Tagged in: Golf

Australian PGA tour postponed until 2021

With a raft of strict control measures in place across most Australian states, the difficult decision to rearrange the tournament was made in hope restrictions will ease by early next year.

It means fans will have the capacity to see the Australian PGA Championship twice in a calendar year, with the 2021 edition also to be staged later that year.

ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Tournaments Director Nick Dastey said the public health considerations of those that help bring this event to life – the players, fans and volunteers – were pivotal in the decision.

“In conjunction with the Queensland Government and other key stakeholders, we have investigated numerous contingency plans to be able to stage the event in December, including players entering a hub and competing while serving a strict quarantine period,” Dastey said.

“Different from other professional sports, golf is a week-to-week travelling tour and in addition to playing in front of no fans, players would have potentially been required to undertake a further period of quarantine prior to or at the conclusion of the tournament.

“For interstate and international players, additional quarantine measures when returning to their home location or next tournament may have also meant a further 14-day quarantine.

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“While it is not a decision taken lightly these measures would not be in the best interests of our members, our fans, stakeholders and commercial partners, and as such we have made the decision to postpone the event with the hope that restrictions ease by 2021.”

Given the ever-changing landscape and uncertainty surrounding the spread of COVID-19, PGA of Australia chief executive Gavin Kirkman stated the PGA will continue to monitor and review its decision, with a definitive ruling of the event’s scheduling to be made in December.

“The uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic makes it extremely difficult to stage events at the level we would normally expect,” Kirkman said.

“We will continue to be agile and rely on the expert advice of the Queensland Government to safeguard against the spread of the virus.

“Our new date will be subject to health regulations and will be reviewed again in early December, when we expect to be armed with a more accurate prediction of COVID-19’s impact across the country during summer.

“At that time we will determine whether the event will proceed in February or, as a last resort, cancelled. This will ensure our members and key stakeholders are provided appropriate notice of any decision made.”

One of the Australian PGA Championship’s feature events in its week-long festival of golf, the Greg Norman Medal, will also be rearranged.

The Greg Norman Medal is Australian golf’s highest individual honour for Australian men and women professional golfers and features an honour roll that includes Hannah Green, Minjee Lee, Marc Leishman and Jason Day.

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Koepka out of U.S Open over ongoing injuries

Brooks Koepka, who has been hampered by a knee problem for the better part of a year, withdrew from next week’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot, tweeting, “I’m looking forward to getting healthy and competing at 100% again very soon.”

Koepka has collected two of the past three U.S. Opens and concluded second to Gary Woodland last year at Pebble Beach.

Last month, Koepka was attempting to become the first player since Walter Hagen in the 1920s to collect three straight PGA Championships, but he fell out of contention with a final-round 74 at Harding Park.

Koepka missed the cut the following week at the Wyndham Championship then withdrew from the first FedEx Cup playoff event, the Northern Trust, ending his 2019-20 campaign.

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He has dropped to No. 8 in the world after starting 2020 in the top spot.

The four-time major champion had a stem cell procedure on his left knee after last year’s Tour Championship then aggravated the injury at a tournament in South Korea in October. He didn’t play again until January, and it’s mostly been a struggle since.

Koepka finished seventh at the RBC Heritage after the PGA Tour’s restart and tied for second in early August at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. He was just two shots out of the lead heading into the final round of the PGA Championship before dropping to a tie for 29th.

“My golf swing’s fine,” Koepka said after missing the cut at the Wyndham. “If I can physically do it, then yes, everything’s fine.”

But Koepka has also complained about trying to get to his left side in his swing, and during the second round of the PGA Championship, he three times had a trainer help with his hip.

“It just locked up, cramped,” Koepka said. “I couldn’t do anything with it.”

Paul Waring will replace Koepka based on his Official World Golf Ranking as of Aug. 23. The U.S. Open starts Sept. 17 after being rearranged from June due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The United States Golf Association has yet to announce an alternate to take Koepka’s place in the field of 144.

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Dustin Johnson wins FedEx Cup

Dustin Johnson only looks like he plays without a pulse. Beneath his stoic stare and that swagger as he walked the fairways of East Lake on Monday were jangled nerves because it meant so much to him.

The $15 million prize for winning the FedEx Cup? That would get anyone’s attention, especially someone who thought he was rich when Johnson cashed his first tournament check for $113,571 as a PGA Tour rookie.

But there was more.

“The prestige, for sure,” Johnson said after delivering a key par putt and steady play down the stretch for a 2-under 68 and a 3-shot victory in the Tour Championship.

“Being a FedEx Cup champion is something that I really wanted to do. I wanted to hold that trophy at the end of the day. It was something that I wanted to accomplish during my career.” He did it by hitting his stride at just the correct time

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He acquired two of the three FedEx Cup postseason events and lost in a playoff by a 65-foot putt in the other.

