Hovland sets Olympia Fields record with 61 to win BMW Championship

Hovland sets Olympia Fields record with 61 to win BMW Championship
Viktor Hovland of Norway poses with the J.K. Wadley Trophy after winning the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club on Sunday in Olympia Fields, Illinois. (AFP)
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Updated 21 August 2023
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Hovland sets Olympia Fields record with 61 to win BMW Championship

Hovland sets Olympia Fields record with 61 to win BMW Championship
  • Hovland was so close to perfection that he birdied all but two holes on the back nine
  • Even on soft turf, Scheffler was mystified by the low scores and could only applaud Hovland, especially on a Sunday

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Illinois: Viktor Hovland kept hitting every shot just the way he wanted on the back nine at Olympia Fields. Rory McIlroy was keeping his card and kept writing “3” in just about every box.

Hovland delivered the best round of his career at just the right time Sunday, turning a two-man race into a one-man show by breaking the course record with a 9-under 61 to surge past Scottie Scheffler and Matt Fitzpatrick and win the BMW Championship.

The previous mark of 62 had been set twice this week on the rain-softened North course, by Sam Burns and Max Homa the previous two days. Hovland was so close to perfection that he birdied all but two holes on the back nine.

“When I made the putt on 15 for birdie, I felt like, ‘OK, we’ve got a chance now if I can finish pretty well,’” Hovland said. “Then you never know what’s going to happen behind you. ... Until then, I had no idea what was going on. I was just going to try to play well and keep making birdies.”

What happened behind him was nothing special. Scheffler holed enough putts to lead by two at one point, but he missed the ones that really mattered — 6 feet for birdie on the par-3 16th to stay with Hovland, and then a three-putt from 20 feet on the 17th for bogey.

Fitzpatrick had an eight-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 1 over, and then two birdies late at least kept him in the game. He and Scheffler each closed with 66 to share second place and leave Chicago feeling helpless.

“Can’t do anything about 61. I did just see Viktor — I called him a little (expletive),” Fitzpatrick said with a grin. “But for me, just really pleased again that I played really well, final round in contention with world No. 1, and I didn’t lose it. Someone else came from behind and won it.”

Even on soft turf, Scheffler was mystified by the low scores and could only applaud Hovland, especially on a Sunday. It was the lowest closing round by a PGA Tour winner this year, and a career-best for the 25-year-old Norwegian star.

“I’m just a bit frustrated. I think that would be the way to describe it,” Scheffler said. “Viktor went out and really just beat me today and played a fantastic round. I can hold my head high. I did my best out there today and fought hard. Just ultimately came up a couple shots short.”

Hovland won for the second time this year and never looked better doing it.

He only had one putt longer than 15 feet on the back nine. He closed with birdies on the 17th and 18th, the two hardest holes, finishing with a pitching wedge from 158 yards over the bunker to 6 feet on the 18th for one last birdie.

“That has to be the best round I’ve ever played,” Hovland said. “Given the circumstances — a playoff event, this golf course — the way I played the last holes was pretty special.”

Turns out the drama came from everywhere else.

Jordan Spieth bogeyed his last two holes for a 71 and was on the verge of falling out of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup who make it to East Lake next week for the Tour Championship. But then Denny McCarthy made three bogeys over his last seven holes to fall out.

The cruelest of all was Sahith Theegala. He ran off three straight birdies through the 17th hole and was projected to be in the top 30. But he took bogey on the last hole, while Patrick Cantlay in his group made birdie. They tied for 15th, and that bogey-birdie combination was enough to end Theegala’s season.

Sepp Straka wound up getting the 30th spot by nine points over Theegala.

Xander Schauffele did enough right in his round of 68 to tie for eighth, earning enough money to narrowly earn the sixth and final automatic spot on the US Ryder Cup team. Schauffele was certain to get one of the six captain’s picks, but his finish moved PGA champion Brooks Koepka from No. 5 to No. 7 in the Ryder Cup standings.

