Dustin Johnson says he needs to "step up my game" as his battle with Jon Rahm for the world number one spot continues at the Open Championship.

Two-time major champion Johnson briefly lost top spot to Rahm after the Spaniard won the U.S. Open last month.

But the American is back on top for the Open at Royal St George's having reclaimed first place without playing last week when Rahm finished seventh at the Scottish Open.

"The rankings, they're tough to figure out, but yeah, obviously if you play well, you get to number one," Johnson said after his practice round with Rahm at the Kent links course.

"I need to continue to play well if I want to stay there. 

"Obviously Jon has been playing really well lately. I need to step up my game a little bit."

Johnson has only made one top 10 in his past 10 events but believes his game is returning to how it was in a fantastic finish to 2020 and a strong start to this year.

"Yeah, obviously I had played really solid there really for about six, seven months," he said of the spell around his Masters win last November. 

"I feel like the game is starting to get back to where it was, just seeing a lot more consistency with the shots and the shapes. 

"I think that's probably just a little bit of the difference. Putting, I felt like I putted consistently well for that time period, so just been working on the putter a lot – that ultimately can be the difference."

Johnson came so close to glory when the Open was last played at this course in 2011, in contention before a double bogey at 14 as he ultimately finished in a tie for second and Darren Clarke took the title.

He added: "That was a long time ago, but obviously I have good memories here, and I did play well. 

"I do like this golf course. I feel like it's a tough golf course, a typical links course. For me, I feel like most of it's going to be driving. If I can drive it well, then I feel like I'm going to have a really good week.

"It was a little bit firmer in 2011. Obviously they've had a lot of rain and the rough is definitely a little bit thicker than it was back then." 

As well as that near miss, Johnson has had top-10 finishes in 2012 and 2016, with the prospect of winning his first Claret Jug an enticing one.

"It would definitely be right up at the top," Johnson said when asked where an Open win would rank for him.

"It's obviously a major. It's a tournament where I've been close quite a few times. I really like coming over here and playing. Yeah, it would be right up at the top with the rest of them.

"I think it's shaping up to be a great Open Championship."

Lewis Hamilton will hope returning home for the British Grand Prix and a new sprint race format can kickstart Mercedes' faltering challenge in the Formula One title battle.

Round 10 of the 2021 season takes place at Silverstone, a venue where Mercedes have won seven of the last eight races.

Six of those triumphs came for Hamilton and he has a total of seven British Grand Prix wins, having also triumphed there for McLaren in 2008.

That is already a record for most F1 wins at a driver's home circuit and if he can secure an eighth victory, he will match Hungary – which is next on the calendar this year – as his most successful race.

Victory will not come easily, though, with Max Verstappen coming into the event after winning three races in a row for the first time in his F1 career. 

 

The in-form Red Bull star has built an impressive 32-point advantage over Hamilton in the drivers' championship that could have been bigger were it not for his late tyre woe in Baku.

Verstappen has taken one more pole position this year (four) than in the rest of his F1 seasons combined (three).

The constructors' standings are also looking good for Red Bull, who are 44 points clear.

Two straight podiums for Valtteri Bottas have come at a good time as he fights for his Mercedes future, while Sergio Perez – who sits third in the drivers' standings – will want to recover from a ragged race in Austria.

LAST TIME OUT

Verstappen eased to yet another victory at the Red Bull Ring, as he won in front of huge support at the Austrian Grand Prix to complete a triumphant triple-header having won in France prior to the two races at his team's home circuit.

The Dutchman led from start to finish again after claiming pole.

Hamilton's hopes of reeling him in – dismissed as "out of the question" after qualifying – were hindered by another fine drive from Lando Norris, with the Mercedes great starting where he finished in fourth.

Bottas was the big mover, up from fifth to second, benefiting from keeping clear of controversy as numerous drivers – notably including Norris and Perez – tangled in costly fashion.

Norris claimed a superb third despite a time penalty and has now collected points in 14 consecutive races – his longest streak and the best ongoing run in the series. Fernando Alonso in 2007 was the last McLaren driver to enjoy such a stretch.

Carlos Sainz took fifth ahead of Perez, who was hit with two penalties.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR AT SILVERSTONE

The new sprint event and revised race weekend format is undoubtedly the most intriguing aspect that will be closely followed at Silverstone.

Qualifying will take place on Friday, which sets the grid for the first-ever sprint race in F1 on Saturday, with all cars to be fitted with soft tyres.

The results of the sprint race, which will last 100km – around 17 laps – will then determine the grid for Sunday.

Points (three for the winner, two for second and one for third) will also be awarded in the sprint race, with drivers getting a free tyre choice for sprint race and the main grand prix.

