Scheffler, McIlroy at their best to reach Match Play semifinals

Xander Schauffele of the US (L) and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland shake hands on the 18th green after McIlroy won their match 1 up. (Getty Images /AFP)
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Updated 26 March 2023

Scheffler, McIlroy at their best to reach Match Play semifinals

  • Scheffler, who lost in the final in his Match Play debut in 2021, now has won 10 straight matches
  • McIlroy won with a 12-foot birdie putt, the proper ending to a match that both said was a testament to the quality of golf required

AUSTIN, Texas: The golf was as good as it gets. Rory McIlroy made 17 birdies in the 36 holes he played Saturday. Defending champion Scottie Scheffler rallied with six birdies in his last nine holes to reach the semifinals for the third straight year.

A little luck never hurts in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. And as great as McIlroy played, he needed some of that, too.

McIlroy never led in his quarterfinals match against Xander Schauffele. They came to the 18th hole all square, and McIlroy slumped slightly when he saw his drive headed left toward the trees. Schauffele hit his shot and quickly picked up his tee.

Imagine their surprise. McIlroy came upon a golf ball behind a tree and figured it was his. Schauffele was walking behind him and was stunned when McIlroy kept going.

“He hit a worse drive than I did and he ended up fine,” Schauffele said.

He got no argument from McIlroy.

“I expected my ball to be Xander’s ball on 18 behind that tree, and I got fortunate that mine trundled down the hill and obviously made the chip shot a lot easier,” McIlroy said. “Look, you need a little bit of fortune in these things, and that was a bit of luck for me today.”

McIlroy won with a 12-foot birdie putt, the proper ending to a match that both said was a testament to the quality of golf required. Schauffele applauded all the pivotal putts McIlroy made to stay in the fight.

It was like that all over Austin Country Club. The final version of Match Play lived up to its edge-of-the-seat reputation, with wild turns of momentum until four players remained.

Sam Burns advanced by beating Patrick Cantlay in 17 holes and then overcoming an early deficit to beat Mackenzie Hughes of Canada, 3 and 2, to reach the semifinals.

Burns advances to meet Scheffler, his best friend on tour with whom he often shares a house when they’re on the road. Their last encounter was at Colonial last year, when Burns made a 45-foot birdie putt to beat Scheffler in a playoff.

Cameron Young looked as if he had an easy time, until it wasn’t. He was 3 up at the turn, missed a chance to go 4 up on the 12th and then had to go to the 18th hole before he could dispatch of Bay Hill winner Kurt Kitayama.

Scheffler, who lost in the final in his Match Play debut in 2021, now has won 10 straight matches. He was 2 down against J.T. Poston in the morning with five holes left when he birdied the 17th to square the match and won the 18th with a par.

He was 3 down against former Match Play champion Jason Day through seven holes in the quarterfinals when he battled back, taking his first lead with a birdie on the 13th and then pulling away. He closed it out with a wedge to 2 inches on the 17th.

Scheffler said he and caddie Ted Scott had a chat when Day went birdie-birdie-eagle on the front nine to go 3 up. The eagle came on a 5-wood from 282 yards to 5 feet on the par-5 sixth hole at Austin Country Club.

“Just ride out the heater,” Scheffler said. “I had to stay patient.”

Day began to struggle with allergies on the eighth hole, and then Scheffler had a heater of his own by making six birdies over their final nine holes.

McIlroy reached the quarterfinals by making nine birdies against Lucas Herbert, and it still wasn’t decided until the 18th hole.

“I got to beaten by the best player in the world probably playing the best golf of anyone in the world would today,” Herbert said. “Pushed him all the way to the end. I just didn’t feel like there was a hell of a lot more I could have done.”

Schauffele made seven birdies against McIlroy and it wasn’t enough.

“I needed to dig deep,” McIlroy said. “He’s one of the best players in the world. I knew I was going to need to produce something similar to this morning. I was 16 under for two rounds of golf. That shows the caliber you need to play out there.”

