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.”

Before golf, a morning stroll through St. Andrews

An image of the St. Andrews Cathedral site on a sunny, Saturday morning in Scotland — Photo by Tom Reiter, special to The JB Replay.

What is a trip to Scotland without taking a look at some really old buildings? On a walk through town before the third round of the Open Championship, one of golf’s major tournaments, Tom Reiter found one of the oldest. This is St. Andrews Cathedral, a ruined chancel dating back to the mid-12th century, according to

According to the website, the structure was built originally in the year 1158. It was part of the medieval Catholic Church in Scotland, the seat of the Archdiocese of St. Andrews. It fell into disuse and ruin after Catholic mass was outlawed during the 16th century Scottish Reformation, historian Luke Tomes wrote.

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.

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.