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

Sebastian Muñoz of Torque GC leads by three shots heading into the final round of LIV Golf Chicago. (Sam Greenwood/LIV Golf)
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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)


Six things to watch at LIV Golf Jeddah

Updated 29 February 2024
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Six things to watch at LIV Golf Jeddah

  • With Brooks Koepka eyeing a ‘three-peat,’ John Rahm makes first appearance in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: It is not an exaggeration to say that all eyes in the world of golf will be on LIV Golf Jeddah in Saudi Arabia this week.

The Public Investment Fund-backed league has done more than enough in the recent past to become one of the strongest tours in the world, but enticing Anthony Kim to return to professional golf is probably the coolest thing it has done so far.

It remains to be seen what sort of form the 38-year-old American will be in after his 12-year hiatus from the sport. He might take some time to get back into the groove but be prepared for the internet to go nuts if he has a good opening round on Friday.

Kim is the mystery man of golf, an almost mythical figure. His talent and his skills were unreal when he played regularly on the PGA Tour, winning three titles before he turned 25, but then he said goodbye to the game at the age of just 26.

Some have described his return to professional golf as being like “the resurfacing of the Loch Ness Monster,” others as a sighting of the golfing world’s “Yeti.”

Kim’s return to competition will certainly be one of the biggest storylines to follow during LIV Golf Jeddah this weekend, but here are six others that could ramp up the excitement at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.

Jon Rahm’s first time in Saudi Arabia

World No. 3 Jon Rahm is the biggest signing in LIV Golf history and the mercurial Spaniard, a two-time major champion, including victory at last year’s Masters, is set to make his first appearance in Saudi Arabia this week.

Given the wind and length of the course at Royal Greens, and the peculiarities associated with a desert course, the venue should play right into Rahm’s hands. A phenomenal striker of the ball, he has spent the past decade based in Arizona and so is used to such conditions. He is also a two-time DP World Tour Championship winner in the neighboring UAE, on a similar style of course.

Koepka’s ‘three-peat’ attempt

Brooks Koepka, a five-time major champion, faced tough challenges to the last putt in Jeddah in 2022 and 2023, but emerged victorious from playoffs both times. He beat teammate Peter Uihlein in the inaugural season of LIV Golf, then got better of Talor Gooch last October.

The 33-year-old resident of West Palm Beach, who was the only LIV Golf player on last year’s Ryder Cup team, will be going for an unprecedented “three-peat” this week. Should he succeed, which is very much within the realms of possibility, it will set a hard-to-beat record in the relatively short history of LIV Golf so far.

The Crushers aim to bounce back

The 2023 Team Championship winners, the Bryson DeChambeau-led Crushers GC, have a point to prove in Saudi Arabia. They were cruising toward a team victory last year at Royal Greens, and DeChambeau looked like a lock for his third individual title of the season, when the unthinkable happened. The Crushers juggernaut came to a grinding halt during Sunday’s final round, they dropped to fourth place and DeChambeau slipped up to finish tied for 16th.

They will be keen to prove that the final round last year was nothing more than an aberration.

Niemann’s time to shine

Chile’s Joaquin Niemann is the LIV man in the news, having recently received a special invitation to play at this year’s Masters. It is just reward for all the chasing he has been doing lately, including victory in the Australian Open in December, fourth place in the Hero Dubai Desert Classic in January, and third in the International Series Oman last week. He also won LIV Golf Mayakoba this month, the season opener, which unfortunately did not earn him any world ranking points.

Niemann’s world-class talent is unquestionable and he is clearly fired up at the moment, which makes him a dangerous contender this week.

Saudi specialist DJ back in form

Koepka might be the flavor of the moment at Royal Greens thanks to his back-to-back LIV Golf wins there, but the original boss of the course is his close friend Dustin Johnson, two-time winner of the Saudi International there in 2019 and 2021, with a second place sandwiched between the victories. Even at the LIV Golf events in the past two years, his record is a respectable tie for fifth and a solo sixth place.

Now that the former world No. 1 has finally gotten over his short title drought with a win in Las Vegas this month, be prepared to perhaps see some fireworks once again from the big American.

The change of schedule

In 2022, Koepka won the tournament with a 12-under-par total, and finished on 14-under when he successfully defended his title last year.

A major change to the tournament this year, however, is that it is being played in the first week of March, when the conditions will much cooler compared with the October scheduling of previous years. Royal Greens will therefore feel like a different course, with changed wind directions and slightly softer greens. Expect the scores to be lower, therefore, unless the Red Sea has different ideas and starts blowing high winds towards the course.


Anthony Kim joins LIV Golf after 12-year absence from pro competition

Updated 28 February 2024
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Anthony Kim joins LIV Golf after 12-year absence from pro competition

  • American competing as wildcard in pursuit of full-time status, starting in Jeddah
  • Greg Norman: It’s clear that he (Kim) has the fire to win again and show why he was one of the most compelling players in the world

JEDDAH: US golfer Anthony Kim has joined LIV Golf as a season-long wildcard player after being out of the professional game for almost 12 years.

