Top-ranked Scheffler seizes three-stroke lead at Memorial

Scottie Scheffler of the US plays his shot from the 12th tee during the second round of the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. (File/AFP)
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Updated 08 June 2024

Top-ranked Scheffler seizes three-stroke lead at Memorial

  • Cheffler has four triumphs and two runner-up efforts in his past seven starts
  • Defending champion Viktor Hovland of Norway fired his second 69 to share second with Canada’s Adam Hadwin

DUBLIN, Ohio: World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler grinded through brisk winds to fire a 4-under 68 and grab a three-stroke lead after Friday’s second round of the PGA Memorial tournament.

The two-time Masters champion, seeking his fifth victory of the year, stood on 9-under 135 after 36 holes at the Jack Nicklaus-hosted event in Muirfield Village.

“You’ve got to play it fairly conservative out here, just with how much trouble there is around the golf course. There’s a lot of hazards and you’ve got the heavy rough,” Scheffler said.

“Can be really tough to judge the wind. I’m just trying to do my best to execute. Sometimes I get the wind right and hit the right shot. Other times, things don’t work out as well.

“We’ll see how the winds are this weekend. I think it’ll only get tougher.”

Defending champion Viktor Hovland of Norway fired his second 69 to share second with Canada’s Adam Hadwin, the 18-hole leader who settled for a 72 to finish on 128.

“Some nice gusts there,” Hovland said. “And some steady winds makes it even more difficult. So did a good job of just hitting a bunch of fairways, but even then, there’s a lot of thinking and guessing going into the greens.

“It’s just hard to get it close to the hole, but I managed to do that somehow.”

South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout and American Keegan Bradley shared fourth on 139 with Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg on 140.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy was on 141 with Americans Tony Finau, Akshay Bhatia and second-ranked Xander Schauffele.

Scheffler has four triumphs and two runner-up efforts in his past seven starts and appeared poised for another top-two finish in the final tuneup for next week’s US Open.

The 27-year-old American seeks his 10th career PGA Tour title.

Scheffler dropped his approach to eight feet and sank the birdie putt at the third hole to match Hadwin for the lead, then moved ahead with a birdie putt from just inside eight feet at the par-5 fifth to reach 7-under.

Scheffler made another birdie putt from just inside six feet at the ninth to reach the turn ahead by two.

At 10, Scheffler missed the green with his approach but sank a putt from just beyond 15 feet to save par. At the par-5 11th he found the left rough and a greenside bunker then missed a par putt from just inside 10 feet.

Scheffler found the left rough off the 13th tee and missed an 11 foot par putt, dropping him back into a share of the lead with Hadwin.

“That’s a bad miss there,” Scheffler said. “Unfortunate series of events but still felt like I was hitting it really well.”

Scheffler righted his round, however, at the par-5 15th, when he reached the green in two and sank an eagle putt from just inside nine feet to restore his two-stroke edge.

“It was nice to get one in close on 15 and make a putt,” Scheffler said.

At 18, Scheffler sent his tee shot into a fairway bunker, landed his approach just inside 12 feet, then curled in a birdie putt.

“Got a good break,” Scheffler said. “Ended up in the bunker instead of the rough and was able to get up there on the green and hole another nice putt.”

Hovland birdied three of the last six holes, a tap-in at the last matching him with Hadwin, who took a double bogey at 17 after finding fairway and greenside bunkers.

Schauffele, coming of his first major win at the PGA Championship last month, shot 73 but hit his most spectacular shot at 14. He soared way right of the cart path, then over the green into a bunker, but blasted in for birdie from 28 feet.

Jackson Koivun, a 19-year-old US collegian, became the first amateur since 2009 to make the Memorial cut, doing so on the number at 148 despite a 76.

“It’s awesome,” Koivun said. “Today is probably the hardest golf conditions and course I ever played.”

