Schenk’s late birdie gives him lead over Spieth, Fleetwood

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Adam Schenk tees off on the 11th hole during the third round of the Valspar Championship golf tournament Saturday, March 18, 2023, at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
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Jordan Spieth reads a putt on the 17th green during the third round of the Valspar Championship golf tournament. (Reinhold Matay-USA Today Sports)
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Tommy Fleetwood tees off on the second hole during the third round of the Valspar Championship golf tournament Saturday, March 18, 2023, at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
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Updated 19 March 2023

Schenk’s late birdie gives him lead over Spieth, Fleetwood

  • Adam Schenk was at 8-under 205 and will play in the final group with Spieth, whose game appears to be rounding into form with the Masters on the horizon

PALM HARBOR, Florida: Adam Schenk looked as though he and everyone else would get passed by Jordan Spieth on Saturday at the Valspar Championship. When a wild and windy round finished, Schenk was still the player everyone was chasing.
Schenk hit his approach to the 18th hole to 5 feet and made the birdie putt for a 1-under 70, giving him a one-shot lead over Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood as he goes after his first victory on the PGA Tour.
“We didn’t have a ton go our way until the very end,” Schenk said.
Neither did Fleetwood, who opened with a birdie and followed with 12 straight pars. He wound up with a bogey-free 69 and realized not losing ground was one of the best things he had going on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook.
Spieth, however, is who dictated the action.
He had a 69 and had to decide when it was over whether that was a good score on account of all the mistakes he made or a wasted chance to separate himself from the field. Spieth opened with a 6-iron to 7 feet for eagle. He led by as many as two shots.
But he made only three pars over his final 12 holes — on four of those occasions, he followed a bogey with a birdie. But that ended on the 18th when he hit a tree on his drive, went into a front bunker and then blasted by the pin to the collar for a final bogey.
“I didn’t have my best stuff in the approach game, but overall I’m in a good spot for tomorrow,” Spieth said.
Schenk was at 8-under 205 and will play in the final group with Spieth, whose game appears to be rounding into form with the Masters on the horizon.
Schenk is playing his 10th week in a row because his wife, Courtney, is expecting their first child at the end of April. He also is entered in the field next week in the Dominican Republic, though a victory could change everything.
That feels a long way off.
Eight players were within three shots of the lead. Webb Simpson had a 68 that included a bogey on the par-5 14th when he hit into the water while trying to lay up. He was two shots behind, along with Taylor Moore (69) and Cody Gribble (70), who had short birdie putts on the 16th and 17th hole and narrowly missed a 20-footer in his bid to birdie all three holes as part of the “Snake Pit” on the Copperhead course.
Patton Kizzire had a 67 and posted early, not sure where that would leave him. Spieth had a lot to do with that and he wound up keeping everyone close.
“Eventful,” is how Spieth described his round.
He missed a 5-foot par putt on No. 7. He hit 6-iron to 12 feet for birdie on No. 8. He missed a 7-foot par putt on the 10th, and then hit a bunker shot that landed in the collar and bounced out to 3 feet for birdie on the par-5 11th.
Spieth followed a three-putt bogey on the 13th with a 3-wood to 35 feet for a two-putt birdie on the 14th. It was like that throughout the back nine, and Spieth looked to have settled down with a 10-foot par putt on the 17th, only to send his tee shot into the trees on 18.
“I made a few too many mistakes, but overall in these conditions, I think I would have signed for 2 under,” Spieth said.
The weather was as wild as his round, gusting to 20 mph and shifting to an entirely different direction as the final groups were on the back nine. Players were hitting 9-iron into the par-3 17th earlier in the round, and Gribble had to hit 5-iron late in the day.
Rain that was expected never arrived, though Innisbrook was expecting showers overnight that could put a premium on scoring.
Fleetwood was the steadiest of the bunch. He made birdie on the par-5 opening hole and the par-5 14th, and was had a collection of big par putts to keep some momentum.
“I kept plugging away,” Fleetwood said. “Pars were good. Birdies were hard to come by. The middle stretch the par saves on 9 and 10 were good putts to hole. I never went backward. I was very happy with anything par or better.”
 


