Amateur Attieh creates history for Saudi Arabia in professional golf

Khalid Walid Attieh. (Asian Tour)
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Updated 24 February 2024

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.”

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

Updated 12 April 2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Augusta chief strikes conciliatory tone over LIV Golf tour

Updated 11 April 2024

Augusta chief strikes conciliatory tone over LIV Golf tour

  • In a further sign of the thaw between golf’s wrangling powerbrokers, Ridley even refused to completely rule out having direct access in the future for LIV players to qualify
  • Ridley: Our goal is to have, to the greatest extent possible, the best field in golf, the best players in the world

AUGUSTA, Georgia: Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley has said the Masters won’t be afraid to use special invitations to ensure that top LIV golfers remain part of the tournament.

In a further sign of the thaw between golf’s wrangling powerbrokers, Ridley, who struck a conciliatory tone, even refused to completely rule out having direct access in the future for LIV players to qualify.

There are 13 members of Saudi-backed LIV Golf in the Masters this year, including defending champion Jon Rahm, but the vast majority qualify via being former Masters winners or winning other majors.

With the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) not awarding any points for LIV competitions, it is increasingly difficult for their players to break into the majors via spots in the top 50 in the year-end rankings.

Augusta National is on the OWGR board and Ridley said it remains “the legitimate determiner of who the best players in the game are” but offered a reminder that the Masters is not an open championship.

“We’re an invitational, and we can adjust as necessary,” said Ridley who highlighted the special invitation given to LIV’s Joaquin Niemann, who won the Australian Open.

“We thought he was deserving of a special invitation,” Ridley said. “Now, historically, and as stated in our qualification criteria, we consider international players for special invitations. But we do look at those every year and I will say that if we felt that there were a player or players, whether they played on the LIV Tour or any other tour, who were deserving of an invitation to the Masters, that we would exercise that discretion with regard to special invitations.”

Ridley said such an invitations would be “subjective consideration based on talent, based on performance to those players.”

“Our goal is to have, to the greatest extent possible, the best field in golf, the best players in the world,” said Ridley.

“Having said that, we never have had all the best players in the world because of the structure of our tournament. It’s an invitational. It’s limited field. It’s a small field.”

The Masters invites past champions and leading amateurs to play in the tournament as well as having a qualification structure and special invitations.

LIV withdrew an application to the OWGR after failing to reach an agreement on how their tournaments might be rated and Ridley was asked if Augusta would consider some way of LIV players qualifying through their own structure.

While casting doubt on how that would work, he did not rule it out.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “I think it will be difficult to establish any type of point system that had any connection to the rest of the world of golf because they’re basically, not totally but for the most part, a closed shop.

“Those concerns were expressed by the OWGR, but I don’t think that prevents us from giving subjective consideration based on talent, based on performance, to those players.

“I would not foreclose that we would consider that in the future.”

Ridley also addressed the question of declining PGA Tour television ratings in the USA and the question of whether that was collateral damage from the rift within the sport.

While noting that fragmentation in viewing habits impacts many sports, he said golf did appear to be suffering more than others.

“I will acknowledge that, if you look at the data this year, golf viewers are down on linear television while other sports, some other sports are up. So you can draw your own conclusions,” he said.

Ridley echoed the view of several players on both sides of the divide that there needed to be more events with the elite playing each other.

“Certainly the fact that the best players in the world are not convening very often is not helpful,” he said. “Whether or not there’s a direct causal effect (on ratings), I don’t know. But I think that it would be a lot better if they were together more often.”

