Lydia Ko delivers big moment to win mixed team event with Jason Day

Lydia Ko, left, and Jason Day celebrate with the championship trophy after winning the Grant Thornton Invitational, the first mixed-team golf tournament since 1999, Sunday in Naples, Fla. (AP)
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Updated 11 December 2023
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Lydia Ko delivers big moment to win mixed team event with Jason Day

  • They closed with a 6-under 66 in modified fourballs to capture the first mixed-team event in 24 years
  • It was the first time the PGA Tour and LPGA had a mixed-team event since the JC Penney Classic in 1999, and players on both tours spoke endlessly about looking forward to the next one

NAPLES, Florida: Lydia Ko hit a fairway metal to 8 feet to set up the birdie she and Jason Day needed to win the Grant Thornton Invitational on Sunday. They closed with a 6-under 66 in modified fourballs to capture the first mixed-team event in 24 years.

Playing the par-5 17th hole, Ko and Day were tied with the Canadian duo of Corey Conners and Brooke Henderson, who had to settle for two closing pars and a 63.

The format allowed for both players to hit tee shots, then switch to the other player’s golf ball and finish out the hole. Day was in a bunker left of the green at the par-5 17th, no easy up-and-down. Ko had 208 into a slight wind and her fairway metal never left its target.

“That is so nice,” Day said as Ko’s shot was in the air. It landed near the hole and rolled out about 8 feet. Her eagle putt never had a chance, but the hard work was done. Both secured easy pars on the 18th to finish at 26-under 190.

“It’s weird because that felt like the most stress-free win, because I knew she was going to step up in the end,” Day said.

That she did, and it allowed Ko to cap off an otherwise poor year on a winning note. Ko was the Race to CME Globe champion on the LPGA Tour last year at Tiburon. This year, she failed to be among the top 60 who returned as she went winless — until Sunday.

It was the first time the PGA Tour and LPGA had a mixed-team event since the JC Penney Classic in 1999, and players on both tours spoke endlessly about looking forward to the next one.

Conners holed out from the fairway for eagle on the ninth hole and briefly took the lead until Day made a 15-foot birdie on the 12th. They stayed close the rest of the way.

“We both did a pretty good job of getting the ball in play off the tee,” Conners said. “There’s a few shots we’d both like to have back throughout the day. But we fought hard and gave ourselves a lot of chances.”

They failed to birdie the 17th when Henderson pulled her second shot well left of the green into a waste area, and Conners came up short of the green and couldn’t get up-and-down.

Ludvig Aberg, the sensational rookie to won on the PGA Tour and European tour and played in the Ryder Cup since turning pro in June, teamed with fellow Swede Madelene Sagstrom to post a 60 in the final round. They also briefly had the lead, but ran out of holes and finished third, two shots behind.

Tony Finau and Nelly Korda didn’t make birdie until the sixth hole. They closed with two birdies for a 67 and tied for fourth with Denny McCarthy and Megan Khang (65).


Saudi golfer Faisal Salhab has impressive opening round at $2m International Series Oman

Updated 23 February 2024
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Saudi golfer Faisal Salhab has impressive opening round at $2m International Series Oman

  • Fellow Saudis Othman Almulla, Saud Al-Sharif also enjoy solid starts in Muscat

Muscat: On a tricky Al-Mouj Golf Club course in the opening round of the $2 million International Series Oman, Saudi Arabia’s Faisal Salhab got off the mark with a solid 1-under par 71 round.

There were two annoying bogeys – one of them a three-putt on the par-3 eighth green that tested everyone in the field with its severity – but Salhab also hit 15 out of 18 greens in regulation and missed only two fairways all day.

Saud Al-Sharif and Othman Almulla, the other two Saudi professionals in the field, had impressive starts too.