Practice, meanwhile, will be cut from three sessions to two.

Aside from the new format, Mercedes are bringing an upgrade to the circuit, which Hamilton and Bottas will hope revitalises their fortunes in the battle against Red Bull.

TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

Super Silverstone – This will be the 55th race at the famous circuit, which has held more grands prix in F1 than all but two tracks – Monza (70) and Monaco (67).

Hamilton hope – Having finished fourth in Austria, Hamilton is bidding to avoid finishing two consecutive races outside the podium for the first time since 2017 (Mexico and Brazil).

Pole drought – Mercedes have gone five consecutive races without reaching the pole position in F1, their worst run since 2019 (seven between Hungary and Mexico).

Mercedes misery – Toto Wolff's outfit are winless in their last five GPs, their worst run without a win in the Hybrid Era (since 2014) and as many races without finishing first as in their previous 17.

Red Bull flying high – The team have won six races in 2021 including the last five. The last time they won so many in a season was in 2013, when Sebastian Vettel won the championship for them.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 182
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 150
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 104
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 101
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 92

Constructors

1. Red Bull – 286
2. Mercedes – 242
3. McLaren – 141
4. Ferrari – 122
5. AlphaTauri – 48

The Phoenix Suns enter Game 4 of the NBA Finals with a difficult question to answer: how can they contain Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo when Deandre Ayton is not on the court?

Milwaukee cut Phoenix's lead in the series to 2-1 with a 120-100 victory on their home floor in Game 3.

It came behind a scintillating 41-point performance from Antetokounmpo, the two-time league MVP delivering a performance few could have foreseen when he hyperextended his knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Antetokounmpo also had 13 rebounds in putting up a decisive double-double, taking advantage of another knee injury that could well prove a turning point in the series.

The Suns were without Dario Saric, the backup to starting center Ayton, in Game 3 because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in Game 2.

Coach Monty Williams initially went with Frank Kaminsky as Ayton's deputy, but also attempted to play small ball with Torrey Craig and Abdel Nader.

The plus-minus numbers for Kaminsky (-12), Craig (-12) and Nadel (-5) tell their own story. Milwaukee dominated when Ayton was not out there, outrebounding the Suns 47 to 36.

In this series, when Ayton has been on the court, the Bucks average 110.0 points per 100 possessions, compared to 125.3 with the former first overall pick off the floor.

Milwaukee's rebounds per 100 possessions with Ayton on the bench jump to 50.3 from 46.8 when he plays.

Similarly, the Bucks are substantially more effective from the three-point line without the presence of Ayton to deal with, converting 46.4 per cent of their shots from beyond the arc in the series compared to 34.7 when he is trying to stop them.

For all the attention lavished on Devin Booker and Chris Paul, Ayton arguably stands as the key player for the Suns if they are to claim a first NBA title.

Should there be a repeat performance in Game 4 on Wednesday when Ayton is forced to rest, then Antetokounmpo will have an excellent chance to improve his Finals average of 34.3 points per game and, more importantly, help the Bucks level the series.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Milwaukee Bucks – Brook Lopez

Another player who can capitalise on the blow the Suns have suffered to their big man depth is Lopez, the Bucks center who is averaging 6.7 points in the paint per game in the series – behind only Antetokounmpo and Ayton.

Lopez has produced double-digit points in four of his past five outings in this postseason, including a 33-point effort against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals as the Bucks prevailed without the injured Antetokounmpo. Third in effective field goal percentage (60.9) among centers with 30 attempts or more this postseason, Lopez could compound the impact of Saric's absence for the Suns.

Phoenix Suns – Deandre Ayton

That his Finals numbers are inferior to those of Antetokounmpo is largely reflective of the point-scoring and creative burden taken on by Booker and Paul respectively. However, Ayton is the Suns player most should have their eyes on in Game 4.

He has averaged 35 minutes in this series compared to 37.7 for Antetokounmpo; will Williams up Ayton's time on the court in response to the events of Game 3 when he rested? Or will the Suns coach find a way to minimise the damage during Ayton's time on the bench? The answers could eventually decide the destination of the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

The British and Irish Lions have been handed a huge boost with the news that captain Alun Wyn Jones will join their tour of South Africa – less than three weeks after he suffered a dislocated shoulder.

Jones, 35, sustained the injury during the Lions' warm-up game against Japan at Murrayfield on June 26, but he will fly into Cape Town on Thursday.

The veteran lock came through a training session with the Wales squad at their Vale of Glamorgan base this week before successfully undergoing a medical assessment.

