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Good afternoon, and welcome to what could be one of the great afternoons of Irish sport. Tens of thousands of Limerick and Kilkenny hurling fans are currently making towards Jones’ Road while, across the water, world number two Rory McIlroy holds a share of the lead heading into the final round of the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews.

Nobody would begrudge you spending the next few hours on the couch, trust me.

Niall Kelly here, and it will be my pleasure to take you through the final few hours of the golf. The final groups are just heading out on to the course now, with McIlroy and co-leader Viktor Hovland due to tee off in around 15 minutes at 2.50pm.

Stay with us for the rest of the day and you won’t miss a shot.

Here’s a quick reminder of how the top of the leaderboard looked ahead of the final groups teeing off:

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Speaking on Sky Sports, Paul McGinley expects that either McIlroy or Hovland will likely shoot 68 or 69 today, setting the score to beat at somewhere around 19-under or 20-under at minimum.

In that case, Cam Smith, Cam Young or anyone further back would likely need to shoot a 64 or lower to prevent this from becoming a straight head-to-head between the final pair.

There are low scores out there today. Sam Burns currently holds the day’s low round after shooting a bogey-free 64; Sadom Kaewkanjana and Abraham Ancer both have 65s to their name — enough to move them both to 11-under par and a share of fifth place for now; while Tony Finau is in the clubhouse with a 66.

There’s every possibility that somebody goes low today.

A quick look at how the other Irish contenders still in the field are faring at this stage: Shane Lowry is one-under through five, and T18 on eight-under par, while a double-bogey on the 17th has seen David Carey slip back to two-under.

The grandstands around the first tee are packed as McIlroy and Hovland wait for the Camerons to finish up ahead of them on the first.

And now, it’s showtime…

McIlroy tees off first and leaves himself in the heart of the first fairway. Hovland follows suit — and could barely place his ball any closer to McIlroy’s. It’s almost identical, Hovland’s rolling two or three foot further.

It’s a par for Smith on the first, and Young is the first of the chasing pack to blink as he tries to follow him in. He has three-to-four foot for par, and it slips by on the high side. Young drops back to -11.

Two super approaches from both McIlroy and Hovland at the first, and they’ll both have very good birdie looks to get up and running. McIlroy plays first, watching on with a characteristic club twirl as his ball spins back to around 18 feet. Hovland is a couple of feet closer.

Rory McIlroy -16 (1); Viktor Hovland -16 (1); Cameron Smith -12 (1); Bar -11

Very good effort from McIlroy but he watches it trickle by to the left, but it will leave him with a tap-in par. Hovland’s just scoots by as well — and so it’s as you were for the leaders with the first hole in the books.

Two smashing drives from McIlroy and Hovland to take all of the trouble out of play on the 452-yard second hole. McIlroy has the length and has left himself with a very comfortable 93 yards on his approach; Hovland is a bit further back and will be hitting from 121 yards.

Birdie for Cam Smith! It’s the Players Champion who makes the first move from the pack with a birdie at the second to go to -13 and three shots off the lead. 

Meanwhile, in the group further ahead, Scottie Scheffler has had three good birdie chances in his first three holes but failed to take any of them. He remains five back on -11 for now.

Hovland and McIlroy both go over the flag and out the back of the second green. It’s McIlroy to go first from 25ish foot… and it’s perfectly paced, leaving him with the tappiest of tap-ins for his par.

Rory McIlroy -16 (2); Viktor Hovland -16 (2); Cameron Smith -13 (3); Bar -11

Hovland’s effort is just short too and so it’ll be a tap-in par for him as well. On to the next one…

The third hole is 398 yards and shouldn’t really be driveable — but that doesn’t stop either McIlroy or Hovland from giving it a right go. Hovland will have 82 yards in with his approach; McIlroy is even closer again.

Hovland goes first. The pin is tucked away all the way on the back right corner, and he skips his past the hole with a magnificent effort. McIlroy goes one better again from 76 yards out — he plays a little runner up the front of the green and will have a super birdie chance.

Rory McIlroy -16 (3); Viktor Hovland -16 (3); Cameron Smith -13 (3); Bar -12

Hovland’s right-to-left birdie putt just doesn’t come back left enough quickly enough, and he’ll have to settle for par. It’s a huge chance for McIlroy, putting up hill from six feet, to wrestle control of this tournament — but he burns the left edge and it stays out. Pars apiece for the leaders on three.

