Tiger Woods out, Spieth in doubt as PGA Championship field set

Ankle injury denies Tiger Woods a chance to compete in next week’s PGA showdown in New York. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 12 May 2023

Tiger Woods out, Spieth in doubt as PGA Championship field set

  • Woods underwent his latest operation last month after withdrawing in the third round of the Masters
  • The field of 156 for next week’s showdown at Oak Hill also includes 18 players from the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League

ROCHESTER, New York: Tiger Woods was confirmed out for next week’s PGA Championship following right ankle surgery while injured Jordan Spieth, chasing a career Grand Slam, was on the entry list released Wednesday.

The field of 156 for next week’s showdown at Oak Hill also includes 18 players from the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League, among them Masters runner-ups and multiple major winners Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka.
Woods, a 15-time major champion and a four-time PGA Championship winner, underwent his latest operation last month after withdrawing in the third round of the Masters.
There is no timetable for the 47-year-old star’s return.
The same is true for Spieth, a three-time major winner who needs the PGA Championship to join Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen with at least one victory at each major.
Spieth is questionable for the showdown at Oak Hill with a left wrist injury that made him skip his hometown PGA event this week in Dallas.
“I’m focused on healing as quickly as possible and will have to evaluate my recovery week to week,” 10th-ranked Spieth said, adding that doctors said his wrist needs rest and limited movement.
Oak Hill, host of six prior majors as well as the 1995 Ryder Cup, will serve as a second major showcase this year for top PGA Tour players facing rivals from the upstart LIV series.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won last month at Augusta National with Mickelson, a six-time major winner, and Koepka, a four-time major winner sharing second and another LIV standout, 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed, sharing fourth.
The breakaway circuit lured top talent from the PGA Tour, which banned LIV players from its events, although the majors allow LIV and PGA players to compete, turning them into the only places for bragging rights battles between the rivals in golf’s civil war.
Other LIV players at Oak Hill next week will include major winners Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Australia’s Cam Smith, the reigning British Open champion.
A final vacant spot in the PGA Championship field is reserved for this week’s PGA Byron Nelson tournament winner.

Haya Alsulaiman’s mission to empower women through golf in Middle East

Updated 14 April 2024

Haya Alsulaiman’s mission to empower women through golf in Middle East

  • Saudi owner of Golftec Dubai is offering new avenue to embrace a sport long seen as a male domain

DUBAI: Thirty-one-year-old Haya Ghassan Alsulaiman, Saudi owner of the Dubai-based golf coaching center Golftec, is hoping to encourage more women to play the sport in the Middle East.

Already one of the US’ most popular institutions for golf development, Golftec — with Alsulaiman at the helm — launched in 2023 at Dubai City Walk.

The organization was initially founded in 1995 in the basement of a Denver, Colorado, country club, and has since become a household name around the world, operating in six countries, with more than 210 locations employing in excess of 800 full-time golf coaches.

However, it remains little known in the Middle East.

Alsulaiman is ready to change that across the UAE and wider region and, in the process, empower more women to embrace a sport that has long been seen as the domain of men.

“I am used to being the only woman in a male-dominated industry,” Alsulaiman told Arab News, explaining that she had previously worked for her father’s automotive dealership in Saudi where she was the only female employee among more than 200 men.

Growing up in Saudi Arabia, Alsulaiman would vacation in California with her family every summer, and would regularly play tennis with her father.

When her father injured his knee, he switched to golf and learned how to play with Golftec.

“It was much easier for my father to understand the sport with this type of learning facility,” she said. “Then he encouraged my sister to get involved by first becoming his caddy.

“The more she went with my father, the more she desired to play,” Alsulaiman said. “Then she suggested to take lessons with him at Golftec.”

Haya soon caught the bug and joined her father and sister in taking golf classes.

From 2014 she began playing golf each summer during the family holiday in California.

“The routine was to take a lesson or two at Golftec and then go out on the range to practice what we were taught in the lesson and then, two days after, go play on an official golf course,” she said. “That was our routine, week after week.”

Alsulaiman developed a great love for the sport. However, when she returned to Saudi after the summer, she had nowhere to practice and play.

“In Saudi there were not the facilities for golf that there are today and no coaches, so we could only play in the summer,” she said. “We played from summer to summer. The sport bonded our family. We so enjoyed it. We laughed, had fun and engaged in family friendly competition.”

After the pandemic, Alsulaiman decided to leave Saudi Arabia and move to Dubai. Following her father’s entrepreneurial spirit, she opened her own business — Golftec’s first branch in the Middle East.

The business allows her to do what she loves and, she said, encourage more women to play the sport.

