ADELAIDE, Bahamas (AFP) — Jodi Ewart Shadoff made a lot of koalas happy by sinking seven birdies to lead the LPGA Australian Open with defending champion Nelly Korda three shots adrift after Thursday’s first round.
The Englishwoman fired a blemish-free 66 around the par-73 Royal Adelaide Golf Club having pledged to donate $100 for every birdie to a koala rescue charity with her sponsor matching the sum.
Ewart Shadoff has one-stroke lead ahead of South Koreans Lee Jeong-eun and Park In-bee with three Americans — Marina Alex, Jillian Hollis and Amy Olson — a shot further back.
Korda, the daughter of former Australian Open Grand Slam tennis champion Petr, is lurking in a pack of 10 after a four-under 69.
Ewart Shadoff benefited from being back in the clubhouse before breezy conditions kicked in and with seven birdies in the bag already, that’s $1,400 to help the furry marsupials.
“I mean again, really solid, really happy to make seven birdies. I’m donating to the Adelaide Koala Rescue this week for birdies, so it’s nice to make a ton today,” she said.
Told she would be making a lot of koalas happy, she replied: “Yes, I hope so.”
Ewart Shadoff’s best showing on the LPGA Tour was her second place at the 2017 British Open. She said “I feel ready,” when asked of she could grab her maiden victory.
She will be keeping a close watch on world number three Korda, who last year added to an amazing family tradition of winning top titles in Australia.
In holding off South Korean Ko Jin-young, she joined her father, sister and brother in being crowned an Open champion on Australian soil.
Dad Petr got the ball rolling by winning the Australian Open in 1998, while her sister Jessica won the Australian Open golf in 2012. Her brother Sebastian then took out the Australian Open tennis boys’ title in 2018.
“I had a solid day out there,” said Korda, who won two LPGA events last year to race up the rankings.
“I drove the ball really well. Kind of didn’t take advantage of all my opportunities, but it’s just the first day so hopefully I can just build from here on.”
Park Hee-young, who won the LPGA’s Vic Open last weekend after a four-hole playoff, had a horror start with a double bogey and two bogeys blotting her card until birdies at the last four holes rescued her card, leaving her seven off the pace.
ACCI clears Club 515 of COVID violations
The Alabang Country Club Inc. (ACCI) on Saturday released the results of its investigation and ruled that the Club 515 did not breach COVID-19 protocols when it organized a two-day event on 28 and 29 August.
The ACCI board, guided by the recommendation of the special committee, concluded that the two-day event was not a regular golf tournament but “only a friendly game to celebrate the birthdays of some 515 members falling from April to August 2020.”
Alabang declared that it has been complying with IATF regulations, including the ban on club-sponsored tournaments.
In connection with the Club 515, ACCI said its investigation showed that “the friendly competition was held within the parameters set by the IATF rules.”
The event drew 75 participants, all members of Club 515.
A maximum of four players made up each flight with a 15-minute interval between flights.
Other club members not affiliated with Club 515 were allowed to play.
Each participant made his reservation through the automated reservation system.
There were no spectators during the event. Golfers stayed within safe distance from each other since the course sits on a 74-hectare lot.
Wearing of masks was mandatory except for a few who were asked to remove it briefly for photo opportunities.
Packed lunches were ordered for those who played on Saturday so they had the option to bring them home.
Around 10 participants decided to consume the packed lunches in the club, conscious of social distancing.
Raffle prizes put up by the birthday celebrators were held via the ZOOM platform.
The ACCI said it takes club protocols seriously and has adopted measures to enforce them.
These include deputizing additional safety officers to constantly remind the strict adherence to health and preventive protocols;
Close monitoring via CCTV camera of members, employees, workers and providers;
Continuous release of official advisories and communications through the club’s social media accounts like Facebook and Viber to ensure awareness and compliance of members with IATF rules and regulations.
The ACCI added that it regularly holds refresher training of staff and strictly enforces the rule against sharing of food among members and guests dining in the club.
“The published articles have unfairly dragged the club into the limelight with its false portrayal of a seemingly insensitive breach of health protocols,” the ACCI said.
“While there was no real violation, this perceived transgression of rules resulted in heightened anxiety for our members, the public and the government,” ACCI added.
