Rory McIlroy says the PGA Tour is cheapened without LIV Golf players. He doesn’t want them punished

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland after winning the Hero Dubai Desert Classic on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai on Jan. 21, 2024. McIlroy has said the PGA Tour is cheapened without LIV Golf players. He doesn’t want them punished. (File/AFP)
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Updated 31 January 2024
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Rory McIlroy says the PGA Tour is cheapened without LIV Golf players. He doesn’t want them punished

  • McIlroy: Obviously, I’ve changed my tune on that because I see where golf is and I see that having a diminished PGA Tour and having a diminished LIV Tour or anything else is bad for both parties
  • Pebble Beach has a $20 million purse as a signature event, the same for the individual play of LIV Golf when it begins its third year on Friday in Mexico

PEBBLE BEACH, California: Rory McIlroy wants golf put back together again as quickly as possible, saying Tuesday that even winning one of the PGA Tour’s signature events would feel cheapened because it didn’t have all the best players in the world.

McIlroy also said he would be opposed to any form of punishment for players who left the tour for the Saudi-backed LIV Golf and wanted to come back.

“I think it’s hard to punish people,” McIlroy said at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. “I don’t think there should be a punishment. Obviously, I’ve changed my tune on that because I see where golf is and I see that having a diminished PGA Tour and having a diminished LIV Tour or anything else is bad for both parties.

“It would be much better being together and moving forward together for the good of the game. That’s my opinion of it. So to me, the faster that we can all get back together and start to play and start to have the strongest fields possible, I think, is great for golf.”

Pebble Beach has a $20 million purse as a signature event, the same for the individual play of LIV Golf when it begins its third year on Friday in Mexico.

LIV announced Tyrrell Hatton is the latest PGA Tour member to join, having snagged Masters champion Jon Rahm nearly two months ago. McIlroy played in the Ryder Cup with both.

Pebble Beach has 45 of the top 50 in the world — the other five are with LIV Golf, which does not get world ranking points — and is one of eight signature events with $20 million purses.

McIlroy, who previously has played the Pebble Beach tournament only once, was asked if a victory would feel cheapened without players like Rahm and past Pebble Beach winner Dustin Johnson in the field.

“Yeah, I’d like to win here and stand up with a trophy on 18 green and know that I’ve beaten all of the best players in the world,” he said. “So, yeah.”

McIlroy had said he was comfortable that Rahm would not be leaving for LIV when the rumors first surfaced. He also said he has been talking to Hatton over the last month after the Englishman started receiving offers.

He said he most recently spoke to Hatton on Sunday and said he “completely understood” what Hatton was thinking.

“I’ve talked to him quite a bit about it over the past month. It got to the point where they negotiated and got to a place where he was comfortable with and he has to do what he feels is right for him,” McIlroy said. “So I’m not going to stand in anyone’s way from making money and if what they deem life-changing money.”

The Daily Telegraph reported Hatton received a signing fee of 50 million pounds ($63 million), while reports on Rahm were anywhere from $300 million to $500 million.

“I’ve come to the realization I’m not here to change people’s minds,” McIlroy said. “I’m here to just try — especially when I was at the board level — to give them the full picture of where things are at and hopefully where things are going to go. They can do with that information what they want.”

McIlroy was among the six players on the PGA Tour board who were involved in the negotiations with Saudi Arabia’s national wealth fund and a private equity group comprised mainly of American pro sports owners. He stepped down from the board in November and Jordan Spieth was selected to finish the final year of his term.

“I just didn’t feel like I could influence things the way I wanted to and I felt like I was just banging my head against the wall and it was time for me to step off and kind of concentrate on my own stuff,” he said.

But he stays in the loop and indicated the PGA Tour was on the verge of approving a deal with Strategic Sports Group, the private equity consortium. He said a vote was delayed twice this week already.

