Golf officials to roll back ball for pros and weekend hackers alike. Not everyone is happy

Golf's ruling bodies are changing the equipment testing to make sure the golf ball goes shorter for everyone from Tiger Woods to the amateur who plays public courses on the weekend.

The USGA and R&A announced its decision Wednesday, capping more than five years of intensive study on distance that led them to believe consistent gains off the tee — some 30 yards by PGA Tour players over the last 25 years — was detrimental to the game.

“There's virtually no denying that the game at the highest end is longer by a long shot today than it was 20 years ago,” said Mike Whan, the CEO of the USGA.

The change is not effective until 2028 for tour and elite golf, 2030 for recreational golfers.

The original proposal in March was a “Model Local Rule” that would lead to a shorter golf ball only at the elite level, which would create two sets of rules for the first time. The PGA Tour and PGA of America strongly opposed it.

Instead, the USGA and R&A are changing the test that measures how far the ball goes, leaving in tact the “Overall Distance Standard” limit of 317 yards with a 3-yard tolerance.

The new test will be a club swung at 125 mph, equivalent to ball speed of 183 mph (up from 120 mph club speed and 176 mph ball speed); with a spin rate of 2,200 rpm (down from 2,520 rpm) and a launch angle of 11 degrees (previously 10 degrees).

For the longest hitters, they expect the ball to go up to 15 yards shorter — 11 yards shorter for average tour pros, 7 yards for female tour players and 5 yards or less for everyone else.

Keegan Bradley isn't sure about that. He said Srixon made him a golf ball that would have met proposed standards and it was flying 40 to 50 yards shorter.

“I think that the USGA … everything that they do is reactionary,” Bradley said last week in the Bahamas. “They don’t think of a solution. They just think we’re going to affect 100% of the population that plays golf. For the amateur world to hit the ball shorter is monstrous. I can’t think of anything more stupid than that.”

The PGA Tour had said it would not adopt the proposed “Model Local Rule.” It was not entirely pleased with a new equipment rule.

“Throughout the process, we have provided feedback to the USGA and The R&A and are pleased to see a number of our recommendations reflected in this most recent announcement,” the tour said in a statement. “However, we believe the proposed increase in test clubhead speed to 125 mph is disproportional to the rate of increase we see when analyzing PGA Tour radar data.”

The PGA Tour had 98 players who averaged 300 yards in driving distance, led by Rory McIlroy at 326.3 yards.

McIlroy took to social media last week when Golf Digest first reported the new test.

“It will make no difference whatsoever to the average golfer and puts golf back on a path of sustainability," McIlroy said. "It will also help bring back certain skills in the pro game that have been eradicated over the past 2 decades.”

Woods said last week in the Bahamas he has long been in favor of bifurcation — two sets of rules — similar to aluminum bats and wooden bats in baseball. That example, however, would suggest changing the drivers.

Drivers were on the table for the USGA and R&A a year ago until they zoomed in on the ball. Their only action on drivers was to expand the test of how long the ball stays on the face of the club, known as characteristic time. There is concern that with extended use of the club, the face gets thinner and allows for more of a trampoline effect.

The big development was the golf ball — how far distance has come in 40-plus years, fear by the governing bodies how much farther it will go as players get stronger and move faster with better technique.

The PGA of America, with its 30,000 club professionals, joined the PGA Tour in saying it was happy the governing bodies did not go with two sets of rules, and even pushed back the date the rollback begins — it originally was proposed to start in 2026.

“We remain opposed to any change that may potentially lessen the enjoyment of the game for recreational golfers or diminish the unprecedented momentum the game is enjoying,” the PGA of America statement said. "It appears recreational golfers will see a greater reduction in distance than we would advise.

“While this decrease has been lessened, we continue to recommend being more moderate on the swing speed change for the golf ball conformance test.”

Manufacturers and tour officials were hopeful of providing input before the testing change was announced, especially because it doesn't take effect for four years. Whan said the 125 mph club speed was open for feedback in 2022 and there was no point in delaying the decision with another comment period.

He also balked at the notion that distance will plateau if nothing is done now.

“Some people will argue, ‘We don’t think distance is going farther. The speed these top guys are hitting it is the fastest we're going to see,'” Whan said. "We've said consistently, ‘Then you’re not spending enough time with the high-end amateur golf like we are.' Spend a day with me at the Walker Cup and I'll show you ball speed at a whole other level.

“There's no logical reason to believe that speeds, and therefore distances, are coming down.”

PGA Tour data, however, indicates big hitters from the Korn Ferry Tour slow down their swing speed when they get to the PGA Tour to adapt to the way courses are set up.


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Upgrade to PGA Tour scoring includes 'ShotLink in a suitcase' in the Bahamas

Just how far was Tiger Woods hitting his driver in the Bahamas? How many putts was Scottie Scheffler holing from outside 12 feet? Those details from the Hero World Challenge might not have been available until this year.