In its desire to impose discipline and strict compliance with government rules and health protocols, the ACCI strongly reprimanded all participants with a warning that a repeat will merit a severe penalty.
The ACCI also ordered Club 515 to issue a letter of apology addressed to the members of the club.
A day before ACCI released its findings, Daily Tribune published Club 515’s lengthy letter of explanation and apology to club members in its digital edition.
Stung by hornet, Swafford surges ahead by 2 shots
MIAMI (AFP) — A little adversity did Hudson Swafford no harm on Friday, as the American shook off a hornet sting at his second hole to card a five-under par 67 and take a two-shot lead in the PGA Tour Corales Puntacana Championship.
Swafford, who started the day in a four-way tie for the lead, said a “little hornet” stung him as he grabbed a club on the tee box of No. 11 at the Corales Puntacana resort in the Dominican Republic.
“Right in the joint of my pinky,” he said. “It started swelling up, so I was just kind of rubbing ice on it after tee shots for the first five, six holes on the back side.”
Despite “some chaos the first few holes,” Swafford said the mishap might have even helped.
“I guess it kind of just cleared my mind of the golf thing and just let me focus on something else,” said the 33-year-old American, playing on a medical extension in search of a second US PGA Tour title to go with his 2017 victory at La Quinta, California.
Swafford had two birdies in his first nine holes. After sandwiching two birdies between to bogeys after the turn he closed fast with birdies at the seventh, eighth and ninth holes.
His 36-hole total of 132 put him two strokes clear of Luke List, Justin Suh and Sean O’Hair.
List fired seven birdies in his seven-under 65 to reach 10-under while O’Hair and Suh both had five birdies without a bogey in their 67s.
“I really was in control of the golf ball today, which was nice,” List said. “I hit it everywhere yesterday, so made a little adjustment … hopefully (I will) keep the ball-striking up for the weekend.”
Swafford said wind was a factor on his inward run, making the generous fairways feel a little tighter.
Apart from a mistake at the fifth, where he made his second bogey of the day, “I honestly played pretty good,” Swafford said.
“I gave myself a lot of chances, that’s all that we were trying to do because I feel like I’m rolling it good, I feel like I’m seeing lines pretty good, so just trying to get on the green as fast as possible.”
Heat and humidity were also a challenge Friday, with the PGA Tour announcing that Robert Garrigus had withdrawn during the round with heat exhaustion.
The halfway cut came at three-under par. Those who didn’t make it included defending champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, who had a bogey and a double-bogey in a one-over 73 that left him two outside the cut line.
Driving is key, says Irish open leader
Aaron Rai will carry a one shot lead into Saturday following an even par second round on a testing day at the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
The 25-year-old was the overnight co-leader alongside fellow Englishman Jordan Smith and South African Dean Burmester at five under par at Galgorm Spa & Resort.
There was a 90 minute delay to day two before play even began due to early morning frost, with the first group heading out at 9.10 a.m. instead of their slated 7.40 a.m. start.
This meant there was a backlog on the schedule with the final threeball beginning their second round at 4.05 p.m., with 27 players set to finish off on Saturday morning.
To add to the delayed start, swirling winds and intermittent rain made low scoring difficult as only 12 players reached the clubhouse having shot red numbers on Friday.
Rai could not improve his overall score as he mixed four bogeys with four birdies, but it was enough for the 2018 Honma Hong Kong Open presented by Amundi winner to take the solo lead by one shot from Robert Rock, Swede Joakim Lagergren and Burmester.
“It was good. A bit of a mixed bag out there but I think it is to be expected, the course played so tough,” Rai said.
“I think driving it is key around here with how thick the rough is and I think for most part I have driven it well the last few days. When I have had chances I have made a few putts as well. So probably a mix of driving and putting.
“It is so tightly bunched and doesn’t really take that much but probably a little bit of what has already happened this week.
“A few extra putts go in, also when I have been out of position, I have got up and down a few times, so it is just a couple shots being saved here and there coming into the weekend.”
Rai and Smith were the only players not to card a bogey during the first round but the former lost that record at the opening hole to drop back to four under.
A birdie at the third returned him to co-leadership but when he dialled into four feet at the par three seventh and rolled in the putt for two, he was the outright leader.