US captain Zach Johnson makes his six picks in nine days.

Scheffler had six birdies and never fell out of the lead until late in the day, though he was haunted by three putts from 6 feet or closer than he missed over the final eight holes.

Scheffler, in a small consolation, is the No. 1 seed at East Lake for the the second straight year. That means he starts the tournament at 10-under par, two shots ahead of Hovland.

McIlroy, who shot 66 and finished fourth at the BMW Championship, is the No. 3 seed, followed by Jon Rahm and Lucas Glover.

“I felt like I played very average out there next to Viktor. He played amazing,” McIlroy said. “I was marking his card in there and I’m like, ‘Oh, you only made one 4 on the back nine, the rest 3s.’ It adds up to a nice little 28 for him.

“I sort of realized around like 14, 15, something pretty special was happening.”

For all the FedEx Cup possibilities that played out over some six hours Sunday, Fitzpatrick was the only player who worked his way into the top 30 who head to Atlanta for a shot at the $18 million bonus. He started at No. 40 and moved up to No. 10.


Wedding bells for Cantlay and alarm bells for the Americans after another Ryder Cup loss in Europe

Wedding bells for Cantlay and alarm bells for the Americans after another Ryder Cup loss in Europe
Updated 02 October 2023
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Wedding bells for Cantlay and alarm bells for the Americans after another Ryder Cup loss in Europe

Wedding bells for Cantlay and alarm bells for the Americans after another Ryder Cup loss in Europe
  • Europe’s win streak at home in golf’s biggest team event will now extend beyond three decades
  • Cantlay, who finished 2-2-0, had never seen Marco Simone until this week because he had a bachelor’s party planned well before Johnson decided on the dates for a team scouting trip

 GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy: Only one American truly had reason to celebrate after the Ryder Cup ended with another home win for Europe.

Patrick Cantlay is getting married Monday.

The rest of the US players were glum as could be as they sipped beers during the post-competition news conference Sunday. Europe’s win streak at home in golf’s biggest team event will now extend beyond three decades.

After getting swept for the first time in Friday’s opening session of foursomes — also failing to win a match on the first day for the first time — the Americans never recovered and were beaten 16½ to 11½ by a European team that got in front early at every opportunity and produced an array of shot-making that reverberated around the designed amphitheaters that so many holes resembled at Marco Simone.

“They just holed a lot more putts, a few more chip-ins,” Brooks Koepka said.

Zach Johnson’s six captain’s picks — Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa, Rickie Fowler, Sam Burns and Justin Thomas — combined to win four matches.

Fowler’s record in road Ryder Cups fell to 1-8-5.

Cantlay, who finished 2-2-0, had never seen Marco Simone until this week because he had a bachelor’s party planned well before Johnson decided on the dates for a team scouting trip that was held a few weeks ago.

Cantlay was asked by a British reporter if he didn’t wear a US team hat this week because he didn’t want to have a tan line on his head for his wedding.

“Well, I am getting married tomorrow, yes. I’m very excited about that,” Cantlay said, sparking Johnson and the other 11 players to bang the tables in front of them in celebration.

It was one of the few chances the Americans had to smile all week.

Moments earlier, Spieth had to put his arm around his captain when Johnson appeared on the verge of tears after addressing the spectators before the trophy presentation.

“Regret is a strong word, but I wish I would have done a better job,” Johnson said. “I don’t know what it looks like, never will, but it’s not a matter of anything other than Team Europe scored more points.”

On Saturday, there was an unsubstantiated report from Sky Sports — the broadcast partner for the European tour — that Cantlay caused a rift among the Americans by alleging that he thinks they should be paid at the Ryder Cup.

Cantlay denied the report and one American after another talked about what a great atmosphere there was within the team.

“Everybody gets along and everybody just is happy to be around each other,” Thomas said. “There’s usually a couple misfits or people that just aren’t a part of the team, but we all were one.”