"We are delighted to welcome Alun Wyn back," said head coach Warren Gatland. "It'll come as no surprise to anyone who knows Alun Wyn that since injuring his shoulder against Japan, he's done everything he can to get himself back.

"It's remarkable really when you consider it's just 18 days since he left us in Edinburgh.

"He's been training with the Wales squad at the Vale since last week and yesterday he had a proper hit out. Following assessment from the medical staff this morning we're satisfied he's fit to return.

"He's obviously raring to go and from what I've seen on video and the feedback we’ve received, he's certainly not been holding himself back in training. He was really getting stuck in yesterday.

"It’s a massive boost for the Lions to welcome a player of Alun Wyn's stature back."

Following high-scoring wins in their first three matches against franchise sides, the Lions face what is expected to be the toughest examination of their tour so far when they take on South Africa A in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Roger Federer's body has been saying no for the past two years, but Pat Cash is hopeful the 39-year-old will return for another run on the ATP Tour.

After suffering a setback to his longstanding knee injury during Wimbledon, the 20-time grand slam champion has this week withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics.

Despite being without much match practice – playing just four tournaments before Wimbledon after coming back from two knee surgeries - Federer was able to make the quarter-finals at All England Club.

However, he suffered a demoralising loss to Hubert Hurkacz in straight sets in the last eight that promoted a fresh round of speculation over his future in the game.

Cash, who won Wimbledon in 1987, hopes Federer will be back despite his recent injury woe.

He told Stats Perform: "First of all, let's hope that Roger Federer will keep going. 

"I think he can, I think he just needs more matches and probably needs to make sure that he's able to last. 

"But your body starts saying no at some stage and it's been saying that for a couple of years now for him." 

 

Wimbledon winner Novak Djokovic is now level with Rafael Nadal and Federer on 20 slams.

Cash believes judging the Swiss star purely on grand slam titles is not a fair measure of his brilliance, pointing instead to his astonishing record totals of 58 major quarter-final berths and 46 semis.

"He has been the most consistent player that I think we've ever seen," Cash said. "He may not end up with as many grand slams but his consistency is just outrageous.

"All the other players have lost early in grand slams, the Djokovics, the [Andy] Murrays, then the Nadals had lost early in grand slams, Roger just doesn't do it.

"Of all the titles that he's won, I think for me, his most impressive record is how many semi-finals or quarter-finals in grand slams in a row that he got to. It was something ridiculous for 10 or 11 years.

"He never failed at any grand slams and that is just absolutely mind blowing."

 

However long he tries to play on, Cash insists nothing can sour the memories of an extraordinary career from Federer.

Cash added: "Obviously, he raised the bar as far as the standard of tennis has gone. 

"The other players really had to catch up. Novak admitted it, he said, 'Without Roger there, leading the way, I wouldn't have been as good a player as I could have been'. 

"That's the gold standard of Roger Federer over his career and I'm not sure anybody will be as consistent as him in tennis history. 

"He's just phenomenal the way he plays, and we all of course enjoy the style, his movement. And he's a class act off the court as well."

Federer's status for the US Open, which begins on August 30, is unclear, with Djokovic looking to take the outright lead for major titles and achieve a historic calendar year Grand Slam.

Queensland avoided the humiliation of clean sweep in the State of Origin series as Ben Hunt's second-half double secured a 20-18 victory over New South Wales.

The Blues have been forced to play all three matches in Queensland due to coronavirus restrictions but made light of that apparent disadvantage by romping to 50-6 and 26-0 victories in the first two games.

Tuesday's encounter at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast proved to be a far more evenly contested affair, with Hunt's quickfire brace proving decisive when Latrell Mitchell fell short with a late long-range penalty that would have grabbed a draw.

Mitchell was also to the fore early on and it looked like being the same old story when he stepped into Damien Cook's pass and unfurled some deft footwork for a sixth try in seven State of Origin appearances, although the Blues' advantage was short-lived.

Queensland had led through Valentine Holmes' early penalty and he added the extras after 19-year-old debutant Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow capitalised upon fine work from Cameron Munster and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui's offload.

New South Wales went back ahead three minutes into the second half when five-eighth Jack Wighton dummied a pass and burst through to score.

Hunt then took centre-stage to decisively turn the contest – first staying low from dummy-half and sneaking under a pair of tackles to touch down, then rounding off a thrilling spell of Queensland pressure in the 65th minute.

Skipper Daly Cherry-Evans joined Holmes in going two from two from the kicking tee, making it 20-12, though such breathing space was short-lived.

Replacement hooker Api Koroisau latched on to Mitchell Moses' grubber in the 68th minute to set up a grandstand finish.

