McIlroy, Scheffler qualify for Paris Olympics

McIlroy, Scheffler qualify for Paris Olympics
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland (R), and Scottie Scheffler of the US have qualified for the Paris Olympics after qualifying period for the event ended at the conclusion of the US Open at Pinehurst at the weekend. (AFP/File)
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Updated 19 June 2024
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McIlroy, Scheffler qualify for Paris Olympics

McIlroy, Scheffler qualify for Paris Olympics
  • The qualifying period for the event came to an end after the US Open at Pinehurst at the weekend
  • The top 15 players in the world rankings qualify for the Games, up to a maximum of four golfers from a single country

LONDON: Rory McIlroy is set to play at the Paris Olympics alongside world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler after taking a break from golf following his dramatic late collapse at the US Open.

The qualifying period for the event came to an end after the US Open at Pinehurst at the weekend, when McIlroy finished as runner-up to US star Bryson DeChambeau after squandering a two-shot lead with five holes to play.

The final men’s Olympic Golf Ranking, published on Tuesday, features 60 qualifiers representing 32 different countries.

The top 15 players in the world rankings qualify for the Games, up to a maximum of four golfers from a single country.

Below the top 15, players qualify based on their world ranking, with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top 15.

The host country, France, was guaranteed at least one spot, as was each of the five continents of the Olympic movement.

McIlroy, second in the world rankings, is set to represent Ireland at the former Ryder Cup venue, Le Golf National, from Aug. 1 to Aug. 4, alongside former British Open champion Shane Lowry.

Scheffler, defending champion Xander Schauffele, Wyndham Clark and Collin Morikawa have qualified to represent the USA.

Former US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood have qualified for Britain, with two-time major winner Jon Rahm and David Puig set to represent Spain.

Each National Olympic Committee will have until June 27 to officially confirm their athletes to the International Golf Federation.

Northern Irishman McIlroy, a four-time Major winner, said Monday he plans to take time off after one of the “toughest” days of his professional career at Pinehurst.

The 35-year-old said his next event would be the Scottish Open starting on July 11, the warmup for the British Open at Royal Troon.

The 60-strong women’s field for their tournament, starting on Aug. 7, will be announced after the June 24 qualification cut-off date.

Both the men’s and women’s events are 72-hole individual stroke play events.


England’s Brown birdies last to lead The Open

England’s Brown birdies last to lead The Open
Updated 19 July 2024
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England’s Brown birdies last to lead The Open

England’s Brown birdies last to lead The Open
  • Brown leads by one in his very first appearance at The Open Championship
  • Lowry made the most of the calm late afternoon conditions with three birdies in five holes around the turn to shoot 66 and lie solo second

TROON, United Kingdom: Daniel Brown drained an eight-footer on the 18th for a closing birdie that saw him sign for a round of 65 and a one-shot solo lead of the Open Championship in his very first appearance.

Shane Lowry had shot to the top of the leaderboard at five under par as Rory McIlroy was among the big names to struggle on day one of the 152nd Open at Royal Troon.
McIlroy posted a seven over par round of 78 with his hopes of ending a 10-year wait to win a major floundering as most of the field struggled in the wet and windy conditions on Scotland’s west coast.
Lowry, who won his sole major at The Open five years ago, made the most of the calm late afternoon conditions with three birdies in five holes around the turn to shoot 66 and lie solo second.
Two-time major winner Justin Thomas is lurking at three under, while recently crowned USPGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele is among a group of five on two under that also includes Justin Rose.
World number one Scottie Scheffler cut a frustrated figure on the greens but is still in the mix after a one under round that featured four birdies and three bogeys.
McIlroy was aiming to get over his heartbreak at the US Open last month, where he missed two short putts to blow the lead as Bryson DeChambeau claimed his second major by one shot.
However, the Northern Irishman’s round, and probably championship, was blown off course at the postage stamp 120-yard eighth.
McIlroy was unfortunate as his near-perfect tee shot slipped off the green into a bunker, which he took two attempts to get out of, to post a double bogey five.
Another double bogey followed at the 11th, while he also dropped shots at the 10th, 15th and 18th.
“All I need to focus on is tomorrow and try to make the cut,” said McIlroy.
“I need to go out there and play better and try to shoot something under par and at least be here for the weekend, if not try to put myself up the leaderboard a bit more and feel like I have half a chance.”

