Ancer clings on to win LIV Hong Kong in dramatic playoff

Ancer clings on to win LIV Hong Kong in dramatic playoff
‘I made that so hard on myself,’ Abraham Ancer said after holing a four-foot putt to win the $4 million first prize in the inaugural LIV Golf Hong Kong on Sunday. (AP)
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Updated 10 March 2024
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Ancer clings on to win LIV Hong Kong in dramatic playoff

Ancer clings on to win LIV Hong Kong in dramatic playoff
  • Mexican star blows a five-stroke lead before beating Cam Smith and Paul Casey with a brilliant birdie

HONG KONG: Abraham Ancer won the inaugural LIV Golf Hong Kong on Sunday, blowing a five-stroke lead before beating Cam Smith and Paul Casey with a brilliant birdie on the first playoff hole.

“I made that so hard on myself,” a relieved Ancer said after holing a 4-foot putt to win the $4 million first prize in the Saudi-backed event.

Ancer had started the day five clear of the pack on 15-under after bogey-free rounds of 63 on Friday and 62 on Saturday at the Hong Kong Golf Club.

But the Mexican saw his ultra-smooth swing of the first two days desert him in chilly and wet conditions on Sunday, as he returned a two-over 72 in front of big crowds, who turned out in force despite the deteriorating weather.

“The ball-striking wasn’t there, but mentally I was really strong, so I felt really good,” he said straight after the playoff, where he set up only his second birdie of the day with a superb approach.

“I just kept myself in it and hit the right shot at the right time there in the playoff.”

Englishman Casey holed a spectacular bunker shot for a birdie at his final hole, the 16th, to complete a six-under round of 64 and draw level with Ancer and Australia’s Smith (66) on 13-under par. But he found a fairway bunker off the tee in the playoff to end his hopes.

“I played some great golf,” said Casey, whose “Crushers” won the team competition and a $3 million first prize to go with his $1,875,000 for a share of second place.

“I’m not going to measure it on the playoff hole, on one tee shot, something like that. It was a really good week.”

For Smith, the 2022 British Open champion, it was the second agonizing disappointment on Hong Kong’s final green in four months.

In November, he saw New Zealand’s Ben Campbell hole a birdie on 18 to pip him to the Hong Kong Open title.

Earlier, Ancer stumbled to his first bogey of the week at the par-three fifth after finding sand off the tee.

Another bogey at the short eighth reduced his lead to two strokes, though he repaired some of the damage with his first birdie of the round on the par-four 10th.

A disastrous drive into a stream on the 15th dropped him back to 13-under and Smith swept home a 20-foot birdie putt to draw level.

US Masters champion Jon Rahm was LIV’s biggest coup when he defected from the PGA Tour in December.

Rahm briefly got into contention at 12-under before two bogeys at the 14th and 16th ended his challenge as he finished 10-under par after a frustrating 71.

Chile’s Joaquin Niemann won two of the previous LIV events this season, including last week in Saudi Arabia.

He sunk the week’s first hole-in-one, at the 188-yard eighth, in a brilliant round of 63 to finish tied for fourth with another Mexican, Carlos Ortiz (66).

Finland’s Kalle Samooja then aced the 149-yard second hole for the sixth LIV hole-in-one since the breakaway tour began in 2022.

Three-time PGA Tour winner Anthony Kim shot a final-round 65, his best round since making his first professional appearance since 2012 at last week’s LIV Golf event in Jeddah.

“I just kept doing what I’ve been working on the last two months,” he said. 

“Obviously being away from the game for so long, it’s been tough to practice and get all the things that I need to get prepared for the tournament, but I’m working on the right things at this moment.”


