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Tour Rundown: Golf takes a distant seat to life and loss

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Somewhere in the annals of my golf writings, words certainly appear that express frustration, if not disdain, for the college arc of Grayson Murray. Ignorance is no longer an excuse, and my inability to recognize the signs of the emotional health and mental health struggles that he faced, must be laid bare.

I, along with the entirety of the golf world, and a good portion of the USA, mourn the heartache and loss that the Murray family suffers. Their accomplished Grayson is no longer with us, a victim of suicide. They must have hoped, as did we, that the winter victory in Hawaii signaled an awareness and an ability to manage, the triggers and the doubts that fueled his suffering.

On Friday, May 24th, Grayson Murray left our world a poorer place. His transparency about his battles, his uncertainties, and his temptations, brushed aside a veil that obscures the challenge that world-class athletes of all genders and gender identities, confront on a daily basis. Anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, self-doubt, and more. Social media doesn’t help. Sometimes the traditional media doesn’t help. Sometimes, it is all a hindrance.

It is time to stop the search for the next anybody. It is time to stop placing expectations for success and acchievements and accolades on anyone’s shoulders. It is time to begin saying that tomorrow can be better, and we are here to help and no matter who you are, nor how you present, you may cry and vent and request and, most importantly, step away from the microphone and the spotlight. Life matters most.

PGA Tour @ CS Challenge: Riley manages game and path to victory

Davis Riley had to wonder if Colonial 2024 would be similar to Valspar 2022. In the later, Riley held a two-shot advantage through 54 holes, but fell to Sam Burns in a playoff. This week, Riley again carried a lead into the final round, but this time, it was four shots. And this time, the man chasing him was the world’s top-ranked player and current Masters champion, Scottie Scheffler. Knowing that no one gives you anything, Riley set off on Sunday afternoon.

On an eerie day in Fort Worth, Riley’s golf was inconsistent and unspectacular. He had ten pars, four birdies, and four bogeys. He never looked like the fellow that posted three, mid-60s rounds on the previous days. Fortunately for him, Scheffler resembled neither the Masters champion nor the world number one. Scheffler played three-over par golf the majority of the day, until two late birdies brought him to minus-nine, and a tie for second with Keegan Bradley.

An oddly-uncomfortable, five shots better was Riley, who claimed his first PGA Tour victory, after two wins on the training circuit, the Korn Ferry tour.

Korn Ferry Tour @ Visit Knoxville: Higgs is biggs with second in a row

Harry Higgs may return to the PGA Tour one day, but does he really need to do so? For the second consecutive week, the big-tour exile turned in a stunning stretch run, culiminating in a playoff appearance. This week, he and Frankie Capan III matched birdies on the first extra hole, before Higgs made a stupefying eagle three at the par-five closer.

Capan had to wonder what he had to do, in order to secure victory. After posting 62 on Saturday, he closed with 66 on Sunday, including a final-hole birdie to tie Higgs at the top. Quade Cummings nearly joined the pair in overtime, posting 61 on the strength of a fourth-hole ace and eight birdies. It was the 18th that did him in, as he failed to find a ninth birdie there.

The two-man playoff lasted two holes. After both Capan and Higgs posted birdie the first time through, both men reached the green in two, with chances at eagle. From 36 feet, Higgs made; from closer in, Capan missed. With one more KFT victory, Higgs will receive an in-season promotion to the PGA Tour.

DP World Tour @ Soudal Open: Elvira claims second tour win

Saint’s Day is almost as big a deal in Spain as birthday. Ignacio “Nacho” Elvira, decided to move Saint Ignatius Day up a couple of months, and celebrate in Belgium. Elvira held off a charging Thomas Pieters, preserving the lead he claimed on day two.

Day one saw an albatross, a back-nine 28, and an opening 62, all courtesy of Sam Jones the golfer. The pride of New Zealand had a decent front side of two-under 34, then turned up the heat on the inward half. Four birdies were followed by the deuce at the long 17th, and the Kiwi nearly made it 27 for 61 at the last. Jones would ultimately finish in a respectable, seventh-place tie, three behind the winner.