With two minutes to go, Mitchell took on a penalty from halfway to try to level the scores – he struck it cleanly but fell short in terms of distance and Queensland were able to hang on.

Lee Westwood is entering The Open Championship optimistic he can contend as he hopes to have cleared the "mental block" he had at Royal St George's.

The 48-year-old fell away from a promising position at the Scottish Open last week but is confident his game is in a good place.

Westwood missed the cut in 2003 and 2011 when the tournament was last played at the Kent links, but he has attempted to banish those memories for the last major of 2021.

"Coming into this week, I've played here twice in the Open Championship, missed the cut both times," he said.

"Kind of had it in my head, a bit of a mental block that I didn't like the golf course, but I played it [on Tuesday] and really enjoyed it. 

"I loved the way it was set up. I couldn't really remember the golf course too much, probably because I didn't have that much experience of playing on it, only having played two rounds each Open. 

"I really enjoyed it. Enjoyed the conditions and it sort of turned my head around and made me look forward to the week even more really. 

"I'm positive and hoping I can find some form and get into contention. Like all links tournaments, you need a little bit of luck with the weather, you need some good breaks.

"I did win around here as an amateur, so I've had some kind of form around here in the past. I'm just trying to look at it more positively than I've missed two cuts. 

"There will be underlying facts there; I might not have been playing well or my head might not have been in the right place. 

"I feel like if I get my game where it needs to be and it's good for that week, I can contend."

Phil Mickelson won the US PGA Championship to become the oldest major champion at the age of 50 this year.

Westwood was therefore asked if that meant he still had hope of winning one as he prepares to make his 88th major appearance.

He said: "We're from a generation that's maybe had the benefit of sports medicine and maybe a little bit more analytical, knowing what's going on. 

"Tiger [Woods] came on the scene and everybody sort of took that a little bit more seriously mid to late '90s. All the other players that wanted to get ahead of the game sort of looked to him.

"Rather than [golf being an] 'I've been working out for six months thing' and 'this is a quick-fix thing', it's a long-term thing with the likes of myself and Phil, Stewart Cink, people like that playing.

"Look at Bernhard Langer – he's playing well into his 60s because he's looked after himself 30 years ago, not because he started going in the gym three weeks ago. 

"Mine and Phil's generation are now reaping the benefits of the hard work for the last 20 years, analysing movements in the swing and working on injury prevention to those parts of the body that get injured."

Novak Djokovic will never have a better opportunity to achieve a historic calendar Grand Slam, which former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash says he should prioritise at all costs.

The Serbian won a sixth Wimbledon crown on Sunday, defeating Matteo Berrettini in four sets to achieve a final victory that moved him on to 20 grand slam titles.

With Australian Open and French Open successes also already achieved, glory at the US Open would see Djokovic become only the second men's player in Open Era history to win all four majors in the same year.

Cash thinks the stars have aligned for Djokovic, with issues for his main rivals leaving the 34-year-old primed to achieve the famous feat in 2021.

"The impossible dream really is there," Cash said to Stats Perform.

"For Novak this year it is a great opportunity for him to grab a bunch of grand slams and grab all the titles. 

"Certainly Wimbledon – without disrespecting the other players – was one of the weaker men's side draws that I've seen in many, many years. 

"And that's because we've got two of the big stars coming back from injuries – Andy Murray and Roger Federer – who played well but weren't at the peak of their career.

"The younger players are coming through but they're not quite there yet and Novak is just sitting on top of that mountain as the King of the Castle.

"His performance was exceptional at Wimbledon, there's no doubts about it. 

"The slightly younger players are coming through – Berrettini obviously in the final really pushed him to just about the limit.

"Stefanos Tsitsipas in the French Open final up two sets to love. So, these guys are close, very close, and it won't be long before they catch up with Novak and the others. 

"Obviously Rafa [Nadal] was out of this Wimbledon as well – I don't really think he's a serious threat on the grass anymore but he's still a great competitor. 

"So these guys are catching up, Rafa is still there, maybe Murray will come back and Federer will come back and be in better shape in the next year – but this is the year that Novak can really grab." 

 

Djokovic admitted this week he is still "50/50" over whether he will take part in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics due to coronavirus countermeasures in the Japanese capital. 

Federer withdrew from the tournament on Tuesday and Cash insists Tokyo will not be the priority over glory in New York for Djokovic.

Cash added: "It's the Olympics, okay – maybe he wants to do that, but certainly his goal is now to try and win all four grand slams in the calendar year.

"He has done four in a row, but he hasn't done them in the same year, which is very, very tough to do. 

"There is a reason why I think one person has done it in [men's] professional tennis – Rod Laver and it was in 1969, so it's not easy to do. 

