Top-ranked Scheffler seizes three-stroke lead at Memorial

Top-ranked Scheffler seizes three-stroke lead at Memorial
Scottie Scheffler of the US plays his shot from the 12th tee during the second round of the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. (File/AFP)
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Updated 08 June 2024
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Top-ranked Scheffler seizes three-stroke lead at Memorial

Top-ranked Scheffler seizes three-stroke lead at Memorial
  • Cheffler has four triumphs and two runner-up efforts in his past seven starts
  • Defending champion Viktor Hovland of Norway fired his second 69 to share second with Canada’s Adam Hadwin

DUBLIN, Ohio: World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler grinded through brisk winds to fire a 4-under 68 and grab a three-stroke lead after Friday’s second round of the PGA Memorial tournament.

The two-time Masters champion, seeking his fifth victory of the year, stood on 9-under 135 after 36 holes at the Jack Nicklaus-hosted event in Muirfield Village.

“You’ve got to play it fairly conservative out here, just with how much trouble there is around the golf course. There’s a lot of hazards and you’ve got the heavy rough,” Scheffler said.

“Can be really tough to judge the wind. I’m just trying to do my best to execute. Sometimes I get the wind right and hit the right shot. Other times, things don’t work out as well.

“We’ll see how the winds are this weekend. I think it’ll only get tougher.”

Defending champion Viktor Hovland of Norway fired his second 69 to share second with Canada’s Adam Hadwin, the 18-hole leader who settled for a 72 to finish on 128.

“Some nice gusts there,” Hovland said. “And some steady winds makes it even more difficult. So did a good job of just hitting a bunch of fairways, but even then, there’s a lot of thinking and guessing going into the greens.

“It’s just hard to get it close to the hole, but I managed to do that somehow.”

South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout and American Keegan Bradley shared fourth on 139 with Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg on 140.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy was on 141 with Americans Tony Finau, Akshay Bhatia and second-ranked Xander Schauffele.

Scheffler has four triumphs and two runner-up efforts in his past seven starts and appeared poised for another top-two finish in the final tuneup for next week’s US Open.

The 27-year-old American seeks his 10th career PGA Tour title.

Scheffler dropped his approach to eight feet and sank the birdie putt at the third hole to match Hadwin for the lead, then moved ahead with a birdie putt from just inside eight feet at the par-5 fifth to reach 7-under.

Scheffler made another birdie putt from just inside six feet at the ninth to reach the turn ahead by two.

At 10, Scheffler missed the green with his approach but sank a putt from just beyond 15 feet to save par. At the par-5 11th he found the left rough and a greenside bunker then missed a par putt from just inside 10 feet.

Scheffler found the left rough off the 13th tee and missed an 11 foot par putt, dropping him back into a share of the lead with Hadwin.

“That’s a bad miss there,” Scheffler said. “Unfortunate series of events but still felt like I was hitting it really well.”

Scheffler righted his round, however, at the par-5 15th, when he reached the green in two and sank an eagle putt from just inside nine feet to restore his two-stroke edge.

“It was nice to get one in close on 15 and make a putt,” Scheffler said.

At 18, Scheffler sent his tee shot into a fairway bunker, landed his approach just inside 12 feet, then curled in a birdie putt.

“Got a good break,” Scheffler said. “Ended up in the bunker instead of the rough and was able to get up there on the green and hole another nice putt.”

Hovland birdied three of the last six holes, a tap-in at the last matching him with Hadwin, who took a double bogey at 17 after finding fairway and greenside bunkers.

Schauffele, coming of his first major win at the PGA Championship last month, shot 73 but hit his most spectacular shot at 14. He soared way right of the cart path, then over the green into a bunker, but blasted in for birdie from 28 feet.

Jackson Koivun, a 19-year-old US collegian, became the first amateur since 2009 to make the Memorial cut, doing so on the number at 148 despite a 76.

“It’s awesome,” Koivun said. “Today is probably the hardest golf conditions and course I ever played.”