“I feel like this thing could have been over and done with months ago,” McIlroy said. “I think just for all of our sakes that the sooner that we sort of get out of it and we have a path forward, the better.”


Xander Schauffele scores major breakthrough, wins PGA Championship in a thriller at Valhalla

Updated 20 May 2024
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Xander Schauffele scores major breakthrough, wins PGA Championship in a thriller at Valhalla

  • Schauffele: I told myself this is my opportunity — capture it
  • Schauffele became the first player since Phil Mickelson in 2005 at Baltusrol to win the PGA Championship with a birdie on the last hole to win by one

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky: Xander Schauffele cashed in at just the right time Sunday, swirling in a 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the PGA Championship for his first major with the lowest score in major championship history.

The Olympic gold medalist got something even more valuable in silver — that enormous Wanamaker Trophy after a wild week at Valhalla.

Schauffele closed with a 6-under 65 to beat Bryson DeChambeau, entertaining to the very end with a 10-foot birdie of his own on the par-5 18th for a 64.

Schauffele became the first player since Phil Mickelson in 2005 at Baltusrol to win the PGA Championship with a birdie on the last hole to win by one. And this took all he had.

He already had mud on his golf ball on two key holes along the back nine that kept him from attacking the flag. His drive on the 17th bounced back into a bunker, forcing him to scramble for par and stay tied with DeChambeau, who had finished two groups ahead of him. And then his tee shot rolled just far enough toward the edge of a bunker to present another problem.

Schauffele had to stand with his feet in the sand, gripping well down on the 4-iron, aiming out to the right and hoping for the best. He drilled a beauty, some 35 yards short but with a good angle. He pitched to 6 feet and was never closer to finally winning a major.

“I told myself this is my opportunity — capture it,” Schauffele said.

The putt broke just enough left to catch the left edge of the cup and swirled around before disappearing. Schauffele, who exudes California chill, raised both arms above his head with the biggest smile before a hard hug with Austin Kaiser, his caddie and former teammate at San Diego State.

DeChambeau was on the range, staying loose for a potential playoff, watching Schauffele from a large video board. He saw the winning putt fall, and walked all the way back to the 18th to join in with so many other players wanting to congratulate the 30-year-old.

“I gave it my all. I put as much effort as I possibly could into it and I knew that my B game would be enough,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just clearly somebody played incredibly well. Xander’s well deserving of a major championship.”

Viktor Hovland, the FedEx Cup champion who wasn’t sure he even belonged at Valhalla while trying to work his way out of a slump, also had a 10-foot putt after DeChambeau hit his to tie for the lead. He missed the birdie, then missed a meaningless par putt and shot 66 to finish third.

Schauffele, who began this championship with a 62 to tie the major championship record, finished at 21-under 263 with that winning birdie. That beats by one shot the major record previously shared by Brooks Koepka in the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive and Henrik Stenson in the 2016 British Open at Royal Troon.

And so ended another memorable week at Valhalla.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, who arrived five days after the birth of his first child, was arrested and briefly jailed on Friday morning for not following directions of police investigating a fatal car crash involving a pedestrian an hour earlier.

He got out of jail and to the course in time to play the second round and shot 66. But it caught up with him on the weekend. Scheffler fell out of contention with a 73 on Saturday — his first round over par since last August. He closed with a 65 to tie for eighth.

Two players — Schauffele on Thursday and Shane Lowry on Saturday — tied the major record with a 62. Scoring records seemed to fall just about every day on a rain-softened course.

All that, and it came down to one putt that Schauffele will never forget.

“I really didn’t want to go into a playoff with Bryson,” he said.

In so many ways, this time was overdue. He had gone nearly two years since last winning at the Scottish Open. Schauffele had eight consecutive finishes in the top 20 at majors coming into Valhalla. He already had a pair of runner-up finishes and six top 5s.

And in the last two months alone, he lost 54-hole leads when he was chased down by Scheffler’s 64 at The Players Championship and by Rory McIlroy’s 65 last week at the Wells Fargo Championship.