While golf has become a popular sport in the UAE, with many golf courses and training centers, Alsulaiman said that there was nothing that matched Golftec’s teaching methodology, with the advanced use of motion technology and video feedback making it easy for trainees to follow. She also finds the learning environment less intimidating than that of a golf club.

“It’s relaxed and fun and is a perfect place to encourage more women to learn,” she said.

Just under a decade ago the idea of a Saudi female golfer would have been hard to imagine. Today, thanks to a slew of social reforms under Saudi Vision 2030, golf and many other sports are increasingly accessible to women across the country.

In 2020, the inaugural Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by the Public Investment Fund was held at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City, signaling a turning point for women’s golf in the Kingdom.

The event also launched a comprehensive national golf sustainability strategy that oversees the environmental, economic and social aspects of the sport.

In December 2023, the Royal Diriyah Golf Club was unveiled in an event that saw Saudi women and men take to the Greg Norman-designed golf course for the first time alongside international guests.

Abeer Al-Johani, director of the Federation Office at the Saudi Golf Federation, said that the strides women were making in the sport reflected the social and economic changes in the Kingdom.

“Saudi women aside, women playing golf need much more sport, more media coverage and more opportunities,” Al-Johani told Arab News. “We need similar encouragement to what men receive but I believe we are beginning to see a lot of change — a lot of women are supporting other women in the sport specifically.”

Alsulaiman and Golftec are more than playing their part in making that happen.

Scottie Scheffler leads Masters by 1 shot on a wild day of movement

Updated 14 April 2024

Scottie Scheffler leads Masters by 1 shot on a wild day of movement

  • Augusta National didn’t need a ferocious wind to be wildly entertaining; the course was tough as ever

AUGUSTA, Georgia: Scottie Scheffler was in the lead and seemingly in control of his game Saturday in the Masters until realizing there was no such thing at Augusta National.

He posed over another beautiful shot at the flag on the 10th hole and was stunned to see it take a hard hop over the green and roll down into the bushes. He made double bogey and suddenly was one shot behind.

“Make another bogey at 11 and all of a sudden I’m probably going from in the lead to a few out of the lead and then,” Scheffler said, “you know, things happen pretty fast out there.”

It was so fast and furious that it was hard to keep up.

Six players had at least a share of the lead at one point. There was a five-way tie for the lead early on the back nine. No one was safe. It was like that to the very end.

Scheffler made an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 1-under 71 that gave him a one-shot lead over Collin Morikawa, the two-time major champion who has largely disappeared from the elite in golf and now is one round away from the third leg of the Grand Slam.

Bryson DeChambeau looked to be on the verge of a meltdown when he drove into the trees right of the 18th fairway, punched out to the short grass and then hit wedge from 77 yards that spun back into the cup for a birdie to sum up a wild Saturday.

“Easier than putting,” DeChambeau, adding that he was joking although there was some truth to that. He three-putted three times on the back nine.

Max Homa has gone 32 holes without a birdie and he was only two behind after a round of 17 pars and one bogey for a 73. Xander Schauffele has gone 25 holes without a bogey, and that goes a long way. He was five back after a 70.

Augusta National didn’t need a ferocious wind to be wildly entertaining. The course was tough as ever, with a wind that would have felt scary if not for the day before. The greens made players feel as though they were putting on linoleum floors.

Scheffler was at 7-under 209 as he goes for a second Masters green jacket and tries to extend a dominant stretch that includes two wins on tough courses (Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass) and a runner-up finish in his last three tournaments.

“It’s nice to have that experience, but going into tomorrow, that’s really all that it is,” he said.

Morikawa made two tough pars to finish off a 69 — of those was a long birdie putt that hit the lip and spun 12 feet away. He is the only player to break par all three days at this Masters. Not bad for a someone who only found a swing key on Monday, switched putters after the first round and hasn’t had a top 10 since the first week of the year.

“If you asked me at the beginning of the week I’d be one back heading into Sunday, I would have taken that any time,” Morikawa said. “You give yourself a chance with 18 holes left, that’s all you can really do.”

Another shot back was Homa, whose last birdie was on the fourth hole of the second round. He has made 32 pars in his last 36 holes.

Eight players were separated by five shots going into the final round, where the greens are likely to be even faster, crispier and more frightening.

Tiger Woods was not among them. Neither was Rory McIlroy.

Woods, having made his Masters-record 24th consecutive cut Friday, started the third round seven shots out of the lead and hopeful of at least making his massive following think there might be more magic left in that battered 48-year-old body.

Instead, Woods posted his highest round in three decades playing the majors. He shot an 82, the third time he has failed to break 80 in a major, and the first since the 2015 US Open.