Davis Thompson takes 2-shot lead into the final round of the low-scoring John Deere Classic

 Davis Thompson takes 2-shot lead into the final round of the low-scoring John Deere Classic
Updated 07 July 2024
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Davis Thompson takes 2-shot lead into the final round of the low-scoring John Deere Classic

 Davis Thompson takes 2-shot lead into the final round of the low-scoring John Deere Classic
  • Thompson: Everybody is hungry. That’s what makes it difficult out here
  • The final round will be in threesomes off both tees for a slightly later start Sunday with hopes of avoiding storms that already have made the course vulnerable

SILVIS, Illinois: Davis Thompson made birdie on half of his holes Saturday on a soft and defenseless TPC Deere Run, matching his career low with a 9-under 62 for a two-shot lead going into the final round of the John Deere Classic.

Thompson made birdie even after his one bad swing, escaping from the trees on the par-5 17th and then hitting wedge from a bad angle over a knob of rough to 8 feet.

He was at 21-under 192, his first time with the 54-hole lead in his second year on the PGA Tour.

That doesn’t feel like much of a lead this week.

“The guys behind me are playing really well,” Thompson said. “I know it’s going to be tough to finish off a golf tournament, but I’ve done it before. I just have to stay present-minded.”

His lone win was on the Korn Ferry Tour two years ago.

Eric Cole hit 3-wood from 274 yards to just inside 15 feet for eagle on the 17th that carried him to a 64 and into the final group. He was two shots behind. Joining them will be Aaron Rai of England, in the final group for the second straight week after a 66.

The final round will be in threesomes off both tees for a slightly later start Sunday with hopes of avoiding storms that already have made the course vulnerable to low scoring.

Jordan Spieth played early and at one point was tied for the lead — the leaders had not even reached the practice range at that point — and wound up with a 63. By the end of the day, he made up only one stroke on the lead. Spieth was seven shots behind in a tie for 12th.

“It would take something extremely flawless to have a chance,” Spieth said. “But I’ll try and do what I did today.”

Hayden Spring finally shot a round in the 60s — he opened with a course record-tying 59 and fell back with a 71 on Friday — and his 66 put him four shots behind at 17-under 196 along with C.T. Pan, who had a 68.

Still in the mix were a pair of youngsters — one still in college, one just out. Michael Thorbjornsen, who has a card as the No. 1 player in the PGA Tour University ranking after his senior year at Stanford, had a 66. Florida State sophomore Luke Clanton had a 67. They were among those five shots off the lead.

Clanton made the cut in the US Open, and then tied for 10th last week in the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He’s trying to become the first amateur since 1958 to finish in the top 10 on the PGA Tour in consecutive weeks.

Clanton looks so comfortable that he even agreed to do a walk-and-talk with the CBS booth while playing on the back nine.

“It’s crazy, I can’t even really fathom what’s happening right now, honestly,” Clanton said. “I’m still a 20-year-old kid in college just having fun. Doing that stuff is unreal.”

Thompson got into the mix quickly by making a 25-foot birdie putt on the first hole and getting up-and-down from the bunker for a birdie on the par-5 second. He also holed out from a bunker for birdie on the fifth and then got a break on the sixth when his drive hit a tree and kicked out to the fairway, setting up wedge to close range for birdie.

“I guess it was just my day today,” Thompson said. “Hit a lot of good shots on the back nine and finished the round off well.”

He surged into the lead with three straight birdies on the back nine — a tee shot to a foot on the par-3 12th hole, a 15-foot birdie putt on the 13th and then driving into a bunker on the reachable par-4 14th and blasting out to a foot.

Now comes the hard part — going for his first PGA Tour win, seven players within five shots of the lead on a course that is giving up low scores to just about everyone.

“Everybody is hungry. That’s what makes it difficult out here,” Thompson said. “There is a lot of losers every week out here. You can have great weeks and finish top 10. At the end of the day your goal is to win the golf tournament.

“Yeah, it’s frustrating at times, but at the end of the day this is what you work for, to put yourself in these positions.”