The victory was his eighth on the PGA Tour — that doesn’t include his Olympic gold from the Tokyo Games in 2021. This one moves him to a career-best No. 2 in the world, still a long way from Scheffler but assuring Schauffele of qualifying for the US team in the Olympics.
 


Schauffele gets another major scoring record and sets the pace at PGA Championship

Updated 17 May 2024
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Schauffele gets another major scoring record and sets the pace at PGA Championship

  • The three-shot lead matches the 18-hole record held by Bobby Nichols in 1964 at Columbus (Ohio) Country Club and Raymond Floyd in 1982 at Southern Hills
  • cord 64 players broke par. The previous record for the first round of a PGA was 60 sub-par rounds in 2006 at Medinah, according to the Elias Sports Bureau

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky: Xander Schauffele is playing some of his best golf without a trophy to show for it. He at least put his name in the PGA Championship record book Thursday with a 9-under 62, and gave himself another entry in the record book for all majors.

Schauffele seized on the rain-softened conditions at Valhalla with a bogey-free 62, the lowest round in PGA Championship history, and matched the PGA record for largest margin after 18 holes with a three-shot lead over Tony Finau, Sahith Theegala and Mark Hubbard.

Schauffele, a 30-year-old who oozes California chill, kept this one in perspective.

“It’s just one day,” he said. “Very happy with how I played. I can’t think much more of it. I have to tee it up tomorrow.”

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler saw Schauffele’s score and cared only about putting together a good round in his first competition since his son was born last week.

That he did, holing out with a 9-iron from 167 yards on the first hole for eagle, the highlight in a round of 67. Scheffler failed to birdie the par 5s on the back nine and had a few other mistakes that sent him to the range after his round, but otherwise felt OK about it.

“I felt like there was a couple things I can clean up going into tomorrow, but overall today was a solid round,” Scheffler said after his 41st consecutive round at par or better.

This was an easy day to keep that streak going. A record 64 players broke par. The previous record for the first round of a PGA was 60 sub-par rounds in 2006 at Medinah, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Even players who stumbled from the start had ample opportunity to turn it around.

Jon Rahm opened with four bogeys in six holes, threw a club in disgust on the 16th hole and still managed a 70 by making four birdies down the stretch. Collin Morikawa was 2 over through five holes, but he responded with three straight birdies and finished with a 65.

Even so, this was a special round. Schauffele one-putted 12 times — two of them for par that he considered crucial to his round — and he didn’t go more than one hole without a birdie until the very end when he finished par-par for the record.

The three-shot lead matches the 18-hole record held by Bobby Nichols in 1964 at Columbus (Ohio) Country Club and Raymond Floyd in 1982 at Southern Hills. Both went on to win.

Schauffele had plenty of attention, playing alongside Louisville native Justin Thomas and in the group ahead of Tiger Woods, who was followed by Rory McIlroy. Thomas rallied late for a 69 that required some perspective of his own.

“When you’re playing with one of the easiest 9 unders you’ve ever seen, it makes you feel like you’re shooting a million,” Thomas said.

Finau closed with four pars for his 65. Theegala had 65 by finishing with three straight birdies. Hubbard had three birdies over his last four holes to join them late in the afternoon.

McIlroy, back on the course where he won his last major 10 years ago, ran off three birdies late in his round for a 66 that left him in a large group that included Morikawa and Tom Kim.

“You knew there were a lot of birdies out there,” Morikawa said. “It played soft and the greens were pretty slow.”

Defending champion Brooks Koepka played his final three holes in 3 under for a 67, while Jordan Spieth bogeyed his last hole for a 69 in his bid for the final leg of the Grand Slam.

There had been 17 scores of 63 at the PGA Championship, most recently Koepka in the opening round at Bethpage Black in 2019. The list includes Jose Maria Olazabal at Valhalla in 2000 during the third round.