"But I really do think it's in his sights and that has got to be his priority. 

"It's absolutely the absolute peak of our sport to win all four grand slams in one year." 

With Djokovic now level with Federer and Nadal on 20 majors, Cash would not be surprised to see him build a big lead.

He added: "Look, it's very hard to say. We have all been proven wrong by the numbers. 

"Though most of us thought that Rafa and Novak would get pretty close to Federer, we didn't really think they'd get there and beyond. 

"I think Novak is likely to win another couple, but you know, it takes us one little injury [to derail him] so it is very hard to say.

"John McEnroe said 25 or so [for Djokovic] and that could be well within his reach at the moment. 

"He's improving and that's frightening to think. He's won 19 grand slams before Wimbledon, and all of a sudden we've seen this guy come to the net, volley, add another string to his bow to become a better player. 

"Yeah, age 34 and he is improving – that's pretty frightening." 

The Open Championship makes a welcome return at Royal St George's this week, with the Kent links set to provide a tough challenge.

Last year's event was cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic, meaning Shane Lowry got to keep hold of the Claret Jug a little longer.

The Irishman was a popular winner at Royal Portrush in 2019 and will be among a star-studded field competing for the honour of Champion Golfer of the Year this week.

The course is a glorious setting for such a titanic battle, and here we take look at some of the key holes that prospective winners will need to tame.

 

HADES IS GONNA GET YOU

The par-four eighth hole is considered the toughest on the course, where many a championship hopeful has come unstuck.

It was originally a par three before a course rebuild ahead of the 1981 Open, but now a three on this 450-yard hole – nicknamed 'Hades' – requires pinpoint accuracy from tee to green.

In 2011, when Royal St George's last hosted golf's oldest major, the hole played at an average of 4.37, with 27 double bogeys recorded to go alongside 140 bogeys.

There is some respite for those who can steer clear of two bunkers that are positioned such that they are particularly hard to avoid from the tee, with 33 birdies posted 10 years ago.

DON'T GET LOST IN THE HIMALAYAS

The only hole that ruined scorecards with more frequency than the eighth in 2011 was the par-four fourth.

With an average of 4.52, this 495-yarder permitted just 16 birdies, while there were seven scores of triple bogey or worse.

It was even tougher in 1985, when the average score was 4.60, with the key here being to avoid the 'Himalaya' bunker off the tee.

The dauntingly large dune stands guard to the fairway, which borders a putting surface that features out of bounds posts tucked tight against its back.

 

THE STRATH: A WELCOME SIGHT

It's not all toil and trouble on this track, as the par-five seventh proves.

This whole, called the Strath, was mightily generous a decade ago, handing out eagles to eventual winner Darren Clarke and Phil Mickelson in the final round.

Nobody should take this forgiving 566-yarder for granted, though, as the green is guarded by a trio of steep-sided sand traps ready to swallow up any wayward approaches.

Anyone wanting to post a strong score should be looking to lay down a marker here.

 

THE END IS NIGH

The 18th hole is a challenge on any course just because of the psychology of it – hold your nerve for one final challenge, or else a day's work may be undone in a matter of minutes.

In this case, the par-four closer poses a danger no matter what the context, as it played at an average of 4.62 in 1985 and was only slightly less troublesome at 4.33 in 2011.

At 450 yards it's not the distance that causes issues, but the precision required with the approach.

Even if you manage to avoid two gaping bunkers off the tee, the notable dip to the left of the green – nicknamed 'Duncan's Hollow' after George Duncan's woes there in a 1922 loss to Walter Hagen – is waiting patiently for any errant approaches.

After an enforced absence in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Open is thankfully back on this year's golf calendar.

Royal St George's will host the 149th edition of the tournament, a welcome return to the Kent course that saw Darren Clarke triumph a decade ago.

Shane Lowry is the defending champion, having prevailed at Royal Portrush in 2019, but can he retain his crown? Will one of the big guns instead get their hands on the famous Claret Jug, or could another long shot follow in the footsteps of Ben Curtis, an unlikely champion at the venue back in 2003?

Ahead of the opening round, it is time to take a look at some of the players who could be in contention for glory in the final major of the year.

 

RAHM READY FOR OPEN CHALLENGE – Nicholas McGee

Jon Rahm has struggled to capture his best in four previous appearances at The Open, just one of which has seen him finish with an under-par score (-3 in 2019). However, only in 2018 has he missed the cut, and his blistering form in 2021 suggests he should be firmly in the mix this week.

