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

Grace Kim of Australia plays her shot from the sixth tee during the third round of the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give at Blythefield Country Club on June 15, 2024 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (AFP)
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Updated 16 June 2024
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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.


Jon Rahm hoping to ride Spanish momentum to end drought

Updated 17 July 2024
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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
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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.”


Davis Thompson takes 2-shot lead into the final round of the low-scoring John Deere Classic

Updated 07 July 2024
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Davis Thompson takes 2-shot lead into the final round of the low-scoring John Deere Classic

  • Thompson: Everybody is hungry. That’s what makes it difficult out here
  • The final round will be in threesomes off both tees for a slightly later start Sunday with hopes of avoiding storms that already have made the course vulnerable

SILVIS, Illinois: Davis Thompson made birdie on half of his holes Saturday on a soft and defenseless TPC Deere Run, matching his career low with a 9-under 62 for a two-shot lead going into the final round of the John Deere Classic.

Thompson made birdie even after his one bad swing, escaping from the trees on the par-5 17th and then hitting wedge from a bad angle over a knob of rough to 8 feet.

He was at 21-under 192, his first time with the 54-hole lead in his second year on the PGA Tour.

That doesn’t feel like much of a lead this week.

“The guys behind me are playing really well,” Thompson said. “I know it’s going to be tough to finish off a golf tournament, but I’ve done it before. I just have to stay present-minded.”

His lone win was on the Korn Ferry Tour two years ago.

Eric Cole hit 3-wood from 274 yards to just inside 15 feet for eagle on the 17th that carried him to a 64 and into the final group. He was two shots behind. Joining them will be Aaron Rai of England, in the final group for the second straight week after a 66.

The final round will be in threesomes off both tees for a slightly later start Sunday with hopes of avoiding storms that already have made the course vulnerable to low scoring.

Jordan Spieth played early and at one point was tied for the lead — the leaders had not even reached the practice range at that point — and wound up with a 63. By the end of the day, he made up only one stroke on the lead. Spieth was seven shots behind in a tie for 12th.

“It would take something extremely flawless to have a chance,” Spieth said. “But I’ll try and do what I did today.”

Hayden Spring finally shot a round in the 60s — he opened with a course record-tying 59 and fell back with a 71 on Friday — and his 66 put him four shots behind at 17-under 196 along with C.T. Pan, who had a 68.

Still in the mix were a pair of youngsters — one still in college, one just out. Michael Thorbjornsen, who has a card as the No. 1 player in the PGA Tour University ranking after his senior year at Stanford, had a 66. Florida State sophomore Luke Clanton had a 67. They were among those five shots off the lead.

Clanton made the cut in the US Open, and then tied for 10th last week in the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He’s trying to become the first amateur since 1958 to finish in the top 10 on the PGA Tour in consecutive weeks.

Clanton looks so comfortable that he even agreed to do a walk-and-talk with the CBS booth while playing on the back nine.

“It’s crazy, I can’t even really fathom what’s happening right now, honestly,” Clanton said. “I’m still a 20-year-old kid in college just having fun. Doing that stuff is unreal.”

Thompson got into the mix quickly by making a 25-foot birdie putt on the first hole and getting up-and-down from the bunker for a birdie on the par-5 second. He also holed out from a bunker for birdie on the fifth and then got a break on the sixth when his drive hit a tree and kicked out to the fairway, setting up wedge to close range for birdie.

“I guess it was just my day today,” Thompson said. “Hit a lot of good shots on the back nine and finished the round off well.”

He surged into the lead with three straight birdies on the back nine — a tee shot to a foot on the par-3 12th hole, a 15-foot birdie putt on the 13th and then driving into a bunker on the reachable par-4 14th and blasting out to a foot.

Now comes the hard part — going for his first PGA Tour win, seven players within five shots of the lead on a course that is giving up low scores to just about everyone.

“Everybody is hungry. That’s what makes it difficult out here,” Thompson said. “There is a lot of losers every week out here. You can have great weeks and finish top 10. At the end of the day your goal is to win the golf tournament.