Those tiny clips all but a few players wore on the back of their belts at Albany is what the PGA Tour refers to as “ShotLink bugs,” enabling the tour to gather most data it typically gets at domestic PGA Tour events.

It’s part of a massive upgrade in the tour’s scoring and data collection which has reshaped the game from a statistical standpoint, providing more data for the media, invaluable statistical analysis for players and more information for fans.

The tour has been testing them on the Korn Ferry Tour for the last 18 months.

Ken Lovell, the tour’s senior vice president of golf technologies, said the devices players wore were accompanied by employees carrying a carbon fiber pole with GPS that can localize data within seconds.

ShotLink is now handled remotely out of PGA Tour headquarters.

“We built them for events like this,” Lovell said.

It’s a big step toward making sure the ShotLink data — distances, tendencies in shot dispersion, ball speed, shape, everything imaginable — is available at all PGA Tour events, even those outside the U.S. And eventually, it will be available at tournaments that have multiple courses, such as Torrey Pines or Pebble Beach.

Another code name for the ShotLink bugs is “ShotLink in a suitcase."

“We cannot ship that much equipment into the Bahamas,” Lovell said, citing costs and other logistics.

It’s a work in progress to make sure the data is accurate to an inch, not a foot. But it’s part of a larger upgrade for the PGA Tour in which the number of 4K cameras used to track shots will increase at tour events.

“A total rebuild,” Lovell said.

The full ShotLink system will be in Hawaii next month for the first time. Lovell also said ShotLink would be provided at the U.S. Women’s Open for the second straight year.


The ballot is in the mail — electronically, of course — for PGA Tour members to vote on their player of the year, and it's all the usual suspects. British Open champion Brian Harman is the only major champion not on the ballot, as that was his only win this season.

Players who choose to vote will decide among Scottie Scheffler (two wins including The Players Championship, money title and lowest scoring average), U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark (two wins), Masters champion Jon Rahm (four wins), FedEx Cup champion Viktor Hovland (three wins) and Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy had only two wins in going a 10th straight year without a major. He was cited for having 13 top 10s in his 18 starts.

Different from previous years, the winner will not be announced until the start of next season at The Sentry at Kapalua.

The rookie of the year ballot has Ludvig Aberg, Eric Cole, Nico Echavarria and Vincent Norrman. Aberg won at Sea Island and played in the Ryder Cup just four months after he turned pro. Norrman and Echavarria won opposite-field events. Cole finished in the top 50 in the FedEx Cup.


Joaquin Niemann had a successful two weeks Down Under, and now the LIV Golf player from Chile has some decisions ahead of him.

Niemann, who didn't have a finish higher than seventh his year on the LIV circuit, was fifth in the Australian PGA and then won the Australian Open. That moved him to No. 59 in the world ranking, though he has no other tournaments this year to try to crack the top 50 and earn another trip to the Masters.

Niemann, however, has two weeks to decide whether to take European tour membership because the Australian Open was co-sanctioned. That would give him a chance to play any of three Middle East events before the LIV season starts.

Niemann resigned his European tour membership in 2022 when he joined the Saudi-backed league. Still unclear was whether he would need to pay any fines, and any effect of not playing enough when he was a member.

His manager, Carlos Rodriguez, said he would speak to Niemann over the next few days. Niemann is playing the Chile Open this week, which is not affiliated with a world ranking tour.

His only other way into the Masters would be to play the International Series on the Asian Tour in the spring, though ranking points are not that high.


Steve Stricker is making his debut in the PNC Championship next week, and he should be thankful he didn't have to choose between his two daughters, both good players. Stricker will be playing with his youngest, Izzi, a Wisconsin state high school champion.

“I didn’t have a choice,” Stricker said. “Plus, Bobbi is a pro, and I think they’re staying away from that part of it.”

Part of the criteria is that partners don't have playing status on a professional tour. Bobbi Stricker, who played at Wisconsin, had Epson Tour status this year. She missed by one getting out of the first stage of LPGA Q-school.

“She’s excited for Izzi, but I know deep down it hurt a little bit,” Stricker said. “We talked about that over the years how cool it would be.”

It's still going to be a family affair. Stricker’s wife and Bobbi will caddie. To be determined is who caddies for whom. “That will depend on personalities,” Stricker said with a laugh.


The LPGA Tour is wrapping up its rain-delayed Q Series in Alabama. The PGA Tour has its first Q-school in a decade next week near PGA Tour headquarters.

In between is PGA Tour Champions qualifying, which starts this week with a field that includes one major champion (Shaun Micheel) among some 18 players who have won on the PGA Tour.

It also includes former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz, who made it through the first stage of qualifying and now hopes for a second career.

Only the top five earn cards for the 50-and-older circuit (a playoff would decide any ties). Those who finish between Nos. 6 and 30 are allowed to play qualifiers for Champions events.