An eagle for Xander Schauffele on the 14th moves him to -11 and into a share of sixth place, but it’s likely to be too little too late in terms of making a meaningful charge.

A word on Dustin Johnson who is two-under for the day through five and is now just four shots back on -12.

McIlroy opts for three-wood rather than driver off the fourth tee box to take some of the bunkers out of play, and he does just that. Hovland hits right up beside him. 320 yards, give or take, for both off the tee.

McIlroy hits first and there’s little fault to find with his approach; he’s about 30 feet away. Hovland is a little bit heavy on the gas though and is right and long of the pin; “three-putt territory,” says Wayne Riley on Sky.

Hovland is all of 78 feet away, according to the stats people. Three-putt territory indeed… and he doesn’t really give his first putt a chance of getting close. Big par putt coming up for the Norwegian.

Brilliant effort from McIlroy, who has to putt up and over a little ridge. It’s not far off, but it’s a fourth straight par for the world number two, who remains in a share of the lead… for the next few moments anyway…

Bogey for Hovland! Rory McIlroy takes the outright lead!

Rory McIlroy -16 (4); Viktor Hovland -15 (4); Cameron Smith -13 (5); Cameron Young -13 (5); Bar -12

Hovland’s par putt is a bit too high and a bit too hard and it scoots a few feet by. He’ll have a tricky one back to make sure it’s no worse than the one dropped shot — and he makes that. McIlroy takes the outright lead on -16; Hovland’s approach shot there was his undoing.

Rory stripes a drive down the par-five fifth and it rests up just off the right of the fairway on what looks to be a decent lie. That’s more than can be said for Hovland, who goes to the left of the fairway and, while he’s not too far into the rough, he ends up at the bottom of a little mound. It’ll be interesting to see what his stance is like there.

Eagle chance coming up for McIlroy on the fifth. With 256 yards left, he hits a beautiful iron to about 20 feet, give or take. It turns the screw a bit on Hovland who gets himself out of trouble but still has 145 yards left as he stands up to hit his third. He’ll have a 30-footer for birdie while McIlroy sizes up his eagle putt.

Up ahead of the final group, both of the Camerons made birdie on the fifth to move to -14 — that’s three straight birdies for Cam Young.

Birdie for McIlroy!

Rory McIlroy -17 (5); Viktor Hovland -15 (5); Cameron Smith -14 (5); Cameron Young -14 (5); Bar -12

Perfect pace from McIlroy with his eagle effort and it leaves the simplest of tidy-up jobs for him to make his opening birdie of the day. Hovland needs his own birdie putt to stay within a single shot, but he misses — and Rory McIlroy now leads The Open by two clear shots!

For those of you not watching / watching the hurling, here’s McIlroy’s second shot into the fifth, which ultimately led to his birdie:

McIlroy stands up and smashes his drive on six, leaving himself with a flick in from just 54 yards — and could potentially putt from there.

Hovland decides to take iron off the tee, leaving himself with a bigger number on approach, but he still has the guts of 45 foot to go with his putt.

McIlroy does putt, and he paces it perfectly! It’s not an easy birdie putt, a little bit downhill from the top of a ridge — but it’s certainly a realistic one.

Rory McIlroy -17 (6); Viktor Hovland -15 (6); Cameron Smith -14 (6); Cameron Young -14 (6); Bar -12

So close. Rory has 15 foot for birdie… and it just looks away at the last second as it feeds back down towards the hole. Great effort, and another solid par. It’s par as well for Hovland and as you were at the top of proceedings.

Irons apiece for McIlroy and Hovland off the seventh tee, and once again, it’s McIlroy who finds the better spot; Hovland looks to be caught up a little bit of long stuff.

Birdie for Cam Young on 7! He moves to -15 alongside Hovland and a share of second place. Cam Smith makes par and remains one further back on -14 through seven.

Very unlucky bounce for McIlroy who has only left himself with 87 yards for his approach. It kicks off the top of the ridge that’s guarding today’s pin position and rather than trickling down into the bowl, it kicks the other way.

