Lydia Ko delivers big moment to win mixed team event with Jason Day

Lydia Ko delivers big moment to win mixed team event with Jason Day
Lydia Ko, left, and Jason Day celebrate with the championship trophy after winning the Grant Thornton Invitational, the first mixed-team golf tournament since 1999, Sunday in Naples, Fla. (AP)
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Updated 11 December 2023
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Lydia Ko delivers big moment to win mixed team event with Jason Day

Lydia Ko delivers big moment to win mixed team event with Jason Day
  • They closed with a 6-under 66 in modified fourballs to capture the first mixed-team event in 24 years
  • It was the first time the PGA Tour and LPGA had a mixed-team event since the JC Penney Classic in 1999, and players on both tours spoke endlessly about looking forward to the next one

NAPLES, Florida: Lydia Ko hit a fairway metal to 8 feet to set up the birdie she and Jason Day needed to win the Grant Thornton Invitational on Sunday. They closed with a 6-under 66 in modified fourballs to capture the first mixed-team event in 24 years.

Playing the par-5 17th hole, Ko and Day were tied with the Canadian duo of Corey Conners and Brooke Henderson, who had to settle for two closing pars and a 63.

The format allowed for both players to hit tee shots, then switch to the other player’s golf ball and finish out the hole. Day was in a bunker left of the green at the par-5 17th, no easy up-and-down. Ko had 208 into a slight wind and her fairway metal never left its target.

“That is so nice,” Day said as Ko’s shot was in the air. It landed near the hole and rolled out about 8 feet. Her eagle putt never had a chance, but the hard work was done. Both secured easy pars on the 18th to finish at 26-under 190.

“It’s weird because that felt like the most stress-free win, because I knew she was going to step up in the end,” Day said.

That she did, and it allowed Ko to cap off an otherwise poor year on a winning note. Ko was the Race to CME Globe champion on the LPGA Tour last year at Tiburon. This year, she failed to be among the top 60 who returned as she went winless — until Sunday.

It was the first time the PGA Tour and LPGA had a mixed-team event since the JC Penney Classic in 1999, and players on both tours spoke endlessly about looking forward to the next one.

Conners holed out from the fairway for eagle on the ninth hole and briefly took the lead until Day made a 15-foot birdie on the 12th. They stayed close the rest of the way.

“We both did a pretty good job of getting the ball in play off the tee,” Conners said. “There’s a few shots we’d both like to have back throughout the day. But we fought hard and gave ourselves a lot of chances.”

They failed to birdie the 17th when Henderson pulled her second shot well left of the green into a waste area, and Conners came up short of the green and couldn’t get up-and-down.

Ludvig Aberg, the sensational rookie to won on the PGA Tour and European tour and played in the Ryder Cup since turning pro in June, teamed with fellow Swede Madelene Sagstrom to post a 60 in the final round. They also briefly had the lead, but ran out of holes and finished third, two shots behind.

Tony Finau and Nelly Korda didn’t make birdie until the sixth hole. They closed with two birdies for a 67 and tied for fourth with Denny McCarthy and Megan Khang (65).


Saudis victorious at GCC Golf Championship in Doha

Saudis victorious at GCC Golf Championship in Doha
Updated 04 March 2024
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Saudis victorious at GCC Golf Championship in Doha

Saudis victorious at GCC Golf Championship in Doha
  • Khalid Attiya took top prize in individual competition while the team event saw Kingdom’s golfers awarded gold
  • Prince Khalid bin Saud: Our team’s prowess and dedication were evident throughout the championship, culminating in a well-deserved victory

DOHA: Saudi golfers have emerged triumphant at the Gulf Cooperation Council Golf Championship, claiming gold in both the team and individual categories.

The 26th edition of the tournament for adults — held alongside the 15th edition for youth — was hosted at the Doha Club in the Qatari capital and saw five teams from the GCC take part.

The individual gold medal went to Khalid Attiya, who clinched victory after a showdown with Qatari contender Saleh Al-Kaabi on the tournament’s final day.

The Saudi’s four rounds yielded 297 strokes, for an impressive nine-under winning total.

Meanwhile, the Saudi team maintained a commanding lead throughout the championship to secure the top position in the adults category.

Noah Alireza, CEO of Golf Saudi, praised the Saudi team’s achievement, highlighting their consistent excellence throughout the championship.

“At Golf Saudi, our unwavering dedication is to foster players’ success,” Alireza said, highlighting the significance of the the championship as a platform for players to hone their skills against the best of the GCC.

Prince Khalid bin Saud, a prominent player, commended the Saudi team’s performance, attributing their success to the invaluable support of the Saudi Golf Federation.

“Our team’s prowess and dedication were evident throughout the championship, culminating in a well-deserved victory,” he said.

Following his victory, Attiya expressed his gratitude for the unwavering support of the Saudi Golf Federation, which enabled him and the team to emerge victorious.

“The Saudi team’s strong presence and performance were instrumental in securing our place atop the podium,” he said.


Joaquin Niemann crowned LIV Golf Jeddah champion

Joaquin Niemann crowned LIV Golf Jeddah champion
Updated 03 March 2024
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Joaquin Niemann crowned LIV Golf Jeddah champion

Joaquin Niemann crowned LIV Golf Jeddah champion
  • Crushers GC team to beat after stunning performances at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club

JEDDAH: Joaquin Niemann once again proved he is the hottest golfer on the planet right now and Crushers GC showed they are the most dominant team in the LIV Golf League with stunning performances at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.

The Chilean golfer, captain of Torque GC, won the individual title by four shots with birdies on his last two holes. A four-under par 66 took him to 17-under par, four clear of Stingers captain Louis Oosthuizen (67) and his compatriot Charl Schwartzel (68).