Elvira opened with a pair of 64s, then posted 67 on Saturday. His four-shot advantage on day four dwindled to one, but he was never caught. Unable to rekindle the flame of his opening 36 holes, Elvira made an important birdie at the 11th, on the heels of the day’s second bogey. Elvira closed in unspectacular but effective fashion, posting seven consecutive pars to finish one ahead of the triumvirate of Pieters, Romain Langasque, and Niklas Norgaard.

The DP World Tour travels to Germany this week for the European Open. 2023 champion Tom McKibbin of Northern Ireland will attempt to defend his maiden tour title.

PGA Tour Champions @ Senior PGA Championship: Bland on the run

Richard Bland became something of a late-forties, folk hero among golf fans, before he departed the traditional tours. The Englishman passed the age of fifty, and gained a bit of opportunity in senior events. Bland was eligible for this week’s Senior PGA Championship in Michigan, and he turned opportunity into achievement, with a three-shot margin of victory.

For most of the week, it seemed that golf’s most recent, social media darling, was destined to triumph. Greg Chalmers, the self-effacing and mildly-derelict, Australian southpaw, kept improving with each round. He went 69-68-66, to enter Sunday in a tie with Ernie Els. The South African provided little motivation for Chalmers, continuously stumbling from bogey to birdie. Els finished minus-one on the day, and T6 on the week. Chalmers faced a new opponent, in the guise of the resurgent Bland, and over the final three holes, succumbed to a trio of bogeys that dropped him from contention, to solo third.

Bland appeared to do damage to his chances on Saturday. His score of 74 was three to the wrong side of par, and dropped him out of the lead for the first time all week. Sunday saw a stunning return to form, with eight birdies and an eagle on his card. The eagle at the 15th drove a dart into Chalmers, and may have been the strike that began the three-bogey run for the Australian. Despite a pair of bogeys, Bland’s closing 63 was low round of the week, and shot him past all challengers, to a first senior win and major.

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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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  1. H

    May 27, 2024 at 10:49 am

    You say all that about Grayson, then stop using Harry Higgs words as a shied. STOP ATTACKING LIV!!!! Give them a hug and be kind to EVERYONE, as Harry said!!! No exceptions!!!! Otherwise you’re useless as the rest of the bigots

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5 things we learned: Friday at the U.S. Women’s Open

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The midway point of the Women’s Open arrived on Friday evening. The cut fell at +8, with the leader at four-under par. World number one Nelly Korda fought valiantly to recover from her opening 80 and, at one point, was within a shot of the cut. She was unable to close under par, and missed the weekend by two shots. Among the world’s best, only Minjee Lee finds herself truly in contention. Lee is currently ranked 9th in the Rolex rankings; only Nasa Hataoka holds both a spot in the world top twenty and the the Open top twenty.

Some years, the course preparation at the US Open recognizes players already among the world’s best, while in others, it elevates players to that stature. 2024 at Lancaster Country Club promises to be one of the later. Players like Korda, Rose Zhang, and Lydia Ko missed the cut outright, while others like Brooke Henderson, Charley Hull, and Hannah Green, find themselves nine shots or more behind the leaders.

Over the weekend, viewers and attendees will familiarize themselves with Wichanee Meechai, Andrea Lee, Wei-Ling Hsu, and the splendid moniker of Asterisk Talley, an amateur. Rather than a coronation (unless Minjee wins a second Open) 2024 looks to be an unveiling of a new talent, and that’s one of the neat parts of major championship golf. Unlike team sports, where known commodities lead other known commodities to victory, medal-play golf welcomes the unexpected and the unknown on occasion. We’ve collected five, unexpected things to share with you on this Friday evening. Thanks for enjoying five things we learned on Friday at the US Women’s Open.

1. We will have a low amateur!

Since golf writers are much closer to golf’s amateur skill level than the professional one, there is a special place in our hearts for the amateurs who compete against the professionals. They might be professionals next year, or month, or week, but for now, they are the unpaid, the ones who take classes during the day.