Al-Sharif was 1-under par for his round through 15 holes, before a double bogey on the seventh hole pushed him to 1-over par. Almulla started with three bogeys in his first four holes, but came back to make 12 straight pars before an unfortunate triple bogey on the difficult 16th hole saw him finish at 6-over par.

After signing his card, Salhab, 27, flashing his trademark wide smile, predicted that 2024 would be a year of change for Saudi professional golfers.

He said: “It’s so good to see that the things I’ve been working hard for in the offseason with my coach (Jamie McConnell), with other members of the team like my psychologist (Andrea Debellis), Saudi Golf, and the other pros, is showing early results.

“This was a good start, but hopefully, a lot more to come this year. I honestly think this could be a breakthrough year for us Saudi professional golfers. We have been given this incredible opportunity to play the International Series events and on the Asian Tour, and we are on the verge of showing positive results. We have all had good spells and we only need to string it together for a longer period.

“The mentality is back to trying to win — trying to do well. We do not want to try making cuts anymore. These last couple of years have shown us that we have the game. I’ve seen it playing against these guys. They’re excellent players. But we’re very good as well, and we need to believe that more.

“We’re getting that mentality this year of not having any fear — become a kid again. We’ve been dreaming all our lives of playing with these guys. Now that we are here, why are we being timid? It’s completely wrong.

“So, this is a year of what can we do, rather than putting ceilings on ourselves,” Salhab added.

That fearlessness was very evident during Salhab’s round, when he bounced back with a birdie on the 17th hole after making a couple of unforced errors to wind up with a bogey on the previous hole.

He said: “I hit a good drive and then a 3-wood to about 40 yards. The chip went over the green, and then I did not have a great return chip before my par putt from 10-12 feet lipped out.

“But that’s where I think I showed good attitude and some of the talks that I had with Andrea paid off. I spoke to my caddie and told him, ‘let’s forget about the bogey. We’re good enough to birdie any hole here.’ I just hit a couple of good shots after that and made a 15-foot birdie putt.”

Salhab has had better rounds as a professional – his best was a 4-under par 68 in Indonesia last year. But he was pleased with his 71 in Muscat, especially because Al-Mouj was decidedly playing tougher.

“Hundred percent this was better. Even though the scorecard would say the round in Indonesia was better by three shots.

“This was solid. I kept hitting good shots and finding fairways and I stuck to my processes. I was happy with how I thought on the golf course and how I kept pushing myself.

“I just need to keep doing this. I need to keep working hard and believe in myself,” Salhab added.


Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit keeps her cool to take victory at Aramco Saudi Ladies International in Riyadh

Updated 18 February 2024
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Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit keeps her cool to take victory at Aramco Saudi Ladies International in Riyadh

  • Thai star’s win made sure she took home the top prize of $750,000 from the record-breaking $5 million prize purse

LONDON: Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit capped off a perfect four days at the Aramco Saudi Ladies International in Riyadh, scoring seven-under-par on the final day to claim a first victory since her Major win as a rookie at the 2021 ANA Inspiration.

The Thai star’s win made sure she took home the top prize of $750,000 from the record-breaking $5 million prize purse — the largest on the Ladies European Tour outside of the Majors and still the only professional golf tournament to match the prize fund of the men’s equivalent.

Tavatanakit shrugged off any question of being chased down on the final day at Riyadh Golf Club as she sunk an eagle put on the fifth hole to propel her clear of her rivals Esther Henseleit and Charley Hull early on.

After that ANA Inspiration win in 2021, the journey back to the top of the leaderboard has been a hard one for the Thai sensation, and she has spoken frankly about her mental health challenges.

“It’s been really difficult, but those struggles gave me a lot of strength,” Tavatanakit said. “I learned a lot, and I grew a lot from it as well. Looking back, I’m grateful for all the moments, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

She continued: “You go down (mentally), and you’re down there to go up one day, and that’s kind of true with golf and life. I’m definitely getting the highs this week, and then we’ll see what the future holds.