“Yeah, it’s frustrating at times, but at the end of the day this is what you work for, to put yourself in these positions.”


Aaron Rai and C.T. Pan share John Deere Classic lead

Updated 06 July 2024
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Aaron Rai and C.T. Pan share John Deere Classic lead

  • Pan holed a 100-foot chip for eagle on the reachable par-4 14th and also kept bogeys off his card for a 63
  • Pan and Rai were at 14-under 128

SILVIS: Aaron Rai of England went from a close call last week in Detroit to another chance at his first PGA Tour victory, playing another bogey-free round of 8-under 63 on Friday to share the lead with C.T. Pan going into the weekend at the John Deere Classic.

Still in the mix is Hayden Springer, who began the tournament with a 59. Springer had 12 birdies and two eagles in his first 29 holes before he began to sputter, missing a 3-foot par putt and taking a double bogey late in his round as light rain fell at the TPC Deere Run.

He had to settle for a 71 and and was among six players within two shots of the lead.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Springer said. “It was a little windier today, probably played a little tougher. I kind of hit some bumps on the back nine, but more just mental errors and not making those short putts than anything else.”

Pan holed a 100-foot chip for eagle on the reachable par-4 14th and also kept bogeys off his card for a 63.

Pan and Rai were at 14-under 128.

Rai shared the 54-hole lead in the Rocket Mortgage Classic last week and wound up one shot behind Cam Davis.

“Been playing well tee-to-green for large parts of this season. That’s kind of continued over the last few weeks,” Rai said. “And then a couple of weeks ago I spent quite a while on the green. My dad gave me a couple tips. Started working with John Graham last week, as well, a putting coach who is based out here.

“Putting all that together has definitely translated to on the course.”

Rai wasn’t the only player using some momentum from last week. Florida State sophomore Luke Clanton extended his amazing summer run with a 67 that left him at 12-under 130.

He drove the green on the 348-yard 14th hole to 15 feet for eagle. Perhaps more impressive was the way he rebounded from a double bogey on the par-4 sixth toward the end of his round with two straight birdies.

“We hadn’t really made a mistake all week, and made one tiny mistake and made double,” Clanton said. “I knew it was all right. Going to make birdie-birdie no matter that. I knew after I got that double, I said to myself, ‘We ain’t finishing at 10 under. We’re going to finish at 12.’”

He hit his tee shot on the 202-yard seventh hole to just inside 10 feet for birdie, and then made another 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 eighth to make good on his belief.

Harry Hall (66) was at 13 under, while joining Springer and Clanton at 12 under were Eric Cole (68), Davis Thompson (67) and Denny McCarthy (66).

Another shot back was a player fresh out of college — Michael Thorbjornsen, the Massachusetts native who played at Stanford and finished No. 1 in the PGA Tour University ranking to get a full PGA Tour card for the rest of this year and all of 2025.

Thorbjornsen started his round with four straight birdies and wound up with a 64.

Two-time Deere winner Jordan Spieth at least made it to the weekend. Playing the tournament for the first time since he won it nine years ago, Spieth hit a pair of wild shots that led to bogey and put him outside the cut line until he rallied with a pair of birdies.

He missed a 4-foot birdie chance on his final hole and had to settle for a 67, making the cut with a shot to spare. But he was still eight shots behind and not particularly optimistic, mainly because of a 69 on Thursday morning in the easiest conditions.

“We had yesterday morning with no wind and a chance — ball in hand — to really take advantage,” Spieth said. “I had 18 holes of a couple under yesterday, and unless you’re absolutely perfect from there, there is not much of a chance of winning. That doesn’t mean you don’t go out and try and shoot 10 under the next day.”


Hayden Springer posts 14th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history with his eagle-birdie finish for a 59

Updated 05 July 2024
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Hayden Springer posts 14th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history with his eagle-birdie finish for a 59

  • Springer became the fourth player on the PGA Tour with a 59 in the opening round
  • The PGA Tour record is a 58 by Jim Furyk at the Travelers Championship in 2016
  • Conditions were so conducive to scoring that 12 players from the morning wave were at 65 or lower

SILVIS, Illinois: Hayden Springer posted the 14th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history on Thursday, joining a rapidly expanding list with an eagle-birdie finish in the John Deere Classic for a 12-under 59.