Danny Lee wins LIV Golf Tucson with birdie in a playoff

Updated 20 March 2023

Danny Lee wins LIV Golf Tucson with birdie in a playoff

  • Ortiz led the Fireballs to the team victory, winning handily over the 4 Aces with Lee’s Ironheads team coming in third

MARANA, Arizona: Danny Lee birdied his final two holes for a 2-under 69 and then won LIV Golf Tucson on the second hole of a four-man playoff on Sunday by making a 25-foot birdie putt from off the 18th green for his first win in nearly eight years.

It was the second playoff in LIV Golf since the Saudi-funded series began last year. Dustin Johnson won the playoff outside Boston last year.

Lee finished at 9-under 275 and got into the playoff with Carlos Ortiz (65), Brendan Steele (70) and Louis Oosthuizen (70). Oosthuizen bogeyed the par-5 17th to fall one behind, only to birdie the 18th to join the playoff.

Lee nearly squandered a great chance to win on the first playoff hole when he put his approach 5 feet from the hole on No. 18 on the first extra hole. He pushed it to the right.

Ortiz was eliminated after the first extra hole when he went long off the 18th green, chipped to 6 feet and missed the par putt.

Going back to the 18th hole, Lee again looked as though he wasted a good opportunity when his approach from the fairway missed the green to the right, leaving him a tough spot with the pin all the way to the right side of the green.

Oosthuizen and Steele both missed long birdie putts. Lee chose to use putter, even though he was some 10 feet off the green. He gave it a rap and it was going fast when it rattled against the pin and disappeared for the winner.

“I haven’t won since 2015. I thought winning just not my thing. Today has changed that,” said Lee, who signed with LIV Golf in February when he was No. 267 in the world.

His last victory was the Greenbrier Classic, which no longer is a PGA Tour event but will be part of the LIV Golf schedule this year.

“It’s good to see I’m capable of playing good golf again,” Lee said.

Ortiz led the Fireballs to the team victory, winning handily over the 4 Aces with Lee’s Ironheads team coming in third.

Charles Howell III, who won LIV Golf’s season opener at Mayakoba, had the lead after a good start. But he took a triple bogey on the par-3 eighth, and then failed to birdie the par-5 17th. He shot a 72 and finished one shot out of the playoff.

Lee won $4 million from the $20 million purse for individual play, which was roughly as much as he made the last four seasons combined on the PGA Tour.

LIV Golf now takes a week off before resuming at a new tournament in Orlando, Florida, the weekend before the Masters.


Leishman has 2-shot lead over Garcia at LIV Golf in Arizona

Updated 19 March 2023

Leishman has 2-shot lead over Garcia at LIV Golf in Arizona

  • The Australian dropped only one shot at the Gallery Golf Club in the high desert
  • Sergio Garcia’s team, the Fireballs, had a one-shot lead in the team competition

MARANA, Arizona: Marc Leishman opened with an eagle and held it together in the middle of his round for a 5-under 66 on Saturday, giving him a two-shot lead over Sergio Garcia going into the third and final round of LIV Golf Tucson.
Leishman said he had fallen into a habit of letting a rough stretch ruin his round. The Australian dropped only one shot at the Gallery Golf Club in the high desert and delivered one last birdie on the par-5 17th to reach 11-under 131.
“I had a really hot start, the cooled on the back nine,” said Leishman, who was 4 under for his round through eight holes. “But I didn’t let it get away from me.”
Garcia, whose last victory anywhere was in Mississippi more than two years ago, had a 65 that could have been slightly better if not for missing a 2-foot par putt on the 16th hole. He at least was able to finish with a birdie on his last hole at No. 17.
Garcia’s team, the Fireballs, had a one-shot lead in the team competition.
“We’re right there. We need another good day tomorrow,” Garcia said.
Louis Oosthuizen was in a four-player group at 8-under 134, though none of the others had quite the tease at the end of the round like the South African.
Finishing on the par-4 18th, Oosthuizen’s approach landed a few feet short of the flag and struck the pin, rolling back off a false front into the fairway. His pitch for birdie was headed for the pin and spun in and out of the cup.
At that point, he turned away and covered his face. He made the par for a 68.
“It pitched exactly where I wanted it to, it hit the pin and off the green. Same look with the chip. I thought I was to chip it in,” Oosthuizen said. “I’m standing over the putt thinking, ‘You better make this or it’s going to be a bad ending.’”
He was joined at 134 by Charles Howell III (65), Brendan Steele (65) and Cameron Tringale (66), who never won on the PGA Tour before signing up for LIV Golf last season.
Howell won the first LIV Golf event of its second season last month at Mayakoba.
Phil Mickelson had a bogey-free round, making four birdies in an eight-hole stretch that led to a 67. He was tied for 10th, six shots out of the lead. His team, which includes Steele, was one shot behind Garcia’s team.
 