His 11 top-10 finishes rank as the most on the PGA Tour this season. Rahm also leads the tour in scoring average (69.6) and in strokes gained (2.02 avg). Second in strokes gained tee to green and (1.82 avg) and fifth in greens in regulation (71 per cent), Rahm has displayed consistency that should lend itself to links golf. Further optimism came with a seventh-placed finish at the Scottish Open. The stage looks set for him to emphatically turn his Open fortunes around.

SPIETH HAS THE BELIEF – Russell Greaves

Jordan Spieth has three key things in his favour at this tournament: he's a man in form, he's exceptional with the putter, and he's won it before. The 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year has an overall putting average of 1.566 on the PGA Tour in 2021, placing him seventh in that metric.

That showing on the greens has laid the foundations for a year in which the 27-year-old has enjoyed eight top-10 finishes. He was in a tie for third at the Masters and boasts a career aggregate score of 21 under at the Open Championship, marking him down as a leading contender in Kent.

NO DOUBTING THOMAS AFTER RECENT RUN – Dan Lewis

Justin Thomas has struggled on the links in his career but ended up in a tie for eighth at the Scottish Open last week – his first top-10 finish since winning the Players Championship in March. He opened and closed with rounds of 65 at the Renaissance Club, where he used a new putter, and has not carded a bogey in his last 25 holes.

The 28-year-old may not be among the top group of contenders, but the 2017 US PGA Championship winner is certainly capable of carrying his momentum into this event to claim a second major in his career.

DUSTIN'S TIME TO HAVE A MAJOR IMPACT - Timothy Abraham

The form book might be against him, but world number one Dustin Johnson can have a Claret Jug-shaped silver lining to a disappointing 2021 in the majors. The American failed to make the cut at both the Masters and the US PGA Championship, alongside a 19th-placed finish in the U.S. Open this year.

An aggregate career score of +15 in The Open is hardly the stuff of a potential champion, but a decade ago he tied second behind champion Clarke. Johnson is a better player now, and the type of optimist capable of winning a major out of the blue. Write him off at your peril.

GLORY FOR RORY AGAIN? ABSOLUTELY! – Chris Myson

The Open champion in 2014, Rory McIlroy is rightly seen as a contender in Kent. He did miss the cut at this tournament in 2019 – but that was the first time he has done so since 2013.

When the Northern Irishman gets to the weekend at The Open, he is usually competitive. He had four consecutive top-five finishes prior to his previous disappointing outing and has a total of five in his career, including that triumph seven years ago. A top 10 at the U.S. Open gave McIlroy some much-needed major momentum and he can now finish with a flourish in his final opportunity this year.

HATTON CAN LINK IT ALL TOGETHER - John Skilbeck

Considering the winners Royal St George's has thrown up in the 21st century - Curtis and a past-his-prime Clarke - you might as well stick a pin in the field and take your chances. Tyrrell Hatton has twice won the Dunhill Links Championship which points to him knowing how to handle an Open course, and he has scored victories on each side of the Atlantic in the past 18 months so brings recent experience of closing out tournaments successfully.

Whether he wins or not is another thing: there are missed cuts on his Open Championship CV. However, two top-six finishes in the last four editions suggests the Englishman might not be far away.

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker says "short memory" will help him move on from his disastrous Game 3 shooting performance ahead of Game 4 on Wednesday.

Booker shot three from 14 from the field, going at 21.4 per cent, and only made one from seven three-point attempts in Game 3, finishing on 10 points as the Milwaukee Bucks won 120-100.

The result pulled the NBA Finals series back to 2-1 in the Suns' favour ahead of Game 4 in Milwaukee.

"Short memory, just move on," Booker said when asked how when asked about his Game 3 shooting.

Booker had scored 31 and 27 points in the opening two Finals games, shooting at 48 per cent and 38.1 per cent respectively, as well as hitting seven three-pointers in Game 2.

The 22-year-old has already scored 500 points this postseason, steering the Suns to their first NBA Finals in 28 years.

Despite the momentum shift in the series and his own poor display, Booker remained unflapped.

"Just understanding the task at hand and simply you just have to be better if you want to win the game," Booker said.

"That's obviously something I want and something this whole team and coaching staff and training staff wants and this whole city wants.

"I would say it's a good pressure. These are the moments that you prepare for and that you train so hard for, what we're in right now. You have to be excited about it."

Milwaukee won praise for their defensive efforts on Booker in Game 3, but Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said his side expected him to be much improved in Game 4.

"I wouldn't say there was one specific thing or anything we did different," Budenholzer said.

"He's a great player, but he's human also. I think we're expecting we're going to have to be even better on him.

"We just got to be prepared for a really good Devin Booker going into Game 4."

