ST. ANDREWS – The birdies that flowed so freely for Viktor Hovland over the first three days of the British Open dried up in the final round.
The 24-year-old Norwegian managed only one birdie on the Old Course on Sunday, when he started in a tie for the lead with Rory McIlroy. He ended up tied for fourth place with Tommy Fleetwood after a 2-over 74.
“It was a little anticlimactic after the day yesterday,” said Hovland, who was seeking his first major title. “I was expecting I was going to hang in there for a little bit longer. Yeah, just didn’t have it today. Didn’t hit it very good and didn’t putt as good as yesterday. So it was a frustrating day.”
Hovland made six birdies in the opening round at St. Andrews, six more in the second round combined with an eagle and then six again in the third round — including two from 40 feet. He finished six strokes behind winner Cameron Smith.
The putts on Sunday didn’t roll his way, starting with missing a 15-footer for birdie at the first, and neither did his approach shots.
“I just didn’t hit it good enough,” Hovland said. “I maybe could have gotten a little bit more momentum if I made a few more putts early, but at the same time, I just made a few too many mistakes and just didn’t get close enough to the pins to make any more birdies.”
Hovland, who turned professional in 2019, had his best finish at a major after tying for 12th at the U.S. Open in 2019 and at last year’s British Open.
Playing in the final group with McIlroy, the crowd favorite all week at the home of golf, certainly added some pressure.
“Just a little disappointed I didn’t have it today, but it was a great experience today and obviously yesterday as well,” Hovland said. “Just the whole week was a good learning experience, and I feel like I’m going to, yeah, get better from it.”
Hovland should have no trouble getting into the field at the Masters with his ranking at No. 9, but Fleetwood's birdie on the 18th may have secured the Englishman a spot at Augusta National. Ordinarily, a fourth-place finish at the British Open comes with an invitation to the following year's Masters.
Filippo Celli's week at the British Open started out better than he had hoped by meeting Rory McIlroy during a practice round on the Old Course.
It got better from there.
The 21-year-old Italian won the silver medal as the low amateur, shooting a 1-under 71 in the final round to finish at 5-under 283.
“Today my golf game was really good, like the last three days,” Celli said. “And today I made a lot of stupid bogeys, I can say that. But that’s OK, because I’m very happy because my dream was to play here, and I won also the silver medal. I can’t ask for a better thing to win the silver medal at the 150th Open in St. Andrews.”
Also as good was his encounter with McIlroy.
Celli said he first saw McIlroy, whom he called his favorite, play at Troon but found it hard to follow him because of the crowds he draws at every hole. The Italian added he and his caddie, Alberto, were on the 13th green while McIlroy was practicing on the fifth. The two holes share a green.
“And I was so happy when Rory, like, he turned to the face to me and Alberto, and he asked me and Alberto, ‘Hey, guys, you mind if I join you for the back nine?’ I looked at Alberto, I say, ‘He’s serious or not?’ I say, ‘Rory, of course you can.’
“I was so lucky and happy because it’s a dream come true because I grew up, like, watching the video of Rory and the win of Rory, all the stuff that he won. So it’s amazing, unbelievable.”
McIlroy, who won the British Open in 2014 at Royal Liverpool, has something in common with Celli — the silver medal. The Northern Irishman won it at the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie.
Cameron Smith has some rather unconventional plans for the claret jug, the trophy that goes to the winner of the British Open.
“I’m definitely going to find out how many beers fit in this thing, that’s for sure,” Smith said in an interview on the first fairway of the Old Course shortly after making birdie on No. 18 to win the title.
A little bit later, after having some time to really get a good look at his prize, Smith was asked to estimate how much beer could fit inside.
“I’m going to guess two,” Smith said. “Two cans of beer.”
Surely that’s not enough to celebrate such an incredible victory, is it?
“I’ll probably have about 20 claret jugs,” Smith guessed, before thinking more realistically. “I’m not sure, mate. To be honest, I’m really tired. It’s been a long week, so I’d be surprised if I make it past 10 or 11 tonight.”
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