Next up for McIlroy is Young, who finished ahead of him at St. Andrews last year with a 31 on the back nine. Young has made 31 birdies and two eagles in his five matches this week. He won his group on Friday with a 5-and-3 win. He made it through Saturday morning with a 5-and-4 rout of Billy Horschel. He was on his way to another romp against Kitayama.

But he missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the 12th that would have put him 4 up. Kitayama won the next two holes with birdies. Young missed from 10 feet for birdie, 15 feet for eagle and 10 feet for birdie on the next three, all three putts burning the edge.

Ultimately, he only needed two putts from 15 feet on the 18th for the win. That was about the only easy part of his back nine.

“I don’t think I made a bogey today and I was biting my nails trying to win my match,” Young said. “I think it just shows you the quality of golf that’s played out here and how hard it is to get through even just one day like today, never mind that today was our fifth match.”

Day earlier on Saturday beat Matt Kuchar, leaving the 44-year-old American one match short of the tournament record. Kuchar leaves sharing the mark of 36 wins with Tiger Woods.

Now it’s Scheffler’s turn. Woods is the only player to win Match Play back to back. One day remains, and it feels like a long way to go.

Koepka deserves Ryder Cup spot: McIlroy

Updated 01 June 2023

Koepka deserves Ryder Cup spot: McIlroy

  • Those Masters and PGA results have left Koepka second in the overall US standings for the Ryder Cup team
  • Rahm said in Ohio this week that where players choose to play should not affect Ryder Cup eligibility

WASHINGTON: Rory McIlroy said Wednesday that LIV Golf star Brooks Koepka has earned the right to a place on the United States’ Ryder Cup team following his PGA Championship triumph.

Koepka bagged his fifth major title at the PGA Championship earlier this month, just weeks after a second place finish at the Masters.

Those results have left Koepka second in the overall US standings for the Ryder Cup team, meaning he would normally be a shoo-in to make the American squad.

However, with the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit at loggerheads, it remains unclear whether LIV Golf players will be eligible for Ryder Cup spots.

McIlroy — one of the most vocal critics of LIV Golf — believes however that Koepka should be on the US team that will face Europe at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome in September.

“I certainly think Brooks deserves to be on the United States team,” McIlroy said Wednesday ahead of this week’s PGA Tour Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.

“I think with how he’s played, I mean, he’s second in the US standings, only played two counting events.

“I don’t know if there’s anyone else on the LIV roster that would make the team on merit and how they’re playing.

“But Brooks is definitely a guy that I think deserves to be on the US team.”

McIlroy, however, is adamant that former European Tour players who have signed for LIV — including Ryder Cup stalwarts such as Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia — should not be eligible for the tournament.

“I have different feelings about the European team and the other side and sort of how that has all transpired,” McIlroy said.

“I don’t think any of those guys should be a part of the European team.”

Europe were initially due to be captained by Sweden’s Henrik Stenson at this year’s Ryder Cup. Stenson was stripped of the captaincy however after joining LIV. He was subsequently replaced by Luke Donald.

Spanish star Garcia — Europe’s all-time leading Ryder Cup scorer with 28.5 points from 10 appearances — said recently that Donald had already told him he had “no chance” of making the European team as a captain’s pick.

That decision was greeted with dismay by Garcia’s fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm.

Rahm said in Ohio this week that where players choose to play should not affect Ryder Cup eligibility.

“It’s a little sad to me that politics have gotten in the way of such a beautiful event,” Rahm said on Tuesday.

“It’s the best Europeans against the best American, period. And whatever is going on, who is playing LIV and who is not playing LIV to me shouldn’t matter.”

Rahm added that Garcia’s exclusion from Ryder Cup contention was hard to stomach.

“I have a hard time to believe that the best player Europe has ever had, the most successful player Europe has had on the Ryder Cup isn’t fit to be on the team,” Rahm said.

“It’s unfortunate. I will miss him.”

