The Open: Rory McIlroy’s Scottish Open win heightens excitement at Hoylake17th July 2023

Rory McIlroy’s thrilling Genesis Scottish Open win lit the touch paper on an already eagerly anticipated countdown to the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

The Northern Irishman’s gutsy victory, his first in Scotland, stokes expectation as he heads to the venue where, in 2014, he won his lone Claret Jug to date.

Whether he can end his nine-year drought in grand slam tournaments this week becomes the lead item on the Open agenda, but is by no means the only intriguing question posed by the final men’s major of the year.

At this most turbulent time for men’s golf, will the breakaway LIV tour have cause to celebrate, with Cameron Smith looking in the mood to become the first player to successfully defend an Open title since Padraig Harrington in 2008?

Or could another LIV recruit, US PGA champion Brooks Koepka, add a second major title this year? Both he and Smith are huge threats on the Wirral links, a stretch of historic golf land that has a happy knack of identifying great victors.

McIlroy succeeded Tiger Woods as a Hoylake winner. His 2006 victory was his third and last Open title and one of the great ball striking performances when, on parched fairways, he famously used his driver only once in 72 holes.

Other Hoylake winners include greats such as Harold Hilton, Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. In 1947 Fred Daly set the template for fellow Northern Irishman, McIlroy.

So is this the week when the 34-year old lands his second Open, fifth major and ends what has become an agonising drought?

We have been here before, in terms of expectation. Many times.

On the plus side McIlroy is clearly in excellent form, beating a high quality field wire-to-wire in classic links weather conditions last week.

He knows how to win back-to-back as well – his last major, the 2014 US PGA followed a World Golf Championships success the previous week.