After finding three birdies on her way to an opening 69, France’s Adela Cernousek struggled to find a single one on Friday. She never did, and as the round waned, her score edged close to 80. Had she gone that high, she would have reached plus-nine, and would have missed the halfway cut. Despite bogeys at 16 and 17, Cernousek was able to coax par out of the closing hole, and earn a weekend tee time.

Much closer to the top are Catherine Park, Megan Schofill, and Asterisk Talley. Park sits at two-over par, while Schofill and Talley both occupy rungs at one-over par. Not since 1998 has an amateur made a serious run at the title, and no one expects it from this trio. It would be nice, but at the very least, we’ll have a battle for the low amateur medal, which will also be nice.

2. Farewell to thee…

We won’t have the pleasure of seeing a number of the top golfers over the weekend. Defending champion Allison Corpuz, Nelly Korda, Brooke Henderson, Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Leona Maguire, and Rose Zhang all finished on the high side of the cut number.

It’s rare that so many, elite golfers stumble at the same moment in time, in so many different ways. Some had blowups on individual holes, while others lost multiple strokes in three-hole stretches. Let’s remember, though, that prior to 2015 at Lancaster, In-Gee Chun had not won a major. After her Open triumph, Chun won at Evian and the PGA.

Trust the process. Lancaster will identify a proper champion.

3. What about Minjee?

Does anyone play the game as well as Nelly Korda? Minjee does. When she is on, the Australian star and 2022 US Open champion hits fairways and greens like no other. As often happens, it comes down to the flatstick.

On Friday, Lee jumped up to a tie for the lead, before bogeys at 17 and 18 brought her back to even par. What she did on the front nine (her inward half) was telling: she made eight pars and one birdie, and moved back into red figures. Lee and 2022 champion Yuka Saso will form the penultimate pairing on day three, and one of them figures to have the lead after 54 holes.

4. Who is Whichanee Meechai?

To begin, she’s precisely the sort of golfer referenced above. Meechai has competed on every LPGA tour on the planet, but only has a fifth-place finish to show on the US LPGA tour. Meechai last won in 2020, on the Thailand LPGA circuit. In other words, she really shouldn’t be here, but here is exactly where she is.

Eleven birdies adorn Meechai’s two scorecards. Although there are seven bogeys along for the ride, there are no doubles or higher in any square. It’s a simple prescription, but one that gets harder to fill as the weekend advances. Meechai finds herself in a rarefied realm, but if she considers that she has nothing to lose by playing fierce, she just might hang around. I hope that she does.

5. Let’s follow Andrea

Andrea Lee is precisely the sort of break-out talent waiting in the wings of the LPGA theater. She was a top amateur and collegiate player, and has a 2022 tour victory on her wiki. Over the half-decade that she has been a professional, she has dipped her toes in the major-championship waters, but has not gained traction.

2024 feels a bit different. Friday brought 69, and birdie at 11 (the day’s second hole) moved her up the board. The devilish 12th hole stole back two strokes, and another bogey at 15 pushed her out of red numbers. As she turned to the front side, Lee faced her demons and demolished them. A holed approach for eagle at one was followed by three consecutive birdies, and Lee found herself at minus-four and in the lead. Although two bogeys came her way on the trip home, Lee signed for another 69 and a seat in the first row of Saturday’s third round. She’ll start two back of Meechai but, given her penchant for making up shots, that may not last for long.

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5 things we learned: Thursday at the U.S. Women’s Open

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In a golf world obsessed with numbers, length of rough and width of fairways match importance with total yardage and scores under par. In 2015, the 70th USGA Women’s Open was held at Lancaster Country Club for the first time. In Gee Chun emerged from a tightly-bunched pack to win by one over Amy Yang. Chun’s eight-under par tally was just about right. The best golfer in the field ought to be able to go two strokes under par, per round, for the week.

We find ourselves back at Lancaster for the 2024 Open championship. Lancaster is 30 yards longer this time around, and eyes are drawn to the nearly-waist high rough that guards fairways and greens in certain areas. Lancaster 2.0 is a meaner golf course, and not a golfer in the field would turn down the offer of eight-under par on Sunday evening.