Tiger Woods finished 18th against the 20-man field in the Hero World Challenge and moved up 430 spots in the world ranking to No. 898. It was only his sixth tournament in the last two years. ... Jim Furyk had to pull out of the World Champions Cup this week at The Concession Club with his lingering back issue. He stays on as the U.S. captain and will be replaced in competition by Billy Andrade. ... Lucas Glover, the former U.S. Open champion, will bring his homespun thoughts to radio. He will host “The Lucas Glover Show” on the SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio channel (channel 92). The hour-long show debuts Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST. ... The Epson Tour has extended its relations with the Annika Women's All Pro Tour. The top two finishers get spots in Epson Tour events, and the top five on the money list get into the second stage of LPGA Q-school.


Scottie Scheffler had an adjusted scoring average of 68.63. It was the seventh-lowest average on the PGA Tour since 1980. The six ahead of him all belong to Tiger Woods.


“You spend more time in the treatment room and weight room than you do on a golf course. That’s just part of wanting to hang around as an athlete.” — Tiger Woods.


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Column: Major champions talk signature shots. And one that stands out to them

Tiger Woods is not done for the year. Still to come is what he referred to as the “fifth major,” which is 36 holes at the PNC Championship with his son.

Those other majors have long been in the books and still have lasting memories of shots that will be part of major championship lore. Most of them are on Sunday, when the trophy is presented. Some of them are earlier, and often forgotten.

In a series of interviews, the four major champions discuss the shot most fans will remember, and a particular shot that stands out to them.


“In other years, that ball would not have made it to the trees,” Jon Rahm said.

But his tee shot on the 14th hole at the Masters ran just into the rough and his approach was blocked by a pine tree. What's more, he faced a downhill lie with the ball slightly below his feet. He had to get creative, and the Spaniard did just that. From 137 yards, he opened his stance, opened the face on his 8-iron and aimed left.

“I had to slice it a good 10, 15 yards to catch the slope,” he said. “I came out absolutely perfect. It came out on line, faded the way it needed to fade and then used the slope.”

It settled 3 feet away for his final birdie, and with Brooks Koepka making bogey, Rahm had a five-shot lead with four holes to play.

Also memorable to Rahm was a 9-iron that looked to be simple and safe, and that's why it meant so much to him. Too many Masters have been lost on the par-3 12th hole. Rahm had a two-shot lead Sunday, hit the middle of the green and two-putted for par. There were several underrated shots he hit in the final round. This was among those he cited “because I hit it 6 inches from my target.”


Brooks Koepka ended the PGA Championship with two swings. Only one of them was his.

He had a one-shot lead at Oak Hill on the 16th hole when Viktor Hovland's 9-iron from the bunker plugged deep into the lip. He had to drop in the collar and could only advance it 50 yards, leading to double bogey. Koepka watched this play out, quickly stepped into the rough and smashed a 48-degree wedge to 4 feet for birdie — a four-shot lead with two to play.

“Gave me a little ease going to 17, 18,” Koepka said.

His PGA Championship week began with another wedge from the rough — this one not nearly as far from the hole — that stood out as one of his fondest memories. It was Thursday on the par-3 11th, his second hole of the championship. Koepka pulled his tee shot well left of the bunker. His pitch to a back pin ran off the green into rough that covered his shoes. He was staring at a quick double bogey, except that he chipped in for par.

“Saved me,” Koepka said. “Usually when you make double, you don't win a major championship.”


Hugh Hefner no longer owns the Playboy mansion tucked behind the 14th hole at Los Angeles Country Club. Wyndham Clark might consider making an offer. The par 5 on the North course brought him two big moments that led to his U.S. victory.

The most memorable shot was his 3-wood from 282 yards that faded just enough to catch the left corner of the green and settle 20 feet away for a two-putt birdie, giving him a three-shot lead. Clark was so impressed he considers it as great as any 3-wood in U.S. Open history.

“To land it in that neck, which was only about 8 yards wide, I had to hit a big, high cut,” Clark said. If you pull it left, it's a tough up-and-down. Leave it the bunker, you're probably not getting up and down. We were trying to hit it long, if anything, and we pulled off the shot."

Go back two days, the same hole, to find a flop shot that spoke to his bold play.

Clark was in the left rough facing a far right pin 28 yards away, meaning he had to clear a deep bunker and land it soft enough not to roll off the green. The worst-case scenario was catching all ball and watching it sail over the green.

“I truly think most of the field would have chipped it left and tried to two-putt from 40 feet. The others would have done it because they were going to miss the cut,” he said. “I don't think many guys would have pulled the shot off under the circumstances.”

He took a full swing with a sand wedge, opened the face and watched it float high and land soft, 12 feet for a birdie.

“It was an incredible shot, but a little bit overlooked,” he said.


Brian Harman started the final round at Royal Liverpool with a five-shot lead and he won by six. That doesn't mean it was always smooth sailing. He bogeyed the second hole of the final round. He drove into the gorse and made bogey on the par-5 fifth. Suddenly, his lead over Rahm was down to three shots with 14 holes and nasty weather ahead of him.

“I'm 2 over through five holes and I've got no easy holes coming up,” Harman said.

