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Tour Rundown: A tale of 2 nines decides Sony Open

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The second week of 2022 professional golf on the US PGA Tour saw the traveling band remain in Hawaii, albeit only after a move from the island of Maui to the enclave of Oahu. The Waialae Country Club, originally designed by the skilled Seth Raynor, rewards the thoughtful player. Its traditional routing and distance demand the ability to negotiate angles and turns, as well as back off from the long ball. Architect Tom Doak’s restoration of Raynor features and inclinations returned the course to its authentic state. Waialae finds a way to reward the strategist, and it will be no surprise if a true ball-worker hoists the winner’s trophy on Sunday afternoon.

Thursday: Na Leads The Way

Kevin Na, the defending champion, turned up the heat on Thursday afternoon with a stellar round of 61. Na went out in 29, highlighted by a rifled hybrid to ten feet at the ninth hole. He converted the eagle putt to reach six-under on the day. Na added three more birdies coming home, and took a one-shot advantage over Russell Henley and Jim Furyk. Henley’s round was flawless, with the only difference being birdie at nine, rather than eagle. Furyk had a bogey on hole number one, but countered that with a number of birdies and the beauty that you see below at the 17th hole. Five other players turned in rounds of 63, ensuring that low scores in Hawaii will continue for the second consecutive week.

Friday: where’d they go?

Of the three Thursday leaders, only one stood tall on day two of Hawaii’s second PGA caravan stop. While Kevin Na (71) and Jim Furyk (72) each soared 10 strokes higher than his opening round, Russell Henley dropped but one stroke over day one. His 63 on day two was a wild affair. It included a pair of bogeys, and also a pair of eagles. Threes at the 9th and 18th holes melded with five birdies, to give the South Carolina resident a three-shot lead over a resurgent Haotong Li. Li followed his 63 with 65 on day two, to reach 12-under par. Matt Kuchar added 64 to his opening 64, to reach -11. Michael Thompson was the only other contestant at double-digits under par; his 63-67 stood him at minus-ten. The cut fell at five-under par, meaning a pair of 68s earned nothing more than a rescheduled return flight, or a pair of days on the beach.

Saturday: holding on

Round three at Waialae was a game of chess. Russell Henley won the SONY Open nine years ago, reaching 24-under par. His day three was not the stumble that Na and Furyk experienced on Friday, and he escaped moving day with a two-shot lead intact. Making a bold move with his knights and bishops was current Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama. The stalwart from Japan chipped away with birdies and pars, posting seven under par on the day, to move three spaces up the leaderboard. As with last week, a lesser-known, lesser-decorated golfer will spar with a growing legend and current major champion. Cameron Smith was able to hold off Jon Rahm last week in Kapalua. Might Henley repeat the same formula? Poised to pounce if the leaders stumble, is a quartet of challengers at -14. The United Nations of Adam Svensson (Canada), Seamus Power (Ireland), Haotong Li (China) and Matt Kuchar (USA) will need to go 62-low to have a chance on Sunday, and that’s what makes it fun.

By the way, if Henley tosses a day-four 64 to match his 24-under total from 2013, this writer says that he will once again lift the trophy.

Sunday: a tale of two nines

We all know the notion of how the Masters doesn’t really begin until the back nine on Sunday. It’s both a truism and a myth. Tournaments begin in round one, but the nitty-gritty of regular and major events often takes place over a three-hour period in round four. No place was this more in evidence than Waialae on Sunday in 2022. Russell Henley stood at -18 when he teed off, then played the front nine in a sublime 29, including eagle at the 9th. He moved to 24-under par, the same total that won him this event in 2013. Remember what I wrote on Saturday evening (see above) about that number?

Chasing him was playing partner Hideki Matsuyama. The Masters champion played the same stretch in three-under, but found himself five in arrears as they turned to the inward half. Roughly two hours later, Henley had dropped a shot after playing the back in plus-one 36. Matsuyama, meanwhile, made birdie at two of the final four holes to complete a closing 31. Just like that, the five shot lead had disappeared, and Henley found himself in a gut-wrenching playoff. Had Henley finished at -24, he would have won in regulation.