“But today, I went out there like I came to play golf, and I had a lot of fun today. Regardless of the outcome, I told myself to enjoy it, and I really did.”

Heinseleit of Germany followed up her blistering 65 on Day 3 with a solid three-under-par on the final day, which secured her second place and a check for $450,000.

There was a late charge for Japan’s Minami Katsu, the eight-time LPGA tour of Japan winner who recorded her first professional win at the age of just 15 in 2014.

Katsu followed up a front nine of four-under-par, with a run of four birdies to begin her back nine, before finishing seven-under-par after a bogey on the 16th hole.

Meanwhile, England’s Hull was unable to capitalize on her 68 on Day 3, but a respectable two-under-par was enough to lock in a tied third-placed finish.


Patrick Cantlay leads by 2 at Riviera as he goes for a hometown win

Updated 18 February 2024
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Patrick Cantlay leads by 2 at Riviera as he goes for a hometown win

  • Cantlay was solid as ever in the Genesis Invitational until a soft bogey cut his lead in half
  • The final group is Cantlay and Schauffele, a pair of Californians who are now neighbors in Florida

LOS ANGELES: Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele first competed at cards on the long flight to Australia for the Presidents Cup. They became partners in team events, roommates on the road, close friends who take vacations together with their wives, and more practice rounds than they can count.

Sunday at Riviera will have some familiarity to it with one exception: They have never competed against each other with $4 million on the line.

Cantlay was solid as ever Saturday in the Genesis Invitational until a soft bogey toward the end of the round that effectively cut his lead in half. He was leading by four shots most of the back nine until his mistake on the par-5 17th and strong finishes by Schauffele and Will Zalatoris.

Cantlay settled for a 1-under 70, giving him a two-shot lead over Schauffele and Zalatoris, who each birdied the 16th and 17th holes for 65s.

For a tournament in which host Tiger Woods withdrew with the flu and Jordan Spieth was disqualified for signing an incorrect card amidst his own stomach issues, the final round of this signature event has some appeal.

Zalatoris missed most of last year after back surgery, and now he has a chance to show he’s all the way back. “Being in contention, that’s how you find out where you’re at,” he said.

The final group is Cantlay and Schauffele, a pair of Californians who are now neighbors in Florida. They don’t do everything together, it just seems that way.

“We play most practice rounds together and we play a lot at home. It won’t be anything out of the usual,” Cantlay said.

They have been in the final group twice and it’s a draw — Cantlay got the best of him at the BMW Championship in 2022 at Wilmington Country Club, while Schauffele won earlier that summer at the Travelers Championship.

This will be their 21st time playing together on the PGA Tour, to go along with 13 times they have been partners in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and 12 rounds they played together as partners in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, winning in 2022.

Cantlay, a UCLA alum who grew up 30 miles down the coast at Virginia Country Club, was at 14-under 199.

The Genesis Invitational has a $20 million purse like other signature events, but it awards $4 million (up from $3.6 million) as a player-hosted event. Woods might not be around to present the trophy, confirming on X he had influenza, the cause of him withdrawing Friday.

“When we play on Mondays and Tuesdays we’re trying to beat each other,” Schauffele said. “I think the only time we’re really rooting hard for each other is when we’re playing team events. I’m rooting for myself harder than anyone else and same goes for him. But of course I’d like to see him do well, but when we’re in the final group together it’s pretty obvious what we’re trying to do.”

Cantlay finally missed a putt inside 10 feet, this one for par on the third hole, but was otherwise solid on an overcast afternoon at Riviera. He saved a tough par on the 10th when his chip rolled off the green and added birdies at the 11th and 13th.

“I played solid golf today,” Cantlay said. “I didn’t make any long putts or anything. Didn’t really give myself too many chances, but all in all a solid day and in good position for tomorrow.”

But he lost a little of his cushion, particularly on the par-5 17th, the second-easiest hole at Riviera that yielded only two bogeys among the 51 players who reached the weekend.

