Smith rallies to win The Open, and validation, at St. Andrews

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

In the last 48 hours, Cameron Smith’s emotions have ranged from guarded optimism, to cringe-inducing despair and, finally, to sheer joy and slight disbelief.

It was a ride he’ll always remember.

Smith, a 28-year-old Florida resident from Australia, claimed his first major golf title in stunning fashion Sunday, rallying past one of the biggest names in the sport to win the 150th anniversary of The Open at St. Andrews.

Trailing by four shots entering the last round, Smith drained a number of long putts and produced a 64 on the legendary, par-72 Old Course to claim the Claret Jug trophy.

He joined the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in winning The Open in Scotland at St. Andrews, which is considered the home of golf for its history as a place where people first played the game.

“It’s just unreal,” he told NBC television. “This place is so cool. To have the 150th Open here, and to walk away with the win, is something that I’ve dreamt of. I didn’t know (if I’d ever) get this far, and, it’s just awesome.”

Smith fashioned an eight-birdie, zero-bogey final round to finish at 20 under par, beating playing partner Cameron Young (-19) and rallying past crowd favorite and third-round leader Rory McIlroy (-18).

Entering the final round, McIlroy was tied for the lead at minus 16, but the four-time, major winner failed to generate much momentum. Trailing by two on the par-four 18th, McIlroy needed an eagle to tie and force a playoff.

But a second-shot iron from the fairway rolled well past the pin, eliminating him from contention.

“I had a great opportunity today to add to that major (championship) tally, and I didn’t quite get it done,” McIlroy told NBC sports. “I didn’t feel like I did many things wrong, but the putter just sort of went cold on me.”

At the end, on the 18th fairway, a stunning development came when Young hit a tee shot to the green and into eagle territory. Later, the 25-year-old from New York sank the putt and reached 19 under.

Smith was forced to make birdie to break the tie, and he did, tapping in for the one-stroke lead. From there, Smith and Young walked into the clubhouse, waiting for McIlroy to finish.

As McIlroy misfired on his approach to 18, the championship was decided, and the TV cameras went to Smith, who was hugging people. He was the winner.

In a couple of interviews with NBC, he thanked a group of fans from Australia who showed up to support him.

Grinning, Smith also suggested that his victory might prompt a celebration in which the Claret Jug might be employed to hoist a few beers.

For Smith, the tournament had its twists and turns.

He opened with a 67 on Thursday and followed with a 64 on Friday. Coming into Saturday with a two-stroke lead, he endured a tough round in which he double-bogeyed a hole on the back nine and shot 73.

Pain was etched on his face during — and after — the double bogey on the 13th hole.

Coming to the course on Sunday, he told NBC that he just wanted to play it smart off the tee.

“Where we could get on the fairway and give myself a look at birdie,” Smith said. “The putter felt good all week. They didn’t quite all go in yesterday, and today, they were all going in.”

Entering the tournament week, much of the talk centered on Tiger Woods’ return to the Old Course. Could he win again?

Others mentioned as potential favorites included Masters winner Scottie Scheffler and McIlroy, the Nos. 1-2 players in the world rankings. Xander Schauffele had two two straight tournaments and was one of the darkhorses.

There wasn’t much discussion at all about Smith, the No. 6 player in the world who finished tied for third at the Masters, 13th at the PGA and missed the cut at the U.S. Open.

In the end, the winner of the Players Championship earlier this year found validation, and some other intangibles, as well.

“To win it here,” Smith said. “is pretty special.”

Preparing for Sunday’s drama at St. Andrews on the Old Course

The Old Course at St. Andrews is hosting the 150th Open Championship, with the final round set for Sunday. Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland were tied at 16 under par after Saturday. — Photo by Tom Reiter, special to The JB Replay.

By Tom Reiter
Special to The JB Replay

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — A rainy morning will soon become a cloudy, muggy day but nothing can diminish the excitement for the Rory/Viktor battle. Sitting in my favorite seat as the first group came to No. 2. The leaders will be by in about seven hours.