It all came down to the final day of the final event, and even with a 5-shot lead, it was never easy.

“It’s a very tough trophy to win,” Johnson said. “I controlled my own destiny, but I still had to go out and play well. I had a lot of great players right behind me. It got close at the end. I knew it was going to come down the stretch and I’d have to hit some golf shots.”

None was bigger than the 20-foot par putt on the 13th hole to keep his lead at three shots, the 5-iron safely on the green on the toughest hole at East Lake, another 5-iron over the water on the par-3 15th — the one hole where big numbers lurk — and a wedge out of a deep bunker and onto the green at the 16th.

“This is a tough golf course. No lead is safe,” Johnson said. “The guys gave me a good fight today.” Johnson became the first No. 1 seed at the Tour Championship to collect the FedEx Cup since Tiger Woods in 2009.

Now Johnson has his name etched on the silver trophy alongside some of the best from his generation, starting with Woods and most recently Rory McIlroy, with Hall of Famers, major champions and former world No. 1 players in between.

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LPGA shanghai tournament canceled due to virus

The LPGA Tour on Wednesday canceled its Shanghai tournament after China said it will not hold most international sports events this year due to coronavirus.

LPGA Shanghai, acquired last year by American world number two Danielle Kang, had been programmed for Oct. 15-18 but has been scratched “given the current health concerns and significant travel restrictions”, the tour said in a statement.

“(We) very much look forward to returning to Qizhong Garden Golf Club, Shanghai in 2021,” it added.

It now appears inevitable that the men’s prestigious $10.5 million World Golf Championship-HSBC Champions, due to take place two weeks later in Shanghai, will also be canceled.

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Almost all leading international sports events in China this year, including WTA and ATP tennis, have been scrapped as the country tries to prevent imported virus cases.

The Formula One Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, which was postponed in April, also looks doomed.

Men’s and women’s professional golf has made a tentative return in the US and Europe, but with no crowds and under strict virus-prevention protocols.

The LPGA Tour 2020 campaign was shut down by the pandemic in February after just four events, two in Florida and two in Australia. 

It teed off again only two weeks ago with back-to-back tournaments, without crowds, in Ohio, both won by last year’s Shanghai champion Kang.

The leading women’s tour moves its bio-secure bubble to Scotland this week for the Scottish Open in North Berwick followed by next week’s first major of the season, the British Women’s Open at Troon.

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Tiger closes inconsistent Memorial with 4-over 76

Tiger Woods wrapped up the Memorial Tournament on Sunday with a 76 in his final round, putting him six strokes over par for the week.  

Consistency was an issue in his first official tournament since February, and he was tied for 41st place when he finished play at Muirfield Village Golf Club. He was more than 10 strokes behind leader Jon Rahm going into the clubhouse.

Woods was under par in two of his first three rounds, but he had just three birdies to go with five bogeys and a double bogey in Round 4 in Dublin, Ohio.

The round started well for Woods, opening with a birdie on the first hole thanks to a long putt.

He was accurate with his drive for the first few holes, but it was his short game that abandoned him as the round started to unravel.

A bogey on No. 4, double bogey on No. 7, and two more bogeys on No. 8 and 9 ruined any opportunity he had at a promising final round, ending up four over on the front nine.

In his defense, the problems were consistent for just about everyone playing Sunday Things got a little better on the back nine, seeing more fairways and greens in regulation. He navigated the tough conditions to earn pars before closing with a strong run on the final few holes.

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Though his work on the green was rough earlier in the day, the back-to-back birdies featured putts of 17 and 21 feet.

He also hit the fairway on 10 out of 14 drives, the most of any round this week, per PGATour.com. The closing performance should provide plenty of momentum heading forward this season.

A bogey on 18 is also excusable, as it came after a brief weather delay before he returned for his final three strokes.

This was the first PGA Tour event for Woods since the Genesis Invitational, before the campaign was suspended because of the coronavirus. Fans last saw him at Capital One’s “The Match: Champions for Charity” in May, an exhibition alongside Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Regardless of the result this week, Woods saw the value in competing against the best in the world.

“Well, I think that getting back into the flow and competing again and playing at this level, I hadn’t done that in a while,” he said, per Mike Wells of ESPN. “Playing home and playing out here is so very different.” The next step is to stay healthy, particularly with his back apparently feeling stiff at times during this tournament, per Wells.

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Tiger Woods produces late birdies to make Memorial cut

Tiger Woods fought back from looking almost convinced to miss the cut at the Memorial to produce two birdies in the last three holes to survive until the weekend.

