The Open: Glory for Rory or in-form Schauffele – the experts' picks at St Andrews

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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.

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