The pair returned to the par-five, closing hole, the one where Isao Aoki holed from 110 yards to defeat Jack Renner in regulation. Well, Aoki’s shot may have been relegated to the second-best finisher on the last at Waialae. From 277 yards out, Matsuyama ripped a three-metal into the setting sun. It moved gently rightward on a cut arc, and settled softly on the putting surface. When it rolled to 24 inches, the tournament was complete. Henley’s six were twice the strokes that heroic Hideki required, and the 8th PGA Tour title of the young champion’s career was secured.

The tour leaves the islands for the mainland, setting down in the California desert this week. Si Woo Kim looks to defend his title at The American Express in La Quinta.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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Phil Mickelson withdraws from PGA Championship

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Just six days before Phil Mickelson’s highly anticipated return to the game, it was announced Friday that the defending champion had withdrawn from this year’s PGA Championship.

In a statement released today, the PGA of America said:

“We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has withdrawn from the PGA Championship. Phil is the defending champion and currently eligible to be a PGA Life Member, and we would have welcomed him to participate. We wish Phil and Amy the very best and look forward to his return to golf.”

Two weeks ago, Mickelson’s agent Steve Loy at SportFive agency revealed that his client had requested a release to play in the Saudi backed LIV Golf series.

Mickelson’s exile from golf continues for now, with the 51-year-old not teeing it up since January.

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MORNING 9: Munoz fires 60 | Norman’s “mistake” gaffe | Homa’s dream foursome