Editor’s note: Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and the leaders have teed off at St. Andrew’s. Tied at 16 under par after the third round, the two have separated slightly. McIlroy has assumed a two-shot lead on Hovland and Cameron Young through six holes. Cameron Smith is three off the pace.

McIlroy, Hovland set for a title duel at St. Andrews

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

Former Ryder Cup teammates Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland took charge on Saturday at the 150th Open Championship, finishing their third rounds with sizzling 66s on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland.

They’ll try to match the intensity on Sunday, with the coveted Claret Jug trophy and a major championship hanging in the balance. Both will enter the final 18 holes of the tournament tied for first at 16 under par.

Still clinging to championship hopes, Cameron Young and Cameron Smith (both -12) remain in the title picture, as do Scottie Scheffler and Si Woo Kim (-11).

Because of McIlroy and Hovland’s position atop the leaderboard, both will be paired together, just as they were on a memorable Saturday.

“It’s nice I get to play with Viktor again,” McIlroy told NBC news. “It’s a comfortable pairing for both of us, and I’m looking forward to that. But, yeah, I’ve kind of been knocking on the door for awhile (in major championships).”

The pressure would seem to be more pronounced for McIlroy, 33, a legendary name in the game from Northern Ireland, who is playing in front of a crowd that has been chanting for him all week.

Hovland, 25, a native of Norway who played at Oklahoma State University, is trying to win his first major.

This would seem to give the edge to McIlroy, who has been in pressure situations more often.

Then again, he hasn’t won in one of golf’s four majors since 2014 when he claimed titles at both The Open, formerly known as the British Open, and the PGA.

“This is the best chance I’ve had in a long time,” McIlroy said on NBC’s afternoon telecast. “I just need to stay in my own little world for one more day and hopefully I can play the sort of golf that’s good enough to win.”

A teammate of Hovland on the 2021 European Ryder Cup team, McIlroy authored the shot of the day. It came after he made a potentially disastrous mistake and sent a ball into a green-side bunker.

But from the sand, McIlroy blasted out brilliantly with a shot that took a few bounces on the green and rolled into the cup for eagle.

“As soon as I hit the bunker shot I knew it was going to be close,” McIlroy said. “I didn’t imagine it was going to go in. Sometimes you need little bits of luck like that to go on and win these types of tournaments.

“That was a real bonus. I played well from there on in. Definitely the highlight of the day.”

Hovland started to get extremely hot on the front nine when he birdied four holes in a row. But after McIlroy seized momentum with the eagle on 10, the former Big 12 Player of the Year at Oklahoma State responded with a birdie on the same hole to tie.

Playing with confidence and feeding off the crowd, McIlroy kept applying pressure, taking a one-shot lead with another birdie on No. 14.

“It kind of felt like match play,” Hovland told NBC. “I didn’t try to think of it that way. You know, regardless of whether he made his putt or missed his putt.

“That wasn’t going to change what I was doing. I knew I just needed to play good golf and I was really happy that I was able to shoot a bogey-free round today.”

McIlroy made his biggest mistake of the day on No. 17, the famous road hole, when he hooked into the rough off the tee.

From there, he hit a ball that bounced on the fairway, and kept bouncing until it hit a wall short and way to the right of the green.

While Hovland made par, McIlroy notched his only bogey of the day to fall back into a tie for first.

On No. 18, it stayed tied way as both birdied to put them at six under for the day. Hovland vowed that he’d take an aggressive approach to the last round.

“I’m going up against one of the best players in the world,” he said. “Certainly not going to hold back, because I know he’s definitely not. I’ll probably need to play more like I did today and, yeah, hopefully that gets the job done.”

Smith hopes to prove he belongs atop The Open leaderboard

By Jerry Briggs
For the JB Replay

The first seven names atop the leaderboard at the 150th Open Championship include some of the world’s most accomplished golfers. Major championship winners. Title holders who have experienced the feeling of holding the world’s No. 1 ranking. Legends who have collected vast amounts of prize money.

Australia native Cameron Smith can’t check off all of those boxes. But he does have something that the others would like to achieve. It is the ‘No. 1’ aside his name among leaders of a prestigious tournament that reached the halfway point Friday on the Old Course, at St. Andrews, Scotland.