Koepka takes PGA for fifth major title in landmark LIV win

Updated 22 May 2023

Koepka takes PGA for fifth major title in landmark LIV win

  • The 33-year-old American captured his third PGA Championship and became the first player to win a major since joining LIV
  • Norway’s 11th-ranked Hovland and American Scheffler, the new world number one, shared second on 273

ROCHESTER, New York: Brooks Koepka outdueled Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler in a back-nine battle Sunday to win the PGA Championship for his fifth major title, giving Saudi-backed LIV Golf a milestone major triumph.

The 33-year-old American captured his third PGA Championship and became the first player to win a major since joining LIV, firing a three-under par 67 to finish 72 holes at Oak Hill on nine-under 271.
“It’s incredible,” said Koepka, only the 20th player to win five or more majors. “I’m not sure I even dreamed when I was a kid I would win this many.”
Norway’s 11th-ranked Hovland, chasing his first major title, and American Scheffler, last year’s Masters winner and the new world number one, shared second on 273.
“I put up a good fight. I played great today,” Scheffler said. “I gave the guys on top of the leaderboard something to think about and I made a little bit much a move.
“But Brooks just played some fantastic golf this week. He played too good this weekend for me to catch up to him.”


There were a smattering of boos for Koepka as he walked onto the 18th green to make the concluding putts for the title, a sign of the bitter acrimony that has engulfed golf since the launch of the LIV circuit last year.
But Koepka calmly finished off an impressive romp, his first major win since 2021 knee surgery sidelined him for most of the past two seasons.
“I look back at where we were two years ago,” Koepka said. “I’m so happy right now. I’m at a loss for words. But this is the coolest thing.”
Australia’s Cam Davis and American Kurt Kitayama shared fourth on 277 with another LIV player, American Bryson DeChambeau.
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy shared seventh on 278 with Austrian Sepp Straka.
Koepka was among the stars who jumped from the PGA Tour to breakaway LIV Golf, which offered record $25 million purses for 54-hole events, despite concern over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
The PGA banned LIV talent from its events, with a legal fight between them due in court next May. In the meantime, the majors have provided the only outlet for competition between players from the rival tours.
In all, there were six major winners from LIV in the field of 156 with a combined 15 major crowns, none of them won since joining the upstart circuit, including Australian Cam Smith’s British Open title last July.

Brooks Koepka and his trophy. (Twitter: @BKoepka)

Koepka led entering the final round at last month’s Masters but, in his words, “choked” away the green jacket to Spain’s Jon Rahm.
After sharing second at Augusta National with LIV’s Phil Mickelson, Koepka’s three PGA wins puts him behind only Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen.
In the closing drama, Hovland sank a birdie putt from just inside eight feet at 14 but Koepka matched him from just inside four feet to reach nine-under and stay one ahead of the 11th-ranked Norwegian with Scheffler three back.
Hovland was undone by a 9-iron shot from a fairway bunker at 16, where he embedded his ball into the bunker wall and went on to make double bogey.
Koepka sank a birdie putt at 16 from just inside five feet to reach 10-under and lead by four.
“I thought I handled myself pretty well,” Hovland said. “Pretty unfortunate on 16 but I don’t feel like I gave it away.
“Brooks deserved to win. He hit a lot of great putts and a lot of great shots.”
Scheffler birdied 18 from just inside 16 feet and Koepka took bogey at 17 after finding the right rough off the tee, sending Koepka to the final hole two up on the American.
Koepka dropped his approach inside 10 feet and two-putted for victory.

World number three McIlroy from Northern Ireland was trying to win his first major title since 2014.
McIlroy’s playing partner, US club professional Michael Block, aced the 151-yard par-3 15th on the fly with a 7-iron and was cheered all the way along his walk to the hole. It was the first hole-in-one by a club pro in the PGA since 1999.
Block shot 71 to share 15th on 281, earning a spot in next year’s PGA field.


LIV Golf’s Koepka a tough customer on a tough day to lead PGA Championship

Updated 21 May 2023

LIV Golf’s Koepka a tough customer on a tough day to lead PGA Championship

  • Koepka was at his best even during occasional downpours
  • He had a 4-under 66 — the low round at Oak Hill for the second straight day

PITTSFORD, New York: Brooks Koepka says he thrives in majors because they’re the toughest tests. The PGA Championship was every bit of that on a rainy Saturday at Oak Hill, and so was Koepka.