Rory McIlroy -17 (7); Viktor Hovland -15 (7); Cameron Young -15 (7); Cameron Young -14 (7); Bar -13

Super putt from McIlroy who putts from 40 feet away, judges the pace perfectly back down into the bowl, and leaves himself with a tap-in par. Hovland makes par as well, and on we go.

A bit of a wait for the leaders on the eighth tee box while Young and Smith finish up ahead. Young has a nervy one to save par — and he makes it, which will be huge in terms of keeping his momentum going. Smith has a similar distance from the other side — and makes it too. They remain two and three back respectively.

Both safely on the green on the par-three eighth — McIlroy significantly closer than Hovland, who is not making life particularly easy for himself as he bids to close the gap.

Rory McIlroy -17 (8); Viktor Hovland -15 (8); Cameron Young -15 (8); Cameron Young -14 (8); Bar -13

An inch short of 73 foot for Hovland, according to the on-screen graphic… and to his credit, it’s a magnificent effort, and there couldn’t be more than a foot left in it there to finish things off.

McIlroy’s is a double-breaker, and nearly lands on Hovland’s marker as it slows to a stop. Par apiece, and on we go.

Up ahead on nine, Young is currently scrambling around in the bushes after a wayward tee shot. It looks like he might have a shot though.

Young is punished with a bogey on the ninth and he drops back to -14, three behind McIlroy. Smith has a great chance to trade places with him and close the gap on McIlroy with a very good birdie look, but races it by.

With Smith and Young heading off towards 10, McIlroy stands up on the driveable par-four ninth. He makes a bit of a groan as he blocks it out right, but as misses go, it’s far from a bad one.

Hovland chooses not to try follow him, and hits an iron down the left hand side.

Hovland’s tee shot has come up in the semi-rough but he has to play his wedge straight over the bunker that’s protecting the Sunday pin position. He should be able to get it close and give himself a good birdie chance — but he doesn’t really, pulling it a little right.

McIlroy has a clear line of sight from the opposite side of the green and plays his pitch in nicely. Eight foot left in it, maybe?

Rory McIlroy -17 (9); Viktor Hovland -15 (9); Cameron Young -14 (9); Cameron Young -14 (9); Bar -13

Hovland is just a little bit too tentative with his birdie putt and has to settle for a par.

McIlroy now has a chance to go three clear and really put some daylight between himself and the chasing pack… but it zips past on the right. It’s an opportunity missed, for sure, but he tidies up for his par and goes out in 35.

Rory McIlroy -17 (9); Viktor Hovland -15 (9); Cameron Smith -15 (10); Cameron Young -15 (10); Bar -13

Ten is driveable as well, with the wind behind the players, and up ahead, Cam Smith makes birdie to move to -15 and join Hovland two back. Young does likewise… and in a matter of seconds, that missed McIlroy chance suddenly stings a little bit more. He has to follow suit on the 10th with birdie.

McIlroy hits the green on ten but he’s a mile away from the pin; Hovland grimaces as he watches his ball bounce into the rough.

Birdie for Cameron Smith! He rolls one in at the par-three 11th – and now he’s just one behind McIlroy!

Birdie for McIlroy! 

Rory McIlroy -18 (10); Cameron Smith -16 (11); Viktor Hovland -15 (10);  Cameron Young -15 (10); Bar -13 

Absolutely superb putt by McIlroy on 10, judged to perfection. He’s 120+ feet away and could barely have placed the ball closer — for a minute, it looked like it might even drop in. He taps in for birdie and gives himself a bit of breathing room again.

Vital par save from Hovland there as well, while everything else was happening.

Birdie for Smith!

Rory McIlroy -18 (11); Cameron Smith -17 (12); Viktor Hovland -15 (11);  Cameron Young -15 (12); Bar -13 

Forty-foot birdie putt for McIlroy at the par-three 11th and it just comes up a little bit short. It’s pars again for himself and Hovland… but up ahead on 12, Cameron Smith makes his third straight birdie! He’s on -17 now and McIlroy’s lead is cut again to the minimum.

The 12th is playing back into the wind again, so not quite driveable, even for McIlroy — but he leaves himself in a good spot with his second, while Hovland will be pitching in.

Hovland goes first on 12, and while he could potentially attempt a long putt, he goes with the wedge — and stitches it. He should make birdie here, the first of his day, and move back to within two of the lead.