Rory McIlroy is brimming with confidence as he sets out to complete career Grand Slam at Masters

Updated 09 April 2024

Rory McIlroy is brimming with confidence as he sets out to complete career Grand Slam at Masters

  • Tiger Woods, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player are the only players to have completed the modern slam
  • Tiger Woods: ‘He (McIlroy) will get it done. It’s just a matter of when’

AUGUSTA, Georgia: Rory McIlroy made that familiar turn off Washington Road and onto Magnolia Lane a year ago, the one that seems to suck in those fortunate enough to make it back in time, and felt as certain as ever that it was his time to win the Masters.
After all, McIlroy had been playing well. His confidence was soaring. He had a belief in himself that was more than just a hunch.
More like a premonition.
Yet by Friday afternoon, when storms would fell three towering Georgia pines and cause the second round to push into the weekend, all those positive vibes had disappeared. After opening with an even-par 72, and still believing he was oh-so-close to stringing it all together, McIlroy shot a second-round 77 and missed the cut.
His wait to win the green jacket, and complete the career Grand Slam, had stretched to a full decade.
“No question, he’ll do it at some point. He’s just — Rory’s too talented, too good,” said Tiger Woods, who along with Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player are the only players to have completed the modern slam.
“He’s going to be playing this event for a very long time,” Woods added. “He’ll get it done. It’s just a matter of when.”
Might be this week.
Much like last year, McIlroy drove down Magnolia Lane on Tuesday feeling good about his game. He had played well at PGA National and Bay Hill earlier this year, finished in the top 20 at The Players Championship and recently spent time in Las Vegas with renowned coach Butch Harmon, which paid dividends with a third-place finish last week at the Texas Open.
That’s not an event McIlroy typically plays before the Masters, but it was part of a plan put in place months ago. The idea was to play more often earlier in the year, getting his game sharp not only for Augusta National but the rest of the majors as well.
“This is my 16th start in the Masters, so I feel like I’ve done it quite a few different ways,” McIlroy explained, “and I guess just trying to bring a little bit of normalcy into what I sort of try to do week in, week out. I play 25 weeks a year, and there’s no point in doing anything different this week compared to other weeks, I guess.”
Even if the Masters is a week unlike any other.
Rather than arriving early and laboring through practice rounds, McIlroy instead popped into Augusta National last week for a two-day scouting trip before heading to Texas. In fact, he skipped Monday’s practice round altogether — even Woods played nine that day — and was planning to play just nine holes by himself on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“I feel like I’ve already got most of my prep work done. So it’s just about going out there and being relaxed and being in the right frame of mind,” McIlroy said, “and the more I can do that, the more I’ll be able to execute on the golf course.”
He’s come so close so often that nobody would fault McIlroy if his frame of mind these days was as skewed as a snap hook into Rae’s Creek. He had a four-year streak of finishing in the top 10 beginning in 2014, the year he won the British Open and PGA Championship. He was fifth on an eerily empty course in 2020, when the pandemic pushed the Masters into the fall. Two years ago, a blistering final-round 64 still left him three shots back of Scottie Scheffler.
Over time, the 18-year-old Northern Irishman with the cherubic face and limitless potential, who ticked off those first four major championships in a four-year span, has grown up. McIlroy is 34 now, leaner and stronger but also wiser, and it’s almost hard to believe he has spent spent nearly a third of his life chasing the only major to elude him so far.
“If I cast my mind back to 18-year-old Rory and I’m driving down Magnolia Lane for the first time, how would I feel and I think? It’s just always trying to go back to being grateful and feeling incredibly lucky that you can be a part of this tournament,” he said Tuesday. “Thankfully, I’ve improved a bit since my first start here, and I feel like I’ve got all the tools to do well this week.
“But, again, to bring those tools out, I think one of the most important things is to enjoy it,” McIlroy added with a smile, “and smell the — I guess not the roses, the azaleas along the way.”

