McIlroy: Saudi, PGA Tour deal ‘good for golf’

Rory McIlroy during a press conference for the RBC Canadian Open golf tournament on Wednesday. (USA TODAY Sports)
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Updated 07 June 2023
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McIlroy: Saudi, PGA Tour deal ‘good for golf’

LOS ANGELES: Rory McIlroy on Wednesday welcomed the PGA Tour’s merger with the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf.

According to the Northern Ireland star, Tuesday’s deal would secure the financial future of the sport.

“I think ultimately, when I try to remove myself from the situation and I look at the bigger picture and I look at 10 years down the line, I think ultimately this is going to be good for the game of professional golf,” McIlroy said.

“It unifies it and it secures its financial future.”

McIlroy was speaking on the eve of this week’s PGA Canadian Open in Toronto in his first comments since Tuesday’s agreement was revealed.

Under the new deal, the PGA Tour and Europe’s DP World Tour said they had signed an agreement with LIV’s Saudi backers that will lead to ‘a new collectively owned, for-profit entity.’

McIlroy is widely reported to have turned down an offer in the region of $400 million to switch to LIV but on Wednesday denied ever receiving a bid for his services.

“I was never offered any money,” McIlroy said. The Northern Irishman, however, said he understood anger from fellow professionals against PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan — but insisted he still had confidence in the under-fire tour chief.

“I’ve dealt with Jay a lot closer than a lot of those guys have,” McIlroy said.

“From where we were a couple of weeks ago to where we are today, I think the future of the PGA Tour looks brighter as a whole, as an entity.”


Sebastian Muñoz sizzles to 63 for three-shot lead; Torque, Fireballs share top spot in team race

Updated 24 September 2023
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Sebastian Muñoz sizzles to 63 for three-shot lead; Torque, Fireballs share top spot in team race

  • The 63 left him at 13 under, three shots ahead of Crushers GC’s Anirban Lahiri, who shot his second consecutive 66 to move to 10 under
  • Torque will be seeking their fifth team victory of the season

SUGAR GROVE, Illinois: Thanks to a brilliant 8-under 63, Torque GC’s Sebastian Muñoz will take a three-shot lead entering Sunday’s final round of LIV Golf Chicago.

Now comes the difficult part — converting that lead into a victory at Rich Harvest Farms.

That’s been an issue for the 30-year-old from Colombia, whose best individual finish since joining LIV Golf this season was a second place in Orlando.

“I don’t want to take care of the lead because I don’t have good experiences with that in the past,” said Muñoz, whose last professional win came in 2019.

“… It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be challenging, especially me talking about it now. But I’m going to do what I’ve been doing.”

One of five co-leaders after the first round, Muñoz opened his second round Saturday with three birdies before holing his second shot at the par-4 fifth hole from 123 yards for eagle.

It was the first of two eagles in his round, the other coming at the par-5 10th.

The 63 left him at 13 under, three shots ahead of Crushers GC’s Anirban Lahiri, who shot his second consecutive 66 to move to 10 under.

Three players – 4Aces GC captain Dustin Johnson, Fireballs GC’s Abraham Ancer and RangeGoats GC’s Thomas Pieters – are five strokes back at 8 under.

Fueled by Muñoz’s low round, Torque moved into a tie for the team lead at 22 under, with David Puig (68) and Mito Pereira (70) also supplying counting scores.

The Fireballs also are at 22 under after counting scores from Ancer, Carlos Ortiz (68) and Eugenio Chacarra (69). The Aces and Crushers share third at 18 under.

Torque will be seeking their fifth team victory of the season. If that happens and the Aces finish no better than third, then Torque will assume the lead in the season-long team standings.

Meanwhile, Muñoz will seek to deliver the team’s first individual trophy. “It’s time for an individual win for us,” he said.

From Lahiri’s perspective, it’s also time for him to end his individual drought. His last professional win was in February 2015 when he won twice that month.

He’s been close to ending the drought since joining LIV Golf last year, finishing second in Boston in his debut event, and adding two more runner-up finishes this season — three shots behind Talor Gooch in Adelaide and seven strokes behind Cameron Smith last month in Bedminster.