Yet as much as this great escape reminded the game of the 44-year-old’s enduring competitive spirit, for Woods, himself, this was further evidence of Father Time’s cruelty. “Ageing is not fun,” Woods said after his 76. “Early on in my career I thought it was fantastic because I was getting better and better and better. And now I’m just trying to hold on.”

In fairness, this was Woods first competitive event in five months and only his third of 2020. Rust was predictable. Except it was worrying that, after birdieing his third hole (the 12th) when hitting his tee-shot to within two feet on the 170-yard par three, he proceeded to drop six shots in the following eight holes.

Woods’s back was sore and his body language gave it away. “I wasn’t quite moving as well as I’d like and couldn’t quite turn back and couldn’t quite clear – It was a bit of a struggle,”

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Woods, the five-time Memorial champion, said. “It started this morning during the warm-up. It wasn’t quite as good as I’d like. [But] I finished birdie-birdie-par and that’s about the only positive to it today. I would like to have the opportunity to play tomorrow.”

Alongside Woods at Muirfield Village, Rory McIlroy shot a level-par 72 for two-under, five better than his playing partner.

The Northern Irishman faces a fight for the world No 1 position this weekend with Jon Rahm looming menacingly on the leaderboard on an assignment to become just the second Spaniard in history to top the rankings.

Jose Maria Olazabal never managed it and neither did Sergio Garcia, despite both winning the Masters. The late Severiano Ballesteros stands alone and as the great conquistador happens to be Rahm’s inspiration, prepare for some rich Iberian emotion should the 25-year-old climb to the summit in Ohio.

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Tiger grouped with Mcilroy, Koepka for Memorial

The head-to-head showdown many fans were hoping for this week at Muirfield Village will have to wait until at least the weekend.

Brooks Koepka will play in one of four featured groups for the first two rounds of the Memorial Tournament. However, he will not be grouped with Bryson DeChambeau, the winner in Detroit two weeks ago who has involuntarily become somewhat of a rival to Koepka.

Instead, Koepka draws the No. 1-ranked player in the world, Rory McIlroy, and five-time Memorial champion Tiger Woods, who will play on Tour for the first time since the Genesis Invitational in February.

Woods has played just three times this season, winning the Zozo Championship, tying for ninth at the Farmers Insurance Open and ending up solo 68th at Riviera. McIlroy had seven consecutive top-5s, including a victory, to start the season, but since the Tour returned from its three-month absence during the COVID-19 pandemic, McIlroy has no top-10s in three starts.

Koepka is coming off a missed cut last week at Muirfield Village and has just one top-10 this season as he continues to recover from an ‘excruciating’ injury to his left knee, which he re-injured in October after undergoing a stem-cell treatment following last year’s Tour Championship.

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DeChambeau will be grouped with last week’s Workday Charity Open winner Collin Morikawa and defending Memorial champion Patrick Cantlay.

The other two featured groups will be Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele, and Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose and Shane Lowry.

While Woods, McIlroy and Koepka is one heckuva draw, golf fans on Twitter had been lobbying for a Koepka-DeChambeau pairing after Koepka appeared to take a couple of shots at the bulked-up DeChambeau last week, first tweeting only a GIF of “Eastbound and Down” character Kenny Powers attacking a cameraman over alleged steroid allegations, and then telling reporters that he was going to “run the table” after committing to the Memorial late Friday, seemingly a reference to DeChambeau’s recent casino speak.

The perceived shots come after Koepka called DeChambeau out for slow play last August at The Northern Trust, causing DeChambeau to seek out Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott, and tell him that he wished Koepka would make those kind of comments to his face.

The two later met on the range at Liberty National and apparently squashed the beef. Though neither player revealed what was said, less than two months later DeChambeau revealed in Las Vegas that he was going to transform his body in a quest to add speed and distance.

Nearly 40 pounds later, DeChambeau has, and two weeks removed from his victory in Detroit he finds himself ranked seventh in the world, right behind Koepka.

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Brooks Koepka’s caddie tests positive

Brooks Koepka has withdrawn from the Travelers Championship after his caddie, Ricky Elliott, tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The pro golfer, 30, told Golfweek that Elliott tested positive for the virus on Wednesday morning at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.

“I’m going to pull out to protect everybody else. I think it’s the right thing to do,” Koepka said. “I don’t want to risk anyone’s life if they have respiratory issues or underlying conditions. The only way this tour can continue is if guys to do this sort of thing and be proactive about it.”

Koepka, Elliott, and Koepka’s coach Claude Harmon III all were originally tested for COVID-19 as a precaution after playing a practice round with Graeme McDowell, whose caddie, Ken Comboy, had tested positive.

“We all got tested Monday—myself, Claude and Ricky. We all came back negative,” Koepka said. “We had no symptoms. Nothing.”