Smith, from Brisbane, Australia, paces the field at 13-under par going into Saturday’s third round. He leads by two strokes over Cameron Young, a PGA Tour rookie from New York, and by three over two others, including crowd favorite Rory McIlroy, the world’s second-ranked player who has won four major championship titles.

Other major winners in striking distance include Dustin Johnson, who is in fifth place, four shots off the pace, and Scottie Scheffler, a former University of Texas standout, who is five back and in a two-way tie for sixth.

Yes, it is true that Young (-11), McIlroy and Viktor Hovland (both -10), Johnson (-9) and Scheffler and Tyrell Hatton (both -8) all have enjoyed hot streaks and have wowed the galleries this week at St. Andrews. None, however, have matched the overall sizzle and consistency that Smith has displayed in the past few days.

Smith, in fact, has produced a two-day score of 131 that is the best in the history of the Open at St. Andrews after the opening two rounds. His 36-hole score is better by one stroke than the 132 posted by Nick Faldo and Greg Norman in 1990 and matched in 2010 by Louis Oosthuizen.

After Friday’s drama, Smith told reporters in Scotland that he would try to relax between now and his afternoon tee time Saturday. He said he’d go out to dinner with countryman Adam Scott to celebrate Scott’s birthday. He said he’d come back to his hotel and watch “Peaky Blinders,” a British drama about gangsters in the early 20th century.

One online review says of “Peaky Blinders,” that it’s a “resounding victory for style over substance.” So be it. Smith will take it all in, sleep late on Saturday and then perhaps go to the gym for a morning workout. The man with both the style and the substance in his game will then report to St. Andrews. Still looking for his first major title, the No. 6 player in the world is in charge of the 150th Open Championship until further notice.

Ultimately, by Sunday, the 28-year-old resident of Jacksonville, Fla., hopes to hoist the Claret Jug trophy, to boost that ranking just a little bit, and to cement his legacy among those considered the best in the game.

Purple for the rain: A determined fan enjoys Day 2 of The Open

Tom Reiter dressed for the rainy weather Friday on the second day of the Open Championship at St. Andrews. — Photo special to The JB Replay

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

Earlier this afternoon, my cell phone buzzed. It was Tom Reiter, texting from Scotland.

He told me he had been on the Old Course at St. Andrews since 7 this morning. When he arrived, it was raining. Thus, the purple slicker.

“It makes you look regal,” I told him.

“It didn’t get me in the royal box,” he replied.

Oh, well. Reiter did send along four pictures of his day spent watching the second round of the Open Championship.

Bleacher seats

Tom Reiter and travel partner John Conway find bleacher seats overlooking the green on No. 2 at the Old Course. — Photo special to The JB Replay.

Rory’s focus

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland sizes up a putt on the second hole Friday at St. Andrews. — Photo special to The JB Replay

Let the sunshine in

Under a warming sun, fans gather in the spectator village on the Old Course at St. Andrews. — Photo special to The JB Replay.

Tiger’s last walk at St. Andrews? Woods is met by deafening cheers

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

Early Friday morning in Scotland, a light rain fell softly, leading to a reshuffling of the leaderboard at the 150th Open Championship. By mid-afternoon, cheers from the fans deluged one of golf’s greatest players.

A few hours after Dustin Johnson and a few others seized an opportunity to make a raft of birdies, legendary Tiger Woods took a walk up the 18th fairway. He was drenched in admiration from the fans on the Old Course at St. Andrews.

Cheering wildly, the paying customers hailed the 46-year-old Woods not only for his valiant effort to overcome crippling injuries suffered in an automobile accident 17 months ago, but also for his excellence, and for the memories he has supplied over the past 25 years.

In a television interview after the round, Woods, a winner of 15 major championships, shrugged off the fact that he had missed the cut and that he struggled mightily with his game over the past two days.

“Anytime you get a chance to come back and play the Old Course, in the Open, it’s just special,” Woods told a reporter for NBC television. “It really is.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be doing this since 1995. I don’t know if I’ll be physically able to play another British Open here at St. Andrews. I certainly feel like I’ll be able to play more British Opens.