Aaron Rai and C.T. Pan share John Deere Classic lead

Aaron Rai and C.T. Pan share John Deere Classic lead
Updated 06 July 2024
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Aaron Rai and C.T. Pan share John Deere Classic lead

Aaron Rai and C.T. Pan share John Deere Classic lead
  • Pan holed a 100-foot chip for eagle on the reachable par-4 14th and also kept bogeys off his card for a 63
  • Pan and Rai were at 14-under 128

SILVIS: Aaron Rai of England went from a close call last week in Detroit to another chance at his first PGA Tour victory, playing another bogey-free round of 8-under 63 on Friday to share the lead with C.T. Pan going into the weekend at the John Deere Classic.

Still in the mix is Hayden Springer, who began the tournament with a 59. Springer had 12 birdies and two eagles in his first 29 holes before he began to sputter, missing a 3-foot par putt and taking a double bogey late in his round as light rain fell at the TPC Deere Run.

He had to settle for a 71 and and was among six players within two shots of the lead.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Springer said. “It was a little windier today, probably played a little tougher. I kind of hit some bumps on the back nine, but more just mental errors and not making those short putts than anything else.”

Pan holed a 100-foot chip for eagle on the reachable par-4 14th and also kept bogeys off his card for a 63.

Pan and Rai were at 14-under 128.

Rai shared the 54-hole lead in the Rocket Mortgage Classic last week and wound up one shot behind Cam Davis.

“Been playing well tee-to-green for large parts of this season. That’s kind of continued over the last few weeks,” Rai said. “And then a couple of weeks ago I spent quite a while on the green. My dad gave me a couple tips. Started working with John Graham last week, as well, a putting coach who is based out here.

“Putting all that together has definitely translated to on the course.”

Rai wasn’t the only player using some momentum from last week. Florida State sophomore Luke Clanton extended his amazing summer run with a 67 that left him at 12-under 130.

He drove the green on the 348-yard 14th hole to 15 feet for eagle. Perhaps more impressive was the way he rebounded from a double bogey on the par-4 sixth toward the end of his round with two straight birdies.

“We hadn’t really made a mistake all week, and made one tiny mistake and made double,” Clanton said. “I knew it was all right. Going to make birdie-birdie no matter that. I knew after I got that double, I said to myself, ‘We ain’t finishing at 10 under. We’re going to finish at 12.’”

He hit his tee shot on the 202-yard seventh hole to just inside 10 feet for birdie, and then made another 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 eighth to make good on his belief.

Harry Hall (66) was at 13 under, while joining Springer and Clanton at 12 under were Eric Cole (68), Davis Thompson (67) and Denny McCarthy (66).

Another shot back was a player fresh out of college — Michael Thorbjornsen, the Massachusetts native who played at Stanford and finished No. 1 in the PGA Tour University ranking to get a full PGA Tour card for the rest of this year and all of 2025.

Thorbjornsen started his round with four straight birdies and wound up with a 64.

Two-time Deere winner Jordan Spieth at least made it to the weekend. Playing the tournament for the first time since he won it nine years ago, Spieth hit a pair of wild shots that led to bogey and put him outside the cut line until he rallied with a pair of birdies.

He missed a 4-foot birdie chance on his final hole and had to settle for a 67, making the cut with a shot to spare. But he was still eight shots behind and not particularly optimistic, mainly because of a 69 on Thursday morning in the easiest conditions.

“We had yesterday morning with no wind and a chance — ball in hand — to really take advantage,” Spieth said. “I had 18 holes of a couple under yesterday, and unless you’re absolutely perfect from there, there is not much of a chance of winning. That doesn’t mean you don’t go out and try and shoot 10 under the next day.”


Hayden Springer posts 14th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history with his eagle-birdie finish for a 59

Hayden Springer posts 14th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history with his eagle-birdie finish for a 59
Updated 05 July 2024
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Hayden Springer posts 14th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history with his eagle-birdie finish for a 59

Hayden Springer posts 14th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history with his eagle-birdie finish for a 59
  • Springer became the fourth player on the PGA Tour with a 59 in the opening round
  • The PGA Tour record is a 58 by Jim Furyk at the Travelers Championship in 2016
  • Conditions were so conducive to scoring that 12 players from the morning wave were at 65 or lower

SILVIS, Illinois: Hayden Springer posted the 14th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history on Thursday, joining a rapidly expanding list with an eagle-birdie finish in the John Deere Classic for a 12-under 59.