2024 LIV Golf Team Championship heads to Dallas

2024 LIV Golf Team Championship heads to Dallas
Updated 22 May 2024
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2024 LIV Golf Team Championship heads to Dallas

2024 LIV Golf Team Championship heads to Dallas
  • Fans throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex will welcome LIV Golf’s star-studded teams for the season finale
  • LIV Golf CEO: ‘Our LIV Golf players are looking forward to playing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with its great golf tradition’

LONDON, NEW YORK, WEST PALM BEACH: LIV Golf announced on Wednesday the details for the league’s 2024 Team Championship, scheduled to take place Sep. 20-22, 2024, at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas.
Fans throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex will welcome LIV Golf’s star-studded teams for the season finale, with the excitement of head-to-head competition featuring both match play and stroke play that will determine the 2024 LIV Golf League Team Champions.
“Our LIV Golf players are looking forward to playing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with its great golf tradition,” LIV Golf Commissioner and CEO Greg Norman said in a media statement.
“Texas is legendary for producing and hosting great golfers who set a high bar while competing for championships. Our LIV Golf Team Championship at Maridoe Golf Club will be a great experience for our players and all the fans in attendance,” added Norman.
“This year’s Team Championship at Maridoe Golf Club holds special significance for me as we make our Dallas debut and our team strives to defend our title in front of a home crowd,” said Bryson DeChambeau, Crushers GC captain.
“I’m excited to play this course and compete in front of Texas fans for our closing event and can’t wait to bring LIV Golf’s electrifying energy and fierce competition to Dallas,” DeChambeau added.
Meanwhile, Maridoe Golf Club founder Albert Huddleston, said: “Maridoe has been honored to previously host the Southern Amateur, Trans-Mississippi Amateur, East West Cup Matches, USGA Women’s Four-Ball Championship as well as two 2020 COVID tournaments won by Scottie Scheffler and Brandon Wu.”
Maridoe is designed to be an enjoyable but demanding member’s club, according to Huddleston, while always ready to provide a great test for elite golfers to entertain golf enthusiasts.
Maridoe Golf Club, located just 20 miles from downtown Dallas, was ranked by Golf Digest among the top three new private courses in 2018. Built on the site of the old Columbian Club and designed by Steve Smyers, the course is considered among the most difficult in the Metroplex, tipping out at 7,817 yards, and will be the host for LIV Golf’s 2024 finale — a three-day, survive-and-advance tournament featuring team match play and stroke play.
For the LIV Golf Team Championship, teams will be seeded 1-13 based on the final regular season team standings following the 13th event, LIV Golf Chicago, taking place Sep. 13-15 at Bolingbrook Golf Club. Adjustments to the Team Championship format have been implemented to enhance the competition across the three days at Maridoe.
In addition to hosting world-class competition, the LIV Golf Team Championship will feature live music entertainment and family-friendly fun for all ages. Fans can secure the ultimate tournament experience with LIV Golf’s renowned hospitality packages, each delivering an array of amenities.
Tickets for the Team Championship are on sale now at LIVGolf.com


Xander Schauffele scores major breakthrough, wins PGA Championship in a thriller at Valhalla

Xander Schauffele scores major breakthrough, wins PGA Championship in a thriller at Valhalla
Updated 20 May 2024
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Xander Schauffele scores major breakthrough, wins PGA Championship in a thriller at Valhalla

Xander Schauffele scores major breakthrough, wins PGA Championship in a thriller at Valhalla
  • Schauffele: I told myself this is my opportunity — capture it
  • Schauffele became the first player since Phil Mickelson in 2005 at Baltusrol to win the PGA Championship with a birdie on the last hole to win by one

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky: Xander Schauffele cashed in at just the right time Sunday, swirling in a 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the PGA Championship for his first major with the lowest score in major championship history.

The Olympic gold medalist got something even more valuable in silver — that enormous Wanamaker Trophy after a wild week at Valhalla.

Schauffele closed with a 6-under 65 to beat Bryson DeChambeau, entertaining to the very end with a 10-foot birdie of his own on the par-5 18th for a 64.

Schauffele became the first player since Phil Mickelson in 2005 at Baltusrol to win the PGA Championship with a birdie on the last hole to win by one. And this took all he had.