DeChambeau had been the form player in the majors so far this year, despite his defection to the breakaway LIV Tour.
The American finished sixth at the Masters and runner-up in the USPGA Championship before claiming his second US Open.
However, his struggles with the windy conditions of links golf continued as he was six over par for his opening nine holes.
DeChambeau battled back on the back nine as an eagle on the 17th helped him to a 76.
“I’m just proud of the way I persevered today,” said DeChambeau.
“I could have thrown in the towel after nine and could have been like, ‘I’m going home’. But no, I’ve got a chance tomorrow. I’m excited for the challenge.”
Thomas recovered from his own double bogey at the 12th to post a 68, which was 14 shots better than his opening round at Royal Liverpool 12 months ago.
“I played really solid, got it around. I felt like I had great control of the ball,” said Thomas.
World number three Schauffele continued his fine form in recent months as he dropped just one shot to put himself among the chasing pack.
Five-time major champion Brooks Koepka defied the worst of the weather to post four consecutive bridies between the fourth and the seventh before dropping back to one under.
Tiger Woods had hit back at suggestions from former European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie that he should retire, but the 15-time major champion failed to prove he can still be competitive with a 79.
“I didn’t do a whole lot of things right today,” said Woods. “I had three 3-putts today. I didn’t hit my irons very close, and I didn’t give myself a whole lot of looks today.”
Cameron Smith, champion at St. Andrews two years ago, fared even worse with an 80.
World number four Ludvig Aberg was another of the big names to falter in his first ever round at The Open with a four-over round of 75.
The Swede’s playing partner Jon Rahm is two over, while home favorite Bob McIntire is in the running after a one-over 72 to back up his victory at last week’s Scottish Open.


Jon Rahm hoping to ride Spanish momentum to end drought

Jon Rahm hoping to ride Spanish momentum to end drought
Updated 17 July 2024
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Jon Rahm hoping to ride Spanish momentum to end drought

Jon Rahm hoping to ride Spanish momentum to end drought
  • The major championship season ends with the British Open, and Rahm has been a no-show
  • Rahm hopes he sorted out some issues with his driver by getting a new shaft, which he says has allowed him to swing a little more freely

TROON, Scotland: Jon Rahm felt like one of the most popular players when he arrived at Royal Troon, even if it had nothing to do with him or with his golf.

Spain is on quite the run at the moment. Carlos Alcaraz won Wimbledon on Sunday for his second Grand Slam title of the year, right before Spain defeated England in the European Championship final. It’s the latter that made the Scottish fans celebrate the Spaniard.

No one in these parts likes to see England win anything.

“Played all 18 holes, and I think I got more congratulations for something that I didn’t do than I ever have in my life,” Rahm said Tuesday. “I don’t know what they’ve done, but anytime anybody plays against the English national team, every other country in Europe just unifies against them.

“I think because we’ve heard ‘It’s Coming Home’ so many times the last few years that nobody wants to see it come home at this point.”

Throw in Sergio Garcia winning his first LIV Golf event at Valderrama, and Rahm would like nothing more than to extend Spain’s run of winners.

Mostly, he needs it for himself.

The major championship season ends with the British Open, and Rahm has been a no-show. He was the reigning Masters champion when he left for LIV Golf last December and he still hasn’t won. His last victory was the Masters some 15 months ago.

He barely made the cut at the Masters. He missed the cut at the PGA Championship. And he didn’t even get to play the US Open because of a foot infection.

“Last year from the Masters on I didn’t really play my best,” Rahm said. “Ryder Cup was the only resemblance to maybe the early part of the year. But Nashville and last week (LIV events), I felt closer to getting to a higher level of golf where maybe there isn’t as many thoughts on my process. Maybe I’m playing a little bit more freely and seeing the ball flight that I want to see more often.

“I’m getting much closer to what it might have been early last year.”

The foot infection, right before the US Open, summed up the frustrating year. Rahm was hopeful of playing Pinehurst No. 2 until seeking a specialist, who numbed his foot and thrust a swab into the infection to clean it out.

“Pretty much when I saw that go in I said, ‘OK, I’m not playing the Open,’” Rahm said. “Once I accepted the fact I couldn’t play, I think it was quite enjoyable. I think, as much as any other, I kind of enjoyed watching some of the best players in the world struggle.”

He can relate to a struggle these days, particularly in the majors.

Rahm hopes he sorted out some issues with his driver by getting a new shaft, which he says has allowed him to swing a little more freely. It was at Valhalla for the PGA Championship that he realized he needed a change.

The foot injury was a setback, but he contended at his next LIV event and then tied for 10th at Valderrama last week. He has top 10s in every LIV event he has played except for Houston, when he withdrew because of the foot injury.

Then again, LIV has the same 54 players every week, and only the top half would be considered among the elite in the game. Going the year without a win can be frustrating, much less the last 15 months.

Now it’s down to Royal Troon, a course that typically plays easy on the way out and turns into a beast — and into the wind — on the way back in.