“Just hit the ball in all the places that I know I shouldn’t hit it,” Woods said.

McIlroy came to the Masters thinking this might be the year he finally got the last leg of the career Grand Slam. All he could muster was a 71 that left him 10 shots behind with 20 players in front of him.

There were no shortage of challengers.

Ludvig Aberg, the rising Swedish star playing in his first major, was among those who had a brief share of the lead until missing a pair of short par putts on the back nine. He still managed a 70 and was only three shots behind.

Another newcomer to the Masters, Nicolai Hojgaard of Denmark, had the lead to himself with three straight birdies around the turn. He celebrated that good fortunate by running off five straight bogeys, putting the ball in the water on both par 5s.

And then there was DeChambeau, who started the third round tied with Scheffler and Homa.

DeChambeau kept making enough birdies to hang around and was only one shot behind until he decided to go for the green from the trees on the par-5 15th. He went well right toward the 17th fairway — the second time in as many days he played a par 5 from two holes — only this one didn’t work out so well.

He chunked his wedge and watched it tumble into the pond. He took a penalty drop, pitched on and two-putted for double bogey. And then he three-putted for bogey on the 16th. And right when it appeared to be falling apart, he made his surprise birdie to limit the damage to 75. He was four shots behind.

Scheffler didn’t escape the craziness. He reached 8 under quickly by chipping in across the green on No. 1 and making a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 3. But all it took was two holes to make it feel like his head was spinning.

What saved his day was a 7-foot par putt on No. 12 and then a 30-foot eagle putt on the par-5 13th that dropped on its final turn and elicited rare emotion from Scheffler.

“C’mon, baby!” he yelled when the putt dropped.

“Things got a little dicey in the middle,” Scheffler said. “On No. 10, I hit what I thought was a decent shot 8 feet from the hole and it wound up in the bushes. I did a good job of staying patient.”

He’ll need another dose for Sunday, even with the experience of winning a Masters. Two years ago, he had a three-shot lead going into the final round and spent the morning in tears as his wife gave him soothing words of confidence.

Now his wife is home in Dallas expecting their first child at the end of the month. Scheffler brought in his best friends from home to stay with him.

“I didn’t want to be in the house all by myself this weekend. Didn’t really seem that exciting to me,” Scheffler said.

There’s plenty of that inside the ropes.

Vibrant Sajah Bazaar, live music as Eid meets golf to entertain 2024 Saudi Open fans

Updated 13 April 2024

Vibrant Sajah Bazaar, live music as Eid meets golf to entertain 2024 Saudi Open fans

  • Sajah Bazaar to headline 2024 Saudi Open fan zone at Riyadh Golf Club
  • Fan zone will provide food, drinks from around the world

RIYADH: Visitors to this year’s Saudi Open golf tournament will also be able to enjoy live music and fireworks at the Riyadh Golf Club.
The four-day championship starts on Wednesday and as well as top-class sport promises plenty of family fun.
LIV Golf captain Henrik Stenson will headline the field, which also includes some of the leading players on the Asian Tour, like last year’s Saudi Open winner Denwit Boriboonsub.
Each day of the tournament, from 4-11 p.m., visitors will be able to visit the Sajah Bazaar where they can buy local goods like textiles and jewelry.
There will also be lots to do in the fan zone, including golf driving and putting challenges, Panna soccer, Teqball, food and drink from around the world and a children’s area.
There are also some great prizes up for grabs, with Al-Rajhi Takaful donating 50 car insurance vouchers worth SR1,000 ($267), while two lucky ticket holders will see their general admission tickets upgraded to hospitality tickets and get the chance to watch world class golf from the best seats in the house.
Two winners will be randomly selected daily, while each person who takes a photo of a golfer on the Al-Rajhi teebox and posts it to social media with #Golf&More will be entered into the prize draw to win car insurance.
The fan zone opens on Wednesday and Thursday from 1-11 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Scheffler, DeChambeau and Homa share lead at windy Masters

Updated 13 April 2024

Scheffler, DeChambeau and Homa share lead at windy Masters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bryson DeChambeau puts on a Masters clinic and takes a 1-shot lead over Scottie Scheffler

Updated 12 April 2024

Bryson DeChambeau puts on a Masters clinic and takes a 1-shot lead over Scottie Scheffler

  • DeChambeau was plenty good in a relentless wind, taking a one-shot lead over Scottie Scheffler in the rain-delayed opening round
  • Among those still on the course was Tiger Woods, who was 1-under par through 13 holes when it was too dark to continue

AUGUSTA, Georgia: Bryson DeChambeau was the mad scientist who calculated barometric pressure and the decay of spin rate in altitude when trying to figure out how to best play the game.

