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

Xander Schauffele watches his tee shot on the 12th hole during the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow on Friday in Charlotte, N.C. (AP)
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Updated 11 May 2024

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.

McIlroy, Scheffler qualify for Paris Olympics

Updated 19 June 2024

McIlroy, Scheffler qualify for Paris Olympics

  • The qualifying period for the event came to an end after the US Open at Pinehurst at the weekend
  • The top 15 players in the world rankings qualify for the Games, up to a maximum of four golfers from a single country

LONDON: Rory McIlroy is set to play at the Paris Olympics alongside world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler after taking a break from golf following his dramatic late collapse at the US Open.

The qualifying period for the event came to an end after the US Open at Pinehurst at the weekend, when McIlroy finished as runner-up to US star Bryson DeChambeau after squandering a two-shot lead with five holes to play.

The final men’s Olympic Golf Ranking, published on Tuesday, features 60 qualifiers representing 32 different countries.

The top 15 players in the world rankings qualify for the Games, up to a maximum of four golfers from a single country.

Below the top 15, players qualify based on their world ranking, with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top 15.

The host country, France, was guaranteed at least one spot, as was each of the five continents of the Olympic movement.

McIlroy, second in the world rankings, is set to represent Ireland at the former Ryder Cup venue, Le Golf National, from Aug. 1 to Aug. 4, alongside former British Open champion Shane Lowry.

Scheffler, defending champion Xander Schauffele, Wyndham Clark and Collin Morikawa have qualified to represent the USA.

Former US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood have qualified for Britain, with two-time major winner Jon Rahm and David Puig set to represent Spain.

Each National Olympic Committee will have until June 27 to officially confirm their athletes to the International Golf Federation.

Northern Irishman McIlroy, a four-time Major winner, said Monday he plans to take time off after one of the “toughest” days of his professional career at Pinehurst.

The 35-year-old said his next event would be the Scottish Open starting on July 11, the warmup for the British Open at Royal Troon.

The 60-strong women’s field for their tournament, starting on Aug. 7, will be announced after the June 24 qualification cut-off date.

Both the men’s and women’s events are 72-hole individual stroke play events.

DeChambeau outlasts McIlroy to win second US Open crown

Updated 17 June 2024

DeChambeau outlasts McIlroy to win second US Open crown

  • The 30-year-old American became the second active player of Saudi-backed LIV Golf to win a major title after Brooks Koepka in the 2023 PGA Championship

PINEHURST, United States: Bryson DeChambeau captured his second US Open title on Sunday, outlasting Rory McIlroy in a dramatic back-nine duel to win by a stroke at Pinehurst.
Overtaken by McIlroy with six holes remaining to play, DeChambeau kept his poise over the dome-shaped greens and sandy waste areas of Pinehurst to rally for the crown.
McIlroy, thwarted in a bid to end a 10-year major win drought, led by two strokes with five holes to play.
But the four-time major winner from Northern Ireland made bogeys on three of the last four holes to help hand the trophy to DeChambeau.
“I still can’t believe it,” said DeChambeau. “It’s unbelievable.”
DeChambeau, who also won the 2020 US Open, fired a one-over-par 71 to finish on six-under-par 274 while McIlroy shot 69 to stand on 275 after 72 holes.
The 30-year-old American became the second active player of Saudi-backed LIV Golf to win a major title after Brooks Koepka in the 2023 PGA Championship.
In a collapse mindful of Greg Norman’s epic 1996 last-round loss to Nick Faldo at the Masters, McIlroy missed par putts from 2.5 feet at the par-3 17th and just inside four feet at the par-4 18th — tension-packed bogeys that left McIlroy one behind.
DeChambeau found dirt and weeds left and a bunker at 18 but blasted his third shot to four feet and sank his pressure-packed putt for the victory.
“I was not great today but I got out of trouble really well and then, man, I can’t believe that up and down the last — that was All-World, probably the best shot of my life.”
Raising his arms in triumph, DeChambeau screamed and jumped for joy, then paid tribute to the late Payne Stewart, the 1999 US Open winner at Pinehurst who died only a few months later.
“That’s Payne right there, baby,” DeChambeau said into a television camera, pointing to a pin of Stewart on his cap.
Americans Tony Finau and Patrick Cantlay shared third on 276, two off the pace, with Finau firing a 67. France’s Matthieu Pavon was fifth on 277 after a 71, one stroke ahead of Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who fired a 70 to stand on 278.
DeChambeau answered bogeys at the fourth and 12th holes with birdies at the par-5 10th and par-4 13th to keep the pressure on McIlroy until he cracked.
“I felt like I was hitting the driver pretty well. It just wasn’t starting exactly where I wanted to hit to,” DeChambeau said.
“Ultimately on 13 I knew I had to make birdie there to give myself a chance, because Rory was going on a heater.
“He slipped up a couple on the way coming in and I just kept staying the course, focused on trying to do as many fairways as I could.”
McIlroy settled for his second US Open runner-up effort in a row and his 21st top-10 finish since he last won a major at the 2014 PGA Championship.
DeChambeau and McIlroy shared the lead at seven-under when the drama seemed to turn.
McIlroy sank a five-foot putt at 13 for his fourth birdie in five holes while DeChambeau found sand and weeds off the tee and made bogey at 12, a two-shot swing leaving McIlroy on eight-under and DeChambeau two back.
But DeChambeau birdied 13 from just outside 27 feet and McIlroy went over the green at the par-3 15th and missed a 31-foot par putt, leaving them deadlocked at the top again.
DeChambeau then suffered his first three-putt bogey of the tournament, lipping out a four-foot par putt at the par-3 15th to fall one back, only for McIlroy to botch his short putts at the end.
Pavon failed in his bid to become the second Frenchman to win a major title after Arnaud Massy at the 1907 British Open.
Sweden’s sixth-seeded Ludvig Aberg, who began five back, took a triple bogey at the second to fall back. He fired a 73 to share 12th on 281.
World number one Scottie Scheffler, the huge pre-tournament favorite, fired a two-over 72 to stand on eight-over 288 for what was only his second finish outside the top-10 this year.
“Didn’t play my best. A bit frustrating to end,” he said. “I definitely need to do some things better.”