He already had mud on his golf ball on two key holes along the back nine that kept him from attacking the flag. His drive on the 17th bounced back into a bunker, forcing him to scramble for par and stay tied with DeChambeau, who had finished two groups ahead of him. And then his tee shot rolled just far enough toward the edge of a bunker to present another problem.

Schauffele had to stand with his feet in the sand, gripping well down on the 4-iron, aiming out to the right and hoping for the best. He drilled a beauty, some 35 yards short but with a good angle. He pitched to 6 feet and was never closer to finally winning a major.

“I told myself this is my opportunity — capture it,” Schauffele said.

The putt broke just enough left to catch the left edge of the cup and swirled around before disappearing. Schauffele, who exudes California chill, raised both arms above his head with the biggest smile before a hard hug with Austin Kaiser, his caddie and former teammate at San Diego State.

DeChambeau was on the range, staying loose for a potential playoff, watching Schauffele from a large video board. He saw the winning putt fall, and walked all the way back to the 18th to join in with so many other players wanting to congratulate the 30-year-old.

“I gave it my all. I put as much effort as I possibly could into it and I knew that my B game would be enough,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just clearly somebody played incredibly well. Xander’s well deserving of a major championship.”

Viktor Hovland, the FedEx Cup champion who wasn’t sure he even belonged at Valhalla while trying to work his way out of a slump, also had a 10-foot putt after DeChambeau hit his to tie for the lead. He missed the birdie, then missed a meaningless par putt and shot 66 to finish third.

Schauffele, who began this championship with a 62 to tie the major championship record, finished at 21-under 263 with that winning birdie. That beats by one shot the major record previously shared by Brooks Koepka in the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive and Henrik Stenson in the 2016 British Open at Royal Troon.

And so ended another memorable week at Valhalla.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, who arrived five days after the birth of his first child, was arrested and briefly jailed on Friday morning for not following directions of police investigating a fatal car crash involving a pedestrian an hour earlier.

He got out of jail and to the course in time to play the second round and shot 66. But it caught up with him on the weekend. Scheffler fell out of contention with a 73 on Saturday — his first round over par since last August. He closed with a 65 to tie for eighth.

Two players — Schauffele on Thursday and Shane Lowry on Saturday — tied the major record with a 62. Scoring records seemed to fall just about every day on a rain-softened course.

All that, and it came down to one putt that Schauffele will never forget.

“I really didn’t want to go into a playoff with Bryson,” he said.

In so many ways, this time was overdue. He had gone nearly two years since last winning at the Scottish Open. Schauffele had eight consecutive finishes in the top 20 at majors coming into Valhalla. He already had a pair of runner-up finishes and six top 5s.

And in the last two months alone, he lost 54-hole leads when he was chased down by Scheffler’s 64 at The Players Championship and by Rory McIlroy’s 65 last week at the Wells Fargo Championship.

The victory was his eighth on the PGA Tour — that doesn’t include his Olympic gold from the Tokyo Games in 2021. This one moves him to a career-best No. 2 in the world, still a long way from Scheffler but assuring Schauffele of qualifying for the US team in the Olympics.
 


Schauffele gets another major scoring record and sets the pace at PGA Championship

Schauffele gets another major scoring record and sets the pace at PGA Championship
Updated 17 May 2024
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Schauffele gets another major scoring record and sets the pace at PGA Championship

Schauffele gets another major scoring record and sets the pace at PGA Championship
  • The three-shot lead matches the 18-hole record held by Bobby Nichols in 1964 at Columbus (Ohio) Country Club and Raymond Floyd in 1982 at Southern Hills
  • cord 64 players broke par. The previous record for the first round of a PGA was 60 sub-par rounds in 2006 at Medinah, according to the Elias Sports Bureau

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky: Xander Schauffele is playing some of his best golf without a trophy to show for it. He at least put his name in the PGA Championship record book Thursday with a 9-under 62, and gave himself another entry in the record book for all majors.