“I’ve had a few too many seconds,” said Lahiri, who opened with an eagle Saturday en route to a bogey-free round.

“… I can’t control what Sebastian or anyone else does, so I’m just going to focus on my process and what I’m trying to do on the golf course.”

Of the top five players on the leaderboard, three still have a chance to finish the season-long individual race inside the bonus-paying top three.

Johnson, the defending individual champion, is currently eighth in points, while Muñoz is 12th and Lahiri 15th.

Based on the second-round leaderboard, Muñoz is projected to move into third place.

Four rounds are left in the regular season — Sunday’s final round in Chicago and next month’s LIV Golf Jeddah, which will be followed by the Team Championship in Miami.

TEAM COUNTING SCORES

Here are the standings and counting scores for Saturday’s second round of the team competition at LIV Golf Chicago. The three best scores from each team count in every round for their total team score. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.

T1. TORQUE GC (-22): Sebastian Muñoz 63, David Puig 68, Mito Pereira 70 (Rd. 2 score: -12)

T1. FIREBALLS GC (-22): Abraham Ancer 66, Carlos Ortiz 68, Eugenio Chacarra 69 (Rd. 2 score: -10)

T3. 4ACES GC (-18): Dustin Johnson 66, Peter Uihlein 69, Pat Perez 70 (Rd. 2 score: -8)

T3. CRUSHERS GC (-18): Anirban Lahiri 66, Bryson DeChambeau 69, Paul Casey 72 (Rd. 2 score: -6)

5. RANGEGOATS GC (-17): Talor Gooch 67, Thomas Pieters 67, Harold Varner III 71 (Rd. 2 score: -8)

T6. MAJESTICKS GC (-16): Ian Poulter 67, Henrik Stenson 67, Lee Westwood 69 (Rd. 2 score: -10)

T6. STINGER GC (-16): Dean Burmester 69, Louis Oosthuizen 70, Charl Schwartzel 71 (Rd. 2 score: -3)

8. RIPPER GC (-15): Marc Leishman 68, Matt Jones 70, Cameron Smith 71 (Rd. 2 score: -4)

9. SMASH GC (-11): Brooks Koepka 69, Jason Kokrak 71, Chase Koepka 72 (Rd. 2 score: -1)

T10. CLEEKS GC (-10): Richard Bland 66, Martin Kaymer 69, Graeme McDowell 69 (Rd. 2 score: -9)

T10. HYFLYERS GC (-10): Phil Mickelson 68, Brendan Steele 68, James Piot 69 (Rd. 2 score: -8)

12. IRON HEADS GC (-4): Scott Vincent 69, Kevin Na 70, Sihwan Kim 73 (Rd. 2 score: -1)


Europe rally to pull even with US at 8-8 going into final day of Solheim Cup

Updated 24 September 2023
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Europe rally to pull even with US at 8-8 going into final day of Solheim Cup

  • Ciganda, the only Spaniard in the European team, won both of her matches Saturday to maintain a perfect record
  • The contest will be decided by the 12 singles matches on Sunday, when Europe will try to win an unprecedented third straight Solheim Cup

CASARES, Spain: Led by home-crowd favorite Carlota Ciganda, Europe picked up the pace at the Solheim Cup to pull even with the US entering the decisive singles matches Sunday.

Ciganda, the only Spaniard in the European team, won both of her matches Saturday to maintain a perfect record as Europe drew level with the US at 8-8 after splitting the morning foursomes and winning the afternoon fourballs.

Captain’s pick Emily Pedersen and rookie Linn Grant also won both of their matches on Saturday to help Europe come from behind at Finca Cortesin.

The contest will be decided by the 12 singles matches on Sunday, when Europe will try to win an unprecedented third straight Solheim Cup. The Europeans arrived as favorites but had to rally after the Americans took a 4-0 lead in Friday’s first session.

“I’m out of words, but we have to remember we are not there yet, there are still 12 points up for grabs tomorrow,” Europe captain Suzann Pettersen said. “We made quite a comeback, now we are tied and we’ll put it in fifth gear and keep going. If you look at how we started after yesterday’s morning, we’ve come a long way.”