Grace Kim shoots 66 to take 5-shot lead in Meijer LPGA Classic

Updated 16 June 2024

Grace Kim shoots 66 to take 5-shot lead in Meijer LPGA Classic

  • Top-ranked Nelly Korda left Friday after missing her second straight cut following a stretch of six victories in seven events

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan: Grace Kim broke away late Saturday afternoon at Blythefield Country Club, birdieing four of the final six holes to take a five-stroke lead into the final round of the Meijer LPGA Classic.
Tied for the second-round lead with Ally Ewing, Kim shot a 6-under 66 to get to 17-under 199. The 23-year-old Australian won in a playoff last year in Hawaii for her lone LPGA Tour title. She lost a large lead in April in Los Angeles in the JM Eagle LA Championship.
“Gving myself another chance to I guess do it again and actually get it done,” Kim said. “I know I’m going to try my best for tomorrow and everyone else will. This golf course calls for lot of birdies and there are a lot of good players out here. ”
Ewing followed her second-round 63 with a 71 to drop into a tie for second with Lexi Thompson, Anna Nordqvist, Allizen Corpuz and Narin An.
“It was a little bit of a scramble today,” Ewing said. “I made some really good putts to just kind of hang in early.”
Thompson, the 2015 winner who has said this will be her last year playing a full schedule, played the final six holes on the front nine in 7 under in a 65. She has gone more than five years without winning.
“Just kind of got into a groove,” Thompson said. “This is a golf course you know you have to come out and play aggressive and make lots of birdies. Just came out feeling very comfortable, made a few good swings, and rolled in some putts.”
Nordqvist also shot 65. Corpuz had a 68, and An shot 69.
Kim had three straight birdies on the front nine on Nos. 5-7, dropped a stroke on the par-5 10th, then made the late charge with birdies on on the par-3 13th, par-5 14th, par-4 16th and par-5 18th.
“Obviously, I finished pretty strong, so hopefully I can just keep that going,” Kim said. “Have a good night meal. Watched a movie yesterday. That’s probably helped a little bit as well. Maybe do that again tonight and see. Fresh for tomorrow.”
Lilia Vu, a former No. 1 player and double major winner last year, was tied for 14th at 9 under in her return from a back injury that sidelined her since the Ford Championship in late March. She shot 68.
Brooke Henderson, the Canadian who won the event in 2017 and 2019, shot a 73 to drop into a tie for 24th at 7 under. Defending champion Leona Maguire was tied for 57th at 3 under after a 72.
Top-ranked Nelly Korda left Friday after missing her second straight cut following a stretch of six victories in seven events. She won at Blythefield in 2021 at a tournament-record 25 under.
The major KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is next week at Sahalee outside Seattle.