Even Koepka, the only US player selected from Saudi-backed LIV Golf, was on board.

“It was exciting to see everybody,” Koepka said. “I felt like had not seen the guys in a few months.”

Rookie Max Homa accounted for the most US points with 3½.

Homa momentarily delayed the Europeans’ celebration when he overcame a penalty drop on 18 to win his match against Matt Fitzpatrick, who had a chance to clinch it.

Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler produced just one point. But he halved the opening singles match with Jon Rahm after he and Koepka were routed by 9 and 7 a day earlier by Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg — for a record loss in any format in the Ryder Cup — after only 11 holes of his foursomes match with Koepka. That left Scheffler in tears.

“I was emotional after the round because I care a lot about this tournament. … These team events are tough to beat,” Scheffler said. “This felt like the closest group of guys that we’ve had. And at the time I felt like I was letting these guys down.

“After finishing on 11 yesterday, I had plenty of time to rest and get ready for this morning.”

Most of the Americans had not played for more than a month entering the Ryder Cup, with the PGA Tour schedule ending before Labor Day.

“Give us a week after the Tour Championship, or two weeks after, and then go, instead of five,” Spieth said.

After hosting the next Ryder Cup at Bethpage Black, the Americans’ next chance to win on the road will come in 2027 at Adare Manor in Ireland.

“Four years from now,” Johnson said, “hopefully we’ll implement a better process certainly than I did.”


PGA Tour says LIV merger attracts unsolicited investor interest

PGA Tour says LIV merger attracts unsolicited investor interest
Updated 28 September 2023
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PGA Tour says LIV merger attracts unsolicited investor interest

PGA Tour says LIV merger attracts unsolicited investor interest
  • Bloomberg News said inclusion of outside investors could help appease politicians who have voiced concerns the deal would amount to a takeover of a US institution by LIV Golf, bankrolled by the PIF
  • Talks with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and DP World are progressing, with the goal of reaching a definitive agreement by Dec. 31

NEW YORK: PGA Tour said its planned merger with Saudi-backed LIV Golf and DP World Tour has garnered unsolicited interest from investors as it continues to finalize an agreement with the Public Investment Fund and the DP World Tour.

The PGA said that while it did not solicit additional investment interest, it has a responsibility to members, sponsors and fans to thoroughly evaluate all potential options.

“Our focus continues to be on finalizing an agreement with the Public Investment Fund and the DP World Tour, however, our negotiations have resulted in unsolicited interest from other investors,” PGA said in a statement on Wednesday.

Any investments that come from the talks will be made into PGA Tour Enterprises, a subsidiary of the PGA Tour, which it would permanently control.

Bloomberg News, which earlier reported the news, said inclusion of outside investors could help appease politicians who have voiced concerns the deal would amount to a takeover of a US institution by LIV Golf, bankrolled by the PIF.

PGA said additional investor interest is not about politics, but because the PGA Tour has, for the first time, created an investment vehicle in PGA TOUR Enterprises and its business is strong.

PGA added talks with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and DP World are progressing, with the goal of reaching a definitive agreement by Dec. 31.

In June the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV circuit announced an agreement to merge and form one unified commercial entity.


Rose Zhang and Solheim Cup stars join lineup at Aramco Team Series Hong Kong

Rose Zhang and Solheim Cup stars join lineup at Aramco Team Series Hong Kong
Rose Zhang of the United States has joined a strong field at the Aramco Team Series Hong Kong (Getty Images)
Updated 27 September 2023
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Rose Zhang and Solheim Cup stars join lineup at Aramco Team Series Hong Kong

Rose Zhang and Solheim Cup stars join lineup at Aramco Team Series Hong Kong
  • US world No. 1 Lilia Vu and world No. 3 Jin Young Ko will take part in the event at the Hong Kong Golf Club from Oct. 6-8

HONG KONG: The Aramco Team Series presented by PIF – Hong Kong is set to receive another boost of star power with the addition of 20-year-old golf sensation Rose Zhang.