Shane Lowry lets British Open lead slip away. Si Woo Kim makes hole in one

Updated 21 July 2024

Shane Lowry lets British Open lead slip away. Si Woo Kim makes hole in one

TROON, Scotland: Shane Lowry made a double bogey on the famous “Postage Stamp” eighth hole at Royal Troon and it only got worse for the Irishman.
Lowry led the British Open by three shots early Saturday before his day unraveled in the wind and rain. His 6-over 77 left him three shots behind leader Billy Horschel going into Sunday’s final round.
Quite a turnaround after taking a two-shot lead into the weekend and pairing on Saturday with unheralded Dan Brown.
“I guess for me the eighth hole was killer really. Make par there and you can still shoot 3 or 4 over and still be leading the tournament. Just pulled my wedge shot there,” Lowry said of the 123-yard par-3 eighth.
Lowry, eyeing his second British Open title, had moved three strokes ahead with a birdie at No. 4.
On the eighth, which he had birdied on back-to-back days, Lowry found the “Coffin bunker” before his next shot rolled off the back of the green. He got back up but two-putted.
Lowry, who won the claret jug at Royal Portrush in 2019, bogeyed the 11th and 12th and was out of the lead.
Three more bogeys followed — at the 14th, 15th and 18th — to leave him 1 under overall.
“You’d have to question why there wasn’t a couple of tees put forward today, to be honest. I think 15 and 17 — like 15 is 500 yards playing into that wind, it’s — yeah, they keep trying to make holes longer, yet the best hole in this course is about 100 yards,” he said.
On the last, Lowry sliced his drive and then sent his next shot into the grandstand to the right of the green. He was given a free drop but pitched well short of the hole and needed two putts.
“This is going to take me a couple hours to get over today,” he said, adding, “but I have a job to do tomorrow and a similar chance to win this tournament.”
Hole in one
Si Woo Kim didn’t see his ball go in, but he didn’t mind. You’ll never forget a hole in one at the British Open.
Kim’s third-round ace was at the par-3 17th hole.
“My caddie told me you’d better hit hard with a 3-iron,” the South Korean said. “So I did, and as soon as I (did), I see the ball (go) over the fringe.”
He thought perhaps it was within 20 feet, but then the crowd erupted.
“I couldn’t see it,” he said.
The shot took a few hops before rolling straight into the cup. Kim high-fived caddie Manuel Villegas, who then playfully tapped the visor of Kim’s cap.
At 238 yards, it’s the longest hole-in-one at a British Open since organizers began keeping complete records in 1981.
Louis Oosthuizen made a hole in one at the 2016 Open at Troon. Ernie Els made one at the Postage Stamp in 2004.
There were three at the 1997 Open at Troon — by Pierre Fulke, Daniel Olsson and Dennis Edlund.
Table tennis anyone?
Table tennis seems to be a go-to activity to unwind at the British Open.
Dan Brown, who was the surprise leader after the first round, said he’s been playing the game with his friends at the players’ lounge at Royal Troon.
Joe Dean, too.
“We played it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Wednesday afternoon, I could feel myself getting a bit of tendinitis in my elbow,” the Englishman said after Saturday’s 71 left him 4 over par overall. “Very addictive game. We believe we’re better than what we are. No, it’s great fun. It passes the time.”
Dean’s only other Open appearance was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale.
Cricket, too
Zimbabwe cricket must have been all the rage back in the day.
The fathers of Dean Burmester and Sean Crocker were teammates on Zimbabwe’s first cricket test team — cricket’s premier format — in 1992.
They’re both at Royal Troon to watch their sons compete at the British Open.
“I don’t think they’ve bumped into each other yet, but if they do, it could be some carnage,” Crocker joked after his third-round 69 on Saturday. “We were both kind of joking we were trying to keep our dads away from each other this week ... I think some alcohol is going to get hurt if they get together.”
Mark Burmester and Gary Crocker played on the team that faced India in Zimbabwe’s first test match. The Crockers moved to the United States when Sean was young. Dean Burmester represents South Africa.
“Even though we both don’t play under the Zim flag,” Crocker said, “we have our roots and heritage there, so secretly we’re Zimbabweans.”

