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The 149th Open Royal St George's
Debutants to Watch
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Royal St George’s set to welcome exciting Open newcomers
Collin Morikawa, who will make his Open debut at Royal St George

A host of young stars are set to make their first appearances in The Open when Royal St George’s hosts the Championship from 11-18 July.

We look at some of the most notable names who will be featuring in golf’s original major for the very first time.


Collin Morikawa

Already a major champion following his stunning success at the 2020 PGA Championship, Morikawa has rapidly established himself among the game’s elite.

After turning professional in 2019, the American enjoyed almost immediate success. After consecutive top-four finishes at the 3M Open and John Deere Classic, he claimed his maiden PGA Tour title on just his sixth start at the Barracuda Championship.

Morikawa would go on to string together 22 consecutive made cuts from the start of his pro career, a streak bettered only by Tiger Woods (25).

Aged 23, he then moved to new heights in August 2020 by triumphing in the PGA Championship at Harding Park, gaining a five-year exemption into The Open in the process.

Another high-profile victory at the WGC-Workday Championship in February lifted him to fourth in the Official Golf World Rankings and he performed strongly in defence of his PGA crown at Kiawah Island, tying for eighth.

 

Viktor Hovland

Viktor Hovland with the Puerto Rico Open trophy

Hovland’s exemption was officially confirmed after the PGA Championship due to his position inside the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings, but it has been clear for some time that he would gain entry via that route. He is now ranked 12th in the world and has been a permanent fixture inside the top 15 in 2021.

The Norwegian was originally eligible to play in The 148th Open at Royal Portrush following his victory in the 2018 U.S. Amateur. However, he subsequently forfeited his entry by turning professional in June 2019, a week on from placing 12th in the U.S. Open.

Like Morikawa, who made his first pro start in the same month, Hovland immediately looked at home on the PGA Tour. After tying for 54th on his maiden start, he recorded top-16 placings in each of his next eight events, including finishes of fourth at the Wyndham Championship and second at the Albertsons Boise Open.

Two PGA Tour titles followed in 2020, at the Puerto Rico Open and Mayakoba Golf Classic, while Hovland already has two seconds and two thirds to his name this year.

 

Victor Perez

A Frenchman based in Dundee, Perez will surely be looking forward to The 150th Open at St Andrews in 2022, with the biggest win of his career to date having been sealed at the Old Course in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

That breakthrough triumph in September 2019, together with a runner-up finish at the Turkish Airlines Open six weeks later, helped Perez earn a maiden Open appearance at Royal St George's in 2021 - one he will have had to wait almost two years for come July - through his position on the Race to Dubai.

He continued to move up the rankings in 2020, aided by further second-placed finishes at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA and the BMW PGA Championship.

Now firmly placed inside the world’s top 50, Perez has continued to show his talent in 2021, placing inside the top 10 at the Players Championship before a fourth-placed finish in the World Golf Championships – Dell Technologies Match Play.

 

Scottie Scheffler

Scottie Scheffler in action on the PGA Tour

Scheffler’s consistency on the PGA Tour is best summed up by the fact he occupies 22nd in the latest Official Golf World Rankings despite the fact he is still waiting for a maiden title.

Although his most impressive wins to date have come on the Korn Ferry Tour, that appears unlikely to remain the case for too long.

He was the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year for the 2019-20 season, after a campaign highlighted by six top-five finishes. They included a tie for fourth at the PGA Championship and a placing of fifth at the Tour Championship, where he posted the second-lowest 72-hole score.

Scheffler, who also carded a rare 59 at the Northern Trust, is exempt for this year’s Open after finishing in the top 10 of last season’s FedExCup points list.

He has remained a regular presence on leaderboards at the start of 2021, coming seventh at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, fifth at the WGC-Workday Championship, second in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and eighth at the PGA Championship.


Matthew Wolff

Wolff has suffered a tough 2021 to date, but there can be no doubting the extraordinary talent the 22-year-old possesses.

Immediately identifiable due to an idiosyncratic trigger movement that sees him briefly mimic a post-impact position before starting his backswing, he claimed victory in only his third event as a professional in July 2019, eagling the final hole to pip Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau at the 3M Open.

He then tied for fourth on his major championship debut at the 2020 PGA Championship, before coming even closer to victory six weeks later at the U.S. Open.

Wolff led by two heading into the final round at Winged Foot and was beaten only by DeChambeau, who finished with a magnificent 67.

After another runner-up placing at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in October, which lifted him to a career-high ranking of 12th, Wolff’s form has dipped sharply.

However, he still remains firmly inside the world’s top 50 and it would be no surprise to see him back near the top of leaderboards in the near future.


Joe Long (A)

 

Joe Long following his victory in the 2020 Amateur Championship

The 2020 Amateur Champion will be competing to earn the Silver Medal at Royal St George’s, 11 months on from the biggest success of his young career to date.

Long beat good friend Joe Harvey 4&3 in the 36-hole final of the Amateur Championship at Royal Birkdale last August, a victory that secured a place in The Open as well as an invitation to the 2021 Masters.

The Englishman, who turned 24 last week, also earned a Walker Cup cap earlier this month, although a stomach bug limited him to just one singles match in Florida, which he won.

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