Scheffler, DeChambeau and Homa share lead at windy Masters

Scheffler, DeChambeau and Homa share lead at windy Masters
Scottie Scheffler chips to the green on the 13th hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday in Augusta, Georgia. (AP)
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Updated 13 April 2024
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Scheffler, DeChambeau and Homa share lead at windy Masters

Scheffler, DeChambeau and Homa share lead at windy Masters
  • Blustery conditions played havoc with the world’s top golfers at Augusta National
  • 15-time major winner Tiger Woods grinded out a 23-hole walk to set a record by making his 24th consecutive Masters cut

AUGUSTA, Georgia: Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler shared the lead with fellow Americans Bryson DeChambeau and Max Homa after battling fierce winds in Friday’s second round of the 88th Masters.

Blustery conditions played havoc with the world’s top golfers at Augusta National, where 15-time major winner Tiger Woods grinded out a 23-hole walk to set a record by making his 24th consecutive Masters cut.

Scheffler, the 2022 Masters winner, fired a par 72 to stand on six-under 138 after 36 holes alongside Homa, who shot 71 in quest of his first major title, and DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open champion and round-one leader who shot 73.

“It was very difficult out there,” DeChambeau said of the brisk breeze. “It was a good challenge. I had to back off quite a few times. I’ve never experienced anything like this out here at Augusta National before.”

Scheffler had three birdies and three bogeys but was proud of seven back-nine pars while tree limbs danced while brutal winds gusted.

“Conditions were really tough out there,” he said. “Proud of how I fought and kept myself in the tournament. I was trying to make a bunch of pars to stay in the golf tournament. Proud of how I did that.”

PGA Tour star Scheffler and Saudi-backed LIV Golf’s DeChambeau, from opposite sides in golf’s civil war, were set for a weekend showdown on a major stage, the only avenue for such a clash in a divided era.

“It’s different, not being able to play most of the same events and seeing how successful he’s been out there,” DeChambeau said of Scheffler.

“He’s the best player in the world and it’s going to be a lot of fun competing and seeing what he can do compared to what the rest of the field can do, what I can do. I’m looking forward to it, I really am.”

Scheffler, who could join Woods as the only players to win the Masters twice while ranked world number one, plunked his approach into Rae’s Creek at the par-5 13th and made bogey to fall out of the solo lead.

Homa birdied two of the first four holes and made his lone bogey at 11.

“I struck the ball really well,” Homa said. “Most proud of our course management and just controlling thoughts and expectation.”

Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard, among 20 Masters newcomers trying for the first rookie win since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, closed with back-to-back bogeys to fire a 73 and stand fourth on 140.

Woods, meanwhile, had a second-round 72 to share 22nd on 145, breaking the old Masters cut streak record he shared with Gary Player and Fred Couples.

“(I’ll) text Freddy and give him a little needle,” Woods said.

Five-time Masters winner Woods had to play his last five holes of round one on Friday after storms delayed Thursday’s start.

“I’m tired,” he said. “I’ve been out for a while, competing, grinding. It has been a long 23 holes, a long day.”

Woods has struggled to walk rounds since suffering severe leg injuries in a 2021 car crash, but went to practice after his hefty walk.

“Just need some food and some caffeine, and I’ll be good to go,” Woods said.

Woods, whose only missed Masters cut was as an amateur in 1996, is in his first major since right ankle fusion surgery last April due to injuries from the accident.

Spain’s Jon Rahm, the 2023 Masters champion, struggled to a four-over 76 to stand on 149, one inside the cut line, and stretched the longest active streak of made cuts in majors to 18 events.

“Fighting it all day, never comfortable. I had to play really good golf and get lucky a couple of times with gusts. It was a bad day not to have it,” Rahm said. “I still made cut. Two rounds to make up 12 shots. It has been done.”

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, who needs a victory to complete a career grand slam, fired a 77 to stand on 148 despite a double bogey and three bogey.

“I still think I can go out tomorrow and shoot a low one, get back into red numbers, and have half a chance going into Sunday,” said the Northern Irishman.

Among 29 players missing the cut were fourth-ranked reigning US Open champion Wyndham Clark, Norway’s sixth-ranked Viktor Hovland and three-time major winner Jordan Spieth.


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.


Hyo-Joo Kim’s dazzling finish gives South Korean star Seoul lead

Hyo-Joo Kim’s dazzling finish gives South Korean star Seoul lead
Updated 10 May 2024
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Hyo-Joo Kim’s dazzling finish gives South Korean star Seoul lead

Hyo-Joo Kim’s dazzling finish gives South Korean star Seoul lead
  • World No.12 leads Aramco team Series-Korea after hole out eagle from 60 yards on penultimate hole
  • Team Gustavsson (-13) lead the way with a three-stroke lead at New Korea Country Club

SEOUL: The Hyo-Joo Kim fan club was treated to a clinic at the New Korea Country Club, as an eagle-birdie finish catapulted the world No. 12 to the top of the leaderboard at the Aramco Team Series presented by PIF–Korea.

The 2014 Evian Championship winner was trailed by her devoted fans across the undulating landscape of New Korea Country Club, with the climax coming on the last two holes. A remarkable 60-yard eagle on the eighth hole, followed by a birdie on nine, propelled her to a four-under-par score, secured top spot at the close of play.

