbean Amateur Junior Golf Championship and convener for junior golf in Jamaica, has accompanied Issa and Lue to Scotland.  She expects that the golfers will give a good account of themselves.

Tiger Woods played a full 18 holes on Sunday at St Andrews as he prepared for the 150th Open next week.

Woods has not played since withdrawing after the third round of the PGA Championship in May. That was his second appearance since suffering multiple leg injuries in a car accident in February 2021. His first tournament back was The Masters in April.

Woods chose not to play in the U.S. Open last month because he had his sights set on St Andrews, where he won two of his three Open championships in 2000 and 2005.

"I had some issues with my leg, and it would have put this tournament in jeopardy, and so there's no reason to do that," Woods said.

"This is a pretty historic Open that we are going to be playing," he said. "I'm lucky enough to be part of the past champions that have won there and want to play there again, and I don't know when they are ever going to go back while I'm still able to play at a high level.

"I want to be able to give it at least one more run at a high level."

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