Schauffele seized on the rain-softened conditions at Valhalla with a bogey-free 62, the lowest round in PGA Championship history, and matched the PGA record for largest margin after 18 holes with a three-shot lead over Tony Finau, Sahith Theegala and Mark Hubbard.

Schauffele, a 30-year-old who oozes California chill, kept this one in perspective.

“It’s just one day,” he said. “Very happy with how I played. I can’t think much more of it. I have to tee it up tomorrow.”

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler saw Schauffele’s score and cared only about putting together a good round in his first competition since his son was born last week.

That he did, holing out with a 9-iron from 167 yards on the first hole for eagle, the highlight in a round of 67. Scheffler failed to birdie the par 5s on the back nine and had a few other mistakes that sent him to the range after his round, but otherwise felt OK about it.

“I felt like there was a couple things I can clean up going into tomorrow, but overall today was a solid round,” Scheffler said after his 41st consecutive round at par or better.

This was an easy day to keep that streak going. A record 64 players broke par. The previous record for the first round of a PGA was 60 sub-par rounds in 2006 at Medinah, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Even players who stumbled from the start had ample opportunity to turn it around.

Jon Rahm opened with four bogeys in six holes, threw a club in disgust on the 16th hole and still managed a 70 by making four birdies down the stretch. Collin Morikawa was 2 over through five holes, but he responded with three straight birdies and finished with a 65.

Even so, this was a special round. Schauffele one-putted 12 times — two of them for par that he considered crucial to his round — and he didn’t go more than one hole without a birdie until the very end when he finished par-par for the record.

The three-shot lead matches the 18-hole record held by Bobby Nichols in 1964 at Columbus (Ohio) Country Club and Raymond Floyd in 1982 at Southern Hills. Both went on to win.

Schauffele had plenty of attention, playing alongside Louisville native Justin Thomas and in the group ahead of Tiger Woods, who was followed by Rory McIlroy. Thomas rallied late for a 69 that required some perspective of his own.

“When you’re playing with one of the easiest 9 unders you’ve ever seen, it makes you feel like you’re shooting a million,” Thomas said.

Finau closed with four pars for his 65. Theegala had 65 by finishing with three straight birdies. Hubbard had three birdies over his last four holes to join them late in the afternoon.

McIlroy, back on the course where he won his last major 10 years ago, ran off three birdies late in his round for a 66 that left him in a large group that included Morikawa and Tom Kim.

“You knew there were a lot of birdies out there,” Morikawa said. “It played soft and the greens were pretty slow.”

Defending champion Brooks Koepka played his final three holes in 3 under for a 67, while Jordan Spieth bogeyed his last hole for a 69 in his bid for the final leg of the Grand Slam.

There had been 17 scores of 63 at the PGA Championship, most recently Koepka in the opening round at Bethpage Black in 2019. The list includes Jose Maria Olazabal at Valhalla in 2000 during the third round.

Schauffele had to get up-and-down from behind the green on the par-3 eighth to a front pin, a chip of 60 feet that was right in the jar until stopping 2 feet short. His two-putt par from about 30 feet on the ninth hole gave him the PGA record.

That makes four rounds of 62 in all the majors, and Schauffele has two of them. He and Rickie Fowler shot 62 in the first round of the US Open last year at Los Angeles Country Club (par 70), while Branden Grace shot 62 in the third round at Royal Birkdale in the 2017 British Open.

And then he began the 24-hour wait before his next shot on Friday afternoon.

“The greens will be a little bit bumpier with a lot of foot traffic coming through. Who knows with the weather — it might rain — so the course might be playing completely different,” Schauffele said. “Just going to bed knowing I’m playing some pretty good golf, might just wipe the slate clean.”

Good golf, indeed. Just no trophy since the summer of 2022.

Schauffele had a one-shot lead last week in the Wells Fargo Championship and McIlroy zoomed by him on the back nine with a 65 to win by five. He also had a one-shot lead going into the final round at The Players Championship until Scheffler shot 64 to win by one.