McIlroy goes next — he was a little more to the right of Hovland, and also chips, and he too will have a chance a birdie… admittedly not quite as close as Hovland’s.

Rory McIlroy -18 (12); Cameron Smith -17 (12); Viktor Hovland -16 (12);  Cameron Young -15 (12); Bar -13 

Another opportunity slips by for McIlroy as that birdie chance on 12 trickles left. “Not one of his better strokes,” is Paul McGinley’s assessment on Sky. If he’s not feeling the pressure from the chasing pack, he will be soon.

Hovland finishes off for his first birdie and, from Rory McIlroy’s perspective, things are starting to get uncomfortably tight at the top… and that’s before we even consider the fact that Cameron Smith has another great birdie chance up ahead on 13!

TIED AT THE TOP!

Rory McIlroy -18 (12); Cameron Smith -18 (13); Viktor Hovland -16 (12);  Cameron Young -16 (13); Bar -13 

Smith makes his birdie on the 13th and he moves to -18 and a share of the lead. That’s four straight birdies for him now — and now we’re really about to see how Rory McIlroy can respond. 

Young makes his birdie too to move to -16.

Hovland’s in the bunker on 13 and does well just to get himself back out of it again without causing any further damage. It’s his turn to hit again while McIlroy waits, and he’s left himself a reasonable opportunity to save par there. 

McIlroy’s second is from 168 yards out… and his eight-iron goes way left… a distance outside Hovland’s putt. It just hasn’t clicked for him yet today, and two putts and par would be a reasonable return from where he is.

McIlroy’s left himself with 60 foot for birdie here, which seems optimistic at best… but once the ball starts moving, and you see the line it’s tracking on, it looks for all the money in the world that it’s going to drop for him. It stops maybe two rolls short. It’ll be a par for McIlroy on 13.

Rory McIlroy -18 (13); Cameron Smith -18 (13); Cameron Young -16 (13); Viktor Hovland -15 (13); Bar -14

Hovland, meanwhile, has 21 foot and change for par… and that slips by. He drops a shot and is three off again.

Meanwhile, Shane Lowry has just finished out his day with a birdie on the 18th for a two-under par 70. He finishes on nine-under for the tournament, currently good enough for a share of 21st place.

Cameron Smith leads The Open!

Cameron Smith -19 (14); Rory McIlroy -18 (13); Cameron Young -17 (14); Viktor Hovland -15 (13); Bar -14

It’s a fifth straight birdie for the Australian on the 14th, and he knocks McIlroy off the top of the leaderboard.

Young makes birdie as well and really, with Hovland struggling to mount a real challenge, it’s that penultimate group that’s really putting the pressure on McIlroy.

If McIlroy is fully aware of what’s going on up ahead of him, he didn’t let it show when he stood up to hit that tee shot on 14. He could hardly have placed his ball better on the 14th fairway. 

And now Smith finds a bit of trouble with his tee-shot on 15. He may have got a lucky break though as it doesn’t appear to be the worst lie in the world.

McIlroy has a go with his second into the par-five, and rather than go out the back, it comes up short at the front and trickles a few yards back towards him. It’s not the worst place to be but there’s work in the up-and-down for birdie.

Cameron Smith -19 (15); Rory McIlroy -18 (14); Cameron Young -17 (15); Viktor Hovland -15 (14); Bar -14

McIlroy putts his third up and over the big ridge and lets it run down towards the hole.  He’s left with foot… and he could desperately do with making this if he’s going to finish the day with the Claret Jug in his hands. It’s right to left, and the line looks good, and somehow it stays high on him. Par five on “the easy 14th,” as Laura Davies calls it on Sky. It’s just not happening for McIlroy today and with four holes to play, you feel he needs something to happen. Hovland makes par too to stay four back.

Young had a very nice chance there for birdie on 15, but it died just as it looked like it was ready to drop. Smith has done reasonably well to recover from that wayward drive, and after a relatively meek birdie putt, he tidies up for his par.

Smith’s run of birdies comes to an end at a pretty remarkable five, it must be noted!

Hovland plays first on 15 and has to dig it out — it goes a distance left of the pin.

McIlroy’s lie isn’t ideal either, and he has to dig out his wedge from 143 yards. He gets it inside Hovland who will give him a good read on the putt, but neither are what you would describe as makeable birdie chances.