McIlroy fires bogey-free 65 to share US Open lead with Cantlay

Updated 14 June 2024

McIlroy fires bogey-free 65 to share US Open lead with Cantlay

  • “I’m delighted with the start,” McIlroy said

PINEHURST, US: Rory McIlroy sank a birdie putt from just inside 20 feet at the 18th hole to finish a five-under-par 65 first round and match Patrick Cantlay for the lead at the US Open on Thursday.
World number three McIlroy, chasing his first major victory since the 2014 PGA Championship, delivered a bogey-free round at Pinehurst, defying its dome-shaped greens, sandy waste areas and wiregrass.
“I’m delighted with the start,” McIlroy said.
“As the week goes on the golf course is going to get a bit faster and a bit firey, but right now, there’s opportunities out there and thankfully I was able to take advantage of them.
“I think more so this championship than the others, getting off to a good start is really important to try to keep yourself up there. Because you need to give yourself as much of a cushion as possible knowing what’s lurking around the corner.”
America’s ninth-ranked Cantlay, a back-nine starter, birdied three of his last five holes for an early 65 and with McIlroy took a one-stroke lead over Sweden’s sixth-ranked Ludvig Aberg, Masters runner-up in his major debut, with France’s Matthieu Pavon and American Bryson DeChambeau sharing fourth on 67.
“It’s the US Open. It’s supposed to be hard,” Aberg said. “That’s what we’re doing here.”
McIlroy, a 30-year-old from Northern Ireland, sank a seven-foot birdie putt at the fourth hole then chipped in brilliantly from just off the green for a birdie at the par-5 fifth.
The four-time major winner added a birdie putt from just inside seven feet at the par-5 10th then birdied two of the last three holes, sinking an 11-footer at the par-4 16th and then his tension-packed putt at 18.
“I think the one thing we got a little lucky with today was the cloud cover, so the golf course didn’t get as fiery as I expected it to get this afternoon,” McIlroy said.
“The nice thing is to go out there and take advantage of the conditions and get back out in the morning and try to keep the momentum going.”
McIlroy was second in last year’s US Open, his fifth top-10 effort in a row at the US Open with each better than the last.
An afternoon feature group with the world’s three top players was dominated by McIlroy, with world number one Scottie Scheffler, the Masters champion, firing a 71 and second-ranked Xander Schauffele, who won last month’s PGA Championship, on 70.
Scheffler has five PGA Tour wins this year, the most by any player at this stage since Tom Watson in 1980.
Schauffele snapped a two-year win drought last month with his first major triumph.
Cantlay, seeking his first major triumph, and McIlroy matched the low US Open rounds at Pinehurst, two 65s by Martin Kaymer on his way to victory in 2014.
“Played pretty solid most of the way,” Cantlay said. “The golf course played pretty difficult. But drove it well. Lot of balls on the fairways. Left the ball in the right spots, for the most part.”
Cantlay, the 2021 PGA Tour playoff champion, is a contender for a US berth at the Paris Olympics but must finish no worse than second this week to have a chance.
Aberg sank a six-foot birdie putt at the par-3 ninth to finish on 66 with six birdies and two bogeys.
“Very nice round of golf,” Aberg said. “Not a lot to complain about.”
DeChambeau, last month’s PGA Championship runner-up and the 2020 US Open champion, made a three-foot birdie putt at 13, holed out for birdie from 52 feet at 18 and birdied the fifth after putting his tee shot way right into trees.
Pavon, ranked 24th, soared with eagles at the par-5 fifth on an 18-foot putt and on a 27-foot putt at the par-5 10th hole.
“I made my four best swings of the day on the par-5s and dropped two putts,” Pavon said. “It gave me a little bit of freedom.”
Five-time major winner Brooks Koepka and seventh-ranked Collin Morikawa, a two-time major winner, were among those on 70.
Tiger Woods, a 15-time major winner, struggled to a 74. He had five bogeys in a seven-hole stretch starting at the 16th after teeing off on the back nine.

Pinehurst stands apart as a US Open test because of the greens

Updated 13 June 2024

Pinehurst stands apart as a US Open test because of the greens

  • The greens at Pinehurst No. 2 are the signature of this Donald Ross course
  • Clark won last year at Los Angeles Country Club with a score of 10-under 270

PINEHURST, N.C.: Pebble Beach has the Pacific Ocean. Oakmont is the brute with its church pew bunkers. Pinehurst No. 2 has the cereal bowls turned upside down.