Schauffele had to get up-and-down from behind the green on the par-3 eighth to a front pin, a chip of 60 feet that was right in the jar until stopping 2 feet short. His two-putt par from about 30 feet on the ninth hole gave him the PGA record.

That makes four rounds of 62 in all the majors, and Schauffele has two of them. He and Rickie Fowler shot 62 in the first round of the US Open last year at Los Angeles Country Club (par 70), while Branden Grace shot 62 in the third round at Royal Birkdale in the 2017 British Open.

And then he began the 24-hour wait before his next shot on Friday afternoon.

“The greens will be a little bit bumpier with a lot of foot traffic coming through. Who knows with the weather — it might rain — so the course might be playing completely different,” Schauffele said. “Just going to bed knowing I’m playing some pretty good golf, might just wipe the slate clean.”

Good golf, indeed. Just no trophy since the summer of 2022.

Schauffele had a one-shot lead last week in the Wells Fargo Championship and McIlroy zoomed by him on the back nine with a 65 to win by five. He also had a one-shot lead going into the final round at The Players Championship until Scheffler shot 64 to win by one.

“I’ve just been playing some really solid golf,” he said. “Been having close calls. My team and I, we just say let’s keep chugging along.”

This felt like a sprint from when he hit 6-iron to a pin back and left on the par-3 11th to 2 feet, followed by a 15-foot par save on the 12th, one of the few times he was out of position. Schauffele birdied three of the last four holes on the back nine for a 31, and then he ran off three birdies in a four-hole stretch — no putt longer than 10 feet — on the front nine.

It was the perfect recipe for scoring — the sun above, soft turf below, not much wind, and greens still relatively smooth.

“You for sure know there’s going to be some holes there for the taking,” Finau said. “You’re going to hit some good shots. You’re going to have a lot of looks. That’s what you saw out there today. ... I think you can go on a run here with the conditions.

“And it’s going to make for a fun week.”

It was frustrating for Woods, who holed enough putts and hit enough good shots that he was 1 under going to the final three holes. But he failed to take advantage of the par-5 seventh, and then he three-putted for bogey on his final two holes for a 72. That marked the eighth straight round in which he failed to break par in a major.

“That wasn’t the way I like to finish off a round,” Woods said. “Long way to go, and we’ll see what happens.”
 


Home heroics for South Korean Hyo-Joo Kim in Aramco Team Series

Updated 12 May 2024
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Home heroics for South Korean Hyo-Joo Kim in Aramco Team Series

  • 10-under-par total steers Hyo-Joo Kim clear of England’s Charley Hull at inaugural Aramco Team Series presented by PIF – Korea
  • Danielle Kang’s team claim Team trophy in early-morning session

SEOUL: Hyo-Joo Kim took advantage of an early-morning start to claim the maiden Aramco Team Series presented by PIF – Korea title on Sunday at New Korea Country Club in Seoul.

The South Korean LPGA star joined the Ladies European Tour event to tee up in Seoul in front of her devoted fans, and they were rewarded with a performance to remember.

Resuming the rest of her second round after rain stopped play, Kim was able to move to 6-under-par, setting up a blockbuster final grouping with Mariajo Uribe (-4) and Charley Hull (-3).

Despite a strong start from Hull, Kim was able to remain focused on the task in hand — stepping up a gear on the back nine, with birdies on 14, 16 and 17 putting her in the driving seat.

However, for large parts it was close, with just one stroke in it on the 10th hole — with LPGA stars Hull and Kim showing their class before Kim’s final-round 4-under meant she finished three strokes clear of her rival.

“Playing alongside Charley certainly brought out my competitive edge,” said the South Korean.

“When there are so many birdies in a group, it elevates everyone’s competitive spirit, and I think it worked pretty well for me. Thanks to Charley, I was able to focus even more.