Vladimir Guerrero Jr homered like his father 15 years ago as he won the MVP with the American League defeating the National League 5-2 in MLB's annual All-Star Game in Denver on Tuesday.

The American League extended their winning run to eight in a row, with Guerrero's home run marking the 200th in All-Star history.

Shohei Ohtani started on the mound for the American League All-Star team, sending down a shutout innings with no hits, tossing down the fastest pitch of the game at 100.2 mph.

Ohtani went 1-2-3, taking out Fernando Tatis, Max Muncy and Nolan Arenado.

The Japanese two-way star, who led off as the designater hitter, was zero-and-two at-bat but earned praise from American League manager Kevin Cash.

"We're all in awe of his ability to do that," Cash said about Ohtani's two-way game. "He came in hyped up on this stage.

"He gets warmed up to get take the at-bat, he was sitting in his chair to catch his breath.

"The way he's handled everything makes it more special, watching him interact with his teammates and handle the media, it's pretty remarkable."

Guerrero Jr's 468-feet home run meant the Guerreros joined the Bonds and Griffeys as father-sons who have homered in All-Star games.

The 22-year-old Toronto Blue Jays slugger went one-from-three, with two RBI along with his solo home run in the third inning and becomes the youngest MVP in history.

"It means the world to me," Guerrero Jr said. "I just want to say thank you to my dad. This is for you."

J.T. Realmuto got the National League on the board with a solo home run in the fifth inning, while Ohtani's Los Angeles Angels team-mate Jared Walsh made a crucial diving catch at left from a Kris Bryant fly ball to round out the win.

Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich is confident his side is getting better after responding to rare back-to-back losses with a 108-80 win over Argentina on Tuesday.

The gold medal favourite's preparations ahead of the Tokyo Olympics were shaken up after consecutive exhibition game defeats to Australia and Nigeria.

But the Americans were much improved 12 days out from their Olympics opener, led by Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal who both had 17 points and six rebounds.

USA led 58-42 at half-time and never looked back, as Bam Adebayo returned to the starting five with good impact.

“I thought we sustained it pretty well in our game against Australia, and we competed well, rebounded, played defense, ran the floor and had good pace for one half, but then it dissipated through the second half,” Popovich said.

“Tonight, I thought we maintained [effort] pretty much throughout the game, so hopefully that's a sign that we are in a little better condition.

"To play these games is huge for us. So, it was better, and it is getting better, bit by bit, every day.”

Popovich also praised Adebayo along with Draymond Green, while Jayson Tatum missed the game with a right knee injury with no timeframe confirmed.

"I thought both Bam and Draymond Green facilitated a lot of action, and they were very active," Popovich said. "They got everybody involved, which is something that's really important for us."

Beal added that the side had learned some important lessons from the Australia and Nigeria defeats.

"The biggest thing we have to realise is that it’s not the NBA, and coach Pop keeps re-emphasizing that to us every single day," Beal said.

"It’s more physical. These guys have been playing together for five, 10-plus years, so they have this experience and chemistry. We're trying to develop that in a short period of time."

USA have further games against Australia and Spain, before departing for Tokyo next Monday with the first Olympics game against France on July 25.

The Los Angeles Clippers announced on Tuesday that star forward Kawhi Leonard has undergone surgery on a partially torn ACL.

Two-time NBA Finals MVP Leonard sat out the Clippers' last eight games in the postseason with a knee injury, with details undisclosed at the time.

The Clippers confirmed on Tuesday that the 30-year-old had gone under the knife, with no timeframe set on his recovery.

ACL surgery typically requires 12 months of rehabilitation and recovery to return to the court, although the Clippers stated Leonard's tear was only "partial" offering hope of a shorter timeframe.

Leonard originally sustained the knee injury in Game 4 of the Conference Semi-Finals against the Utah Jazz.

The Clippers had insisted Leonard was a game-by-game proposition but he did not return in the postseason as they bowed out in the Conference Finals to the Phoenix Suns.

The small forward averaged 24.8 points per game in the 2020-21 NBA regular season, along with 6.5 rebounds and a career-high 5.2 assists per game.

Leonard averaged 30.4 points per game in the postseason, with a career-best field goal percentage of 57.3 per cent, before injury intervened.

French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova made light work of qualifier Isabella Shinikova to start her Prague Open campaign with a win.

Following her triumph in Paris, Krejcikova made it to the round of 16 at Wimbledon only to lose to eventual champion Ash Barty.

Krejcikova will be representing the Czech Republic at the Tokyo Olympics, and is using this home tournament as a warm-up event.

The second seed defeated Shinikova 6-2 6-3 to tee up a second-round tie with Ysaline Bonaventure. With Petra Kvitova already out, Krejcikova will be hoping to seal a third singles title of her career.