His birdie on the par-3 sixth changed everything.

“It was back into the wind, I had 185 yards and hit my best 5-iron of the year, held it up against a left-to-right wind,” Harman said. “That flipped my day.”

Equally meaningful to him was a late birdie. Harman had just bogeyed the 13th, his lead down to four shots with five to play and the par-4 14th, as tough as any at Hoylake, next to play.

“I hit a 6-iron to about 30 feet and the putt I hit on 14 was dead center — drained it,” he said. “That putt was the first time I entertained the thought of winning the tournament.”


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Scheffler wins Hero World Challenge, Niemann wins Australia Open

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Scottie Scheffler closed with a 4-under 68 for a three-shot victory Sunday in the Hero World Challenge for his fifth victory of the year.

Scheffler, a runner-up in the Bahamas the last two years, played bogey-free at Albany and didn’t let anyone get closer than two shots on the back nine.

The week wasn’t a total loss for Tiger Woods, the tournament host playing for the first time since surgery to fuse his right ankle a few weeks after the Masters in April. Woods finished 72 holes for only the third time in the last two years. He has played six tournaments following the recovery from his February 2021 car crash in Los Angeles that badly injured his right leg.

Woods closed with a 72 and ended up 18th at even par. Scheffler finished at 20-under 268.

Sepp Straka had three late birdies for a 64 to finish second. Justin Thomas had a 67 to finish alone in third. It was his third straight finish in the top 5 dating to September.


SYDNEY (AP) — Joaquin Niemann of Chile beat Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino on the second playoff hole to win the Australian Open men’s title on a wild final day.

In the Women's Australian Open held currently, Ashleigh Buhai held off a fast-finishing Minjee Lee to become the first woman to win back-to-back titles since Yani Tseng in 2011.

Niemann made an eagle at the second extra hole after a number of contenders slipped away on the back nine due to gusting winds at The Australian.

Starting the day four shots behind, Niemann — one of the big-name signings of the breakaway LIV Golf league — produced a 5-under-par 66 to finish at 14-under 271 as he surged up the leaderboard and took the clubhouse lead.

Hoshino, who was runner-up to Min Woo Lee at last week’s Australia PGA Championships, made a number of clutch putts and closed with a 70 to make the playoff at 14 under. Lee shot 72 and finished in third at 12 under. Adam Scott had the lead with three holes to play until hitting out-of-bounds on his 16th hole for a triple bogey that ended his bid.

Buhai made 15 pars and three bogeys for a 75 to finish at 9-under 280, one better than Lee, the older sister of Min Woo Lee.


JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Dean Burmester secured back-to-back wins on home soil, closing with a 4-under 68 for a three-shot victory in the South African Open.

Coming off a win at the Joburg Open last week, Burmester rallied from two shots off the lead. Burmester, who plays in the LIV Golf League, moves to No. 77 in the world ranking.

Italian Renato Paratore (70), Sweden’s Jesper Svensson (71) and South African Ryan van Velzen (73) tied for second. Van Velzen shared the overnight lead with countryman Jayden Schaper (74), who finished tied for fifth on 7 under overall.

The 34-year-old Burmester now has four European tour victories.

Burmester and former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel were the only LIV Golf players in the field. Schwartzel shot a 76 on Sunday and tied for 45th.


Taiga Semikawa closed with a 2-under 68 for a one-shot victory over Keita Nakajima (69) and Takumi Kanaya (67) to win the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup, a dynamic conclusion to the Japan Golf Tour season among its three best young players. ... Suteepat Prateeptienchai closed with a 4-under 68 and won the Taiwan Glass Taifong Open by four shots on the Asian Tour. ... Adilson da Silva of Brazil had a 3-under 68 for a three-shot victory in the Vinpearl DIC Legends in Vietnam to close out Europe’s Legends Tour.


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Scheffler makes it look easy for 3-shot victory in the Bahamas. Tiger Woods finishes 18th

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Scottie Scheffler has made great gains in his putting. Add that to the rest of top-ranked game, and he made it look easy Sunday. He closed with a 4-under 68 for a three-shot victory in the Hero World Challenge.

Scheffler, a runner-up in the Bahamas the last two years, played bogey-free at Albany and didn't let anyone get closer than two shots on the back nine as he ended the year with his fifth victory worldwide.

The Hero World Challenge is an unofficial event, though its 20-man field receives world ranking points and Scheffler only solidified his spot at No. 1.

The week wasn't a total loss for Tiger Woods, the tournament host playing for the first time since surgery to fuse his right ankle a few weeks after the Masters in April.

Woods finished 72 holes for only the third time in the last two years. He has played six tournaments following the recovery from his February 2021 car crash in Los Angeles that badly injured his right leg.

“Just like I said to you guys on Tuesday, I’m curious ... what this is going to look like,” Woods said. “I haven’t done it in a while — I haven’t done it with my ankle the way it is now and I was excited each and every day to kind of get through it and kind of start piecing rounds together again. I haven’t done this in a long time so it was fun to feel that again.”