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Scheffler expects no LIV-PGA tension at Masters champs dinner

Updated 16 March 2023

Scheffler expects no LIV-PGA tension at Masters champs dinner

  • LIV and PGA players will compete against each other at all four of this year’s major championships

WASHINGTON: World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler said Wednesday that he expects some of golf’s greatest legends will put aside the PGA Tour-LIV Golf feud at next month’s Masters Champions Dinner.

Scheffler, coming off a victory at The Players Championship on Sunday, revealed his menu for this year’s gathering after winning last year’s green jacket at Augusta National.

The 26-year-old American also said that he hasn’t decided what he will say in his speech to the past winners, but he will count upon them to be on their best manners despite a split that has divided golf’s elite talent.

“I haven’t totally decided what I’ll say,” Scheffler said. “I’m not quite sure what the vibe will be like but I think we’re all there to play in the tournament and celebrate the Masters and celebrate all being past champions.

“I think the dinner will be really special for all of us to be able to gather together again and I’m sure we’ll put all that other stuff aside and just have a good time together.

“Just because guys joined another tour doesn’t mean that I’m not friends with them anymore and that I think differently of them as people. They are still my friends and we’re all just going to hang out and have a good time.”

The Saudi-backed LIV Golf League has opened its second campaign and players gather this week in Tucson, Arizona, while the PGA Valspar Championship is being staged near Tampa, Florida.

With record $25 million purses and 54-hole events, LIV Golf lured away several top players from the PGA last year, resulting in a ban from playing tour events and a court case set to reach trial next year.

The PGA Tour has made changes to its format and prize money to better compete with LIV offerings, but hard feelings remain from some players at the rebels.

LIV and PGA players will compete against each other at all four of this year’s major championships, which have not followed the tour in banning LIV talent.

Three-time Masters champion and six-time major winner Phil Mickelson, fellow Americans Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed, South African Charl Schwartzel and Spain’s Sergio Garcia are LIV Golf players who have won green jackets to earn a spot at the Champions Dinner.

Mickelson said Wednesday that he has no idea what awaits on his trip down Magnolia Lane for the year’s first major on April 6-9.

“No expectations. We are grateful to just be able to play and compete and be a part of it,” Mickelson said. “A lot of the people there that are playing and competing in the Masters are friend for decades and I’m looking forward to seeing them again.”

Scheffler’s menu includes Texas ribeye steak, blackened redfish, tortilla soup, firecracker shrimp, cheeseburger sliders and a warm chocolate chip skillet cookie with ice cream.

Scheffler had a chance to practice at Augusta National, including the lengthened par-5 13th hole.

“It’s like 30 yards longer probably,” he said. “I usually hit a big hooking 3-wood off that tee and now I hit driver on a little bit of a different angle. So it has definitely changed the hole significantly.

“You could see more guys laying up to that hole, especially depending upon pin position, but we’ll see how it plays during the tournament.”

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Tiger Woods’ girlfriend seeks to nullify NDA with pro golfer

Updated 09 March 2023

Tiger Woods’ girlfriend seeks to nullify NDA with pro golfer

  • Attorneys for Erica Herman filed a complaint seeking declaratory judgment in Martin County, Florida, circuit court

STUART, Florida: Tiger Woods’ girlfriend wants to nullify a nondisclosure agreement following a six-year relationship with the professional golfer.

Attorneys for Erica Herman filed a complaint seeking declaratory judgment on Monday in Martin County, Florida, circuit court, according to online court records. The couple had been living together in the area, according to the complaint. Martin County is located directly north of Palm Beach County.

Woods and Herman have not publicly announced the end of their relationship, which began in 2017. She had been seen regularly with him at major championships, such as the 2019 Masters he won for his 15th major and during his Presidents Cup captaincy in Australia later that year.

But she was not at his Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas the first week in December, or at the Genesis Invitational he hosted at Riviera three weeks ago.