Rahm had planned to only play nine holes on Monday, but the weather was probably as glorious as it’s going to be all week and he wanted to enjoy it. Wind or calm, rain or shine, it’s avoiding the pot bunkers and the gorse bushes that are key to this British Open.

And after this week, golf gets a little hazy. He still has a LIV calendar to finish out, but Rahm said his wife’s pregnancy with their third child is not going well and she is on bed rest. He doesn’t know if he will be able to play the Spanish Open this fall.

And it won’t be until next April that Rahm gets a chance to compete against the likes of Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele. The best players now only come together four times a year in the majors.

“It’s the decision I’ve made,” he said of joining LIV. “Hopefully at some point golf can figure itself out, and we have opportunities to play against each other more often.”


Spanish favorites Sergio Garcia, Fireballs win historic double playoff

Spanish favorites Sergio Garcia, Fireballs win historic double playoff
Updated 15 July 2024
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Spanish favorites Sergio Garcia, Fireballs win historic double playoff

Spanish favorites Sergio Garcia, Fireballs win historic double playoff
  • For Garcia, the script couldn’t have been written any better, as he won for the first time after three previous playoff losses
  • It was LIV Golf’s first double playoff, and just the second team playoff in league history

SOTOGRANDE, Spain: On an unprecedented day in LIV Golf’s young history, captain Sergio Garcia and his Fireballs GC produced a storybook finish for their Spanish fans on home soil at LIV Golf Andalucia.Garcia rallied from seven strokes down to win his first LIV Golf individual title on the second sudden-death playoff hole against Crushers GC’s Anirban Lahiri.

Meanwhile, teammates Abraham Ancer and David Puig beat the Crushers duo of captain Bryson DeChambeau and Paul Casey in the team aggregate-score playoff as the Fireballs — with three Spaniards on the roster — swept both trophies at Real Club Valderrama.

It was LIV Golf’s first double playoff, and just the second team playoff in league history. The first team playoff came earlier this year at LIV Golf Adelaide, when the home Australian team — Ripper GC — also won.

For Garcia, the script couldn’t have been written any better, as he won for the first time after three previous playoff losses. That it happened on his favorite course, one in which he’s won three other professional events and has now finished inside the top 10 in 16 of his 17 starts, made it even more special.

“To be totally honest, there’s a connection between Valderrama and myself that I can’t even explain it,” said the 44-year-old Garcia, who ended a four-year winless drought while winning his 37th professional title.

Garcia started the day at even par, seven shots behind overnight leader Lahiri.

But the Spanish star played flawless golf for 17 holes, posting six birdies and applying pressure on Lahiri, who was trying to break his own winless drought of nine years.

While Garcia suffered his only bogey of the day with a three-putt at the par-3 third to wrap up his 5-under 66, Lahiri birdied the par-5 17th. That put the tournament in Lahiri’s hands going to the par-4 18th, the most difficult hole on the course this week.

Lahiri found the middle of the green with his approach shot and rolled his birdie attempt to 3 feet to set up the potential winning par. But with a chance to win the individual title and secure the team title for the Crushers, he missed the putt for a final-round 73 to drop back to 5 under and set up the double playoff.

Garcia was riding in a van back to the clubhouse at the time. “We obviously heard the crowds going crazy, so we figured that he might have missed his par putt,” Garcia said. “… It was nice to be able to have another shot at it.”Garcia and Lahiri each parred their first playoff hole. Meanwhile, in the team playoff right behind them, DeChambeau found trouble off the 18th tee and had to lay up with his second shot. Casey’s approach finished in the rough behind the green. DeChambeau bogeyed the hole while Ancer and Puig made easy pars to claim the Fireballs’ first team victory of the season.

Like his captain, Lahiri’s errant tee shot on the second playoff hole left him in trouble, and Garcia won with a par, with his teammates and family racing onto the green to drench him in celebratory champagne.

“Obviously individual for me, it’s a dream come true to do it on my favorite course in front of my family and friends and in front of my teammates,” Garcia said. “But to even make it even better by winning the team championship, too, it was amazing. So proud of these guys, the way they played.”

On the flip side, it was heartbreak for the Crushers, who have won twice this season and lead the season-long points standings as they look to repeat as team champions.

“It sucks. Losing is never fun,” said DeChambeau. “That’s what makes winning so much better. I feel for Baan.”

Perhaps it was simply fate for the Fireballs and their captain to win on home turf in front of a partisan crowd.“A dream weekend for all of us,” said young Fireballs star Eugenio Chacarra. “Super happy for Sergio. He’s been up there a lot, and he’s been playing at a high level for 20 plus years. It’s really nice to see it from close every single day, and so happy for him that he got it done on his favorite course.”


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.”