Cameron Smith has 192 yards into the 16th hole and… it takes a hop up the bank at the front of the green and rolls into a very nice position for him.

Cameron Smith -19 (15); Rory McIlroy -18 (15); Cameron Young -17 (15); Viktor Hovland -15 (15); Bar -13

Hovland makes a good fist of that birdie putt — what will McIlroy have learned from the read? It’s right to left… and it just needed a little bit more from Rory.

Par-par for the final group. Time is really starting to run out now, although who knows what surprises St Andrews’ closing holes might throw at us.

Cameron Smith -19 (16); Rory McIlroy -18 (15); Cameron Young -17 (16); Viktor Hovland -15 (15); Bar -13

Rory’s tee shot on 16 isn’t in trouble, per se, but it hasn’t really left him with any sort of angle to work with on his approach.

Up ahead, Smith is rock solid with the putter and makes a nice two-putt for his par. He’s on -19, leading The Open by a shot, as he heads to the iconic Road Hole.

103 yards in for McIlroy, and he should be able to get close — but the rock-hard surface does him no favours when it comes to playing it with a bit of backspin. It’s not the worst, but you get the feeling that McIlroy will need a little bit more than “not the worst” with the way Smith is playing up ahead. It would be a huge putt from where he is…

After what looks to be a great drive on 17, Cam Smith finally blinks with his approach. His third is going to be a real tester.

Cameron Smith -19 (16); Rory McIlroy -18 (16); Cameron Young -17 (16); Bar -14 

Great effort by McIlroy with the birdie putt from 40 foot but it just slides by. He tidies up for the par… and up ahead, Cameron Young has negotiated that tricky third by putting up onto the 17th green, but he has work to do to save his par and hang on to his one-shot lead.

It’s only a bogey for Hovland, whose race is now officially run.

What a save from Smith!

With the weight of the tournament on his shoulders, he makes the 10-footer to save par. He’ll tee off on 18 with a one-shot lead.

McIlroy drills his drive down the 17th fairview. Can he make something happen for himself now rather than waiting for a mistake from Smith that looks like it may never come?

Cameron Smith -19 (17); Rory McIlroy -18 (17); Cameron Young -17 (17); Bar -14 

Cameron Smith looks anxiously after his tee shot on 18 and it trickles up to the front of the green. It’s a difficult position from there.

And then Cameron Young — who tees off two shots in arrears — dials up the pressure by giving himself every chance of an eagle.

My days, what a finish this is going to be!

And here’s Rory!!

His approach into 17 is an absolute gem, and if you needed any reminder, it feels like all of St Andrews wants him to win it. He’ll have another great birdie chance — and with Smith and Young figuring out their respective putts up ahead, there’s plenty of twists and turns still left here.

McIlroy misses. “A tiny little bit of left to right,” says Wayne Riley on Sky comms — and as McIlroy looks after it, it looks like it didn’t quite move in the way that he expected it. That could be that.

Eagle for Cameron Young on the 18th!

Incredible finish but it’s not going to be enough because Smith has played his second to perfection and he has a tap in to move to -20.

Cameron Smith makes birdie to set the clubhouse lead at -20!

An incredible 64 from Cameron Smith – what a round of golf!

And now McIlroy knows exactly what he needs to do — exactly what Cameron Young just did, and make eagle on 18 to force a playoff.

If McIlroy’s going to do it, he’s going to do it the hard way. He comes up short of the green and will have to chip in from there for a playoff…

CAMERON SMITH IS THE 2022 CHAMPION GOLFER OF THE YEAR!

It’s not to be for McIlroy who attacks the final pin, but watches it bounce and roll by. He has a chance for birdie on the way back, but — like everything else today — it doesn’t drop, and he’ll finish on -18 in third place, two behind your winner: 2022 Open champion, Cameron Smith!

A reminder that Cam Smith had SIX birdies on his back nine, to go along with the two on the front nine for a bogey-free 64. It’s an incredible round of golf and — disappointed as Rory McIlroy will be to have a fifth Major slip through his fingers — our winner is unquestionably a worthy one.

And here’s one more look at the shot that sealed victory for Smith — that brilliant second shot on 18 to set up his final birdie.

That’s all from us from The 2022 Open Championship. Thanks very much for joining us this afternoon.

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Niall Kelly

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