According to the complaint, a trust controlled by Woods is attempting to silence Herman with a nondisclosure agreement that she signed while involved in a personal and professional relationship with Woods. The complaint argues that the NDA should be nullified under a federal law that prohibits an NDA from being enforced when sexual assault or sexual harassment is involved.

Herman previously worked at his Woods Jupiter restaurant.

The complaint doesn’t provide details about what information Herman might want to disclose or make specific allegations against Woods.

The complain says because of “aggressive use” of the NDA, Herman is unsure whether she can disclose “facts giving rise to various legal claims she believes she has.” It also says she is unsure what other information about her own life she can discuss and with whom.

Woods’ manager at Excel Sports Management, Mark Steinberg, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and text from The Associated Press seeking comment.


Kurt Kitayama scores breakthrough victory in wild finish at Bay Hill

Updated 06 March 2023

Kurt Kitayama scores breakthrough victory in wild finish at Bay Hill

  • Kitayama finished at 9-under 279 and earned $3.6 million

ORLANDO, Florida: Kurt Kitayama let an All-Star cast of contenders back into the tournament with a triple bogey, only to beat them all with a clutch birdie and the best lag putt of his life to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday.

With five players tied for the lead with only three holes left, Kitayama pulled ahead with a birdie putt from just inside 15 feet on the par-3 17th hole for the lead. Then, his 50-foot putt on the last hole stopped an inch from the cup.

The tap-in par for an even-par 72 might have been the easiest shot he had all day.

Rory McIlroy roared into the mix with four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn, only to miss a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole for the lead. He had a 70 and finished one shot behind. So did Harris English, who went bogey-free on the weekend at crusty, windy Bay Hill for a 70.

Defending champion Scottie Scheffler was a foot away from having a close look at birdie and a chance to take the lead. Instead, his ball spun back into the rough on the 18th and he finished with a bogey.

Jordan Spieth was among six players who had at least a share of the lead over the final two hours. He missed four straight putts inside 8 feet from the 14th through the 17th holes — three of them for par. He took the lead with a 15-foot birdie putt, then played his last five holes in 3 over.

Spieth (70), Scheffler (73), Patrick Cantlay (68) and Tyrrell Hatton (72) all finished two shots behind.

They all had a chance, mostly because of one swing. Kitayama had a two-shot lead when he hit a wild hook out-of-bounds on the ninth hole, leading to triple bogey.

These are the kind of players who kept beating Kitayama — Jon Rahm by one shot in Mexico, Xander Schauffele by one shot in the Scottish Open, McIlroy by one shot in the CJ Cup in South Carolina last year.

This time, the 30-year-old Californian who toiled around the world to earn a PGA Tour card had the final say.

Kitayama finished at 9-under 279 and earned $3.6 million.

“It went south on 9,” Kitayama said. “All of a sudden, I’m not leading any more. I just fought back hard, and I’m proud of myself for that.”

McIlroy tried a bold play on the par-3 14th without knowing he was right in the mix, the start of a bogey-bogey stretch that set him back. He hit the best approach of anyone on the 18th, right over the flag to 10 feet. The putt stayed to the right the whole way.

The finish was such pure theater that five players were tied for the lead deep into the final round, and all of them had chances to win.

“I certainly felt it on the golf course, so I’m sure it was pretty good to watch,” McIlroy said. “It’s hard because the lead was changing hands with guys making bogeys, not really making birdies. So don’t know how people find that entertainment value.

“But it was a great back nine. It was great to be involved with,” he said. “I’m really happy for Kurt. He’s been playing well for a while now and I’m happy to see him get his first win.”

Of the top seven players, all of them have either won majors or played in the Ryder Cup. The exception is Kitayama, who groomed himself for a moment like this with so many close calls against players with polished pedigrees.

Kitayama, who played at UNLV, didn’t find much success on the Korn Ferry Tour and took his trade overseas to the Asian Tour and European tour, with stops along the way on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa and the Japan Golf Tour.

Now he’s No. 19 in the world, with a red cardigan sweater for winning at Arnie’s place and a big feather in his cap for the players he had to beat.

He made it difficult on himself on the 18th, pulling his tee shot into dense rough. His only thought was to “just get it on the green, just give myself an opportunity.”

That was all he needed and he finally has a PGA Tour title to show for it.

Rahm, meanwhile, finished in a tie for 39th — his first time outside the top 10 since the Tour Championship last August. He still managed to stay at No. 1 in the world.