“But I don’t know if I’ll be around when it comes back around here.”

The Open is one of golf’s four majors. It rotates between other courses in and around Great Britain. Reportedly, the soonest it could come back to St. Andrews would be in 2027.

Woods acknowledged that the ovation on perhaps his last walk up the 18th fairway touched his heart.

“The warmth and the ovation at 18, it got to me,” he said. “It was just incredible, just the amount of understanding and respect from all the people in this event, (all of them) that come out and support it. (From) the players.

“The nods I was getting as the players were going out (on the course). I looked over there and, you know, Rory (McIlroy) gave me a tip of the cap. JT (Justin Thomas) did the same. It’s just, there’s something to it, that’s just different.”

Woods, whose play has been sporadic this year in coming back from the injury, admitted he is “a little ticked” that he doesn’t get to play the final two rounds of the tournament.

“I certainly didn’t play good enough to be around,” he said. “I wish I would have played better. I wish I had had a little bit better break in the first hole yesterday … maybe started off a little bit better, but that’s just kind of how it all went. It just kind of never materialized.

“I fought hard, and unfortunately, I just could never turn it around. I struggled with the greens again today. I could never hit putts hard enough. I was leaving them short again. So, consequently, I didn’t make enough birdies.”

Editor’s note

Thanks again to U.S. golf fans Tom Reiter and his friend John Conway, who have been on the scene in St. Andrews since Monday. Both have worked to supply fans in San Antonio with original content from The Open.

Tom Reiter (left) and John Conway. — Photo special to The JB Replay

Reiter, who in the 1970s served as the editor of The Ranger at San Antonio College, has been sending essays and journals. Both have forwarded photos. Great work by a dynamic duo.

Rainy morning

A rainy Friday morning in Scotland, along with softer fairways and greens on the Old Course at St. Andrews, apparently proved beneficial to a host of golfers, who charged up the leaderboard early on the second day of the tournament.

Johnson made the most of the situation, rallying from four shots behind at the start of the day and into a one-shot lead midway through round two. Johnson opened with a first-round score of 68 on Thursday and then backed it up with a 67.

With the performance, the name of the LIV Golf series standout moved atop the leaderboard at nine under par.

“I played really well,” Johnson told a NBC television news reporter. “I think I hit all the greens. I had a lot of really, really good looks at birdies. I missed quite a few short ones. But I made some nice putts, too.”

Galleries swell on final practice day at St. Andrews’ Old Course

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, ranked No. 2 in the world, tees off Wednesday during the final day of practice for the 150th Open Championship. — Photo special by Tom Reiter, to The JB Replay

By Tom Reiter
Special to The JB Replay

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — No rain or too much wind on Wednesday, just an abundance of unexpected sunshine. I can’t imagine a more beautiful place (sorry that does include Texas) on this July morning.

After three days I’m beginning to talk like the locals (I bought a hat for me napper today). The people I meet are the friendliest people I’ve come across. Enough chitchat. Let’s get down to business.

Things started getting serious on the Old Course today. With The Open Championship starting tomorrow, the players were focused on studying the greens and determining everything about the way the golf ball could roll.

The galleries were larger, but there was less interaction with the players. The golfers’ eyes were on the prize, the Claret Jug, bestowed upon the winner of the world’s most prestigious tournament, on its most prestigious course.

I’ve watched them practice for three days, and I’ve just left a betting parlor where I’ve placed 10 quid on Rory McIlroy. Now it’s time for me to have a lovely pint with some outstanding chilli fries. As we say in the states, at 6:30 tomorrow morning, ‘Game on.’

World rankings: 1, Scottie Scheffler; 2, Rory McIlroy; 3, Jon Rahm; 4, Patrick Cantlay; 5, Xander Schauffele, 6, Cameron Smith; 7, Justin Thomas; 8, Collin Morikawa; 9, Viktor Hovland; 10, Matt Fitzpatrick.

