Europe fight back after USA sweep Solheim Cup foursomes

Europe fight back after USA sweep Solheim Cup foursomes
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Solheim Cup team Europe golfer Leona Maguire celebrates on the 18th hole during the fourball play at the Solheim Cup in Finca Cortesin, near Casares, southern Spain, on Friday. (AP)
Europe fight back after USA sweep Solheim Cup foursomes
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Solheim Cup team US golfer Lexi Thompson hits from the bunker on the 4th hole during the fourball play at the Solheim Cup in Finca Cortesin, near Casares, southern Spain, on Friday. (AP)
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Updated 23 September 2023
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Europe fight back after USA sweep Solheim Cup foursomes

Europe fight back after USA sweep Solheim Cup foursomes
  • The previous best start for the US was 3 1/2-1/2 in Wales in 1996
  • Former Spain great Jose María Olazabal brought on the trophy to the first tee and lauded what he called “one of the most important tournaments in women’s golf”

CASARES, Spain: The European team started to fight back on Friday afternoon as they edged fourballs to trail the US 5-3 at the end of the first day of the Solheim Cup.

The US swept the morning foursomes 4-0 at Finca Cortesin in Spain, but Europe collected two wins and two halves in taking the afternoon fourballs 3-1 to revive their hopes of an unprecedented third win in a row.

Europe received a huge fillip from Leona Maguire in the second match. All square and with American Lexi Thompson on the fringe of the green in two at the par five 18th, the Irish star chipped in for birdie.

Clearly rattled, Thompson half shanked her chip and could only manage a par and the Europeans, Maguire and Georgia Hall, claimed a first full point.

“it was a great win,” said Maguire, who won four and half points out of five on her debut two years ago. “Georgia kept it together on the front nine and then I made some birdies on the back nine.

“It’s been a long, tiring day but it was a good comeback in the afternoon.”

Spaniard Carlota Ciganda, who had sat out foursomes, carried on the home charge in the afternoon, joining rookie Linn Grant in a 4 and 2 victory over Ally Ewing and Angel Yin in the final foursome.

The other matches swung back and forth.

In the top tie, rookie Gemma Dryburgh and Madelene Sagstrom shared the spoils with US rookie Rose Zhang and Megan Khang.

A highlight was Dryburgh’s chip in for birdie at the 16th — but Zhang followed her in with a 20-foot putt to keep the match all square.

The third match was also a well-earned half. US Open Champion Allizen Corpuz holed a long putt for birdie at the 18th, but rookie Maja Stark followed her in from around the same range.

In the same match, Emily Pedersen claimed the shot of the day with a hole in one at the 178-yard 12th.

“It was a tough morning, but good to fight back in the afternoon,” said European Captain, Suzann Pettersen.

“I think my team was almost trying too hard in the morning but I was confident they could come back.”

The morning was all about the US. Thompson and Khang set the tone in the top match, winning the opening three holes against European rookies Grant and Stark.

The Americans went on to win by 2 and 1 and their next two matches claimed victory on the final green.

In a one-sided final match, Ewing and rookie Cheyenne Knight trounced Charley Hull and Pedersen by 5 and 4.

Hull, playing in her sixth Solheim, was struggling with neck and upper back pain and was worked on by the physiotherapist on the practice range.

But she was out spectating in the afternoon and expects to be fit for final two days.

 


Rahm and Meronk share lead after first round of LIV Golf Jeddah

Rahm and Meronk share lead after first round of LIV Golf Jeddah
Updated 01 March 2024
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Rahm and Meronk share lead after first round of LIV Golf Jeddah

Rahm and Meronk share lead after first round of LIV Golf Jeddah
  • Despite the windy conditions, six players shot rounds better than 65 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club
  • “Really good day. Drove it great. Anytime you shoot a bogey-free 62, there’s not much that goes wrong,” said the Spaniard