The star-studded field already features fellow team US world No. 1 Lilia Vu and world No. 3 Jin Young Ko, alongside Chinese stars Muni He and Xiyu Lin, promising an exciting spectacle at the Hong Kong Golf Club from Oct. 6 to 8.

Zhang’s professional debut sent shockwaves through the golf world when she secured victory at the Mizuho Americas Open in June. Her win made her the first player to achieve this feat on the LPGA Tour since Japanese star Hinako Shibuno in 2019. Zhang’s triumph marked her as the eighth player since 1992 to win in their first professional start on Tour, joining the ranks of household names such as Karrie Webb.

Zhang’s extraordinary amateur career included eight wins in a single season, a record that ties her with golf legend Tiger Woods for the most victories by a Stanford player in the school’s history. Zhang’s journey saw her win 12 times in just 20 starts during her Stanford career, surpassing all other players, both male and female.

Zhang’s reign as the world’s No. 1-ranked amateur extended over an impressive 141 weeks, a record unmatched by any other player. Her amateur tenure also featured 13 starts on Tour, including participation in eight major championships, with her best finish being T11 at the 2020 Chevron Championship.

Currently ranked 32nd in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Zhang is eagerly anticipating her Aramco Team Series debut and said: “I’m delighted to be part of the Aramco Team Series – Hong Kong. It’s an incredible opportunity to be part of such an exciting world-class event, and I’m eager to take on some of the world’s best on this fantastic stage in Hong Kong.”

The addition of Zhang further solidifies the event’s status as a gathering of golf’s brightest talents. Fans can look forward to witnessing this young star’s extraordinary skills on the grand stage at Hong Kong Golf Club as she competes alongside other top professionals and accomplished amateurs from around the world.

The Aramco Team Series Hong Kong follows a dramatic Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin in Spain, which eventually ended 14-all between the American and European sides. Vu posted a 1-3-0 record, and Zhang, who made her Solheim Cup debut, finished with a 0-2-1 for the week.

Joining Zhang and Vu in Hong Kong from the European side are Aramco Florida champion Carlota Ciganda and Caroline Hedwall. Ciganda secured the crucial point to help Team Europe retain the Solheim Cup by defeating Aramco London champion Nelly Korda in their singles match on the final day. She went undefeated at 4-0-0 for an impressive week in Spain.

Accompanying Ciganda is fellow European Hedwall, who defeated American Ally Ewing in a decisive Sunday singles match, concluding the week with a 1-1-0 record.

 


LIV Golf Jeddah, presented by ROSHN, to stage momentous regular season finale

LIV Golf Jeddah, presented by ROSHN, to stage momentous regular season finale
Updated 25 September 2023
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LIV Golf Jeddah, presented by ROSHN, to stage momentous regular season finale

LIV Golf Jeddah, presented by ROSHN, to stage momentous regular season finale
  • Individual champion, team championship seeds, and securing 2024 league spots all on the line for LIV Golf’s return to Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, Oct. 13-15
  • Following an exciting final round at LIV Golf Chicago — the 12th event of the season — Cameron Smith currently leads the individual standings with 170 points

JEDDAH: LIV Golf makes its highly anticipated return to Royal Greens Golf & Country Club for LIV Golf Jeddah, presented by ROSHN, October 13-15, when the league’s 2023 regular season will reach its epic conclusion and set the stage for the Team Championship — and the future for many LIV golfers.

The event marks the thirteenth tournament of the league’s first full season. Superstar names among the list of 13 major winners who will compete in King Addullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia include 2023 PGA Championship winner and 2023 US Ryder Cup Team selection Brooks Koepka, 2022 Open Champion Cameron Smith, World Golf Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson, 2020 US Open Champion Bryson DeChambeau, and two-time major winners Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer.