Shane Lowry keeps calm and carries British Open lead at Troon

Updated 20 July 2024

Shane Lowry keeps calm and carries British Open lead at Troon

  • Lowry had a two-shot lead over Justin Rose and Daniel Brown going into the weekend
  • Tiger Woods missed another cut, along with nine of the top 20 players in the world — including Rory McIlroy, Ludvig Aberg and Bryson DeChambeau

TROON, Scotland: Shane Lowry was a surprising model of calm amid all the calamity in the British Open on Friday.
Lowry was not immune from the endless punishment Royal Troon dished out on a day when Tiger Woods missed another cut, along with nine of the top 20 players in the world — including Rory McIlroy, Ludvig Aberg and Bryson DeChambeau.
He was close to losing his cool with a photographer who distracted him, a shot into the gorse bush, a beautiful provisional shot to the 11th green that didn’t count when his lost ball became found and a double bogey that wiped out his two-shot lead.
Lowry steadied himself with two birdies on the last three holes for a 2-under 69, leaving him in a familiar position as he chases that silver claret jug he first won at Royal Portrush five years ago. He had a two-shot lead over Justin Rose and Daniel Brown going into the weekend.
“I was in control of my ball, did all the right things for a lot of the round. Then when I got in a bit of trouble, I feel like I really finished the round well,” Lowry said. “I’m pretty happy with the day. To be leading this tournament after two days, it’s why you come here. It’s why we’re here.”
The shocker at Royal Troon — there were a lot of them Friday — was how many of the top players were leaving.
DeChambeau, the USOpen champion with top 10s in all the majors this year, managed only one birdie in a round of 75. McIlroy would have needed anything under par, and those hopes ended with a triple bogey 8 on his fourth hole. He shot 75.
“I’d much rather have a disappointing Sunday than going home on Friday,” said McIlroy, who was coming off a late collapse that cost him the US Open.
Woods had a 77 to miss the cut in his third straight major, this one by eight shots. His 36-hole score of 156 matched his highest as a pro.
Lowry was at 7-under 135, and only nine other players remained under par after two days of havoc-wreaking wind off the Irish Sea.
Brown, playing in his first major championship, held it together for a 72 that puts him in the final group on the weekend with Lowry. Rose wasn’t even sure he would be at Troon until he went through 36-hole qualifying at the start of the month. He went 29 holes before finally making a bogey, and then he finished strong for a 68.
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler found a pot bunker off the tee at the downwind 18th and made bogey, but otherwise was solid as ever for another 70. He was tied for fourth just five shots behind, along with Billy Horschel (68) and Dean Burmester (69).
“I know tomorrow is going to be a long day, but I’ve done it before,” Lowry said. “For me, it’s just about going out and playing my own game, shooting the best score I can. Try not to worry about what other people are doing and just trying to take care of your own personal stuff.”
It was best to keep blinders on at Royal Troon. There were some harrowing scenes.

McIlroy ended a torrid two days at Royal Troon on 11 over par. (Reuters)

Justin Thomas, who opened with a 68 to get himself in the mix, shot a 45 on the front nine and played his best golf from there to salvage a 78 and make sure he at least made the cut.
Robert MacIntire had an even tougher start. Scotland’s biggest star after winning his national Open last week, MacIntire was stuck in pot bunkers and high grass. He was 8 over for his round through four holes — four holes! — and then played 4 under the rest of the way for a remarkable 75 to make the cut.
The cut was at 6-over 148.
Aguri Iwasaki had them all beat. He took a 9 on consecutive holes and shot 52 on the back nine for a 91. One of those 9s was on the par-3 14th, where he took four shots out of two bunkers and once had to go backward toward the fairway.
McIlroy, who started with a 78, needed a good start and instead got a triple bogey. He barely moved the ball out of thick grass on the par-5 fourth. Once he got back to the fairway, he pulled another shot into the rough, chipped that into the bunker and ended the sad tale by missing a 4-foot putt.
“Once I made the 8 on the fourth hole that was it — 22 holes into the event and I’m thinking about where I’m going to go on vacation next week,” McIlroy said.
PGA champion Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay were in the group at 1-under 141.
Another shot back was Joaquin Niemann. He had another 71 despite taking a quintuple-bogey 8 on the par-3 eighth hole — the Postage Stamp — that measures a mere 123 yards. He was in three bunkers around the tiny green and three-putted when he finally got out of them. Niemann also made six birdies in a most remarkable round of level par.
So much chaos across the century-old links, and it looked for a brief moment like Lowry might take part. He was in the right rough, but he was distracted by a photographer and angry at himself for not backing off the shot that he tugged left toward a clump of gorse.
Figuring it would be lost in the prickly mess, Lowry hit a provisional for a lost ball onto the green, a terrific shot. One problem. Someone found the ball. It was no longer lost, so the provisional ball was not in play.
Lowry took a penalty drop from the bush, going back to find a place where he had a swing, put it short of the green, chipped on and salvaged a double bogey 6.
“To be honest, I was happy enough leaving there with a 6. It wasn’t a disaster. I was still leading the tournament,” Lowry said.
And now comes a big opportunity for Lowry to reclaim that claret jug. He’s not alone in the chase, especially with Troon’s ability to make anyone look silly. Scheffler has quietly avoided some of those moments.
“I’ve played two solid rounds and it put me five shots back, and I’ll continue to try to execute and just continue to try to hit good shots and hit good putts,” Scheffler said, making it all sound so simple on a day when nothing felt easy.