Woods closed with a 72 and ended up 18th at even par. Scheffler finished at 20-under 268.

Sepp Straka had three late birdies for a 64 to finish second. Justin Thomas had a 67 to finish alone in third. It was his third straight finish in the top 5 dating to September.

Scheffler led the PGA Tour in just about every important statistical category — off the tee, shots to the green — until he got onto the putting surface. He sought help from highly regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon and is starting to see immediate results.

“I played solid and kept my distance,” Scheffler said. “I was just trying to hit good shots and get as many looks as I could for birdies.”

Scheffler had not played since the Ryder Cup — this was his first 72-hole tournament since the Tour Championship in late August. He said he was optimistic about the work he put in with Kenyon before the Ryder Cup.

“It's nice to see some fast results,” Scheffler said. “It's paid off pretty good this week.”

Scheffler didn't make his first birdie until he chipped close on the par-5 sixth and then pitched up the slope on the drivable par-4 seventh to 2 feet.

Straka, Thomas and Jordan Spieth at times were poised to make a run. Scheffler answered with birdies at the right time to hold them off. He missed a birdie putt on the 17th from just inside 3 feet. It was his only miss inside 5 feet all week.

Rarely is this holiday event without some measure of drama, and such was the case on Sunday. Collin Morikawa was given a two-shot penalty before he teed off for using material in a greens-reading book on the fourth hole Saturday.

Turns out his caddie had used a level on the practice green and put some notations in the book. According to new rules, such notes can only come from traditional methods, without outside devices. Morikawa was informed 15 minutes before his round, frustrated because he says he has been told by other officials and caddies that it was OK.

“Apparently if they tell you something wrong one day in a different tournament (it) does not carry on, and I understand that. We made the mistake,” Morikawa said. “From our understanding, it was fine to use a level on the practice green and see how putts break and write that down. Obviously, it’s not.”

Morikawa (68) finished seventh.

Woods was never in the mix after each round, which was not the primary objective. He knew there would be rust, and he felt he knocked a little off each day. But not all of it. He had a pitch roll back toward his feet on the par-3 second hole for a double bogey, and he hit another poor chip that led to bogey on the par-5 11th.

Woods remained optimistic he could play one tournament a month in 2024.

“If you ask me right now, I'm a little bit sore,” he said. “Once a month seems reasonable. It gives me a couple of weeks to recover. Maybe I can get into a rhythm. That's what the plan was going into next year. I don't see why that would change.”


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Niemann beats Hoshino in playoff to win Australian Open. Buhai defends women's title

SYDNEY (AP) — Joaquin Niemann of Chile beat Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino on the second playoff hole to win the Australian Open men's title on a wild final day.

Niemann made an eagle at the second extra hole after a number of contenders slipped away on the back nine due to gusting winds at The Australian course on Sunday.

Starting the day four shots behind, Niemann — one of the big-name signings of the breakaway LIV Golf league — produced an excellent final-round 5-under-par 66 to finish at 14-under 271 as he surged up the leaderboard and took the clubhouse lead.

Hoshino, who was runner-up to Min Woo Lee at last week's Australia PGA Championships, made a number of clutch putts on the final holes and closed with a 70 to make the playoff at 14 under.

Lee shot 72 and finished in third at 12 under after a frustrating day on the greens extinguished his hopes of winning in back-to-back weeks, despite sharing the overnight lead with Hoshino.

Former world No. 1 Adam Scott looked to be surging to an unlikely victory as he climbed to 14 under and into the outright lead with three holes remaining, but played his tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 seventh — after starting his round on the 10th — and was forced to settle for a triple bogey that ended his hopes.

Scott finished tied for fourth with England’s Laurie Carter (68) and Grant Forrest (68) of Scotland three shots behind the leaders at 11 under at the Sydney tournament that features men’s and women’s fields and is being played in a two-venue format.

Cam Smith's quest for a maiden Australian Open title will need to wait for another year after he shot a final-round 70 to finish at 7 under and in a tie for 17th in a disappointing fortnight for the 2022 British Open champion, who also missed the cut at last week's Australian PGA Championships.

Earlier, Ashleigh Buhai held off a fast-finishing Minjee Lee to become the first woman to win back-to-back Australian Open titles since five-time major champion Yani Tseng in 2011.

Buhai made 15 pars and three bogeys for a 75 to finish at 9-under 280 and one-stroke ahead of Lee in a nervy finish for the 34-year-old South African.

Trailing by four shots with five holes to play, Lee cut Buhai's lead to just one heading to the last after the 2022 British Open champion found the water on the 17th.

However, a two-putt for par on No. 18 was enough for Buhai as Lee couldn't find a ninth birdie in her excellent round of 69 in the challenging conditions.

Two-time major winner Jiyai Shin of South Korea had a tough day with a 77 as she slipped out of contention and into a tie for third with compatriot Jenny Shin at 4 under 285.

Local pair Hannah Green (70) and Stephanie Kyriacou (73) were tied for fifth a further shot back.