Koepka was at his best even during occasional downpours, and he surged into the 54-hole lead for the second straight major. He had a 4-under 66 — the low round at Oak Hill for the second straight day — and led by one shot over Viktor Hovland and Corey Conners.

Now he has to finish it off. Koepka failed to do that last month at the Masters when he had a two-shot lead, played it safe and shot 75 and Jon Rahm tracked him down to win by four.

“I know what I did,” Koepka said. “I promise I won’t show up like that tomorrow.”

The last player to have the low score in the second and third rounds of a major championship was Tiger Woods in the 1997 Masters, which he won by a record 12 shots.

Koepka, who was at 6-under 204, won’t have it that easy.

Conners played Oak Hill like a US Open — that’s what this PGA Championship feels like — by opening with two birdies and 13 pars that kept him in front for so much of the wet, grueling day. And then one swing changed everything.

He was in a bunker right of the 16th fairway when he hit the ball so thin that it disappeared into the lip of the soggy turf. It was plugged deep in the sod, and Conners had to drop it in gnarly rough on top of a mound framing the bunker. He did well to advance that toward the green into more thick grass and took double bogey.

Conners, in control for so long, had to settle for a 70.

Hovland overcame mistakes early with three birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn. But then the Norwegian failed to take advantage of the scoring stretch — Nos. 13, 14 and 15 — and took bogey from the bunker on the 18th hole for a 70.

He will be in the final group of a major for the second time. Hovland was tied with Rory McIlroy at St. Andrews last summer and closed with a 74.

Missing from all this activity was Scottie Scheffler, the No. 2 player in the world, who started with two straight bogeys and didn’t make a birdie — his only one of the round — until the 14th hole. He shot a 73, but is still very much in the mix.

So is Bryson DeChambeau, who played with Koepka and took double bogey on the sixth hole for the second straight day. He ground out a 70 and was three shots behind.

McIlroy was about like the weather — promising and then bleak — during a wild round that ended with a par save for a 69. He was among only seven players under still under par, but still five shots behind the four-time major champion Koepka.

Asked if there was a 65 at Oak Hill, McIlroy said he would have to keep mistakes off his card.

“I have to believe that there is a score like that out there because ... I’m going to have to shoot something like that to have a chance to win,” he said.

And he will need some help from Koepka, who has a 54-hole lead in his second straight major.

Oak Hill in pleasant weather has been a brute. Rain came down at the start of play and never really let up except for a brief burst of sunshine and shadows, and then the showers returned. Fairways were framed by umbrellas. The rough was thick and wet. McIlroy was among players who wore their caps backward to keep rain from dripping off the bill.

Koepka motored along, and he was particularly sharp with the putter on the back nine. He holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 12th and made one from 18 feet on the par-5 13th. The real boost came on the 17th, when he rolled one in from just outside 45 feet.

“Felt like it was a bit more aggressive today,” Koepka said of his putting. “Especially on the back nine, and putts started banging in the back of the hole.”

And then came Conners’ blunder on the 16th, Hovland’s bogey on the 18th, and Koepka was all by himself atop the leaderboard as he chases a fifth major, and a third PGA Championship. Also at stake: A victory moves him to No. 2 in the Ryder Cup standings. Because Koepka plays for LIV Golf, he can only earn Ryder Cup points in the majors.

Justin Rose joined Scheffler at 2-under 208, still very much in range. And no one appears to be having more fun than California club pro Michael Block. He had another round of 70 and tied for eighth, the first club pro to be in the top 10 after 54 holes since 1990 at Shoal Creek.

Even Koepka’s great run along the back nine didn’t look like it would be enough to catch Conners, and then that changed on the 16th hole. Conners swung and then tried to figure out where it went, looking up in the air, until realizing it shot right into the lip.

“Wish I could have that one back,” he said.