England’s Brown birdies last to lead The Open

Updated 19 July 2024

England’s Brown birdies last to lead The Open

  • Brown leads by one in his very first appearance at The Open Championship
  • Lowry made the most of the calm late afternoon conditions with three birdies in five holes around the turn to shoot 66 and lie solo second

TROON, United Kingdom: Daniel Brown drained an eight-footer on the 18th for a closing birdie that saw him sign for a round of 65 and a one-shot solo lead of the Open Championship in his very first appearance.

Shane Lowry had shot to the top of the leaderboard at five under par as Rory McIlroy was among the big names to struggle on day one of the 152nd Open at Royal Troon.
McIlroy posted a seven over par round of 78 with his hopes of ending a 10-year wait to win a major floundering as most of the field struggled in the wet and windy conditions on Scotland’s west coast.
Lowry, who won his sole major at The Open five years ago, made the most of the calm late afternoon conditions with three birdies in five holes around the turn to shoot 66 and lie solo second.
Two-time major winner Justin Thomas is lurking at three under, while recently crowned USPGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele is among a group of five on two under that also includes Justin Rose.
World number one Scottie Scheffler cut a frustrated figure on the greens but is still in the mix after a one under round that featured four birdies and three bogeys.
McIlroy was aiming to get over his heartbreak at the US Open last month, where he missed two short putts to blow the lead as Bryson DeChambeau claimed his second major by one shot.
However, the Northern Irishman’s round, and probably championship, was blown off course at the postage stamp 120-yard eighth.
McIlroy was unfortunate as his near-perfect tee shot slipped off the green into a bunker, which he took two attempts to get out of, to post a double bogey five.
Another double bogey followed at the 11th, while he also dropped shots at the 10th, 15th and 18th.
“All I need to focus on is tomorrow and try to make the cut,” said McIlroy.
“I need to go out there and play better and try to shoot something under par and at least be here for the weekend, if not try to put myself up the leaderboard a bit more and feel like I have half a chance.”

DeChambeau had been the form player in the majors so far this year, despite his defection to the breakaway LIV Tour.
The American finished sixth at the Masters and runner-up in the USPGA Championship before claiming his second US Open.
However, his struggles with the windy conditions of links golf continued as he was six over par for his opening nine holes.
DeChambeau battled back on the back nine as an eagle on the 17th helped him to a 76.
“I’m just proud of the way I persevered today,” said DeChambeau.
“I could have thrown in the towel after nine and could have been like, ‘I’m going home’. But no, I’ve got a chance tomorrow. I’m excited for the challenge.”
Thomas recovered from his own double bogey at the 12th to post a 68, which was 14 shots better than his opening round at Royal Liverpool 12 months ago.
“I played really solid, got it around. I felt like I had great control of the ball,” said Thomas.
World number three Schauffele continued his fine form in recent months as he dropped just one shot to put himself among the chasing pack.
Five-time major champion Brooks Koepka defied the worst of the weather to post four consecutive bridies between the fourth and the seventh before dropping back to one under.
Tiger Woods had hit back at suggestions from former European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie that he should retire, but the 15-time major champion failed to prove he can still be competitive with a 79.
“I didn’t do a whole lot of things right today,” said Woods. “I had three 3-putts today. I didn’t hit my irons very close, and I didn’t give myself a whole lot of looks today.”
Cameron Smith, champion at St. Andrews two years ago, fared even worse with an 80.
World number four Ludvig Aberg was another of the big names to falter in his first ever round at The Open with a four-over round of 75.
The Swede’s playing partner Jon Rahm is two over, while home favorite Bob McIntire is in the running after a one-over 72 to back up his victory at last week’s Scottish Open.