JEDDAH: The high quality of the field at LIV Golf tournaments was apparent once again when, despite the wind picking up at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, six players shot better than 65 in the opening round of LIV Golf Jeddah.
The highest-ranked player in the field, world No. 3 Jon Rahm, shot a sparkling bogey-free eight-under par 62 to share the lead with Poland’s Adrian Meronk, who made seven birdies and an eagle.
Crushers GC Captain Bryson DeChambeau closed spectacularly with six birdies in his last seven holes in a round of seven-under par 63, which could have been even lower but for a double bogey and two three-putts. The American was joined in tied third place by South African Charl Schwartzel and the red-hot Joaquin Niemann of Chile.
Stingers GC Captain Louis Oosthuizen was the other player with a sub-65 round, making six birdies in his six-under 64.
Anthony Kim, the man in the spotlight as he made his return to professional golf after a hiatus of 12 years, opened with a 76 and was last in the 54-man field.
Reigning Masters champion Rahm started the day on the third hole and finished with three straight birdies on the 18th, first and second holes in what is his first visit to the Kingdom.
“Really good day. Drove it great. Anytime you shoot a bogey-free 62, there’s not much that goes wrong. I put it in the right spots and gave myself the opportunities,” said the Spaniard.
“The key to that low score was three lengthy putts I made. And I made pretty much every putt I looked at inside 10 feet.
“I feel like my record when I’m playing tournaments at a venue for the first time, has been pretty good for some reason. Sometimes, not knowing is a blessing.”
The Dubai-based Meronk, who is playing his first season on LIV Golf, made a bogey on his second hole of the day, but more than made up for it when he chipped in for an eagle on the par-4 10th hole from 35 yards.
“I’m feeling way better this week than my first two weeks (Mayakoba and Las Vegas). I had some quality practice time last week in Dubai. I’m happy where my game is, and it’s definitely a big difference from even Vegas a couple of weeks ago,” said Meronk, ranked 50th in the world.
Kim made one birdie in his round and showed his rustiness by topping his second shot of the day on the 18th hole, followed by a shank with his second shot on the seventh. However, his driving was very good all day, and his putting was on point the whole day.
“Obviously disappointed with the score, but I played much better than what I scored,” said the 38-year-old American. “I’ve got a lot to build on. Just made a lot of unforced errors, and that was unfortunate, but I feel like I’m not that far away.”
In the Team Championship, Rahm-led Legions XIII took the opening-day honors as Tyrrell Hatton (-5) and young Caleb Surratt (-4) pushed the team aggregate to 17-under, one shot better than the all-South African Stingers GC (-16).


Boutier delivers putting masterclass to grab Singapore LPGA lead

Boutier delivers putting masterclass to grab Singapore LPGA lead
Updated 01 March 2024
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Boutier delivers putting masterclass to grab Singapore LPGA lead

Boutier delivers putting masterclass to grab Singapore LPGA lead
  • Starting the day tied 30th, Boutier needed just 22 putts to navigate her way around the par-72 Tanjong course at Sentosa Golf Club and she heads into the weekend with a one-shot lead over Japan’s Ayaka Furue, who shot a 67
  • World No. 1 Lilia Vu struggled to a 74 to finish her round in a share of 21st place

SINGAPORE: France’s Celine Boutier delivered a putting masterclass to storm up the leaderboard with an 8-under par 64 and snatch the second round lead at the HSBC Women’s World Championship on Friday in Singapore.

Starting the day tied 30th, Boutier needed just 22 putts to navigate her way around the par-72 Tanjong course at Sentosa Golf Club and she heads into the weekend with a one-shot lead over Japan’s Ayaka Furue, who shot a 67.

Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom posted a 68 to take third place while overnight leader Sarah Schmelzel of the United States slipped to tied-fourth after carding a 72.

Boutier, a six-time LPGA winner, struggled on the opening day with a 73 but bounced back with eight birdies against no bogeys for a two-day total of 7-under par 137.

“I didn’t really make that many putts yesterday and came up pretty short,” said Boutier.