The 38-year-old former Ryder Cup star will make his official return to pro competition at LIV Golf Jeddah, taking place from March 1 to 3 at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City, LIV Golf officials announced.

Kim said: “After stepping away from the game years ago due to injury, I’m happy to officially announce my return to the world of professional golf.

“It’s been a long time coming, and I’m very grateful for all the highs, lows, and lessons learned from the first part of my career. I want to compete with the best players in the world, and I’m on a mission to prove to myself that I can win again.

“The next step on that journey starts now, and I’m excited to give everything I’ve got this season on the LIV Golf League.”

LIV Golf commissioner and CEO, Greg Norman, said: “LIV Golf was launched to create new opportunities for players and fans that drive this sport forward in exciting ways, and when I think of Anthony Kim, I can’t imagine a more perfect fit for what we’re trying to do.

“His talent is undeniable, and we are thrilled to welcome him back to professional golf with our league.

“It’s clear that he has the fire to win again and show why he was one of the most compelling players in the world, and we will support him on that mission as he works to earn his way back to the top of the game,” Norman added.

Kim will compete in all remaining 2024 LIV Golf regular season tournaments as one of two wildcard players aiming to accrue points in the league’s individual standings and earn a team place in 2025. He joins season-long wildcard player Hudson Swafford, competing against the LIV Golf League’s 13 four-player teams across the 14-event global schedule.

The three-time PGA Tour winner posted his best full season in 2008 when he finished sixth on the money list and fourth in the FedEx Cup standings. That season led to a career-high eight top-10 finishes, including six top-three finishes.

The American spent 20 weeks inside the top 10, with a career-high of No. 6 in 2008 after winning the Wachovia Championship and AT&T National.

In 15 career major starts, his best finish was a third place at the 2010 Masters, where he finished behind current LIV Golf members Phil Mickelson (winner) and Lee Westwood (second).

Kim notched two other top-10 Major finishes both coming at The Open, once in 2008 – T7 and again in 2011 – T5. He also set a tournament record with 11 birdies during round two at the 2009 Masters.

Kim is no stranger to team golf after compiling a successful track record with Team USA and the University of Oklahoma. The California native has represented Team USA at both the amateur and professional level a total of three times and was victorious on each occasion.

He played a crucial role at the 2008 Ryder Cup, posting an emotional victory over current LIV Golf member Sergio Garcia in the opening match of the Sunday Singles as the Americans beat Europe for the first time since 1999.

A three-time All-American and freshman of the year (2004) while at the University of Oklahoma, Kim set the school record for the lowest scoring average in relation to par with a 71.73 (+0.22) – narrowly besting Abraham Ancer, 72.42 (+0.93).

In June 2012, Kim had surgery on an injured Achilles tendon in his left leg and was expected to return in the 2013 season on a Major Medical Exemption. However, he has not played in a professional event since the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship.


Rory McIlroy reminisces about Dubai’s Majlis course, ‘where everything started’

Updated 28 February 2024
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Rory McIlroy reminisces about Dubai’s Majlis course, ‘where everything started’

  • Irishman has won record 4 Dubai Desert Classic titles at Emirates Golf Club

DUBAI: Following his latest triumph in the UAE, world No. 2 Rory McIlroy had nothing but praise for the region’s longest-standing golf event, the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, a tournament he said allowed him to “reminisce” about his career.

The Northern Irishman etched his name in Dubai history after he became the first four-time champion at Emirates Golf Club to cap off the event’s milestone 35th anniversary celebrations in January.

McIlroy, who added to his previous victory tally on the Majlis course in 2009, 2015, and 2023, provided a thrilling weekend for fans as the reigning champion pulled back a 10-shot lead held by Cameron Young to secure his fourth Dallah trophy.

On his personal journey, alongside the city’s growth on the world stage, the 34-year-old player said: “The arc of my career and Dubai as a city have tracked each other pretty consistently along the way.

“I remember my first Dubai Desert Classic as an amateur back in 2006, when we were staying 10 minutes away in what was almost like being out in the desert, and it’s so built up now compared to then.”

In his first visit as a golfing enthusiast, McIlroy would follow his heroes around the Majlis course, with the Emirates Golf Club providing a unique full-circle moment in his career.

“For my first year at the event, I took a media pass and walked inside the ropes to follow Tiger (Woods), Ernie Els, and Thomas Bjorn and then I think about even the arc of that. Thomas is my Ryder Cup captain, I ended up buying Ernie Els’ house, and I’ve become really good friends with Tiger.

“To think about my first visit 18 years ago, and what it’s meant to come here and play in this event, having now won it four times, it’s always been a place I come back to and reminisce about my career as it’s where everything really started,” he added.