Compatriot and fourth seed Marie Bouzkova did not fare well, however, as the fourth seed slumped 3-6 6-4 6-2 to world number 141 Storm Sanders.

Fellow Czechs Katerina Siniakova and Tereza Martincova did progress, beating Jodie Burrage and Samantha Murray Sharan respectively.

While Krejcikova will look to take advantage of a weakened field and prepare for the Olympics in ideal fashion, one player who will not be at the Games is Johanna Konta.

The British number one said on Tuesday she had withdrawn from Tokyo 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19 and seeing her tennis fitness suffer, having also had to pull out of Wimbledon. Konta, who is not in action this week, described the blow as "a heart-breaking reality".

At the Hungarian Grand Prix, third seed Bernarda Pera had to come from behind to beat Julia Grabher – ranked at 201 – 5-7 6-1 6-2.

Pera, who joins a fellow American seed, Danielle Collins, in round two, will next face Anhelina Kalinina.

Irina-Camelia Begu, a finalist in Budapest 10 years ago, will not be making a repeat trip to the title match, the fourth seed losing 6-3 6-4 on Tuesday to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

Meanwhile, at the Lausanne Open, fourth seed Camila Giorgi scored a ruthless 6-2 6-0 win over Norway's Ulrikke Eikeri.

Brooks Koepka would relish a Sunday showdown with rival Bryson DeChambeau at The Open as the pair's feud continued at Royal St George's.

The American duo have been exchanging barbs for a long while now, with Koepka invited to offer an explanation when he faced the media ahead of the 149th Open in Kent on Tuesday.

Koepka revealed the issue started at the 2019 Northern Trust at Liberty National after he called out his compatriot for slow play.

A disgruntled DeChambeau took it up with Koepka's caddie, Ricky Elliott, before the pair apparently decided to call it quits, only for DeChambeau to stoke the fire with some unflattering comments about his countryman during a public online video game session.

Four-time major winner Koepka explained: "It was at Liberty. He didn't like that I had mentioned his name in slow play, so we had a conversation in the locker room, and then I guess we said something else in the press conference but didn't mention his name in it, and he walked up to Ricky and said: 'You tell your man if he's got something to say, say it to me.'

"I thought that was ironic because he went straight to Ricky. Ricky told me when I came out, I hit a few putts, and then just walked right over to him, we had a conversation.

"We both agreed we'd leave each other out of it and wouldn't mention each other, just kind of let it die off, wouldn't mention each other's names, just go about it.

"So then he decided I guess he was going on that little, whatever, playing video games online or whatever and brought my name up and said a few things, so now it's fair game."

Asked about the prospect of being paired with DeChambeau for the final round at golf's oldest major this weekend, Koepka said he would be up for the battle.

"Yeah, I would enjoy it. I would enjoy it. I'll be close to the final group come Sunday," he said.

"I always feel like I play well in the big events, the majors. I think it would be a lot more people tuning in, with everything that's gone on over the last two years, something like that, three years. So yeah, I think there would be a lot of people tuning in."

With the Ryder Cup to come at Whistling Straits in September, the two are set to be team-mates, but Koepka can handle a week of being on the same side.

"It's only a week. I mean, look, I can put it aside for business," he said.

"If we're going to be on the same team, I can deal with anybody in the world for a week. I'm not playing with him.

"I'm pretty sure we're not going to be paired together; put it that way. I think it's kind of obvious. It doesn't matter.

"We're not going to be high-fiving and having late-night conversations. I do my thing, he does his thing."

Speaking later the same day, DeChambeau was a little more succinct, saying of Koepka: "He can say whatever he wants. I think he said something back at Liberty National not upholding something. I don't know what he's talking about in that regard."

Jan-Lennard Struff suffered a disappointing defeat on home soil to Laslo Djere at the Hamburg European Open on Tuesday.

Djere triumphed 6-4 7-5 against the seventh seed to book a last-16 tie against qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild at the ATP 500 event.

It was a day of missed chances for world number 47 Struff, who took just one of eight break-point opportunities and hit five double faults as he went down in one hour and 50 minutes.

There was no such disappointment for Filip Krajinovic, though the sixth seed had to work hard before seeing off home wild card hope Daniel Altmaier 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 6-1.

Krajinovic will face another German next in the form of Philipp Kohlschreiber.

The number one seed Stefanos Tsitsipas is yet to start his campaign in Hamburg.

In the Nordea Open, held in Bastad, there was a first-round defeat for teenage talent and sixth seed Lorenzo Musetti, who went down in three sets to Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.