LIV Golf captain Stenson headlines field full of stars as 2024 Saudi Open returns to Riyadh

Updated 09 April 2024

LIV Golf captain Stenson headlines field full of stars as 2024 Saudi Open returns to Riyadh

  • Stenson is determined to lift the trophy this time after catapulting himself into second place with a final round 65 at the 2023 Saudi Open
  • ‘I am thrilled to be returning to Riyadh to play in the Saudi Open. I loved the atmosphere on my first visit to what is an incredible golf course,’ says Stenson

RIYADH: Five fellow LIV Golf members will join captain Henrik Stenson at the 2024 Saudi Open, presented by the Public Investment Fund, that will return to Riyadh Golf Club from Apr. 17-20, 2024.
A number of DP World Tour players, including Rafa Cabrera-Bello, and the stars of the Asian Tour are also scheduled to join.
The eighth edition in December 2023 was the first time the tournament featured as a fully sanctioned Asian Tour event and saw Thai rising star Denwit Boriboonsub finish on 18-under-par, three shots ahead of 2016 Open Championship winner Stenson.
The 20-year-old has confirmed he will return to defend his title when the Asian Tour tees off after a five-week break in the Saudi capital.
Stenson, after catapulting himself into second place with a final round 65 at the 2023 Saudi Open, is determined to lift the trophy this time.
He said: “I am thrilled to be returning to Riyadh to play in the Saudi Open. I loved the atmosphere on my first visit to what is an incredible golf course, and I am very excited to experience that again.
“The facilities are highly impressive and highlight the strides that golf in Saudi Arabia continues to make,” added Stenson, who expects another strong and testing tournament against a field full of quality players.
“I am eager to go one better than last year and lift the trophy,” he said.
Building on last year’s successful hosting, the 2024 Saudi Open presented by PIF will once again see a strong LIV Golf contingent battle for the trophy as Andy Ogletree, Peter Uihlein, Eugenio Chacarra and David Puig join Majesticks joint-team captain Stenson and his former European Ryder Cup teammate Cabrera-Bello in Riyadh.
Puig, who won the season-opening Malaysian Open, currently tops the Asian Tour Order of Merit ahead of second-placed John Catlin from the US — winner of the recent International Series Macau presented by Wynn, where he shot the tour’s first-ever 59.
Asian Tour Commissioner and CEO Cho Minn Thant said: “We are delighted to be going back to Riyadh for the Saudi Open. The event proved an excellent addition to the Asian Tour having been elevated from the Asian Development Tour, and Riyadh Golf Club provided us with a perfect setting to end 2023.
“In Golf Saudi, we have a trusted partner who we are confident will deliver another fantastic tournament.”
Golf Saudi will again show its commitment to ensuring opportunities for everyone with a number of spots reserved for local Saudi and Arab golfers to compete in the tournament.
The Saudi Open presented by PIF is the fifth stop of the season on the Asian Tour.

Rahm’s Legion XIII claim team competition, Burmester wins individual title at LIV Golf Miami

Updated 09 April 2024

Rahm’s Legion XIII claim team competition, Burmester wins individual title at LIV Golf Miami

  • Rahm hails ‘great week’ in Florida as he prepares to start his Master’s title defense on Thursday

MIAMI: Defending Masters champion Jon Rahm and Legion XIII teammate Tyrrell Hatton will head to Augusta National this week after celebrating their second LIV Golf team victory of the season.

Stinger GC’s Dean Burmester is not in the field for the year’s first major, but he made a bold statement Sunday on one of golf’s toughest courses.

Rahm and his expansion team survived a rollercoaster final round to win the team title at LIV Golf Miami by one shot over RangeGoats GC. It is a distinctive start to his Masters title defense, which begins on Thursday with 13 LIV Golf players in the field.

“It was a great week,” said Rahm, who tied for fourth in the individual competition as he remained the only player this season with top 10s in each of the first five starts. “Hopefully I can keep doing all the good things I’ve done this week next week and avoid a couple of silly mistakes and hopefully go back-to-back.”

One player he will not see next week is Burmester, who beat Sergio Garcia on the second playoff hole at Trump National Doral with a par. During the offseason, Burmester won back-to-back events back home in South Africa — including the South African Open — and now has his first LIV Golf victory as he continues to showcase his world-class talent. He finished T3 in the LIV Golf season opener at Mayakoba.

“Probably the best golf of my career,” Burmester said. “If I look at it that way, the amount of wins, the amount of top 10s, tops 5s that I’m producing is some really special stuff.”