Thursday’s round snuck completion in under the wire. The low round was 68, and the high score was 20 strokes more. Well-known golfers struggled, while unknowns jumped into the spotlight. We’ve distilled all the information and the stories to five things that we learned on Thursday at the U.S. Women’s Open.

1. Yuka is back!

In 2021, hard-hitting Yuka Saso won this tournament in a playoff. She mastered the Olympic Club in San Francisco, and defeated Nasa Hataoka in a three-hole overtime session, 11 to 12. Despite her penchant for crushing long shots, Saso understands what it takes to play a U.S. Open course. At Lancaster, she forced five birdies onto her card, and limited her bogey tally to three. Her 2-under 68 is good for a one-shot advantage over professionals Andrea Lee and Wichanee Meechai, and French amateur Adela Cernousek. Saso made bogey at her final hole, else she would sit at 67 strokes through 18 holes.

2. Big numbers, they happen!

When we go out for weekend rounds, it’s important to remember that the physics of the golf swing are complicated. So much has to go right for so many, moving parts. And that’s when the golf course doesn’t conspire against you. And that’s also considering that weekend golfers don’t play practice rounds nor hit countless shots in preparation for the weekend.

You see, even our best professional golfers have zero immunity to rub of the green. On Thursday, the par-three 12th hole had a hole location cut on the edge of the abyss. Downhill from back to front, sloping toward the creek that guards the front of the putting surface, treachery loomed for those who went long. After the world-number-one and current golfer on a heater, Nelly Korda, struggled through the wee hole. Mel Reid broke down precisely how it happened and how it might happen again.

3. Recent champs take different paths

We know how the 2021 champion fares: she leads! 2022 victor Minjee Lee isn’t far behind. The Australian matched five birdies with five bogeys, and sits two back of the leading score. Defending champion Allison Corpuz had a bit tougher time of it. She remained in the top half of the field, but just barely. The same 12th hole that bit Nelly Korda, got its hooks into Corpuz. A triple-bogey six at the wee monster undid all of her day’s good work. Corpuz signed for 75, and will need a pair of solid scores to work her way back into contention.

4. Andrea Lee in tie for 2nd

One shot off the lead is 25-year old USA golfer Andrea Lee. The one-time winner on the LPGA found just the right blend of bravado and strategy, to outnumber bogeys with birdies. Unlike others in the field, Lee found the short 12th to her liking: she made birdie there to return to red figures. After bogey at the long 15th, Lee did another “thing” that others could not. She closed with birdie at the daunting 18th, to post 69 on the day.

Lee has a pair of top-twenty, U.S. Open finishes over the past two seasons. After one round, the difference between 20th and 1st is three shots, and the margin may not stretch much over the next three rounds. Is it too much to expect a top-ten finish from Lee this year? No, it’s not. U.S. Open-style players are a different breed, and if these are the type of course conditions where Lee feels comfortable, watch out.

5. What’s next?

There’s zero chance (essentially) of precipitation coming to Lancaster Country Club over the next 63 hours. Observers noted that the putting surfaces will dry and firm naturally, which means that slopes and edges will prove more daunting in their assessment. Pair that with challenging recovery options from the rough, and 279 might be a winning score on Sunday night. That’s just one shot under par over four rounds, but burly Lancaster and its William Flynn golf course demand such excellence, under these conditions. The stroke of fortune, for the golfers, will be the absence of wind. As if the competitors needed another obstacle this week! Fortune will favor the brave, the patient, and the wise this week. Prepare for high drama in eastern Pennsylvania.

Featured image via the USGA

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Morning 9: Nelly’s disastrous 10 | Saso leads U.S. Open | Bhatia’s tribute to Grayson Murray

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Friday morning, golf fans, as day two of the Canadian Open and U.S. Women’s Open gets underway.

1. Opening-round 10 sinks Nelly’s U.S. open hopes

Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…”On a beautiful but windy day at a difficult track, Korda came undone on the 161-yard 12th hole, her third hole of the championship.”