All that got him was a two-shot lead over Sami Valimaki on a rain-softened TPC Deere Run so vulnerable to scoring that only 13 players in the 156-man field were over par.

Springer shot 27 on the front nine and tried to block out thoughts of a 59 or better. Then he made five straight pars and figured the chance had passed until he holed a 55-yard shot for eagle on the par-5 17th.

Needing a birdie for golf’s magic number, his approach caught the slope and left him 12 feet short, and the putt was true all the way.

“Kind of at a loss for words in terms of being able to do that,” Springer said. “I feel like that’s one of the rare things in golf, so to have that opportunity and pull it off, it feels pretty special.”

The PGA Tour record is a 58 by Jim Furyk at the Travelers Championship in 2016. Furyk also is among 13 players with a 59.

Any score that starts with a 5 remains special, although it is not quite as rare as it once was as players get better each year. Springer became the second player in three weeks to break 60. Cameron Young also had a 59 at the Travelers Championship.

On golf tours worldwide, it was the eighth sub-60 round. The lowest was a 57 by Cristobal del Solar of Chile in a Korn Ferry Tour event in Colombia.

Springer tied the record at the TPC Deere Run. Paul Goydos shot a 59 in the first round of the John Deere Classic in 2010. Goydos had only a one-shot lead that year — Steve Stricker shot 60 the same day and went on to win.

Valimaki, playing in the afternoon, noticed Springer’s 59 as he played the front nine.

“I think it was my seventh hole,” Valimaki said. “I was like, ‘OK, I need to keep shooting lower and lower.’ Didn’t catch it, but still a good round.”

Eric Cole had a 62, while the group at 63 included Florida State sophomore Luke Clanton, who tied for 10th last week in the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Lucas Glover, on the wrong side of the postseason bubble with five weeks to go before the FedEx Cup playoffs, shot 64.

Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the short grass.

Still, Springer had reason to believe early on this might be a special day. He holed a 12-foot eagle putt on the second hole and chipped in from 60 feet for birdie on the next one. He birdied the next three holes, and then closed out the front nine with birdie putts of 3 feet and 7 feet.

It was the birdie putt from 15 feet on the fringe on the sixth hole that got him thinking how low he could go.

“I was like, ‘OK, I feel like I’m not missing today. I’m pretty much holing any putt I look at,’” he said. “So probably that putt going in was kind of the trigger of, ‘OK, we might be able to go super low.’”

Springer had missed five straight cuts, putting him in danger of losing his card. He played a Korn Ferry Tour event during the week of the US Open — he tied for 54th — and spent time with his longtime swing coach before registering a tie for 10th last week in Detroit.

If that was progress, then this was a giant leap.

But then, Springer already knows about handling the toughest of times. His infant daughter, Sage, was diagnosed in 2021 with Trisomy 18 — also known as Edwards Syndrome — in which babies are born with three copies of chromosome 18 instead of two.

Such infants typically don’t make it 72 hours. Sage was 3 when she died on Nov. 13, just a month before Springer faced Q-school. He had enough emotional capacity left to get his PGA Tour card, and now he’s in the record book with a sub-60 round.

“I don’t know if it gives me inner strength, but definitely tests you and you kind of have to find ways to work through it and to continue to move forward,” Springer said. “Most of that is our faith for us, just leaning into that and knowing that we’re secure in that.

“We’ve had some challenging things happen,” he said. “But at the end of the day I also want to compete and I love doing that.”

Kevin Chappell was among those at 64. Conditions were so conducive to scoring that 12 players from the morning wave were at 65 or lower. Jordan Spieth was not among them. He had to scramble for a 69, and his first step Friday will be making the cut.

As for Springer, he became the fourth player on the PGA Tour with a 59 in the opening round. Justin Thomas (Sony Open in 2017) and Brandt Snedeker (Wyndham Championship in 2018) went on to win. The exception was Goydos at the John Deere Classic.