The US kept their two-point lead from the first day after the teams split the morning session on Saturday, but Europe were in control during most of the afternoon and ended up winning it 3-1.

“We certainly would have liked to have won a few more points today, but I’m not upset about our position,” US team captain Stacy Lewis said. “I mean, if you look straight at the scoreboard, you would say momentum goes to Europe, but I can tell you the way the girls feel and the way I feel about how we played today, I like our momentum.”

Lewis rested some of her players on Saturday and none will be playing all five matches this week. Pettersen will have three players going all the way — Pedersen, Grant and Leona Maguire.

The Europeans sealed Saturday’s victory when Ciganda and Grant defeated Danielle Kang and Lilia Vu 2 and 1 in a match in which both teams made plenty of birdies. Europe were 8-under par through nine holes but only 1 up over the Americans. Grant made six birdies in a row to start the match. Carlota had a clutch birdie on the 16th to help Europe seal the win.

“So, so happy for Carlota to come here to Spain. Literally bring her A game. She’s been under a lot of pressure, probably mostly from herself. But the way she’s handled it so far has been very, very impressive,” Pettersen said. “That match in the afternoon between Carlota, Linn and the Americans was just unbelievable to watch.”

Ciganda is the only player to win all of her matches. She won three straight sessions after sitting out the opening one on Friday.

“Playing in Spain in front of my family, home crowd, friends, I just love it,” Ciganda said. “I’m embracing this week. I think it’s been great. I still have a big day tomorrow, but I’m just trying to enjoy it.”

Maguire and Charley Hull earlier defeated Nelly Korda and Ally Ewing 4 and 3. Maguire, who thrived in her Solheim Cup debut two years ago, made birdies on nearly half of her holes.

“Suzann was pretty clear on what our job was today, so mission accomplished,” Maguire said. “One more day to give it our best shot and I think that’s the great thing about this team, there’s so much fight in this team. We’ve never given up.”

The Americans won its lone point in the afternoon when Cheyenne Knight and Angel Yin finished 2 up against veterans Caroline Hedwall — who had not played previously this week — and Anna Nordqvist, one of the vice captains for Europe.

Pedersen, playing in her fourth consecutive session, teamed up with Madelene Sagstrom for a 2 and 1 win over Rose Zhang and Andrea Lee.

“I think Emily’s a great pick, isn’t she?” Pettersen said. “I think she’s done fairly well.”

In the morning, Swedish rookies Grant and Maja Stark kept it close for Europe by making crucial birdie putts on their final two holes to help the hosts keep the deficit at 7-5. Stark and Grant defeated Kang and Lee 1 up in the final group to secure a 2-2 split.

“I think we came out with a more aggressive mindset today. Losing yesterday was not fun. Our first loss ever,” Grant said. “So we kind of had a different view of it today and just went out and crushed it from the start.”

Europe got the first point on Saturday with Ciganda and Pedersen winning 2 and 1 against Jennifer Kupcho and Vu, the world No. 2 who is yet to win a match at Finca Cortesin.

Korda, ranked No. 3 in the world, and US Women’s Open champion Allizen Corpuz gave the US their first point by cruising 5 and 3 past Georgia Hall and Celine Boutier in the final morning group. Boutier, the top-ranked European who was playing some of the best golf ahead of the Solheim Cup, remains winless.

US veteran Lexi Thompson and Megan Khang picked up their second win by defeating Maguire and Nordqvist 1 up. The American duo was rested in the afternoon session.


Morgan joins Sergio Garcia in five-way tie for lead, Stinger lead team race

Updated 23 September 2023
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Morgan joins Sergio Garcia in five-way tie for lead, Stinger lead team race

  • While the four other co-leaders are assured of returning in 2024, the 23-year-old Morgan is one of four players currently in the Drop Zone  

