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Punch Shot: And the player who lifts the claret jug Sunday at St. Andrews is...?

The 150th Open Championship concludes on Sunday on the Old Course. GolfChannel.com writers weigh in from on site with their predictions.

Who prevails on Sunday?

Rex Hoggard: Rory McIlroy. It’s been eight years since he won a major and his history at the Old Course is mixed, at best, but the combination of form and experience is impossible to ignore. There are no holes in McIlroy’s game and his no-nonsense approach to the pressure he is sure to face on Sunday is impossible to ignore.

Ryan Lavner: Rory McIlroy. On this stage, at this time, it feels like his moment to seize. Both statistically and anecdotally, no one is striking it better this week. Benign conditions should eliminate any chance of a calamity, his putting is at an elite level, his mind is quiet, and McIlroy seems at peace with his place in the game. It all adds up to his fifth major.

Mercer Baggs: Rory McIlroy. He was my pick prior to the championship and it feels like McIlroy is doing everything right to win on the Old Course. It’s not just a two-player race between he and Hovland, but the four-shot separation from the field should make it easier for McIlroy to focus. Sunday is a career-defining round and it’s the perfect time and place to reach a new professional stratosphere.


Full-field scores from the 150th Open Championship


Who has the biggest heartbreak?

Rex Hoggard: Viktor Hovland. There are, unless something goes wildly off-script, only two players who will begin the final round with a legitimate chance of winning and Hovland has certainly been impressive this week. But he’s never contended in a major championship and eventually his short game woes will be exposed.

Ryan Lavner: Viktor Hovland. Don’t necessarily think he’ll have his dreams dashed in heartbreaking fashion, but he’s likely to fight McIlroy all the way to the finish. There’s a clear path for him to win this Open: bludgeon the Old Course with his stellar ball-striking and continue to play away from his glaring weakness around the greens. But Sunday is also going to be a unique experience; he has never before factored in a major. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles that.

Mercer Baggs: Cam Smith. It’s been an impressive year for the Aussie, filled with dramatic highs and lows. He won The Players and then lost the Masters, and Saturday he went from two up to four back at The Open. He’ll need a strong start Sunday to have a shot at the claret jug, but it still might not be enough. If McIlroy and/or Hovland play well, others won’t have a chance. But, having picked McIlroy to win and thus nullifying him from being the answer to this question, it feels Smith will leave St. Andrews most disappointed. Hovland, even if he comes up short, will still take lots of positives away from the week.


Will the men’s major record be broken?

Rex Hoggard: Yes. Mother Nature will be the ultimate arbiter on Sunday, but without significant wind the Old Course will remain vulnerable. For the R&A it’s been an imperfect storm of fast and fiery conditions and little wind. Without a dramatic change of fortune, expect more of the same.

Ryan Lavner: Yes. A 20-under winning total seems likely, which would match the 72-hole major scoring record to par and edge Tiger Woods’ historic mark here from 2000. Without inclement weather, the R&A has tricked up pins and forced players to accept 30-footers; that’ll continue on Sunday. But there are enough drivable par 4s and other scoring opportunities to allow a final-round 68 from the final group to be good enough to win.

Mercer Baggs: No. The 20-under total might be matched by the winner, but if the over/under was 20.5, I’d take the under. A closing 68 for McIlroy (or Hovland) feels like a winner.

How would you bet another £50?

Rex Hoggard: Most agree it’s a two-man race at The Open, with McIlroy and Hovland tied for the lead at 16 under and four strokes clear of the field, so the safe bet would be McIlroy at 5/6, but that’s not exactly a value bet. Scottie Scheffler (18/1) and Dustin Johnson (50/1) are worth an each-way bet (10 pounds each) with the final 10 pounds on McIlroy for the outright victory.

Ryan Lavner: 25 pounds on McIlroy (5/6), 10 pounds on Hovland (7/4), 10 pounds on Cameron Smith and 5 pounds on Scottie Scheffler (20/1). McIlroy is our pick to win, Hovland could conceivably outduel McIlroy head to head, Smith may have gotten his bad round out of the way on Saturday, and Scheffler, the world No. 1, could have been a few shots closer to the lead if not for a bad break on the back nine.

Mercer Baggs: Well, I put my first imaginative 50 pounds on Hideki Matsuyama, at 40-1, and lost that on Day 1. Obviously, I should have put it on McIlroy, at 9-1, if he was my pick to win. Again, I’m not spreading the wealth. I’m laying it all on McIlroy, which is dumb because he’s -125, according to PointsBet, but I’m a terrible gambler (see: previous Punch Shot). Take my money, just give me a compelling final round.