Tom Reiter dons an Open Championship cap on the Old Course Wednesday. In the background at right is the famed Swilcan Bridge. The 30-foot, rock bridge is estimated to be 700 years old, thought to be built originally for shepherds to herd livestock over the Swilcan Burn. Some believe golf in St. Andrews has been played for 500 years, according to — Photo special to The JB Replay

Taking a look at the ‘Home of Golf’ in St. Andrews, Scotland

The best golfers in the world have gathered at the Old Course in Scotland for the 150th Open Championship. — Photo by Tom Reiter, special to The JB Replay.

Editor’s note: Good morning, all. My friend Tom Reiter has graciously agreed to send journal entries and photos during his bucket-list vacation to St. Andrews, Scotland.

Tom Reiter is a retired school teacher who makes his home in North Carolina. He lived in San Antonio in the 1970s. – Photo special

By Tom Reiter
Special to The JB Replay

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — You know what Robert Burns said, ‘The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.’ Well, after more than a year of preparation, I thought I had covered everything, but who would have thought I would need sunblock in St. Andrews!

My neck says I did. Instead of rain and wind that the Open is famous for, we had 76 and sun today (Tuesday). A beautiful day for watching some practice and do a little shopping on Market Street.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the last day of practice before the 150th Open Championship begins. I’ve filed one picture of me with the Firth of Forth in the background. Another is looking down the 18th fairway, and the third is Ernie Els putting on the seventh green.

Editor’s note II:

Golf has an epic 500-year history in Scotland, a country buffeted by breezes off the North Sea. The game has been traced by historians as dating back to the late 1400s in the era of King James IV.

The Open Championship, sometimes known as the British Open, was first played in 1860 It was first played at the Old Course in 1873. This year marks the 30th Open at the Old Course and the first here since 2015, according to the Associated Press.

Reiter is a retired school teacher living in North Carolina. He lived in Texas and attended school in the 1970s at San Antonio College, where he was editor of The Ranger.
He arrived in Scotland on Monday and took in a four-hole exhibition of past Open champions. Enclosed are a few of his photos from Tuesday.

The four-day, 72-hole tournament, considered one of golf’s majors, starts Thursday. The pros always look forward to playing St. Andrews.

“I am looking forward to St. Andrews,” Tiger Woods said in April in a story published by the AP. “That is something that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve won two Opens there, it’s the home of golf. It’s my favorite golf course in the world, so I will be there for that one.”

Golfers in the Open Championship test the putting surface at St. Andrews. — Photo special to The JB Replay

Who needs sleep? St. Andrews beckons for two U.S. golf fans

A large crowd turned out Monday in Scotland to watch former British Open champions play a four-hole exhibition on the Old Course at St. Andrews. The 150th Open Championship starts Thursday. — Photo by Tom Reiter, special to The JB Replay

Editor’s note: U.S. travel partners Tom Reiter and John Conway arrived in Scotland Monday for the Open Championship at St. Andrews. Reiter, a former editor of The Ranger, the student newspaper at San Antonio College, filed photos and a journal entry.

By Tom Reiter
Special to The JB Replay

Undaunted by a long day of travel to Scotland, Tom Reiter arrived at the Old Course on Monday, just in time to see a four-hole exhibition. — Courtesy photo

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Arriving at our hotel at 2 p.m. Scotland time and refusing to acknowledge our 36 hours of no sleep, we hopped on the 89 bus and 30 minutes later, we arrived at the most famous golf course in the world: The Old Course at St. Andrews.

We sat in the grandstand behind the 18th hole and watched former Open champions, men and women both, play a four-hole match.

Teams led by Tiger Woods, Sir Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and others treated those in attendance to a wonderful couple of hours of golf. Exhausted and elated, we finally are getting some rest for a return for tomorrow’s practice rounds.

The sprawling 18th fairway on the Old Course at St. Andrews is quite a sight. By the weekend, drama will unfold on this green expanse as the best golfers in the world compete for the Claret Jug. The Open Championship, one of the game’s four major championships, runs from Thursday through Sunday. — Photo by Tom Reiter, special to The JB Replay.