It was made even more special on a Blue Monster course that remains one of the most demanding tests in pro golf.

Garcia, the Fireballs GC captain, entered the day with a two-shot lead but was eventually caught by multiple players. At one point on the back nine, five players — Burmester, his Stinger captain Louis Oosthuizen, Garcia, Hatton and Matthew Wolff — shared the lead.

Burmester grabbed the solo lead with a birdie at the drivable 16th but bogeyed the difficult par-4 18th after an errant drive. Meanwhile, Garcia grabbed the lead with a 40-footer birdie putt at 17, but he three-putted the 18th to fall back into a tie and force the playoff.

After matching pars on the first playoff hole, Garcia found the water with his approach shot at the 18th while Burmester safely landed on the green for a two-putt par to win.

“This is a monster of a place and it’s hosted so many great championships over the years,” Burmester said. “Now it’s hosting us, and I feel privileged to have won here.”

Garcia, who has played more than 50 competitive rounds on the Blue Monster, lost for the third time in a LIV Golf playoff. He went four holes against Joaquin Niemann at Mayakoba and also lost last year in Singapore to Talor Gooch.

“Obviously when you’re that close, you want to win it,” Garcia said. “Unfortunately, that only happens to one guy, and it wasn’t meant to be me.”

Legion XIII was led by Rahm’s 3-under 69, with Caleb Surratt contributing a 70, Hatton a 71 and Kieran Vincent a 77 to finish at 1 under for the day and 22 under for the week. They were in command for a large part of the day until Hatton started struggling off the tee, while Vincent hit a rough patch with four consecutive bogeys.

“I decided to stick it in reverse standing on the 10th tee and just carried on going that way and just navigate myself through the back nine looking backwards,” Hatton said. “Made it a lot harder for the team, and it was a pretty miserable 2-1/2 hours, to be honest.”

It ended with a champagne celebration.

“I knew we would find our stride at some point,” Rahm said. “It was definitely a surprise to end up winning the first week, and I would say it was no surprise that we ended up winning this week.”

Team scores

Standings and counting scores for Sunday’s final round of the team competition at LIV Golf Miami. The three best scores from each team count in the first two rounds while all four scores count in the final round. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.

1. LEGION XIII -22 (Rahm 69, Surratt 70, Hatton 71, Vincent 77; Rd. 3 score: -1)

2. RANGEGOATS GC -21 (Wolff 69, Pieters 69, Uihlein 73, Watson 74; Rd. 3 score: -3)

3. STINGER GC -15 (Burmester 68, Oosthuizen 71, Grace 72, Schwartzel 75; Rd. 3 score: -2)

T4. TORQUE GC -13 (Munoz 68, Ortiz 68, Niemann 70, Pereira 78; Rd. 3 score: -4)

T4. FIREBALLS GC -13 (Ancer 68, Garcia 70, Puig 71, Chacarra 76; Rd. 3 score: -3)

6. CRUSHERS GC -11 (DeChambeau 68, Casey 69, Howell III 70, Lahiri 77; Rd. 3 score: -4)

7. SMASH GC -7 (Kokrak 68, McDowell 70, Gooch 73, Koepka 77; Rd. 3 score: E)

8. 4ACES GC -5 (Varner III 70, Reed 72, Johnson 74, Perez 76; Rd. 3 score: +4)

9. CLEEKS GC E (Bland 73, Meronk 74, Kaymer 76, Samooja 77; Rd. 3 score: +12)

10. RIPPER GC +4 (Jones 69, Leishman 69, Campbell 73, Herbert 81; Rd. 3 score: +4)

11. IRONHEADS GC +5 (Vincent 72, Lee 72, Na 73, Kozuma 76; Rd. 3 score: +5)

T12. MAJESTICKS GC +6 (Poulter 71, Stenson 73, Westwood 73, Horsfield 73; Rd. 3 score: +2)

T12. HYFLYERS GC +6 (Tringale 71, Steele 72, Ogletree 75, Mickelson 76; Rd. 3 score: +6)