All that got him was a two-shot lead over Sami Valimaki on a rain-softened TPC Deere Run so vulnerable to scoring that only 13 players in the 156-man field were over par.

Springer shot 27 on the front nine and tried to block out thoughts of a 59 or better. Then he made five straight pars and figured the chance had passed until he holed a 55-yard shot for eagle on the par-5 17th.

Needing a birdie for golf’s magic number, his approach caught the slope and left him 12 feet short, and the putt was true all the way.

“Kind of at a loss for words in terms of being able to do that,” Springer said. “I feel like that’s one of the rare things in golf, so to have that opportunity and pull it off, it feels pretty special.”

The PGA Tour record is a 58 by Jim Furyk at the Travelers Championship in 2016. Furyk also is among 13 players with a 59.

Any score that starts with a 5 remains special, although it is not quite as rare as it once was as players get better each year. Springer became the second player in three weeks to break 60. Cameron Young also had a 59 at the Travelers Championship.

On golf tours worldwide, it was the eighth sub-60 round. The lowest was a 57 by Cristobal del Solar of Chile in a Korn Ferry Tour event in Colombia.

Springer tied the record at the TPC Deere Run. Paul Goydos shot a 59 in the first round of the John Deere Classic in 2010. Goydos had only a one-shot lead that year — Steve Stricker shot 60 the same day and went on to win.

Valimaki, playing in the afternoon, noticed Springer’s 59 as he played the front nine.

“I think it was my seventh hole,” Valimaki said. “I was like, ‘OK, I need to keep shooting lower and lower.’ Didn’t catch it, but still a good round.”

Eric Cole had a 62, while the group at 63 included Florida State sophomore Luke Clanton, who tied for 10th last week in the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Lucas Glover, on the wrong side of the postseason bubble with five weeks to go before the FedEx Cup playoffs, shot 64.

Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the short grass.

Still, Springer had reason to believe early on this might be a special day. He holed a 12-foot eagle putt on the second hole and chipped in from 60 feet for birdie on the next one. He birdied the next three holes, and then closed out the front nine with birdie putts of 3 feet and 7 feet.

It was the birdie putt from 15 feet on the fringe on the sixth hole that got him thinking how low he could go.

“I was like, ‘OK, I feel like I’m not missing today. I’m pretty much holing any putt I look at,’” he said. “So probably that putt going in was kind of the trigger of, ‘OK, we might be able to go super low.’”

Springer had missed five straight cuts, putting him in danger of losing his card. He played a Korn Ferry Tour event during the week of the US Open — he tied for 54th — and spent time with his longtime swing coach before registering a tie for 10th last week in Detroit.

If that was progress, then this was a giant leap.

But then, Springer already knows about handling the toughest of times. His infant daughter, Sage, was diagnosed in 2021 with Trisomy 18 — also known as Edwards Syndrome — in which babies are born with three copies of chromosome 18 instead of two.

Such infants typically don’t make it 72 hours. Sage was 3 when she died on Nov. 13, just a month before Springer faced Q-school. He had enough emotional capacity left to get his PGA Tour card, and now he’s in the record book with a sub-60 round.

“I don’t know if it gives me inner strength, but definitely tests you and you kind of have to find ways to work through it and to continue to move forward,” Springer said. “Most of that is our faith for us, just leaning into that and knowing that we’re secure in that.

“We’ve had some challenging things happen,” he said. “But at the end of the day I also want to compete and I love doing that.”

Kevin Chappell was among those at 64. Conditions were so conducive to scoring that 12 players from the morning wave were at 65 or lower. Jordan Spieth was not among them. He had to scramble for a 69, and his first step Friday will be making the cut.