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Scheffler builds 3-shot lead in Bahamas, Woods happy with recovery

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Scottie Scheffler made two eagles on Saturday in his round of 7-under 65 that gave the No. 1 player in the world another chance to win the Hero World Challenge. Tiger Woods will be around at the end, but only to hand out the trophy.

Scheffler was never seriously out of position until the end of his round. He saved par on the 16th hole but dropped his lone shot on the 18th at Albany, giving him a three-shot lead over Matt Fitzpatrick, who also had a 65.

Scheffler contending at Woods' tournament in the Bahamas is nothing new — he has been runner-up to Viktor Hovland each of the last two years. Woods being out of the mix is also not unusual, mainly because he typically is recovering from injuries.

This is his fifth time playing in the Bahamas, and only once has he finished within 10 shots of the winner. This year figures to be no exception. Woods was over par on the back nine for the third straight round, having to settle for a 71 that left him 16 shots behind Scheffler.

Then again, this isn't just about the golf. Woods is coming back from another surgery that kept him out of golf for nearly eight months. Sunday would be the first time he plays a 72-hole tournament since Riviera in February.

He said he has experienced no soreness in his ankle, just other areas of his body, and those have recovered better than expected after each round.

“I still have game,” Woods said. “It's whether or not the body can do it. I'm very pleasantly surprised at how I've recovered every day. My activations in the gym have been good.”

The golf has been a mixture.

Woods opened with two straight bogeys, rallied with four birdies on the front nine, and then again failed to convert on the par 5s on the back nine. He missed the 11th green with a wedge, and he missed a birdie putt inside 3 feet on the 15th.

He felt his score could have been in the high 60s, though he was most pleased with his health.

“To be able to knock off some of the rust as I have this week and showed myself that I can recover each and every day, that was kind of an unknown,” he said.

“I've walked this far. I've done all my training. But add in playing and concentration and adrenalin and all those other factors that speed up everything, I’m very excited how the week’s turned out.”

Scheffler was at 16-under 200. Fitzpatrick, who won the Dunhill Links Championship the week after the Ryder Cup, birdied his last two holes and will play with Scheffler in the final group.

Justin Thomas had a 68 and was five shots behind. Jordan Spieth started the third round tied with Scheffler and fell back quickly with a drive into the bushes on the par-5 third that led to a penalty drop and a three-shot swing — Spieth made bogey, Scheffler holed a 15-foot eagle putt.

Spieth shot 71 and was six shots back.

Scheffler has been the best ball-striker in golf this year, off the tee and into the greens, a dominant year with the exception of his putting. He began working with putting coach Phil Kenyon a few months ago and is looking sharper. All his scoring putts were outside 12 feet.

“I feel as if I’m much more clear in what I need to be working on and a lot of that has to do with how I’m set up over the ball,” Scheffler said. “When I’m set up in the right position, then I feel like my mechanics are really good. That’s what I’m focused on.”


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Min Woo Lee and Rikuya Hoshino share lead after contrasting 3rd rounds at Australian Open

SYDNEY (AP) — Min Woo Lee made a dramatic birdie on the 18th hole to keep his bid of winning back-to-back titles on track despite a challenging day in the third round of the Australia Open on Saturday.

Lee produced a trademark dazzling chip from the bunker and then rolled in for birdie on the par-5 18th to move back to the top of the leaderboard at 13-under with Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino.

The 25-year-old Western Australian's adventurous day included four birdies, a bogey and a double bogey for a round of 70 which included a number of shots from difficult lies in fairway rough or bunkers at The Australian course.

In contrast, Hoshino — who finished runner-up to Lee at last week’s Australian PGA Championship — was bogey-free and steadily climbed the leaderboard with four birdies and an eagle on the par-5 14th in a round of 65.

“Last week I couldn’t make the birdie on the back nine, but this week I have more birdies at the back nine to make the winning (possible),” Hoshino said. “This is the first time in Australia for me and I’m enjoying this atmosphere and also this tournament. That’s why I’m playing well.”

Lee and Hoshino hold a one-shot lead over Englishman Alex Fitzpatrick (66) and American Patrick Rodgers (68), who are in a tie for third.

Australian Lucas Herbert is fifth at 11 under after a 66 at the Sydney tournament that features men’s and women’s fields and is being played on a two-venue format.

Joaquin Niemann (70) of Chile is in a tie for sixth at 9-under, while Adam Scott made up ground with a 67 to be at 8 under and five shots off the pace.

Cam Smith’s chances of a maiden Australian Open title look increasingly slim. The 2022 British Open champion is well back in a tie for 25th at six under, and seven shots behind, after a round of 69.

Defending champion Ashleigh Buhai of South Africa led the women's field at 12 under, three shots clear of two-time major winner Jiyai Shin and seven shots ahead of Australia's Minjee Lee, the older sister of Min Woo Lee.

Buhai birdied her first four holes on her way to a 67 as she bids to be the first woman to defend the Australian Open titles since Taiwan’s former world No.1 and five-time major champion Yani Tseng in 2011.