Scheffler would like to have back his opening seven holes — four bogeys, and it could have been worse. Is shot out of wet rough on the seventh landed in Allen’s Creek and hopped out to the other side. He was bogey-free over the final 11 holes.

“I didn’t shoot myself out of it on a day where the conditions were tough and I didn’t have my best stuff,” Scheffler said. “I hung in there pretty good and didn’t post the number I wanted to, but I’m still only four back going into tomorrow. And if I go out and have a great round, I think I’ll have a decent chance.”

Scheffler, Hovland and Conners share lead at PGA Championship

Updated 20 May 2023

Scheffler, Hovland and Conners share lead at PGA Championship

  • Second-ranked American Scheffler, and Canada’s Conners, each fired 2-under par 68 to finish 36 holes level at the top
  • Koepka birdied three of the last four holes to shoot 66

ROCHESTER, New York: Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland and Corey Conners delivered clutch birdies and grinded out par saves to share the lead after Friday’s second round of the PGA Championship as rivals stumbled at rainy Oak Hill.

Second-ranked American Scheffler, last year’s Masters champion, and Canada’s Conners, chasing his first major title, each fired 2-under par 68 to finish 36 holes level at the top on five-under 135.

“Felt like I grinded it out pretty well,” Scheffler said. “Didn’t hit as many fairways as I would hope to but to shoot two-under was good, solid golf.”

Conners, who won his second PGA Tour title at last month’s Texas Open, worked magic with his putter when needed.

“Very pleased,” Conners said. “The conditions were tricky out there, faced some wind, some rain. I made a bunch of key putts to keep momentum going, and that was really the key to the day.”

Norway’s 11th-ranked Hovland, also seeking a first major crown, sank a five-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole to shoot 67 and make it three at the top.

“The score has been great but the way I’ve plodded my way around here, very pleased with that,” he said. “I was trying to give myself the most stress-free pars and a couple birdie looks as well.”

Bryson DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open champion, closed with a bogey to share fourth with fellow American Justin Suh on 137.

“It has been a few years, but it doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do it,” DeChambeau said of winning. “I’m definitely trending in the right direction finally.”

Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka and England’s Callum Tarren were on 138 and England’s Justin Rose and Canadian Taylor Pendrith on 139 as only nine players stood under par.

Scheffler, who would return to world number one with a victory, had two sets of back-to-back birdies but closed with a bogey.

“I was just trying to grind,” he said. “I’m in a good position going into the weekend.”

Conners consistently made putts from nine to 12 feet for pars and birdies.

“Definitely was a challenging day,” he said. “But I felt like I played really solid.”

Hovland adopted a patient and conservative philosophy and will stick with it.

“It’s nice to have a chance, but we’ve got a lot of golf left,” Hovland said. “I just have to keep being patient and hitting middle of the greens and let the pieces fall wherever they fall.”

Koepka birdied three of the last four holes to shoot 66.

“Knew I needed a good round,” said Koepka. “Happy to shoot under par and get back in the race.”

Rose, the 2013 US Open and 2016 Rio Olympic champion, won in February at Pebble Beach for his first triumph since 2019. He could be the first Englishman to win a PGA Championship since Jim Barnes in 1916 and 1919.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, chasing his first major victory since 2014, fired a 69 to stand on level par 140. He found water and made bogeys at six and seven but birdied nine from 44 feet and 18 from 16 feet.

“It was a bit of a grind again,” McIlroy said. “I had to score as best as I could. Rode my luck a little bit. Pretty erratic off the tee, Need to tighten it up over the weekend.”

American Michael Block shared 10th on 140, the best 36-hole spot for a club professional since 1988.

World No. 1 Jon Rahm, the reigning Masters champion, made the cut by shooting 68 to stand on 144.

After going over the cut line with a bogey at 12, Rahm made three consecutive birdies.

“Knowing those next three holes were doable, I tried to be a little bit more aggressive and go after it,” Rahm said. “Hit the shots I needed to and made the birdies I needed to.”

Reigning US Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick of England closed with back-to-back bogeys to miss the cut at 145 by one.