There will be much to play for among those atop the individual standings — a star-studded list competing for the season-ending individual title. Those further down the standings face a battle to secure their future, with those players ranked 45 and below in the standings’ “Drop Zone” at season’s end facing relegation and the reality of losing their LIV Golf status for next year.

Following an exciting final round at LIV Golf Chicago — the 12th event of the season — Smith currently leads the individual standings with 170 points after victories in London and Bedminster. In-form American Talor Gooch, a three-time individual champion this season, is in hot pursuit of the Australian with 162 points. Last week’s LIV Golf Chicago champion and ‘Mr. 58,’ Bryson DeChambeau, occupies the third place in the standings with 146 points. Other players in contention of a top three finishing spot include 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed, 2022 LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah winner Koepka and 4Aces GC captain Johnson, among others.

As the final opportunity to secure points in the individual standings, the pressure to play well in Jeddah intensifies. Those who finish in the top 24 in the overall standings will lock-in their position in the LIV Golf League for the next season. Players finishing in the “Open Zone” (positions 25-44), however, may face trade or release by their respective teams. Meanwhile, those finishing in positions 45 and below sitting in the “Drop Zone” will be relegated and will automatically qualify for the League’s promotional tournament, where they will have the opportunity to earn their spot back for the 2024 season.

Aside from the individual standings race, each player in the 48-man field has good reason to make their scores count, as the final team standings following LIV Golf Jeddah will determine seeds 1-12 for the LIV Golf Team Championship in Miami the following week, with the top four teams receiving first-round byes. Through 12 events, 4Aces GC — featuring Johnson, Reed, Peter Uihlein, and Pat Perez — sits atop the team standings with 188 points after team victories in Adelaide and London.

DeChambeau’s Crushers GC (178 points), which includes Paul Casey, Charles Howell III, and Anirban Lahiri, made significant gains thanks to their victory last week in Chicago, giving them a seven-point lead in second place over Torque GC. Torque GC features Chilean stars Joaquin Niemann and Mito Pereira, Colombian Sebastian Muñoz, and Spanish rookie David Puig, who closely trail Crushers GC with 171 total points following wins in Orlando, DC, Andalucía, and Greenbrier.

The all-South African Stinger GC, featuring major champions Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace, and Dean Burmester, currently sits in fourth place with 157 points. RangeGoats GC (155 points) occupies fifth place, thanks to five top-three finishes this season, driven by standout performances by Gooch, Harold Varner III, Thomas Pieters, and captain Watson.


Sebastian Muñoz sizzles to 63 for three-shot lead; Torque, Fireballs share top spot in team race

Sebastian Muñoz sizzles to 63 for three-shot lead; Torque, Fireballs share top spot in team race
Updated 24 September 2023
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Sebastian Muñoz sizzles to 63 for three-shot lead; Torque, Fireballs share top spot in team race

Sebastian Muñoz sizzles to 63 for three-shot lead; Torque, Fireballs share top spot in team race
  • The 63 left him at 13 under, three shots ahead of Crushers GC’s Anirban Lahiri, who shot his second consecutive 66 to move to 10 under
  • Torque will be seeking their fifth team victory of the season

SUGAR GROVE, Illinois: Thanks to a brilliant 8-under 63, Torque GC’s Sebastian Muñoz will take a three-shot lead entering Sunday’s final round of LIV Golf Chicago.

Now comes the difficult part — converting that lead into a victory at Rich Harvest Farms.

That’s been an issue for the 30-year-old from Colombia, whose best individual finish since joining LIV Golf this season was a second place in Orlando.

“I don’t want to take care of the lead because I don’t have good experiences with that in the past,” said Muñoz, whose last professional win came in 2019.

“… It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be challenging, especially me talking about it now. But I’m going to do what I’ve been doing.”

One of five co-leaders after the first round, Muñoz opened his second round Saturday with three birdies before holing his second shot at the par-4 fifth hole from 123 yards for eagle.

It was the first of two eagles in his round, the other coming at the par-5 10th.