Then he became the incredible bulk, adding 40 pounds of muscle and mass with a diet of some 3,500 calories a day in an effort to swing the club faster and hit the ball farther than anyone.

The third iteration he showed at the Masters on Thursday might be the most daunting.

“The golf phase,” DeChambeau said Thursday after opening with a 7-under 65, his best start in a major and lowest score at the Masters. “Trying to be the best golfer I can be.”

DeChambeau was plenty good in a relentless wind, taking a one-shot lead over Scottie Scheffler in the rain-delayed opening round. Scheffler hasn’t changed at all. The world’s No. 1 player was practically flawless from tee to green.

The first round could not be completed because of a 2 1/2-hour delay from overnight rain that drenched Augusta National, leaving the greens softer than they have been all week. The test came from a steady 20 mph wind, with gusts twice that strong.

Among those still on the course was Tiger Woods, who was 1-under par through 13 holes when it was too dark to continue. He next faces 23 holes Friday, an endurance test for his battered legs, as he tries to set the Masters record by making his 25th consecutive cut.

Nicolai Hojgaard of Denmark, one of 17 newcomers to the Masters, was at 5 under with three holes to play. Max Homa was at 4 under through 13 holes.

DeChambeau put on a clinic of power and putting, always a good recipe at Augusta National.

“I’m just in a place where I’m repeating a motion, trying to do the same thing over and over again,” he said.

He ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, including a two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th when his risky shot under a pine tree cleared the water fronting the green and left him 40 feet away.

“It clipped the tree. I hit four pine needles rather than five, and it worked out perfectly,” said DeChambeau, not entirely rid of his precise calculations.

Scheffler teed off about two hours later when the wind was at full force, and part of him was surprised to see so many red numbers under par on the large, white boards.

“I’ve played this tournament once before in some pretty high winds, and it’s an extremely challenging golf course,” Scheffler said, giving credit to caddie Ted Scott for “guessing the wind correctly” on a number of shots.

He had the only bogey-free round of the 89 players in the field, no small task on a day like this. Three of his six birdies came on the par 3s, one of those when he holed a bunker shot from behind the 12th green.

DeChambeau feels he got fortunate with his shot that grazed the tree. There was no doubting the break Scheffler got with his second shot on the par-5 13th, when he flinched upon hearing a shot hit from another fairway. Scheffler’s ball came up short, and he assumed it would roll back into the tributary of Rae’s Creek that winds in front of the green.

The turf was soft enough that it stayed up, and he chipped it close to make birdie.

“I’ve never seen a ball stay up there,” Scheffler said. “I don’t know if that will happen again this week. I’m hoping I don’t find out.”

Scheffler began as the 4-1 favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, the shortest odds since Tiger Woods nearly two decades ago. And then the No. 1 player in the world — who came into the Masters off two wins and a runner-up finish — played as expected.

It was his ninth bogey-free round of the year.

“Any time you can get around this golf course bogey-free, you’re going to have a pretty good day out there,” Scheffler said.

DeChambeau dropped only one shot, a long three-putt to a back pin on No. 9, and otherwise was flawless. He nearly drove the short par-4 third hole, leaving him a chip-and-putt birdie. He took care of three of the par 5s and got a bonus at the end when he holed a 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole.

DeChambeau feels he has settled in with his new life on Saudi-funded LIV Golf, with his equipment and his swing. He is not chasing swing speed like he once did, though he still has it when needed. He says his swing has been the same since that 61-58 weekend he had at LIV Golf Greenbrier last summer.

“He’s always been one of the best putters in the world. When he drives it like he did today — I mean, he drove it really good — and he makes putts, he’s obviously very good,” said Gary Woodland, who played alongside him. “It was a clinic. It was impressive. He didn’t get out of position hardly at all, and he rolled it very, very nice.”

Defending champion Jon Rahm never got any momentum and bogeys on his last two holes sent him to a 73, leaving him eight shots behind.

“Those are some seriously good rounds in conditions like today,” Rahm said. “I haven’t made it easy for myself. I’m going to have to start making up ground quickly.”

Rory McIlroy at least didn’t shoot himself out of the tournament after one round. In his 10th bid for the final leg of the career Grand Slam, he saved par with a chip from behind the 18th green for a 71, the first time he has opened the Masters with a round under par since 2018.

“I held it together well. It was a little scrappy,” McIlroy said. “Probably turned a 3 under into a 1 under there at the end. But overall, still not a bad score. And obviously a lot of golf left to play.”

The first round was to resume at 7:50 a.m., and with a good forecast for the rest of the week, the Masters should be back on schedule by the weekend.