As for Springer, he became the fourth player on the PGA Tour with a 59 in the opening round. Justin Thomas (Sony Open in 2017) and Brandt Snedeker (Wyndham Championship in 2018) went on to win. The exception was Goydos at the John Deere Classic.


Siem takes Italian Open golf title in play-off

Siem takes Italian Open golf title in play-off
Updated 01 July 2024
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Siem takes Italian Open golf title in play-off

Siem takes Italian Open golf title in play-off

RAVENNA, Italy: German Marcel Siem claimed his sixth European Tour title with a play-off win at the Italian Open on Sunday.
Siem, 43, overcame a shaky back nine on his final round to hole a birdie putt on the 18th to tie him at 10-under with Northern Ireland’s Tom McKibbin, after having at one point held a three-shot lead over his closest competitor.
On the first play-off hole, McKibbin missed his birdie putt and Siem then made no mistake in sinking his as he claimed a win in just his fourth tournament back after hip surgery in February.
“I love this sport and these moments, I work really hard for them. When you get rewarded like this, it’s a very special moment,” said Siem.
“I think it’s the second oldest trophy on mainland Europe. So I’ve got the French Open and this one now, I’m so proud of that.”
However, the second-place finish does at least have a note of consolation for Northern Irishman McKibbin as it ensured his place at The Open Championship in July.


Bhatia grabs PGA Detroit lead with fabulous finish

Bhatia grabs PGA Detroit lead with fabulous finish
Updated 28 June 2024
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Bhatia grabs PGA Detroit lead with fabulous finish

Bhatia grabs PGA Detroit lead with fabulous finish
  • Bhatia: This tournament is always kind of a birdie-fest, so birdies and eagles help a lot
  • The 22-year-old American is seeking his third career PGA title and third within the past year

WASHINGTON: Akshay Bhatia made four birdies and an eagle in the last seven holes to seize a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the US PGA Tour Rocket Mortgage Classic.

The 22-year-old American fired a bogey-free 8-under par 64 at Detroit Golf Club to finish just ahead of countrymen Michael Kim and Taylor Montgomery for 18 holes.

“I’ve been playing pretty solid,” Bhatia said. “It’s nice to be in this position.

“Putted great. I missed one green today, so I got that up and down. All in all, I hit it pretty nice with the irons and I made some putts.”

A fourth-place pack on 66 included England’s Aaron Rai, Germany’s Matti Schmid and Americans Eric Cole, Will Zalatoris and defending champion Rickie Fowler.

Bhatia is seeking his third career PGA title and third within the past year, having won playoffs to capture last July’s Barracuda Championship and last April’s Texas Open.

After birdies at the second and par-5 fourth holes from 10 and 16 feet respectively, Bhatia began his late charge with a 10-foot birdie putt at 12 and a 16-footer at the par-5 14th.

Bhatia knocked in a birdie from just inside six feet at 16 then chipped in from 82 feet at the par-5 17th and sank a seven-foot birdie putt at 18.

“It’s always nice to finish like that,” Bhatia said. “This tournament is always kind of a birdie-fest, so birdies and eagles help a lot.

“These greens are pretty tricky, they have a lot of small slopes, but they’re soft so you can still be aggressive toward a couple of these pins.”

Montgomery, chasing his first PGA triumph, birdied six of the first nine holes and added a tap-in birdie at the par-5 17th in a bogey-free round.

Playing was a last-minute decision due to nagging shoulder injuries.

“I wasn’t expecting to play as solid as I did. I had no idea what I was getting into,” Montgomery said. “I probably played four times in the last two months. I haven’t been like grinding as hard as I could.

“I haven’t worked hard at all on my game because I haven’t been able to. Come out and shoot 7-under. What the hell? How is that possible? It’s so weird.”

Kim, a back-nine starter, closed his bogey-free round with three consecutive birdies, tap-ins at seven and nine, to seize his share of the lead.

“I felt better as the round went on,” Kim said. “Got off to a scrappy start, then I kind of got into the groove of things and was able to make some really nice putts for some birdies.”