“I’ve just been playing some really solid golf,” he said. “Been having close calls. My team and I, we just say let’s keep chugging along.”

This felt like a sprint from when he hit 6-iron to a pin back and left on the par-3 11th to 2 feet, followed by a 15-foot par save on the 12th, one of the few times he was out of position. Schauffele birdied three of the last four holes on the back nine for a 31, and then he ran off three birdies in a four-hole stretch — no putt longer than 10 feet — on the front nine.

It was the perfect recipe for scoring — the sun above, soft turf below, not much wind, and greens still relatively smooth.

“You for sure know there’s going to be some holes there for the taking,” Finau said. “You’re going to hit some good shots. You’re going to have a lot of looks. That’s what you saw out there today. ... I think you can go on a run here with the conditions.

“And it’s going to make for a fun week.”

It was frustrating for Woods, who holed enough putts and hit enough good shots that he was 1 under going to the final three holes. But he failed to take advantage of the par-5 seventh, and then he three-putted for bogey on his final two holes for a 72. That marked the eighth straight round in which he failed to break par in a major.

“That wasn’t the way I like to finish off a round,” Woods said. “Long way to go, and we’ll see what happens.”
 


Home heroics for South Korean Hyo-Joo Kim in Aramco Team Series

Home heroics for South Korean Hyo-Joo Kim in Aramco Team Series
Updated 12 May 2024
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Home heroics for South Korean Hyo-Joo Kim in Aramco Team Series

Home heroics for South Korean Hyo-Joo Kim in Aramco Team Series
  • 10-under-par total steers Hyo-Joo Kim clear of England’s Charley Hull at inaugural Aramco Team Series presented by PIF – Korea
  • Danielle Kang’s team claim Team trophy in early-morning session

SEOUL: Hyo-Joo Kim took advantage of an early-morning start to claim the maiden Aramco Team Series presented by PIF – Korea title on Sunday at New Korea Country Club in Seoul.

The South Korean LPGA star joined the Ladies European Tour event to tee up in Seoul in front of her devoted fans, and they were rewarded with a performance to remember.

Resuming the rest of her second round after rain stopped play, Kim was able to move to 6-under-par, setting up a blockbuster final grouping with Mariajo Uribe (-4) and Charley Hull (-3).

Despite a strong start from Hull, Kim was able to remain focused on the task in hand — stepping up a gear on the back nine, with birdies on 14, 16 and 17 putting her in the driving seat.

However, for large parts it was close, with just one stroke in it on the 10th hole — with LPGA stars Hull and Kim showing their class before Kim’s final-round 4-under meant she finished three strokes clear of her rival.

“Playing alongside Charley certainly brought out my competitive edge,” said the South Korean.

“When there are so many birdies in a group, it elevates everyone’s competitive spirit, and I think it worked pretty well for me. Thanks to Charley, I was able to focus even more.

“I’m really happy to have won. It was my first victory at an LET tournament, and it feels special to now have a winning record on each tour.

“I’m now going to have a two-day party here in Korea before I get back to practice.”

It was not to be on the day for Hull who, despite her final round of 4-under-par, came up just short.

But for Hull, who recorded a string of five birdies in seven holes on the front nine, there were plenty of positives to take as she bids for her first win since 2022.

She said: “It’s a tricky course, and the greens are tough, and there’s not many positions you can put the pins in — they slope so you have to hit it in the right sides.

“But I played really well today and I’m really happy with the round. Hyo-Joo kind of ran away with it in the end, and she holed some great putts for birdie. I’m happy with the week overall, but it’s hard when you don’t win and you’re second again.”

The early-morning session also saw the exciting conclusion of the team event, as Team Uribe were unable to catch Team Kang, who took the title with a score of 23-under-par.

Danielle Kang later heaped praise on the team format, with the win ensuring her visit to Korea was a memorable one.

She said: “Golf is often seen as an individual sport, so playing as a team was refreshing.

“The support from teammates makes a big difference, especially mentally. Personally, I prefer the team format as it motivates me to perform better for the team rather than just myself. It feels more fulfilling than winning alone.”