Jon Rahm hoping to ride Spanish momentum to end drought

Updated 17 July 2024

Jon Rahm hoping to ride Spanish momentum to end drought

  • The major championship season ends with the British Open, and Rahm has been a no-show
  • Rahm hopes he sorted out some issues with his driver by getting a new shaft, which he says has allowed him to swing a little more freely

TROON, Scotland: Jon Rahm felt like one of the most popular players when he arrived at Royal Troon, even if it had nothing to do with him or with his golf.

Spain is on quite the run at the moment. Carlos Alcaraz won Wimbledon on Sunday for his second Grand Slam title of the year, right before Spain defeated England in the European Championship final. It’s the latter that made the Scottish fans celebrate the Spaniard.

No one in these parts likes to see England win anything.

“Played all 18 holes, and I think I got more congratulations for something that I didn’t do than I ever have in my life,” Rahm said Tuesday. “I don’t know what they’ve done, but anytime anybody plays against the English national team, every other country in Europe just unifies against them.

“I think because we’ve heard ‘It’s Coming Home’ so many times the last few years that nobody wants to see it come home at this point.”

Throw in Sergio Garcia winning his first LIV Golf event at Valderrama, and Rahm would like nothing more than to extend Spain’s run of winners.

Mostly, he needs it for himself.

The major championship season ends with the British Open, and Rahm has been a no-show. He was the reigning Masters champion when he left for LIV Golf last December and he still hasn’t won. His last victory was the Masters some 15 months ago.

He barely made the cut at the Masters. He missed the cut at the PGA Championship. And he didn’t even get to play the US Open because of a foot infection.

“Last year from the Masters on I didn’t really play my best,” Rahm said. “Ryder Cup was the only resemblance to maybe the early part of the year. But Nashville and last week (LIV events), I felt closer to getting to a higher level of golf where maybe there isn’t as many thoughts on my process. Maybe I’m playing a little bit more freely and seeing the ball flight that I want to see more often.

“I’m getting much closer to what it might have been early last year.”

The foot infection, right before the US Open, summed up the frustrating year. Rahm was hopeful of playing Pinehurst No. 2 until seeking a specialist, who numbed his foot and thrust a swab into the infection to clean it out.

“Pretty much when I saw that go in I said, ‘OK, I’m not playing the Open,’” Rahm said. “Once I accepted the fact I couldn’t play, I think it was quite enjoyable. I think, as much as any other, I kind of enjoyed watching some of the best players in the world struggle.”

He can relate to a struggle these days, particularly in the majors.

Rahm hopes he sorted out some issues with his driver by getting a new shaft, which he says has allowed him to swing a little more freely. It was at Valhalla for the PGA Championship that he realized he needed a change.

The foot injury was a setback, but he contended at his next LIV event and then tied for 10th at Valderrama last week. He has top 10s in every LIV event he has played except for Houston, when he withdrew because of the foot injury.

Then again, LIV has the same 54 players every week, and only the top half would be considered among the elite in the game. Going the year without a win can be frustrating, much less the last 15 months.

Now it’s down to Royal Troon, a course that typically plays easy on the way out and turns into a beast — and into the wind — on the way back in.

Rahm had planned to only play nine holes on Monday, but the weather was probably as glorious as it’s going to be all week and he wanted to enjoy it. Wind or calm, rain or shine, it’s avoiding the pot bunkers and the gorse bushes that are key to this British Open.

And after this week, golf gets a little hazy. He still has a LIV calendar to finish out, but Rahm said his wife’s pregnancy with their third child is not going well and she is on bed rest. He doesn’t know if he will be able to play the Spanish Open this fall.