Cantlay found a fairway bunker to the right off the tee, blasted out to wedge range and his shot to a front pin came off the green. He chipped weakly to 15 feet and missed the par putt.

Schauffele opened with a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 first and was relatively quiet until taking care of the par 5s on the back and adding birdies at the short par-4 10th and a tee shot to 7 feet on the par-3 16th.

Zalatoris, who missed most of last year recovering from back surgery, already has one highlight this week with his hole-in-one Friday on the 14th that resulted in a car for him and his caddie. He zoomed into contention with five birdies over his 10 holes for a 65.

Luke List (68) was three shots behind, while Harris English (65) and Jason Day (69) were another shot back going into the final round.

No one else was closer than five.

Cantlay is trying to join Max Homa (2021) and John Merrick (2013) as players from the greater Los Angeles area trying to win what amounts to a hometown event. Cantlay won the Zozo Championship at Sherwood in Thousand Oaks, about 35 miles to the north, when the tournament was moved to California during the pandemic.

But Riviera is special.

“Being from southern California, it’s one of the tournaments on the list that I’d like to win the most,” Cantlay said.


Floods fail to dampen Hull’s performance at Aramco Saudi Ladies International

Updated 17 February 2024
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Floods fail to dampen Hull’s performance at Aramco Saudi Ladies International

  • Englishwoman shoots 4-under-par 68 to move into 3rd despite sleepless night
  • Thailand’s Tavatanakit tops leaderboard, as Henseleit moves into second

RIYADH: Englishwoman Charley Hull moved back into contention in the Aramco Saudi Ladies International Presented by PIF with a 4-under-par 68 on Saturday, despite her hotel room flooding during the night.
The world No. 8 ended the day in a share of third on 7 under for the tournament.
But it was not all plain sailing for the Solheim Cup heavyweight after heavy rains and thunderstorms disrupted her sleep and morning preparations.
“I had to have plumbers in from 1 a.m. until 3:30 a.m. in the morning,” she said. “After that I didn’t really fancy getting up to do too much of a workout, but I’m certainly much more awake now after that round.”
Hull recently introduced a new fitness regime as she chases her first major.
Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit completed a calm and composed round of 3 under to maintain her position at the top of the leaderboard at 11 under, three strokes clear of Germany’s Esther Henseleit.
Now in a prime position to secure her first win since the 2021 ANA Championship, the Thai star was clear on what she had to do.
“You’re thinking about it, so what are you going to do about those thoughts? Tomorrow, all I want to do is make the right choices for each and every shot. Whatever it is that I’m going to face, I’m up for it,” she said.
Henseleit jumped into second place on the leaderboard with a blistering round of 7 under, outplaying her compatriot Alexandra Forsterling, who shot five under to end the day in a share of 15th.
Heinseleit thanked her coach, and fiance, Reece Phillips for his role in her ongoing development.
“He’s been helping me a lot with my swing over the last three years and it looks completely different now,” she said. “We have a good system now out there and it’s good to have someone like that on the bag.”
Former event champion Emily Pedersen shot 6 under on Saturday to move into a tie for third with Hull. The Danish No. 1 said she was hoping to make the most of the opportunity she had created.
“It was special for me to win (in Saudi Arabia) five years ago, so it would mean a lot to win again and, obviously, that’s what I’m here for,” she said.
Another former event winner, Georgia Hall, shot 3 under on Saturday to end the day in a tie for seventh place.
With plenty of big names still in the running for the largest prize fund of any Ladies European Tour event outside the majors everything looks set for a grandstand finish on Sunday.