SUGAR GROVE, Illinois: Ripper GC’s Jediah Morgan, fighting to retain his spot in the LIV Golf League for next season, opened with a 5-under 66 to share the first-round lead Friday at LIV Golf Chicago.
Morgan is tied with Fireballs GC captain Sergio Garcia, Stinger GC captain Louis Oosthuizen, Crusher GC’s Anirban Lahiri and Torque GC’s Sebastián Muñoz on a packed leaderboard in which 19 other players ­are within two shots of the lead. Among those pursuers are team captains Brooks Koepka (Smash GC), Dustin Johnson (4Aces GC) and Bryson DeChambeau (Crushers), who each shot 68, and Joaquin Niemann (Torque), who shot 67.
While the four other co-leaders are assured of returning in 2024, the 23-year-old Morgan is one of four players currently in the Drop Zone who face relegation at the end of the season. He ranks 46th with just three points but a big result this week at Rich Harvest Farms could move him above the Drop Zone.
 Non-captains ranked 45th or worse will be relegated but have a chance to play their way back in later this year at the promotion tournament.
“I know where I am and everyone keeps reminding me where I am, so it’s pretty hard to get away from it,” said Morgan, who posted the low round in the field on Sunday at the previous LIV Golf event in Bedminster last month.“So, there’s no point in me trying to act like it’s not there in my head. It’s obviously there.
“But I know if I play well enough, put myself in the position I think to make putts for birdie, then that’s really all you can do.”

Team counting scores

Here are the standings and counting scores for Friday’s opening round of the team competition at LIV Golf Chicago. The three best scores from each team count in every round for their total team score. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.

1. STINGER GC (-13): Louis Oosthuizen 66, Charl Schwartzel 67, Dean Burmester 67

T2. FIREBALLS GC (-12): Sergio Garcia 66, Carlos Ortiz 67, Eugenio Chacarra 68

T2. CRUSHERS GC (-12): Anirban Lahiri 66, Charles Howell III 67, Bryson DeChambeau 68

4. RIPPER GC (-11): Jediah Morgan 66, Marc Leishman 67, Cameron Smith 69

T5. 4ACES GC (-10): Patrick Reed 67, Peter Uihlein 68, Dustin Johnson 68

T5. TORQUE GC (-10): Sebastián Muñoz 66, Joaquin Niemann 67, David Puig 70

T5. SMASH GC (-10): Jason Kokrak 67, Brooks Koepka 68, Matthew Wolff 68

8. RANGEGOATS GC (-9): Thomas Pieters 67, Talor Gooch 68, Bubba Watson 69

9. MAJESTICKS GC (-6): Sam Horsfield 69, Ian Poulter 69, Lee Westwood 69

10. IRON HEADS GC (-3): Scott Vincent 67, Kevin Na 70, Danny Lee 73

11. HYFLYERS GC (-2): Cameron Tringale 68, Brendan Steele 69, James Piot 74

12. CLEEKS GC (-1): Graeme McDowell 70, Richard Bland 71, Bernd Wiesberger 71


Europe fight back after USA sweep Solheim Cup foursomes

Updated 23 September 2023
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Europe fight back after USA sweep Solheim Cup foursomes

  • The previous best start for the US was 3 1/2-1/2 in Wales in 1996
  • Former Spain great Jose María Olazabal brought on the trophy to the first tee and lauded what he called “one of the most important tournaments in women’s golf”

CASARES, Spain: The European team started to fight back on Friday afternoon as they edged fourballs to trail the US 5-3 at the end of the first day of the Solheim Cup.

The US swept the morning foursomes 4-0 at Finca Cortesin in Spain, but Europe collected two wins and two halves in taking the afternoon fourballs 3-1 to revive their hopes of an unprecedented third win in a row.

Europe received a huge fillip from Leona Maguire in the second match. All square and with American Lexi Thompson on the fringe of the green in two at the par five 18th, the Irish star chipped in for birdie.

Clearly rattled, Thompson half shanked her chip and could only manage a par and the Europeans, Maguire and Georgia Hall, claimed a first full point.

“it was a great win,” said Maguire, who won four and half points out of five on her debut two years ago. “Georgia kept it together on the front nine and then I made some birdies on the back nine.

“It’s been a long, tiring day but it was a good comeback in the afternoon.”

Spaniard Carlota Ciganda, who had sat out foursomes, carried on the home charge in the afternoon, joining rookie Linn Grant in a 4 and 2 victory over Ally Ewing and Angel Yin in the final foursome.