“I’m really happy to have won. It was my first victory at an LET tournament, and it feels special to now have a winning record on each tour.

“I’m now going to have a two-day party here in Korea before I get back to practice.”

It was not to be on the day for Hull who, despite her final round of 4-under-par, came up just short.

But for Hull, who recorded a string of five birdies in seven holes on the front nine, there were plenty of positives to take as she bids for her first win since 2022.

She said: “It’s a tricky course, and the greens are tough, and there’s not many positions you can put the pins in — they slope so you have to hit it in the right sides.

“But I played really well today and I’m really happy with the round. Hyo-Joo kind of ran away with it in the end, and she holed some great putts for birdie. I’m happy with the week overall, but it’s hard when you don’t win and you’re second again.”

The early-morning session also saw the exciting conclusion of the team event, as Team Uribe were unable to catch Team Kang, who took the title with a score of 23-under-par.

Danielle Kang later heaped praise on the team format, with the win ensuring her visit to Korea was a memorable one.

She said: “Golf is often seen as an individual sport, so playing as a team was refreshing.

“The support from teammates makes a big difference, especially mentally. Personally, I prefer the team format as it motivates me to perform better for the team rather than just myself. It feels more fulfilling than winning alone.”

The Aramco Team Series presented by PIF will next head to London on July 3-5, with a strong field set to be announced soon.


Xander Schauffele shoots 67, leads by 4 over Rory McIlroy, Jason Day at Wells Fargo Championship

Updated 11 May 2024
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Xander Schauffele shoots 67, leads by 4 over Rory McIlroy, Jason Day at Wells Fargo Championship

  • The 30-year-old Schauffele has seven top 10 finishes this season, but no wins
  • McIlroy is the only three-time winner of the event, and said the course simply suits his game well

CHARLOTTE, N.C.: Xander Schauffele has been a mainstay near the top of the leaderboard most of the year. Now he’s hoping to close the door.

Schauffele shot a 4-under 67 on Friday after opening with a 64, leaving him at 11-under 131 and four shots ahead of Rory McIlroy and Jason Day heading into the weekend at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Taylor Moore and Sungjae Im were five strokes back at 6 under.

The 30-year-old Schauffele has seven top 10 finishes this season, but no wins. He’s looking to snap a winless streak that dates to July 2022 at the Genesis Scottish Open.

“I’ve had a few knocks on the door and I just tell myself to keep knocking,” Schauffele said.

Schauffele said the drought is something he’s always thinking about, but added that the toughest part is just to stay in the present.

“You just have to recognize the situation you are in, and realize that you are playing some good golf and just get out of your own way at times,” Schauffele said.

Schauffele’s was locked in most of the day.

He hit 15 greens and his only hiccup came when he made bogey on the 18th hole while he was trying to rush to finish his round and beat a storm that would suspend play for about an hour. Play eventually did resume, but Schauffele feared he would have to get up early to play a shot or two and then wait several hours to play his third round on Saturday.

“It’s stupid to say, but I’d rather take the 5 at this point after hitting such a bad chip versus waking up super early and having to reset your day,” Schauffele said. “It’s all good.”

McIlroy entered the day three shots behind Schauffele, but managed to lose ground despite not making a bogey. McIlroy finished with a 68. He had several opportunities to put the pressure on Schauffele, but missed a few makeable putts.

Still, the star from Northern Ireland walked away feeling good about his play.

“Felt like I probably could have squeezed a couple more out of the round, but anytime you can go around this golf course bogey free it’s always going to be a decent day,” said McIlroy, who teamed with Shane Lowry to win the Zurich Classic two weeks ago.

The world’s No. 2-ranked player has had some spectacular weekend performances before at Quail Hollow, including a club-record 61 in 2015. He closed with a 62 in 2010 to win his first PGA Tour title.

He said he will lean on those as he sets his sights on catching Schauffele.