  • “Having waited more than 20 minutes because of other groups taking penalty drops on the tricky par 3, Korda said she was in between a 6- and 7-iron when she opted for the longer club. Her tee shot penetrated through the wind and found the back bunker, the ball settling atop a leaf in the sand.”
  • “Unable to properly spin the shot from the sand, Korda’s blast from the bunker rode the back-to-front slope and ran into the water fronting the green.”
  • “Couldn’t really do anything about that,” she said.
  • “But needing to play her fourth shot from the opposite side of the penalty area, Korda proceeded to put two more balls in the water after she failed to carry the false front, at one point dropping to her hands and putting her head in her hands as she asked her caddie for yet another ball.”
  • “Just hit some really bad chips over and over again,” she said.
Full piece.

2. Saso leads

AP report…”Former champion Yuka Saso leaned on her putter to survive a brutally tough start to the U.S. Women’s Open on Thursday, an opening round that featured Nelly Korda making a 10 on her third hole and only four players barely beating par.”

  • “Saso had three big par putts to start the back nine at Lancaster Country Club, rolled in two medium-length birdie putts toward the end of her round and finished with three putts from the collar of the 18th green for bogey and a 2-under 68.”
  • “It felt even lower than that considering all the carnage around her. The leading 10 players from the women’s world ranking had an average score of 75.5 — including Korda’s 80 — and only two-time major champion Minjee Lee was not over par.”
Full piece.

3. Skinns starts hot in Canada

AP report…”David Skinns had six birdies in a seven-hole stretch and shot an 8-under 62 on Thursday at Hamilton Golf and Country Club to take the first-round lead in the RBC Canadian Open.”

  • Playing in the afternoon with the greens still mostly receptive after rain earlier in the week, Skins pulled ahead with a 47-foot birdie putt on his 17th hole — the par-3 eighth. The 41-year-old Englishman was a stroke ahead of morning starters Sam Burns and Sean O’Hair.”
  • “Drove it pretty well. I left myself in a lot of good spots,” said Skinns, winless on the PGA Tour. “Around here, it seems like that’s half the battle, to give yourself birdie looks. I was able to attack some pins that maybe if I wasn’t in such a good spot, I wouldn’t have been able to.”
Full piece.

4. Security guard who took down Hadwin speaks

Alex Myers for Golf Digest…”But this guy still doesn’t want any attention so he went by the name “Mr. X” for the story. According to TSN, the man does security at a bunch of big sporting events and concerts in Canada and, “His superiors laud his work ethic, and he often gets the toughest jobs, such as on the 18th hole at last year’s tournament.”

  • “That 18th hole erupted like few events in the country’s history as Taylor sunk a 72-hole eagle putt to end the Canadians’ 69-year drought in their national open.”
  • “I was on the other side of Nick and his caddie,” Mr. X told TSN, “which meant I had to come around him. There were a lot of people moving and I saw this person heading directly towards Nick. I saw it as if it was in slow motion, this guy coming towards Nick with a bottle and no credentials.”
  • …“It was a soft takedown,” Mr. X added with a laugh. “His feet never left the ground.”
Full piece.

5. Bhatia’s tribute to Grayson Murray

Riley Hamel for Golfweek…”On May 25, Grayson Murray passed away at the age of 30, a brutal and terrible loss for the PGA Tour family. His death impacted the entire golf community and numerous players posted on social media in remembrance of the two-time Tour winner. On Thursday, ahead of the 2024 RBC Canadian Open, Akshay Bhatia wrote “G$” in marker on his wrist.”

  • “Let’s ride today G,” Bhatia said on his Instagram story. After his 1-under 69 round, Bhatia was asked about the way he chose to commemorate his friend.
  • “Oh, God, I didn’t think it would be this hard. Yeah, I wrote G-money today. He’s one of my best buddies out here, grew up together. I looked up to him for a long time,” Bhatia said. “I wish he was still here, but I know he’s here watching above everyone. Yeah, it’s just crazy. Like I was driving yesterday, or a couple days ago, going back from dinner back to the hotel, and for whatever reason, I looked to the right, and there was a trash can with G-money on it. Just freaky stuff happens like that where I know he’s with us.
  • “I’m playing for him this week, and every round I play for the next however long. Yeah, he’s just with me all the time, and he meant a lot to me. Just happy and proud to wear Grayson’s name on my wrist.”
Full piece.
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