Shin had a mixed day with an even par 72, while Lee put a disappointing second round behind her with a 67 to surge up the leaderboard.

“I just hit my irons a little bit closer and that just gave myself a couple more opportunities for birdies,” Lee said. “So yeah, had a really nice front nine and made one bogey and one birdie on the back. I’ll just have to post a really low score tomorrow, I think, but I can do it.”

Teenage amateur Ann Jang, from Sydney, made the shot of the day with a rare albatross at the par-5 first hole, but still finished with a 73 and in a tie for 22nd at 4 over.


AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

Tiger Woods putts into a bunker and loses ground. Spieth and Scheffler share lead in Bahamas

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Tiger Woods opened with four birdies in seven holes. The closing stretch was another struggle Friday in the Hero World Challenge, which included a putt that went off the green and into the bunker.

It added to a 2-under 70 that left Woods 10 shots behind Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth, but still getting around just fine at Albany and slowly getting back into the groove.

But the back nine isn't helping. Woods shot 39 on the back in the opening round, and he shot 38 on Friday with a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th. For Woods, there wasn't a great mystery why he wasn't finishing better.

“Maybe because I haven't played in a while,” he said with a laugh.

This is his first tournament since he withdrew before finishing his third round Sunday morning at the rain-delayed Masters, and he had ankle fusion surgery a few weeks later. In fact, Woods hasn't finished 72 holes since the 2022 Masters.

“I'm rusty,” he said. “This golf course will bring that out of you. You can run the tables here or go the other way. Unfortunately, I haven't finished off my rounds the way I'd like to."

Scheffler had eight birdies on a day suited for good scoring. He lost the lead on his final hole when he went from the rough to a waste area behind the 18th hole, his ball in a slight depression. He did well to get it out to 15 feet but missed the par putt.

“As long as you can keep it out of trouble, you're going to play well,” Scheffler said.

Spieth had eagle putts on four holes — two of them par 4s — didn't miss a fairway and managed a relatively boring round, at least compared with Thursday when he made only five pars. This time he was bogey-free for a 67.

Scheffler and Spieth were at 9-under 135, one shot ahead of British Open champion Brian Harman, who shot 31 on the back nine to salvage a 69.

For Woods, the trouble again came on the par-5 15th hole, where he took double bogey in the first round after trying to chop it out of a bush in the sandy soil. This time, he piped his drive and had only a 9-iron to the green. But he pulled it into a bunker, leaving little green between him and the hole, and blasted it out to 35 feet.

That wasn't the problem. His putt was too firm, racing by the hole, off the green and back into the bunker. He had to make a 15-footer to escape with bogey.

Woods once hit a putt off the 13th green into a tributary of Rae's Creek at the Masters. But he couldn't recall hitting a putt into the bunker.

“That was not a good putt,” he said. “It was downwind and I hit it way too hard. It got going on the wind and got going on the grain and was gone. I was obviously ticked. At the end of the day, it was better than yesterday.”

He also had a three-putt from inside 15 feet for bogey on the 13th, missed a short birdie chance on the reachable par-4 14th and dropped a shot on the 16th, the toughest at Albany.

Woods was five shots better than his opening round, though still out of the mix for now in 15th place in the 20-man field.

“I think it's just trying to get my feels back and the mindset over a shot and how many things run through my mind of hitting the shot the right trajectory, the right window, the right shape, the right distance,” he said. "I did a better job on that today and I’m sure I’ll do a better job of that tomorrow.

“The more rounds and more reps I can get under my belt competitively, I think those things will start coming back.”


AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

Nick Taylor's historic eagle now part of 2024 Canadian Open logo

OAKVILLE, Ontario (AP) — Nick Taylor's epic eagle putt to win the RBC Canadian Open is now being commemorated in the tournament logo for next year.

Taylor became the first Canadian in 69 years to win his national open in June when he holed a 72-foot putt to beat Tommy Fleetwood on the fourth hole of a playoff at Oakdale Golf and Country Club near Toronto.

The logo features a golfer swinging a club for the “i” in Canadian. For next year, that will be replaced by a silhouette of Taylor flipping his putter in the air when he made the putt.

The 2024 tournament will be at Hamilton Golf and Country Club near the town of Ancaster, which is known for its Great Pumpkin Stroll. It was at this year's event that Brendan Peters, the manager of design for Golf Canada, created a pumpkin the shape of a golf ball with Taylor's silhouette in the Canadian Open logo.

Golf Canada decided to go one step further.

“It brings energy to the logo, giving it a different flavor,” said Tim McLaughlin, Golf Canada's chief marketing officer. “But also, what an amazing way for us to pay tribute to one of the most special moments in RBC Canadian Open history, and an iconic moment in Canadian sport.”


AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

Nick Taylor's putter drop immortalized in new RBC Canadian Open logo

Nck Taylor’s epic putt to win the RBC Canadian Open this summer was already iconic.  