“But today I felt like I made everything. I putted to the right place and was not trying to be too indecisive.

“It was definitely less windy and I was able to get a good start with two birdies on the back, which is my front nine. That gave me a lot of confidence and I just kept going,” the 30-year-old added.

Boutier’s stellar round gave her watching father a birthday gift to remember.

“He was following me around today and I wanted to make it a point to play well. I wished him a happy birthday before my round and he was like, ‘You’ve got to get me a gift.’

“I hope he enjoys this one.”

Furue, who pipped Boutier to the Scottish Open title in 2022, will have the Frenchwoman for company again as they tee off together in the third round.

When asked if she was confident of outplaying Boutier again, she said: “She is a really good player. I just want to catch up with her and play good tomorrow. There’s no pressure at all.”

World No. 1 Lilia Vu struggled to a 74 to finish her round in a share of 21st place.

Defending champion Ko Jin-young is a further shot back in tied-27th after signing for a 73.


Six things to watch at LIV Golf Jeddah

Six things to watch at LIV Golf Jeddah
Updated 29 February 2024
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Six things to watch at LIV Golf Jeddah

Six things to watch at LIV Golf Jeddah
  • With Brooks Koepka eyeing a ‘three-peat,’ John Rahm makes first appearance in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: It is not an exaggeration to say that all eyes in the world of golf will be on LIV Golf Jeddah in Saudi Arabia this week.

The Public Investment Fund-backed league has done more than enough in the recent past to become one of the strongest tours in the world, but enticing Anthony Kim to return to professional golf is probably the coolest thing it has done so far.

It remains to be seen what sort of form the 38-year-old American will be in after his 12-year hiatus from the sport. He might take some time to get back into the groove but be prepared for the internet to go nuts if he has a good opening round on Friday.

Kim is the mystery man of golf, an almost mythical figure. His talent and his skills were unreal when he played regularly on the PGA Tour, winning three titles before he turned 25, but then he said goodbye to the game at the age of just 26.

Some have described his return to professional golf as being like “the resurfacing of the Loch Ness Monster,” others as a sighting of the golfing world’s “Yeti.”

Kim’s return to competition will certainly be one of the biggest storylines to follow during LIV Golf Jeddah this weekend, but here are six others that could ramp up the excitement at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.

Jon Rahm’s first time in Saudi Arabia

World No. 3 Jon Rahm is the biggest signing in LIV Golf history and the mercurial Spaniard, a two-time major champion, including victory at last year’s Masters, is set to make his first appearance in Saudi Arabia this week.

Given the wind and length of the course at Royal Greens, and the peculiarities associated with a desert course, the venue should play right into Rahm’s hands. A phenomenal striker of the ball, he has spent the past decade based in Arizona and so is used to such conditions. He is also a two-time DP World Tour Championship winner in the neighboring UAE, on a similar style of course.

Koepka’s ‘three-peat’ attempt

Brooks Koepka, a five-time major champion, faced tough challenges to the last putt in Jeddah in 2022 and 2023, but emerged victorious from playoffs both times. He beat teammate Peter Uihlein in the inaugural season of LIV Golf, then got better of Talor Gooch last October.

The 33-year-old resident of West Palm Beach, who was the only LIV Golf player on last year’s Ryder Cup team, will be going for an unprecedented “three-peat” this week. Should he succeed, which is very much within the realms of possibility, it will set a hard-to-beat record in the relatively short history of LIV Golf so far.

The Crushers aim to bounce back

The 2023 Team Championship winners, the Bryson DeChambeau-led Crushers GC, have a point to prove in Saudi Arabia. They were cruising toward a team victory last year at Royal Greens, and DeChambeau looked like a lock for his third individual title of the season, when the unthinkable happened. The Crushers juggernaut came to a grinding halt during Sunday’s final round, they dropped to fourth place and DeChambeau slipped up to finish tied for 16th.

They will be keen to prove that the final round last year was nothing more than an aberration.