With the course proving tough for the field, Hyo-Joo Kim was able to use her knowledge of the course to her advantage, taking sole lead into the second day of the tournament, in her Aramco Team Series presented by PIF debut.

“I wish they had played the music a bit louder, but it was quite enjoyable,” said the leader of her debut. “Also, it was the first time playing with four people in a match. I’m working on the things that I wanted to improve this year and I feel like it’s getting better and better.”

Colombian Mariajo Uribe posted an impressive early score, with an opening round of three-under-par keeping her hot on the heels of Hyo-Joo Kim.

Uribe, who won her first LET event in Australia in March, is looking to make the most of her final year on tour before retiring after the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s a tough course, so it’s good to be taking advantage of those opportunities, and we’re happy to be close to the (top of the) leaderboard,” said Uribe.

“This is my last year traveling the world, so I’m taking advantage of it. My sister-in-law came with me, so we’ve been buying a lot of Korean skincare products and just going around eating my favorite foods, like Korean barbecue.”

On the team side of the event, Team Gustavsson stormed into an early lead, with a score of 13-under-par placing them atop the leaderboard at the close of play. Made up of Johanna Gustavsson, Laura Beveridge, Gemma Clews and amateur Jaeho Shin, the team sit in pole position to claim the team trophy on Saturday.

“I hit a lot of fairways,” said captain Gustavsson, who finished the day one-under-par. “I drove it very well, putted OK, but missed a few chances, so hopefully tomorrow there’s a chance to be even better.”

World No. 8 Charley Hull finished the day even par, after an up-and-down day recording four birdies and four bogeys, while LPGA star Danielle Kang struggled, recording a score of eight-over-par, with two double-bogeys on the front nine an unfortunate start.

It was a tough day of golf for the most part, with high scores on the leaderboard demonstrating the challenge that New Korea County Club will pose this weekend. 

Indeed, only 14 players finished the day on even par or lower. However, forecast rain for day two could improve scores, helping slow the action around the greens, and offering more birdie opportunities.


McIlroy on PGA subcommittee set for direct PIF merger talks

McIlroy on PGA subcommittee set for direct PIF merger talks
Updated 10 May 2024
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McIlroy on PGA subcommittee set for direct PIF merger talks

McIlroy on PGA subcommittee set for direct PIF merger talks
  • A framework agreement released last June has not been finalized, the board needing to approve such a move
  • McIlroy said that while he is not returning to the tour policy board, he was brought into the subcommittee to provide knowledge and perspective

WASHINGTON: Rory McIlroy revealed details on Thursday about a new PGA Tour subcommittee created to conduct direct talks with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) about finalizing a merger deal.

Players Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and McIlroy will be on a seven-person PGA Tour Policy Board transaction subcommittee created to sit across the table from the financial backers of LIV Golf and hammer out terms to unite the tours.

A framework agreement released last June has not been finalized, the board needing to approve such a move, and talks have stretched well beyond the initial deadline of last December.

“There’s a window of opportunity here,” McIlroy said. “I think that window closes ever so slightly every day that passes by, so I would say time is of the essence, absolutely.”

Others on the subcommittee would include PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and Fenway Sports Group boss John Henry, who led an investment group of US sports team owners that created a $1.5 billion for-profit entity PGA Tour Enterprises.

McIlroy said that while he is not returning to the tour policy board, he was brought into the subcommittee to provide knowledge and perspective.

“A different perspective, maybe more of an international perspective,” he said. “My insight is more the position of where the global game is and where it could go.”

McIlroy also has relationships on both sides of the table, including with PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan.

“I feel like I’ve got good relationships on both sides there and hopefully I can bring something to the table, try to provide some insight and value and see if we can get this thing done,” McIlroy said.

Woods, a 15-time major winner, was among those said to disagree with McIlroy about the future direction of the sport. McIlroy said that there is no strain on their relationship even though they don’t totally agree on a path forward.

“Friends can have disagreements or not see eye to eye on things. I think that’s fine,” McIlroy said. “We had a really good talk last Friday for 45 minutes just about a lot of different things. No, there’s no strain there.

“I think we might see the future of golf a little bit differently, but I don’t think that should place any strain on a relationship or on a friendship.”

McIlroy said the subcommittee has already had meetings to plan the way forward in negotiations.

“I’ve already had calls with that group. I had a really good hour and a half Zoom with those guys on Sunday. We went through a 150 page doc about the future product model and everything,” McIlroy said.

“Yeah, I’m not on the board, but I’m in some way involved in that transaction committee. I don’t have a vote so I don’t have, I guess, a meaningful say in what happens in the future, but I feel like I can be helpful on that committee, and that was sort of a compromise for not getting a board seat.”

McIlroy said the big issue about him returning to the board in place of Webb Simpson, who was leaving but now is staying, was regarding improper process, not his viewpoints.

When noting PGA-LIV potential deal stumbling points on Wednesday, McIlroy cited American players possibly not wanting to have greater worldwide travel for tournaments compared to mostly US-based events now and what punishment might be required for those who jumped from the PGA Tour to LIV while others declined them and stayed loyal to the established circuit.