And it won’t be until next April that Rahm gets a chance to compete against the likes of Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele. The best players now only come together four times a year in the majors.

“It’s the decision I’ve made,” he said of joining LIV. “Hopefully at some point golf can figure itself out, and we have opportunities to play against each other more often.”

Spanish favorites Sergio Garcia, Fireballs win historic double playoff

Updated 15 July 2024

Spanish favorites Sergio Garcia, Fireballs win historic double playoff

  • For Garcia, the script couldn’t have been written any better, as he won for the first time after three previous playoff losses
  • It was LIV Golf’s first double playoff, and just the second team playoff in league history

SOTOGRANDE, Spain: On an unprecedented day in LIV Golf’s young history, captain Sergio Garcia and his Fireballs GC produced a storybook finish for their Spanish fans on home soil at LIV Golf Andalucia.Garcia rallied from seven strokes down to win his first LIV Golf individual title on the second sudden-death playoff hole against Crushers GC’s Anirban Lahiri.

Meanwhile, teammates Abraham Ancer and David Puig beat the Crushers duo of captain Bryson DeChambeau and Paul Casey in the team aggregate-score playoff as the Fireballs — with three Spaniards on the roster — swept both trophies at Real Club Valderrama.

It was LIV Golf’s first double playoff, and just the second team playoff in league history. The first team playoff came earlier this year at LIV Golf Adelaide, when the home Australian team — Ripper GC — also won.

For Garcia, the script couldn’t have been written any better, as he won for the first time after three previous playoff losses. That it happened on his favorite course, one in which he’s won three other professional events and has now finished inside the top 10 in 16 of his 17 starts, made it even more special.

“To be totally honest, there’s a connection between Valderrama and myself that I can’t even explain it,” said the 44-year-old Garcia, who ended a four-year winless drought while winning his 37th professional title.

Garcia started the day at even par, seven shots behind overnight leader Lahiri.

But the Spanish star played flawless golf for 17 holes, posting six birdies and applying pressure on Lahiri, who was trying to break his own winless drought of nine years.

While Garcia suffered his only bogey of the day with a three-putt at the par-3 third to wrap up his 5-under 66, Lahiri birdied the par-5 17th. That put the tournament in Lahiri’s hands going to the par-4 18th, the most difficult hole on the course this week.

Lahiri found the middle of the green with his approach shot and rolled his birdie attempt to 3 feet to set up the potential winning par. But with a chance to win the individual title and secure the team title for the Crushers, he missed the putt for a final-round 73 to drop back to 5 under and set up the double playoff.

Garcia was riding in a van back to the clubhouse at the time. “We obviously heard the crowds going crazy, so we figured that he might have missed his par putt,” Garcia said. “… It was nice to be able to have another shot at it.”Garcia and Lahiri each parred their first playoff hole. Meanwhile, in the team playoff right behind them, DeChambeau found trouble off the 18th tee and had to lay up with his second shot. Casey’s approach finished in the rough behind the green. DeChambeau bogeyed the hole while Ancer and Puig made easy pars to claim the Fireballs’ first team victory of the season.

Like his captain, Lahiri’s errant tee shot on the second playoff hole left him in trouble, and Garcia won with a par, with his teammates and family racing onto the green to drench him in celebratory champagne.

“Obviously individual for me, it’s a dream come true to do it on my favorite course in front of my family and friends and in front of my teammates,” Garcia said. “But to even make it even better by winning the team championship, too, it was amazing. So proud of these guys, the way they played.”

On the flip side, it was heartbreak for the Crushers, who have won twice this season and lead the season-long points standings as they look to repeat as team champions.

“It sucks. Losing is never fun,” said DeChambeau. “That’s what makes winning so much better. I feel for Baan.”

Perhaps it was simply fate for the Fireballs and their captain to win on home turf in front of a partisan crowd.“A dream weekend for all of us,” said young Fireballs star Eugenio Chacarra. “Super happy for Sergio. He’s been up there a lot, and he’s been playing at a high level for 20 plus years. It’s really nice to see it from close every single day, and so happy for him that he got it done on his favorite course.”