Jordan Spieth, a three-time major winner trying to complete a career Grand Slam by winning this week, shot 72 to make the cut on the number despite a left wrist injury.

“Wrist is holding up nicely considering,” Spieth said.

Defending champion Justin Thomas also made the cut on the number.

LIV Golf’s DeChambeau seizes lead at PGA Championship

Updated 19 May 2023

LIV Golf’s DeChambeau seizes lead at PGA Championship

  • The 29-year-old American was among the PGA Tour players who jumped to Saudi-backed LIV Golf
  • Rory McIlroy, seeking his first major triumph since 2014, landed in only two of 14 fairways in struggling to a 71

ROCHESTER, New York: Bryson DeChambeau delivered a credibility boost to LIV Golf, firing a 4-under par 66 to seize a one-stroke lead in Thursday’s opening round of the PGA Championship.

The slimmed-down 2020 US Open champion, coming off 2022 left wrist surgery, struck a competitor with an errant shot but managed six birdies against two bogeys to stand atop the field at formidable Oak Hill.

“I hit my putts really well and drove it nicely,” DeChambeau said. “I faced some tough challenges and was able to execute the way I wanted to and, man, it feels really good.”

The 29-year-old American was among the PGA Tour players who jumped to Saudi-backed LIV Golf, which offered record $25 million purses and 54-hole events some said would ruin players for major competition.

DeChambeau’s effort and Masters runner-up efforts by Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson have proven LIV talent can compete for major titles.

The PGA Tour banned LIV players and their legal fight is set for trial in a year. In the meantime the majors are the only place where the best of both tours can compete.

World No. 2 Scottie Scheffler and Canada’s Corey Conners shared second on 67 with New Zealand’s Ryan Fox, 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley and Norway’s Viktor Hovland on 68.

“It was a grind. The golf course was very tough,” Scheffler said. “And I think these will be the easiest conditions we have all week.”

DeChambeau, once bulked up to boost his power driving, has trimmed down to ease inflammation in his body and says he has the form to win another major.

“It has been a tough time for me the past four or five years,” he said. “(I learned) I can do it again. I’ve got a lot more years for my career.”

As for this week, “I don’t know if I can hold it for four rounds but I played pretty well.”

DeChambeau, a back-nine starter, sent his approach at 17 into the 18th tee box, striking rival player Kenny Pigman in the right arm but not hurting him.

DeChambeau made bogey at 17 but was deadly from then on, making birdie putts of five feet at 18, 13 feet at one, five feet at the par-5 fourth and six feet at six.

Scheffler, this year’s Players Championship winner and last year’s Masters champion, had a bogey-free round.

“I scrambled for 3-under,” Scheffler said. “I was proud getting around here with no bogeys, which is really tough.”

Conners had runs of three birdies in four holes on both the front and back nines while also making three bogeys.

“Felt good to see some putts go in,” Conners said.

Only seven players from the early wave of starters broke par and after a frost delay of 1hr 50mins they played in warm, calm weather.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, seeking his first major triumph since 2014, landed in only two of 14 fairways in struggling to a 71, the 10th-hole starter making his only three birdies in a late rally.

“Messy. Didn’t hit the ball well at all,” McIlroy said. “Thought I did really well to shoot one-under in the end.

“To play the last few holes in two-under was a great recovery but I’m going to have to play a lot better if I want a future in this tournament.”

Defending champion Justin Thomas opened on 72 while a group that included the other three reigning major champions struggled as well.

British Open champion Cameron Smith of Australia was with fellow LIV Golf star Brooks Koepka on 72 also.

World No. 1 Jon Rahm, the reigning Masters champion, started with a birdie at the 10th hole and added another at the eighth but in between had six bogeys and a double bogey to finish on 76.

“Couldn’t find the fairway and the fairways that I missed cost me bogeys,” Rahm said.

Reigning US Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick of England had six bogeys to join Rahm on 76.

World No. 10 Jordan Spieth, who would complete a career Grand Slam with a triumph at Oak Hill, fired a 73. He decided to play Wednesday after testing his injured left wrist for two days.