Niemann’s time to shine

Chile’s Joaquin Niemann is the LIV man in the news, having recently received a special invitation to play at this year’s Masters. It is just reward for all the chasing he has been doing lately, including victory in the Australian Open in December, fourth place in the Hero Dubai Desert Classic in January, and third in the International Series Oman last week. He also won LIV Golf Mayakoba this month, the season opener, which unfortunately did not earn him any world ranking points.

Niemann’s world-class talent is unquestionable and he is clearly fired up at the moment, which makes him a dangerous contender this week.

Saudi specialist DJ back in form

Koepka might be the flavor of the moment at Royal Greens thanks to his back-to-back LIV Golf wins there, but the original boss of the course is his close friend Dustin Johnson, two-time winner of the Saudi International there in 2019 and 2021, with a second place sandwiched between the victories. Even at the LIV Golf events in the past two years, his record is a respectable tie for fifth and a solo sixth place.

Now that the former world No. 1 has finally gotten over his short title drought with a win in Las Vegas this month, be prepared to perhaps see some fireworks once again from the big American.

The change of schedule

In 2022, Koepka won the tournament with a 12-under-par total, and finished on 14-under when he successfully defended his title last year.

A major change to the tournament this year, however, is that it is being played in the first week of March, when the conditions will much cooler compared with the October scheduling of previous years. Royal Greens will therefore feel like a different course, with changed wind directions and slightly softer greens. Expect the scores to be lower, therefore, unless the Red Sea has different ideas and starts blowing high winds towards the course.


Anthony Kim joins LIV Golf after 12-year absence from pro competition

Anthony Kim joins LIV Golf after 12-year absence from pro competition
Updated 28 February 2024
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Anthony Kim joins LIV Golf after 12-year absence from pro competition

Anthony Kim joins LIV Golf after 12-year absence from pro competition
  • American competing as wildcard in pursuit of full-time status, starting in Jeddah
  • Greg Norman: It’s clear that he (Kim) has the fire to win again and show why he was one of the most compelling players in the world

JEDDAH: US golfer Anthony Kim has joined LIV Golf as a season-long wildcard player after being out of the professional game for almost 12 years.

The 38-year-old former Ryder Cup star will make his official return to pro competition at LIV Golf Jeddah, taking place from March 1 to 3 at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City, LIV Golf officials announced.

Kim said: “After stepping away from the game years ago due to injury, I’m happy to officially announce my return to the world of professional golf.

“It’s been a long time coming, and I’m very grateful for all the highs, lows, and lessons learned from the first part of my career. I want to compete with the best players in the world, and I’m on a mission to prove to myself that I can win again.

“The next step on that journey starts now, and I’m excited to give everything I’ve got this season on the LIV Golf League.”

LIV Golf commissioner and CEO, Greg Norman, said: “LIV Golf was launched to create new opportunities for players and fans that drive this sport forward in exciting ways, and when I think of Anthony Kim, I can’t imagine a more perfect fit for what we’re trying to do.

“His talent is undeniable, and we are thrilled to welcome him back to professional golf with our league.

“It’s clear that he has the fire to win again and show why he was one of the most compelling players in the world, and we will support him on that mission as he works to earn his way back to the top of the game,” Norman added.

Kim will compete in all remaining 2024 LIV Golf regular season tournaments as one of two wildcard players aiming to accrue points in the league’s individual standings and earn a team place in 2025. He joins season-long wildcard player Hudson Swafford, competing against the LIV Golf League’s 13 four-player teams across the 14-event global schedule.

The three-time PGA Tour winner posted his best full season in 2008 when he finished sixth on the money list and fourth in the FedEx Cup standings. That season led to a career-high eight top-10 finishes, including six top-three finishes.

The American spent 20 weeks inside the top 10, with a career-high of No. 6 in 2008 after winning the Wachovia Championship and AT&T National.

In 15 career major starts, his best finish was a third place at the 2010 Masters, where he finished behind current LIV Golf members Phil Mickelson (winner) and Lee Westwood (second).