The greens at Pinehurst No. 2 are the signature of this Donald Ross course that hosts the 124th US Open starting on Thursday. They go by any variety of names — upside-down cereal bowls, inverted saucers, turtlebacks or domes.

Whatever they’re called, they are universally regarded as daunting, particularly for a US Open already known as the toughest test in golf.

“You hit it on the green, the hole is not done,” defending champion Wyndham Clark said.

He played when he arrived on Monday and was amazed and how firm and fast they already were, calling them “borderline” in terms of fairness. And this was still three days out from the opening tee shot on Thursday.

Perhaps that’s why in three previous US Opens at Pinehurst No. 2, a total of four players finished the championship under par. One was Payne Stewart, thanks to that famous 15-foot par putt on the final hole to beat Phil Mickelson in 1999 at 1-under par.

Martin Kaymer took advantage of the rain-softened conditions and brilliant golf to win in 2014 at 9 under, with Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton eight shots behind and the only other players in red numbers for the week.

“I’d say in general, I think the best players play aggressively off the tee and conservatively into the greens. I think this course is basically that strategy — just on steroids,” Viktor Hovland said. “I think having a shorter club in is very important. But then into the greens you’ve got to play very, very conservatively. I think just hitting the greens itself is of high value.”

There have been plenty of illustrations of that.

Jordan Spieth was practicing to the right of the par-3 ninth green on Wednesday afternoon, aiming toward a coaster the size of a golf hole on the left side. He pitched it hard, well past the hole to the top of a small ridge so that it would roll back toward his target. And it did just that, but it was a foot too far to the left and before long had run all the way off the green.

“This is one you putt,” Spieth told Sam Burns. Instead of walking over to his bag for a putter, Spieth used the left-handed putter of alternate Josh Radcliff and gave it a whack.

It can be hard to keep track of golf balls, especially when a practice group has four players, with balls rolling all over the place, some of them winding up off the green.

Such is the nature of Pinehurst No. 2. And while the course is more than a decade removed from its restoration project that returned sandy areas with native plans instead of thick rough, it’s the greens that give the course its character.

And then it’s up to the USGA to make conditions so demanding that only the most highly skilled players can handle them. Such is the essence of the US Open.

John Bodenhamer, the chief championships officer at the USGA who is in charge of setting up the course, said 2014 data showed 70 percent of the players hit the fairway, but only 56 percent of them hit the green.

“It is all about these magnificent upside-down cereal bowl putting greens,” Bodenhamer said. “They are difficult to hit, and we need to get the right firm and fast conditions around them.”

And when players miss the greens — from the fairways, sometimes from putts that roll off the crowned edges — there are options.

“I was joking with my caddie, ‘We should probably get our putter checked.’ I’ve never swung so hard on my putter for nine holes, just trying to get up and down the mounds,” PGA champion Xander Schauffele said. “There’s certain spots where you feel like you have to hit it really hard. You hit it too hard, you putt it off the other side of the green.

“Leaving yourself in a really good position is A-1,” he said. “But even when you do leave yourself in a good position, the hole is not over yet. It’s sort of half the battle.”

Clark won last year at Los Angeles Country Club with a score of 10-under 270. That week also started with Schauffele and Rickie Fowler setting a US Open record of 62 in the opening round some 10 minutes apart.

No one expects that kind of scoring this week. Bryson DeChambeau, who studied physics at SMU, cited Boo Weekley, who barely studied at all during his brief time at Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College.

“Pinehurst is no joke. This is a ball-striker’s paradise,” DeChambeau said. “You have to hit it in the middle of the greens. And this is a Boo Weekley quote, but the center of the green never moves. So I’ll try to focus on that this week.”

There is more trouble than just the greens. The sandy areas — “sandscapes” is what they are called in these parts — have wiregrass bushes the size of basketballs speckled across the terrain. Hit in there and hope — it could be a clean lie, it could be trouble.

“It’s a walk up that fairway of a bit of anxiety, because they don’t know what they’re going to get,” Bodenhamer said. “The randomness ... it’s not just 5-inch, green, lush rough. It can be something gnarly, wiregrass, or it can be a perfect sandy lie. I think you’re going to see some players walk to their golf ball and be unhappy, and others are going to be thrilled.

“We think that is pretty cool, and we think that is exactly what Donald Ross intended.”