The other matches swung back and forth.

In the top tie, rookie Gemma Dryburgh and Madelene Sagstrom shared the spoils with US rookie Rose Zhang and Megan Khang.

A highlight was Dryburgh’s chip in for birdie at the 16th — but Zhang followed her in with a 20-foot putt to keep the match all square.

The third match was also a well-earned half. US Open Champion Allizen Corpuz holed a long putt for birdie at the 18th, but rookie Maja Stark followed her in from around the same range.

In the same match, Emily Pedersen claimed the shot of the day with a hole in one at the 178-yard 12th.

“It was a tough morning, but good to fight back in the afternoon,” said European Captain, Suzann Pettersen.

“I think my team was almost trying too hard in the morning but I was confident they could come back.”

The morning was all about the US. Thompson and Khang set the tone in the top match, winning the opening three holes against European rookies Grant and Stark.

The Americans went on to win by 2 and 1 and their next two matches claimed victory on the final green.

In a one-sided final match, Ewing and rookie Cheyenne Knight trounced Charley Hull and Pedersen by 5 and 4.

Hull, playing in her sixth Solheim, was struggling with neck and upper back pain and was worked on by the physiotherapist on the practice range.

But she was out spectating in the afternoon and expects to be fit for final two days.

 


LIV Golf Jeddah to stage regular season finale next month

Updated 22 September 2023
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LIV Golf Jeddah to stage regular season finale next month

  • Individual and team titles, and 2024 league spots all on the line at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club from Oct. 13-15

JEDDAH: LIV Golf makes its highly anticipated return to Royal Greens Golf & Country Club here from Oct. 13 to 15, when the league’s 2023 regular season will reach its conclusion and set the stage for the Team Championship — and the future for many golfers.

The event marks the 13th tournament of the league’s first full season. There are 13 major winners who will compete in King Abdullah Economic City, including 2023 PGA Championship winner and 2023 US Ryder Cup Team selection Brooks Koepka, 2022 Open Champion Cameron Smith, World Golf Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson, 2020 US Open Champion Bryson DeChambeau, and two-time major winners Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer.

There will be much to play for amongst those atop the individual standings. Those further down the standings face a battle to secure their future, with players ranked 45 and below in the “Drop Zone” at season’s end facing relegation and losing their LIV Golf status for next year.

Smith currently leads the individual standings with 170 points after wins in London and Bedminster. In-form American Talor Gooch (149), a three-time individual champion this season, is in hot pursuit of the Australian. They are followed by seven contenders including 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed, 2022 LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah winner Koepka, 4Aces GC captain Johnson and Crushers GC captain DeChambeau, who shot a sensational 58 at LIV Golf Greenbrier earlier this year.

Those who finish in the top 24 in the overall standings will lock-in their position in the LIV Golf League for next season. Players finishing in the “Open Zone,” positions 25 to 44, however, may face trade or release by their respective teams. Meanwhile, those finishing in positions 45 and below sitting in the “Drop Zone” will be relegated and automatically qualify for the league’s promotional tournament, where they will have the opportunity to earn their spot back for the 2024 season.

Aside from the individual race, each player in the 48-man field has good reason to make their scores count, as the final team standings following LIV Golf Jeddah will determine seeds one to 12 for the LIV Golf Team Championship in Miami the following week, with the top four teams receiving first-round byes.

Through 11 events, 4Aces GC — featuring Johnson, Reed, Peter Uihlein and Pat Perez — sit atop the team standings with 172 points after wins in Adelaide and London. Torque GC, featuring Chilean stars Joaquin Niemann and Mito Pereira, Colombian Sebastian Munoz, and Spanish rookie David Puig, trail closely behind with 163 total points following wins in Orlando, D.C., Andalucia and Greenbrier.

The all-South African Stinger GC featuring major champions Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Dean Burmester, currently sit in third place with 156 points. DeChambeau’s Crushers GC (146 points), including Paul Casey, Charles Howell III and Anirban Lahiri, hold a three-point edge in fourth place over RangeGoats GC (143 points). They boast five top-three finishes this season thanks to standout performances by Gooch, Harold Varner III, Thomas Pieters, and captain Watson.