Niemann’s win, his second of the season in three starts after LIV Golf Mayakoba, was remarkable, but it was the performance of the Bryson DeChambeau-led Crushers (-38) that became the talk of the golf course. They staged a magnificent charge on the final day, coming back from 11 shots behind and beating overnight leaders Stingers (-34) by four shots.

On a difficult, windy day, captain DeChambeau led from the front with the day’s lowest round of eight-under 62, which helped him finish fourth in the individual standings, while Charles Howell III contributed a 64 and Anirban Lahiri 65 (both tied sixth). They beat the previous record of the biggest comeback by a team in LIV history by four shots (4Aces in Adelaide last year).

Niemann now has three wins (Australian Open in December and two LIV wins), a third, a fourth, and a fifth position in his last six starts worldwide.

He started the final round two ahead and immediately increased that margin with a birdie on his opening hole. Thereafter, he continued to hit one good shot after another, with the only bogey of the day on the 13th hole, which also happened to be only his second bogey of the tournament. He closed with birdies on the 17th and 18th, which came after a huge drive of 410 yards.

The 25-year-old from Santiago, who has received a special invitational to play this year’s Masters and also qualified for the Open Championship following his win in Australia, said: “It feels amazing. It’s a super special moment. It’s always nice when you win, but I’m more proud of how I’m playing right now and the way I played out there today. It was a tough day. It was windy.

“I think this is the most confident I have ever felt on a golf course, the best I’ve ever played. I just want it to keep going in the same direction. There is a lot more to improve, and I think I just need to be curious about that and see how much I can learn.”

Niemann won $4 million and 40 points, which takes him to the top of the individual standings after three tournaments at 80 points.

Crushers were off to a solid start, but the real momentum boost was provided by DeChambeau, when he eagled the par-5 18th hole with a 20-feet putt, and then almost willed in a 15-feet birdie putt on his next hole to take his team level with Stingers. Howell and Lahiri kept adding birdies and it turned out to be a romp for the team.

On whether he thought a win was possible at the start of the day, DeChambeau said: “No, but I knew that our team is good enough to do it any day, especially with four scores counting. I can count on these guys to play really well.

“The top priority for us was to play our best, and it obviously showed today. Especially in these conditions, when it’s really windy, we do pretty well. We just hold our heads high.”

Lahiri said: “Bryson’s low round was the key. That was unbelievable golf. I was playing so well given the conditions that I thought I might be one of the lowest scores of the day, and if that gets beaten by two of my own teammates, it just shows how well we played as a team.”

Crushers are the reigning Team Championship winners and have moved to the top of the team standings. With a second place in Mayakoba, they now have 68 points, 18 ahead of second-placed Smash GC.


Red-hot Niemann takes second round lead at LIV Golf Jeddah

Red-hot Niemann takes second round lead at LIV Golf Jeddah
Updated 02 March 2024
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Red-hot Niemann takes second round lead at LIV Golf Jeddah

Red-hot Niemann takes second round lead at LIV Golf Jeddah
  • Chilean is 13 under par for the tournament, two shots ahead of South Africa’s former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel

JEDDAH: Joaquin Niemann says he has been a ‘slightly better’ golfer over the past few months. That seemingly small uptick in form is knocking the competition out of the park.

The red-hot Chilean, Captain of Torque GC, surged to a two-shot lead after the second round of the individual championship of LIV Golf Jeddah at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on Saturday, adding a bogey-free 64 to his opening 63 to finish with a 13-under-par score of 127. He was being chased by South Africa’s former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (66) at 11 under.

2010 Open Champion and Stingers Captain Louis Oosthuizen (66), another player in terrific form, was tied third at 10 under par alongside American Jason Kokrak, whose 62 was the lowest round of the day.

World No.3 Jon Rahm (69), the overnight leader and the highest-ranked player in the field, was among those tied for fourth place at 9 under.

American Anthony Kim, the most talked-about player in the field, making his comeback in professional golf after 12 years away, matched his first-round score of 76, finishing with 11 straight pars after going 6 over through the first seven holes.

Niemann began the round with seven straights pars before finishing with six birdies over the last 11 holes. It was another brilliant show from the 25-year-old from Santiago, who won the Australian Open in December and LIV Golf Mayakoba in February, finished fourth in the Hero Dubai Desert Classic and came third last week in the International Series Oman.

Asked what has changed in his game to trigger such a run of form, Niemann replied: “Me.”

He continued: “I think it was a little bit of everything. When I look back to last season, I wasn’t playing my best golf. Off the tee, iron shots, putting, my routines on the golf course, how I thought and how I prepared for tournaments…I think I am bit better in all of those.

“Obviously, I made a few changes in my swing and it’s been feeling a little bit better now. I’ve been able to hit all the trajectories I want to and that has given me the confidence to be aggressive off the tee. I am hitting that high draw (slight right-to-left flight) more often and it has helped me gain at least 20 yards on my usual low-cut shot that I had before.

Schwartzel, the 2012 Masters champion, had a nightmarish final round at the previous LIV event in Las Vegas, when he shot 10 over par in cold conditions and slipped to last in the field.

“I have the memory of a goldfish. I have no recollection of what happened in Vegas,” Schwartzel said when asked about the turnaround in his form. “Myself, Branden (Grace) and Dean (Burmester) all live (near each other) in the Palm Beach area, so we play a lot of golf together, and all of us have been playing pretty good golf. We didn’t do very good in Vegas. The weather was too cold for us. It’s a lot different here and we’re in much better spirits.”

Thanks to Schwartzel, Oosthuizen and Grace (65), the all-South African Stingers grabbed a seven-shot lead in the Team Championship with a 29-under-par total. The Rahm-led Legions XIII and Brooks Koepka’s Smash GC were tied for second at 22 under.


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.