Now the moment has been incorporated into an icon. 

Golf Canada, title sponsor RBC, and tournament organizers announced Friday a tweak to the event’s logo for 2024, featuring Taylor’s silhouette – a design that initially started as an entrant into a pumpkin-carving contest this Halloween. 

Golf Canada’s chief marketing officer Tim McLaughlin said the organization’s graphic designer, Brendan Peters, was asked by tournament director Bryan Crawford for help to design something for Ancaster, Ont.’s The Great Pumpkin Stroll. That was the first time the replacement logo featured Taylor.  

“He made an amazing pumpkin that featured that design, and it was sort of a one-off and we were sitting around thinking, ‘Wow that’s a really cool pumpkin,’” McLaughlin said. “But we sat back, and we were like, ‘Wait a second, what you’ve done here is really special and maybe there’s an opportunity to lean into it more.'" 

From there, Golf Canada started to explore the idea of potentially using Taylor’s putter flip as part of the “core brand identity” for the 2024 RBC Canadian Open and pay tribute to Taylor’s special win.    

Taylor, of Abbotsford, B.C., defeated England’s Tommy Fleetwood on the fourth playoff hole at Oakdale Golf and Country Club with a 72-foot eagle – the longest putt Taylor had made in his PGA Tour career.  

He was the first Canadian in 69 years to win the men’s national open championship.  

The previous logo had an old-school golfer wearing a newsboy cap replacing the "I" in "Canadian." Taylor’s putter-drop image is now in its place.  

The Golf Canada team quickly engaged the PGA Tour to advise them of their idea for tweaking the logo and McLaughlin said the Tour, and its social media team especially, loved the opportunity to build more hype heading into next year.  

Golf Canada also worked closely with Taylor and his agent, Jordan Snowie of Wasserman, since the early brainstorming stages. 

McLaughlin said Taylor, a three-time PGA Tour winner, was “super excited” to see the end result.  

“To be a part of the 2024 RBC Canadian Open logo is really special,” said Taylor in a release. “When I first saw the re-design with myself as the swing man, I was flattered by the tribute and thought it was very cool. I am excited to get to Hamilton and looking forward to defending my title.” 

While the logo itself is just a static update – and will be featured prominently at every touch point next year including marketing, branding, and likely merchandise – Friday’s launch also included an animated video that transitioned the old logo to the new one.  

Axle Films, based in Windsor, Ont. and one of Golf Canada’s marketing partners, was responsible for the animation. It also featured the audio of broadcaster Mark Zecchino’s heroic call of the winning putt for PGA Tour Radio. 

“When the logo turned in to an animation, we knew that audio needed to be part of it,” McLaughlin said. “Mark’s call was so special, and I think as a Canadian it evokes such amazing feelings of excitement and pride.”  

So, while the genesis of the idea was a pumpkin design, McLaughlin knew there was an opportunity carve out something special for next year – especially after such a thrilling finish this year.  

“We thought strategically it was an amazing way to honour such a special moment to make it feel uniquely Canadian and bring some energy and fun to the logo which would be additive to the core brand of the event,” he said.  

The 2024 RBC Canadian Open takes place May 28 to June 2 at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Hamilton, Ont. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2023.

Lee leads the Australian Open by 3 shots, moves into a prime position for back-to-back titles

SYDNEY (AP) — Min Woo Lee moved into a strong position to win back-to-back titles by taking a three-shot lead halfway through the Australian Open just five days after clinching the Australian PGA Championship.

The 25-year-old Western Australian golfer moved to 12 under after a 64 at The Australian Golf Club in the second round, a day after a 67 at The Lakes course.

He holed out from a greenside bunker for the first of six birdies and finished his round with an eagle at the par-5 18th.

American Patrick Rodgers is tied for second with Connor Syme of Scotland at 9 under. He followed his opening 64 at The Lakes with a 70 at The Australian.

Joaquin Niemann of Chile and Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela were tied in fourth spot at 8 under in the Sydney tournament that features men's and women's fields and is being played on a two-venue format.

Cam Smith and Adam Scott are in a group of 12 players in 27th place. Smith had 68 on Friday and will start the weekend at 4 under just a week after missing the cut in his attempted title defense at the Australian PGA in Brisbane.

Smith, who was playing with Lee, threw a ball in the lake after a bogey at the next-to-last hole.

“It’s going to take my best to even get close and maybe even a little bit of help,” he said. “But there’s still lots of golf left and I feel after how I played today I can still make a run at least.”

Lee's older sister, two-time major winner Minjee Lee, is in a tie for 11th after a 75 at The Australian left her even heading into the weekend.

Two-time major winner Jiyai Shin led the women’s field at 9 under, two shots clear of defending champion Ashleigh Buhai of South Africa and three ahead of fellow South Korean Jenny Shin.

Surprising first-round leader, 16-year-old local amateur Rachel Lee, had eight bogeys in a 79 at The Australian a day after carding 67 at The Lakes and slipped into a tie for 19th.


AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

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