“Anytime you’re playing a golf course where you’ve shot some really low scores, you know that it’s out there,” McIlroy said. “The golf course is playing a lot differently this week than it played in 2010 and 2015, but I know if I get it going around here I can make some birdies and chase him down.”

McIlroy is the only three-time winner of the event, and said the course simply suits his game well because it allows him to take advantage of his distance off the tee.

“I’ve had so many good memories here, I just feel positive vibes,” McIlroy said. “I feel good about myself when I’m walking around here.”

Day also had a 67. The Australian has struggled of late, with only one top-25 finish in his last six events.

“I’ve had a run over the last month and a half, two months where it’s just been kind of poor play, poor hitting,” Day said. “I’ve been losing a ton of strokes to the field approach to green, not necessarily on the driver. It’s weird, it’s kind of strange to drive it decently well and to hit it poor coming into the greens.”

Max Homa, the only player other than McIlroy with multiple wins at the Wells Fargo Championship, was eight shots behind after a 70. Justin Thomas also was 3 under after a 71.


Hyo-Joo Kim’s dazzling finish gives South Korean star Seoul lead

Updated 10 May 2024
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Hyo-Joo Kim’s dazzling finish gives South Korean star Seoul lead

  • World No.12 leads Aramco team Series-Korea after hole out eagle from 60 yards on penultimate hole
  • Team Gustavsson (-13) lead the way with a three-stroke lead at New Korea Country Club

SEOUL: The Hyo-Joo Kim fan club was treated to a clinic at the New Korea Country Club, as an eagle-birdie finish catapulted the world No. 12 to the top of the leaderboard at the Aramco Team Series presented by PIF–Korea.

The 2014 Evian Championship winner was trailed by her devoted fans across the undulating landscape of New Korea Country Club, with the climax coming on the last two holes. A remarkable 60-yard eagle on the eighth hole, followed by a birdie on nine, propelled her to a four-under-par score, secured top spot at the close of play.

With the course proving tough for the field, Hyo-Joo Kim was able to use her knowledge of the course to her advantage, taking sole lead into the second day of the tournament, in her Aramco Team Series presented by PIF debut.

“I wish they had played the music a bit louder, but it was quite enjoyable,” said the leader of her debut. “Also, it was the first time playing with four people in a match. I’m working on the things that I wanted to improve this year and I feel like it’s getting better and better.”

Colombian Mariajo Uribe posted an impressive early score, with an opening round of three-under-par keeping her hot on the heels of Hyo-Joo Kim.

Uribe, who won her first LET event in Australia in March, is looking to make the most of her final year on tour before retiring after the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s a tough course, so it’s good to be taking advantage of those opportunities, and we’re happy to be close to the (top of the) leaderboard,” said Uribe.

“This is my last year traveling the world, so I’m taking advantage of it. My sister-in-law came with me, so we’ve been buying a lot of Korean skincare products and just going around eating my favorite foods, like Korean barbecue.”

On the team side of the event, Team Gustavsson stormed into an early lead, with a score of 13-under-par placing them atop the leaderboard at the close of play. Made up of Johanna Gustavsson, Laura Beveridge, Gemma Clews and amateur Jaeho Shin, the team sit in pole position to claim the team trophy on Saturday.

“I hit a lot of fairways,” said captain Gustavsson, who finished the day one-under-par. “I drove it very well, putted OK, but missed a few chances, so hopefully tomorrow there’s a chance to be even better.”

World No. 8 Charley Hull finished the day even par, after an up-and-down day recording four birdies and four bogeys, while LPGA star Danielle Kang struggled, recording a score of eight-over-par, with two double-bogeys on the front nine an unfortunate start.

It was a tough day of golf for the most part, with high scores on the leaderboard demonstrating the challenge that New Korea County Club will pose this weekend. 

Indeed, only 14 players finished the day on even par or lower. However, forecast rain for day two could improve scores, helping slow the action around the greens, and offering more birdie opportunities.