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco and Matthew Vincenzi.
For comments: [email protected].
May 13, 2022
Good Friday morning, golf fans, as we head into day two of the AT&T Bryson Nelson.
1. 60
Colby Powell for Golf Channel…”Sebastian Munoz made history Thursday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, becoming the first player in PGA Tour history with multiple rounds of 60 or lower in the same season.”
  • “Munoz also shot 60 in the first round of the RSM Classic in November. However, that was on a par-70 golf course. Today’s round at TPC Craig Ranch was a 12-under-par 60 for the Colombian, which was highlighted by a 6-under stretch through four holes in the middle of his round.”
2. “Mistake” 
ESPN’s Mark Schlabach…”On Wednesday, during a news conference in London to promote LIV Golf’s first event at Centurion Club, June 9-11, Norman was asked about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s alleged complicity in the 2018 killing of Khashoggi, an American citizen. LIV Golf is being financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is controlled by bin Salman.”
  • “From what I heard and what you guys reported, just take ownership of what it is,” Norman told reporters. “Take ownership no matter what it is. Look, we’ve all made mistakes, and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.”
3. Khashoggi’s fiancee on Norman’s remarks
Our Matt Vincenzi…”Today as reported by the Telegraph, Hatice Cengiz who was Khashoggi’s fiancee, responded to Norman’s comments saying how she found them to be “so hurtful”.”
  • “It is so hurtful when Jamal’s brutal killing is brushed off as a ‘mistake’ and that we should just move on. Would you say that if it was your loved one?“
  • “How can we go forward when those who ordered the murder are still unpunished, and continue to try to buy back their legitimacy?
  • “We should not fall for their wealth and lies, and lose our morals and common humanity.
  • “We should all be insisting on the truth and justice; only then can we look forward with hope and dignity.”
4. Sagstrom takes Founders Cup lead
AP report…”Madelene Sagstrom shot a flawless 9-under 63 during a round she felt holes kept getting larger to take one-stroke lead over Megan Khang after the first round of the Cognizant Founders Cup on Thursday.”
  • “Nasa Hataoka, who won in Los Angeles in April before taking time off, was third after a 65 on the Upper Montclair Country Club course, roughly 10 miles from New York City.”
5. Homa’s dream foursome 
Our Gianni Magliocco…”For those who follow Homa on Twitter, his opening choice of Green Bay Packer’s QB Aaron Rodgers will come as no surprise. The two good friends teamed up together at the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and Rodgers even sent a congratulatory note on Twitter to Homa following his win on Sunday.”
  • “For his second selection, Homa turned to NBA star Steph Curry, who the golfer has repeatedly praised for his attempts to grow the game of golf, with the most recent being Curry’s introduction of a new junior golf tour.”
  • “Finally, Homa plumped for Tiger Woods, and when co-host Brian Knudson remarked that it was quite a group of talented golfers, the Wells Fargo champ stated: “You don’t want to be chasing golf balls all day.” Good point, Max.”
6. Stricker starts strong in Champions major
AP report…??”Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday to take a two-stroke lead over Miguel Angel Jimenez and Wes Short Jr. after the opening round of the Regions Tradition, the first of five PGA Tour Champions majors.”
  • “Stricker, the 2019 champion, closed his bogey-free round with a birdie on No. 18 at Greystone Golf & Country Club. Jimenez, the 2018 winner, started on the 10th tee and broke out of a 10-player logjam at 4 under with a birdie on No. 8.”
7. From trash to the Tour
Colby Powell for Golf Channel…??”Kyle Wilshire was playing golf in Shawnee, Oklahoma, last week on the All Pro Tour, where he finished T-2 and was rewarded with a check for $8,000. He now finds himself near the top of the leaderboard on the PGA Tour after Monday qualifying into the AT&T Byron Nelson.”
  • “Wilshire, who turned pro in 2014 out of UCF, is making just his third career start on Tour, with the other two coming in the fall of 2021 and featuring a missed cut and a T-62. He was in fourth place when he signed his card on Thursday, five back of leader Sebastian Munoz.”
  • “It hasn’t been an easy road for the 29-year-old, who had knee surgery in 2018, didn’t play well in 2019 and then wound up taking a job as a trash porter in the evenings when golf was shut down during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020.”
8. Im out for PGA?
Ryan Lavner for Golf Channel…”Sungjae Im’s status for the PGA Championship is now in doubt after testing positive for COVID-19 in his native South Korea.”
  • “Im had returned home to play in the Korean Tour’s Woori Financial Group Championship but tested positive hours before the opening round and withdrew from the event, according to local news reports.”
9. Photos from the Byron Nelson
GolfWRX is live from this week’s Byron Nelson, where we have selected galleries including plenty of WITBs in our forum.
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‘It is so hurtful’ – Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancée hits out at Greg Norman over recent Saudi comments

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At a press conference on Wednesday to discuss the LIV Golf International series, Greg Norman seemingly played down the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi was a columnist for the Washington Post and was brutally murdered in Turkey in 2018. It was later discovered that Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents in Istanbul.

When asked about the 2018 murder, Norman said: “From what I heard and what you guys reported just take ownership of what it is. Take ownership no matter what it is. Look, we’ve all made mistakes, and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.”

Today as reported by the Telegraph, Hatice Cengiz who was Khashoggi’s fiancee, responded to Norman’s comments saying how she found them to be “so hurtful”.

“It is so hurtful when Jamal’s brutal killing is brushed off as a ‘mistake’ and that we should just move on. Would you say that if it was your loved one?

“How can we go forward when those who ordered the murder are still unpunished, and continue to try to buy back their legitimacy?

“We should not fall for their wealth and lies, and lose our morals and common humanity.

“We should all be insisting on the truth and justice; only then can we look forward with hope and dignity.”

Cengiz’ statement to the Telegraph was released through her attorney, Rodney Dixon QC. She has stated that her goal is to raise awareness in regards to Saudi Arabia’s human rights failures.

Norman has been attempting to separate LIV Golf from the political issues plaguing Saudi Arabia, but thus far it’s been mostly unsuccessful in the public eye.

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