The 2024 tournament saw thousands of spectators in attendance with unique moments being enjoyed on and off the greens with the addition of a new-look fan experience.

Several major international certifications also added to the tournament’s legacy for advancing the sport in the region, having become the first golf event in the Middle East and first DP World Tour Rolex Series to achieve Golf Environmental Organization-certified tournament status in recent years.

The 36th edition of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic is set to return in January with a strong line-up again expected to take to the Majlis course as part of the season-opening event on the DP World Tour Rolex Series calendar.

Simon Corkill, executive tournament director of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, said: “The historic 2024 edition which just concluded, drew huge crowds across the four days of the tournament.

“Our preparations have already begun to make next year’s event even bigger and better. We are determined to raise the bar even higher for 2025 by not only attracting a stellar field of golf stars but also to ensure there’s a wider range of entertainment and activities for all ages.”


Anthony Kim to make pro golf return at LIV Jeddah

Updated 27 February 2024
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Anthony Kim to make pro golf return at LIV Jeddah

  • Greg Norman: ‘It is an honor... to give the opportunity for this star to be reborn’
  • Anthony Kim made a record 11 birdies in his second round at Augusta in 2009

PARIS: Three-time PGA Tour winner Anthony Kim will make his first professional golf appearance since 2012 at this weekend’s LIV Golf event in Jeddah, the Saudi-backed circuit announced on Monday.
Kim suffered a series of injuries and has not played a tour event since undergoing surgery on his left Achilles tendon, but has been working for months on a return to competition and had spoken with PGA Tour and LIV Golf officials.
“He oozes incredible talent,” tweeted former world number one and LIV commissioner Greg Norman.
“The world has seen it in the past and now it is an honor... to give the opportunity for this star to be reborn.
“Welcome back and to the LIV Golf family mate. The golf world has missed you.”
American Kim finished third at the 2010 Masters and made a record 11 birdies in his second round at Augusta in 2009.
On the PGA Tour, he won the National and Wachovia Championship in 2008 and the 2010 Houston Open and was ranked as high as sixth in the world in 2008.
Kim also played on triumphant United States teams at the 2008 Ryder Cup and 2009 Presidents Cup.


Amateur Attieh creates history for Saudi Arabia in professional golf

Updated 24 February 2024
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Amateur Attieh creates history for Saudi Arabia in professional golf

MUSCAT: Khalid Walid Attieh made history for Saudi Arabia on Friday when he became the first amateur player from the country to make the cut in an elite professional tournament.

The 28-year-old from Riyadh shot a commendable round of one-under par 71 in the second round of the $2 million International Series Oman after an opening 73, and his two-day effort of even-par 144 was enough to qualify for the weekend in the Asian Tour event.

Playing in the last group of the day, Attieh finished with a bogey in near darkness, but that could not dampen his spirit.

“It is a very proud moment for me and a very proud moment for my country,” said Attieh, who qualified for the tournament that features 21 LIV Golf stars by winning last week’s Oman Masters.

“Saudi Arabia has done so much in golf over the past few years and we players have benefitted immensely from it. The best way I can acknowledge and thank Golf Saudi for all the support is by performing well for my country. And that’s why this is extremely satisfying.”

Attieh started the day from the 10th tee and quickly picked up a shot on the par-five 12th hole. However, he gave up that advantage on the other par-five on the back nine, the 16th. That hole was playing one of the toughest throughout the day.

On his back nine, the Saudi National Team member made a birdie on the par-five third and then made a stunning 25-footer downhill putt for his third birdie on the par-three eighth hole. On the ninth, Attieh was slightly distracted by his playing partner taking a long time after a wayward drive, and in failing daylight, he three-putted for a bogey from a long range.

The University of South California graduate, who has his own software business in Saudi Arabia, said: “I’ve been playing well over the last few months. And finally, I got some things rolling my way today and put in a good round, which honestly could have been even lower.

“But I am very happy with my score today. To be able to qualify for the event last week by winning the Oman Masters was very satisfying, but this is even better. I hope to keep the momentum and hopefully, more good rounds are coming on the weekend.”

Attieh, who made a comeback to golf after taking nearly two years off to complete his studies and then focus on setting up his business, said he plans to turn professional soon.

“I also had a small back injury, and I wanted to complete my studies. I started playing again about eight or nine months ago, and I found that I was playing just as good, if not better after my big break. So, I decided to get serious and worked hard on my game. Started working with a mental coach to get stronger mentally, and all of it seems to be paying dividends,” said Attieh.

“I’m very much looking forward to keep on raising the bar for myself and the flag for Saudi. I plan to turn pro soon, maybe by the end of summer this year. I want to try out the Qualifying Schools in both (the) Asian (Tour) and the DP World Tour. It should be (an) exciting few months ahead.”