Woods withdraws with ‘flu-like’ illness at Riviera, Cantlay leads

Updated 17 February 2024
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Woods withdraws with ‘flu-like’ illness at Riviera, Cantlay leads

  • Woods’s premature exit of his first official PGA Tour event in more than 10 months overshadowed another outstanding day for American Patrick Cantlay
  • Canadian Mackenzie Hughes and American Luke List matched the largest 36-hole lead in tournament history

LOS ANGELES: Ailing superstar Tiger Woods withdrew in the second round of the Genesis Invitational on Friday in the latest setback for the 15-time major champion.

Woods’s longtime business partner Rob McNamara said Woods had felt “flu-like symptoms” on Thursday night and his condition worsened until he called it quits after hitting his tee shot at the seventh hole.

“He had a little bit of a fever and that, and was better during the warm-up, but then when he got out there and was walking and playing, he started feeling dizzy,” McNamara said.

The arrival of an ambulance at Riviera’s clubhouse sparked further concern.

However, McNamara said Woods had responded to on-site treatment for dehydration and Woods left the grounds in a courtesy car.

“Ultimately the doctors are saying he’s got potentially some type of flu and that he was dehydrated,” McNamara said. “He’s been treated with an IV bag and he’s doing much, much better.”

Woods’s premature exit of his first official PGA Tour event in more than 10 months overshadowed another outstanding day for American Patrick Cantlay, who had an eagle and four birdies in a six-under par 65 and a 13-under total of 129.

Cantlay’s five-shot lead over Australian Jason Day, Canadian Mackenzie Hughes and American Luke List matched the largest 36-hole lead in tournament history.

But all eyes were on Woods, who buried his face in his hands as he was ferried from the course in a golf cart in an abrupt end to his first tour event since he withdrew from the rain-delayed third round of the Masters last April.

Two weeks later Woods had right ankle surgery to address lingering pain from injuries suffered in a 2021 car crash.

Woods has played only nine official events in the last four seasons. He has missed the cut twice and withdrawn three times.

Woods, who had spinal fusion surgery in 2017, said Thursday that back spasms contributed to a surprising shank at the 18th hole of his one-over par first round.

But McNamara said none of Woods’s ongoing injury troubles contributed to his withdrawal.

“Not physical at all, his back’s fine,” McNamara said. “It was all medical illness, dehydration ... now the symptoms are reversing themselves now that he’s had an IV.”

Even if the illness is fleeting it has cost Woods valuable, and increasingly rare, tournament play.

The 48-year-old has said he hoped his various physical problems would allow him to play up to one tournament a month this year but on Thursday he admitted it remained to be seen if that would pan out.

“I’m hoping that’s the case, hoping that I play that much,” Woods said.

Playing partner Gary Woodland, himself returning after surgery to remove a brain tumor last September, said Woods “just didn’t look right” throughout the round.

“It sucks,” Woodland said. “Obviously everything’s better with him there and for him (to play) his first tournament back and he couldn’t come out and finish the way he wanted to, that sucks for all of us.”

Woods would have been battling to make the cut in the elite event. He opened Friday with a birdie at the par-five first but bogeyed the fourth and fifth and was two-over for the tournament.

That would have seen him miss the weekend, when Cantlay will be aiming for a wire-to-wire win.

The seventh-ranked American started the day with a one-shot lead and eagled the par-five first. He added birdies at eight, 11, 15 and 17, landing a four-iron from the rough at 15 three feet from the pin.

“Putting great and leaving the golf ball in the right spot, which is really key around here,” Cantlay said of the key to his success so far. “It’s a golf course I’m really comfortable on and it’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen it.”

Day secured his share of second with a rollercoaster 69 that featured an eagle, four bogeys and four birdies. List also carded a 69 while Hughes posted a six-under 65 for 134

Canada’s Corey Conners was alone in fifth place on 135 and Will Zalatoris aced the par-three 14th in his one-under 70 that left him tied for sixth on 136 with Xander Schauffele and Tom Hoge.

Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth had a tough end to his round with a double-bogey at 18, but his day got worse when he was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. He signed for a three at the par-three fourth, which he had actually bogeyed.