However, Elliott’s additional test on Wednesday came out positive, which led Koepka to immediately withdraw from the Travelers Championship. “Ricky has my full support in this. I feel bad for him,” Koepka said. “We have got to do everything we can to not spread it. We have to protect the field. That’s the reason we have these rules.”

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Koepka stated he and his team have been on strict lockdown during the first three events back on tour, staying together with a chef in rented homes and leaving only to go to the golf course or get tested.

The only occasion on which someone left from isolation was on Monday, June 15, when Elliott joined McDowell and Comboy at the funeral of a close friend in Orlando.

McDowell, 40, told Golfweek that Comboy now thinks he may have been exposed to the virus during a commercial flight he took two days earlier on June 13 from Dallas to Orlando after the Charles Schwab Challenge.

Koepka said that he and his girlfriend Jena Sims, as well as his chef, are all being tested for coronavirus Wednesday at the golf course. Based on the results, he will decide whether to return home to Jupiter, Florida, or quarantine in Connecticut.

The PGA Tour has since put in place a health and safety plan that forces any player who tests positive to be “immediately isolated” for a minimum of 10 days “after the positive test and no subsequent symptoms or two negative test results at least 24 hours apart.”

The tour said that 369 players, caddies and essential personnel were all tested on-site before the RBC Heritage initiated, and none tested positive.

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Watney first player on PGA Tour to test positive

Nick Watney withdrew from the RBC Heritage on Friday prior to the second round after testing positive for COVID-19.

According to the PGA Tour, Watney specified he had symptoms consistent with the virus. After consulting with a physician, he took a COVID-19 test which turned out to be positive.

Before hearing of the result, however, Watney went to the golf course; Si Woo Kim said he saw Watney on the range. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy said he had a chat with Watney – at a distance – before teeing off. And Brooks Koepka said he saw Watney in the parking lot.

“He feels badly that he was here today at the golf course,” McIlroy said. “I said, look, it’s fine. You never know. So I said to him, if I was in your position, I probably would have been here, too. Look, at this point, you just have to concentrate on getting better and getting healthy. “But, yeah, look, it sucks for him especially. You know, if you contract it, that’s fine, but then it’s the fact that who have you come into contact with, and who you might have exposed and stuff. Look, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. Until this thing’s over, we all just have to stay vigilant and keep your distance and wear our masks if we’re going out in public and keep washing our hands.”

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Watney texted McIlroy to tell him he had the virus and McIlroy valued Watney’s concern.

Watney shot 74 in the first round before withdrawing on Friday. He had traveled privately to Hilton Head Island and tested negatively on Monday here on the island.

He is the first PGA Tour player to test positive for the coronavirus.

Watney will isolate for at least 10 days nearby.

“Nick will have the PGA Tour’s full support throughout his self-isolation and recovery period under CDC guidelines,” the PGA Tour said in a statement.

The PGA Tour had no additional comment.

There were 369 tests of players, caddies, and essential personnel prior to the start of the RBC Heritage. There were no positive results. Watney, 39, is a five-time winner on the PGA Tour. He shot 71-74 to miss the cut last week in the Charles Schwab Challenge, when the PGA Tour returned to action after a 13-week break due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

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Love III’s return bittersweet 3 months after fire

The coronavirus pandemic has been a disruptive force across the world, made worse for Davis Love III by a March fire that devastated his home.

Love, 56, a two-time U.S. Ryder Cup team captain and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, is returning to play for the first time since the fire at this week’s RBC Heritage, a tournament he has won five times.

He is also seeing many friends and colleagues for the first time since the March 27 incident that totaled his home in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

“Certainly [wife] Robin and I packing up to come to a golf tournament was exciting, but it was also a little emotional,” Love said Wednesday at Harbour Town Golf Club, where the tournament starts Thursday. “

We didn’t have anything to pack like we usually do.

“I’m searching for head covers, and my son gave me a ball-mark fixer. I was like, I just don’t have enough equipment to go play a PGA Tour event. So it’s been ups and downs like that.”

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Love discovered a fire in his garage shortly after 5 a.m. that day after an alarm alerted him and his wife. None of the couple’s kids or grandchildren were at the home during the fire.

After trying to get a fire extinguisher, it became apparent that the fire was too strong, Love said. The Loves called 911 and waited.

“It seemed like it took forever,” Love said recently in a Golf Digest interview. “We were standing there watching our house burn down.”

The house was 12,000 square feet and three stories, but Love said it was gone in 30 minutes.

Most of Love’s golf memorabilia was gone, including the replica Ryder Cup trophy he received in 2016. A replica of the Wanamaker Trophy he was given for winning the 1997 PGA Championship is part of his display at the World Golf Hall of Fame. The Loves recently bought another home in the same area and will take time to decide their next move.

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