The Aramco Team Series presented by PIF will next head to London on July 3-5, with a strong field set to be announced soon.


Xander Schauffele shoots 67, leads by 4 over Rory McIlroy, Jason Day at Wells Fargo Championship

Xander Schauffele shoots 67, leads by 4 over Rory McIlroy, Jason Day at Wells Fargo Championship
Updated 11 May 2024
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Xander Schauffele shoots 67, leads by 4 over Rory McIlroy, Jason Day at Wells Fargo Championship

Xander Schauffele shoots 67, leads by 4 over Rory McIlroy, Jason Day at Wells Fargo Championship
  • The 30-year-old Schauffele has seven top 10 finishes this season, but no wins
  • McIlroy is the only three-time winner of the event, and said the course simply suits his game well

CHARLOTTE, N.C.: Xander Schauffele has been a mainstay near the top of the leaderboard most of the year. Now he’s hoping to close the door.

Schauffele shot a 4-under 67 on Friday after opening with a 64, leaving him at 11-under 131 and four shots ahead of Rory McIlroy and Jason Day heading into the weekend at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Taylor Moore and Sungjae Im were five strokes back at 6 under.

The 30-year-old Schauffele has seven top 10 finishes this season, but no wins. He’s looking to snap a winless streak that dates to July 2022 at the Genesis Scottish Open.

“I’ve had a few knocks on the door and I just tell myself to keep knocking,” Schauffele said.

Schauffele said the drought is something he’s always thinking about, but added that the toughest part is just to stay in the present.

“You just have to recognize the situation you are in, and realize that you are playing some good golf and just get out of your own way at times,” Schauffele said.

Schauffele’s was locked in most of the day.

He hit 15 greens and his only hiccup came when he made bogey on the 18th hole while he was trying to rush to finish his round and beat a storm that would suspend play for about an hour. Play eventually did resume, but Schauffele feared he would have to get up early to play a shot or two and then wait several hours to play his third round on Saturday.

“It’s stupid to say, but I’d rather take the 5 at this point after hitting such a bad chip versus waking up super early and having to reset your day,” Schauffele said. “It’s all good.”

McIlroy entered the day three shots behind Schauffele, but managed to lose ground despite not making a bogey. McIlroy finished with a 68. He had several opportunities to put the pressure on Schauffele, but missed a few makeable putts.

Still, the star from Northern Ireland walked away feeling good about his play.

“Felt like I probably could have squeezed a couple more out of the round, but anytime you can go around this golf course bogey free it’s always going to be a decent day,” said McIlroy, who teamed with Shane Lowry to win the Zurich Classic two weeks ago.

The world’s No. 2-ranked player has had some spectacular weekend performances before at Quail Hollow, including a club-record 61 in 2015. He closed with a 62 in 2010 to win his first PGA Tour title.

He said he will lean on those as he sets his sights on catching Schauffele.

“Anytime you’re playing a golf course where you’ve shot some really low scores, you know that it’s out there,” McIlroy said. “The golf course is playing a lot differently this week than it played in 2010 and 2015, but I know if I get it going around here I can make some birdies and chase him down.”

McIlroy is the only three-time winner of the event, and said the course simply suits his game well because it allows him to take advantage of his distance off the tee.

“I’ve had so many good memories here, I just feel positive vibes,” McIlroy said. “I feel good about myself when I’m walking around here.”

Day also had a 67. The Australian has struggled of late, with only one top-25 finish in his last six events.

“I’ve had a run over the last month and a half, two months where it’s just been kind of poor play, poor hitting,” Day said. “I’ve been losing a ton of strokes to the field approach to green, not necessarily on the driver. It’s weird, it’s kind of strange to drive it decently well and to hit it poor coming into the greens.”

Max Homa, the only player other than McIlroy with multiple wins at the Wells Fargo Championship, was eight shots behind after a 70. Justin Thomas also was 3 under after a 71.