The 63 left him at 13 under, three shots ahead of Crushers GC’s Anirban Lahiri, who shot his second consecutive 66 to move to 10 under.

Three players – 4Aces GC captain Dustin Johnson, Fireballs GC’s Abraham Ancer and RangeGoats GC’s Thomas Pieters – are five strokes back at 8 under.

Fueled by Muñoz’s low round, Torque moved into a tie for the team lead at 22 under, with David Puig (68) and Mito Pereira (70) also supplying counting scores.

The Fireballs also are at 22 under after counting scores from Ancer, Carlos Ortiz (68) and Eugenio Chacarra (69). The Aces and Crushers share third at 18 under.

Torque will be seeking their fifth team victory of the season. If that happens and the Aces finish no better than third, then Torque will assume the lead in the season-long team standings.

Meanwhile, Muñoz will seek to deliver the team’s first individual trophy. “It’s time for an individual win for us,” he said.

From Lahiri’s perspective, it’s also time for him to end his individual drought. His last professional win was in February 2015 when he won twice that month.

He’s been close to ending the drought since joining LIV Golf last year, finishing second in Boston in his debut event, and adding two more runner-up finishes this season — three shots behind Talor Gooch in Adelaide and seven strokes behind Cameron Smith last month in Bedminster.

“I’ve had a few too many seconds,” said Lahiri, who opened with an eagle Saturday en route to a bogey-free round.

“… I can’t control what Sebastian or anyone else does, so I’m just going to focus on my process and what I’m trying to do on the golf course.”

Of the top five players on the leaderboard, three still have a chance to finish the season-long individual race inside the bonus-paying top three.

Johnson, the defending individual champion, is currently eighth in points, while Muñoz is 12th and Lahiri 15th.

Based on the second-round leaderboard, Muñoz is projected to move into third place.

Four rounds are left in the regular season — Sunday’s final round in Chicago and next month’s LIV Golf Jeddah, which will be followed by the Team Championship in Miami.

TEAM COUNTING SCORES

Here are the standings and counting scores for Saturday’s second round of the team competition at LIV Golf Chicago. The three best scores from each team count in every round for their total team score. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.

T1. TORQUE GC (-22): Sebastian Muñoz 63, David Puig 68, Mito Pereira 70 (Rd. 2 score: -12)

T1. FIREBALLS GC (-22): Abraham Ancer 66, Carlos Ortiz 68, Eugenio Chacarra 69 (Rd. 2 score: -10)

T3. 4ACES GC (-18): Dustin Johnson 66, Peter Uihlein 69, Pat Perez 70 (Rd. 2 score: -8)

T3. CRUSHERS GC (-18): Anirban Lahiri 66, Bryson DeChambeau 69, Paul Casey 72 (Rd. 2 score: -6)

5. RANGEGOATS GC (-17): Talor Gooch 67, Thomas Pieters 67, Harold Varner III 71 (Rd. 2 score: -8)

T6. MAJESTICKS GC (-16): Ian Poulter 67, Henrik Stenson 67, Lee Westwood 69 (Rd. 2 score: -10)

T6. STINGER GC (-16): Dean Burmester 69, Louis Oosthuizen 70, Charl Schwartzel 71 (Rd. 2 score: -3)

8. RIPPER GC (-15): Marc Leishman 68, Matt Jones 70, Cameron Smith 71 (Rd. 2 score: -4)

9. SMASH GC (-11): Brooks Koepka 69, Jason Kokrak 71, Chase Koepka 72 (Rd. 2 score: -1)

T10. CLEEKS GC (-10): Richard Bland 66, Martin Kaymer 69, Graeme McDowell 69 (Rd. 2 score: -9)

T10. HYFLYERS GC (-10): Phil Mickelson 68, Brendan Steele 68, James Piot 69 (Rd. 2 score: -8)

12. IRON HEADS GC (-4): Scott Vincent 69, Kevin Na 70, Sihwan Kim 73 (Rd. 2 score: -1)