Kim notched two other top-10 Major finishes both coming at The Open, once in 2008 – T7 and again in 2011 – T5. He also set a tournament record with 11 birdies during round two at the 2009 Masters.

Kim is no stranger to team golf after compiling a successful track record with Team USA and the University of Oklahoma. The California native has represented Team USA at both the amateur and professional level a total of three times and was victorious on each occasion.

He played a crucial role at the 2008 Ryder Cup, posting an emotional victory over current LIV Golf member Sergio Garcia in the opening match of the Sunday Singles as the Americans beat Europe for the first time since 1999.

A three-time All-American and freshman of the year (2004) while at the University of Oklahoma, Kim set the school record for the lowest scoring average in relation to par with a 71.73 (+0.22) – narrowly besting Abraham Ancer, 72.42 (+0.93).

In June 2012, Kim had surgery on an injured Achilles tendon in his left leg and was expected to return in the 2013 season on a Major Medical Exemption. However, he has not played in a professional event since the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship.


Rory McIlroy reminisces about Dubai’s Majlis course, ‘where everything started’

Rory McIlroy reminisces about Dubai’s Majlis course, ‘where everything started’
Updated 28 February 2024
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Rory McIlroy reminisces about Dubai’s Majlis course, ‘where everything started’

Rory McIlroy reminisces about Dubai’s Majlis course, ‘where everything started’
  • Irishman has won record 4 Dubai Desert Classic titles at Emirates Golf Club

DUBAI: Following his latest triumph in the UAE, world No. 2 Rory McIlroy had nothing but praise for the region’s longest-standing golf event, the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, a tournament he said allowed him to “reminisce” about his career.

The Northern Irishman etched his name in Dubai history after he became the first four-time champion at Emirates Golf Club to cap off the event’s milestone 35th anniversary celebrations in January.

McIlroy, who added to his previous victory tally on the Majlis course in 2009, 2015, and 2023, provided a thrilling weekend for fans as the reigning champion pulled back a 10-shot lead held by Cameron Young to secure his fourth Dallah trophy.

On his personal journey, alongside the city’s growth on the world stage, the 34-year-old player said: “The arc of my career and Dubai as a city have tracked each other pretty consistently along the way.

“I remember my first Dubai Desert Classic as an amateur back in 2006, when we were staying 10 minutes away in what was almost like being out in the desert, and it’s so built up now compared to then.”

In his first visit as a golfing enthusiast, McIlroy would follow his heroes around the Majlis course, with the Emirates Golf Club providing a unique full-circle moment in his career.

“For my first year at the event, I took a media pass and walked inside the ropes to follow Tiger (Woods), Ernie Els, and Thomas Bjorn and then I think about even the arc of that. Thomas is my Ryder Cup captain, I ended up buying Ernie Els’ house, and I’ve become really good friends with Tiger.

“To think about my first visit 18 years ago, and what it’s meant to come here and play in this event, having now won it four times, it’s always been a place I come back to and reminisce about my career as it’s where everything really started,” he added.

The 2024 tournament saw thousands of spectators in attendance with unique moments being enjoyed on and off the greens with the addition of a new-look fan experience.

Several major international certifications also added to the tournament’s legacy for advancing the sport in the region, having become the first golf event in the Middle East and first DP World Tour Rolex Series to achieve Golf Environmental Organization-certified tournament status in recent years.

The 36th edition of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic is set to return in January with a strong line-up again expected to take to the Majlis course as part of the season-opening event on the DP World Tour Rolex Series calendar.

Simon Corkill, executive tournament director of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, said: “The historic 2024 edition which just concluded, drew huge crowds across the four days of the tournament.

“Our preparations have already begun to make next year’s event even bigger and better. We are determined to raise the bar even higher for 2025 by not only attracting a stellar field of golf stars but also to ensure there’s a wider range of entertainment and activities for all ages.”