Rai’s advantage lasted one hole though, as he could not drain his par putt from the fringe to slip back to five under before carding another bogey at the ninth.
Dottie shoots 1-under
Dottie Ardina righted the ship coming home, picking up three birdies to salvage a one-under par 70 at the start of the IOA Classic Presented by Homevalue.Com in Longwood, California Friday.
The 26-year-old Ardina struggled in the front nine with three bogeys against a lone birdie, but got going after a birdie on the par-5 10th hole of the Alaqua Country Club.
She went back to where she started with another birdie on 11, a par-3 before capping her fightback with another bird on 16.
Ardina is safely above the cut line in a tie for 31st spot with 11 others.
She missed one of 13 fairways, but only reached 11 of 18 greens. Her 28 putts, however, kept her afloat.
Clariss Guce, the other Filipina in the Symetra Tour stop, was one shot off the projected cut line after returning with a 72.
Guce, 30, had two bogeys in the first five holes, but made up for it with three birdies between 7 and 10 only to pick up back-to-back bogeys from 14. She saved pars twice from the bunker, but needed 32 putts to hole out.
American Samantha Wagner was the solo leader following a scorching seven-under 64, built on eight birdies against a lone bogey.
Four players were in the chase pack on five-under 66. They are Americans Bailey Tardy, Nannette Hill and Sophia Schubert and Korean Min-G Kim.
On four-under 67 are Australian Robyn Choi and Americans Haylee Hayford, Casey Danielson, Allison Emrey, Katie Yoo and Ana Belac of Slovenia.
‘Amazing!’ Abby happy to make pro debut in WAPT
Reigning Philippine Ladies Amateur champion Abby Arevalo is ready to take the next flight home when the Ladies Professional Golf Tournament (LPGT) restarts, but until that happens, she will stay in the United States and work on her game.
Three months after leaving the country to try her luck in mini-tours, Arevalo finally made her professional debut and completed two tournaments in the Women’s All-Pro Tour (WAPT).
On Thursday, the Taco Bell Natchez Golf Classic was reduced from 72 to 36 holes due to inclement weather at the Beau Pre Country Club in Mississippi.
As a result, Arevalo settled for joint 27th on four-over 148 and failed to get into the money circle.
After opening with a one-under par 71, Arevalo struggled on Wednesday, shooting a 77 on two birdies against seven bogeys.
Last week, Arevalo fired 73-74-71 to end up tied for 11th spot in the Babe Zaharias Open in Beaumont, Texas. She collected $808.
The WAPT, launched last year, is the official qualifying tour for the LPGA’s Symetra Tour. It holds tournaments in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas.
While prize money is low, it provides exemption to the Symetra Tour.
Arevalo chose WAPT because it’s well-organized.
“They have Trackman for rent. They have push carts, snacks, lunch, water. Couldn’t ask anything more from a mini-tour,” said the 21-year-old Southeast Asian Games gold medalist.
“Oh, not to mention that the range balls are new Callaway balls. Also there are pro-ams and skins games for extra money bonuses,” she added.
Amazing was the word that immediately came to mind when asked how she felt competing again.
“My last tournament prior these was six months ago. Feels awesome to have the adrenaline rush. It feels amazing to do what I’ve been working so hard for. On top of that, to turn professional,” she said.
Arevalo was unfazed by her modest start.
“Big, big learning experience for me. I only had two rounds under par out of five. Not even concerned with the scores,” she said.
Arevalo said she’s happy with the learning she gets from her coaches.
“Failing is part of the process. I’m proud of my reaction from bad outcomes and it’s going to stay that way,” she said. “I’m seeing a lot of maturity in my game and I am stoked with my professional career.”
Comparison with LPGA rookie Bianca Pagdanganan and JLPGA star Yuka Saso is unavoidable, but Arevalo doesn’t want to be dragged into it.
“I’m happy for my best friends doing really well. We are the future of women’s golf and I will never say or do anything to bring my best friends down. Women power brings everyone and each other nowhere but up,” she said.
“I always reach out to Bianca because I know it gets lonely being on tour especially because of COVID. Bianca is one of my closest friends and I am so happy for her,” Arevalo said.
“Yuka is really bad with her phone but I know we’re good friends,” she added.
Arevalo is grateful for the support from family and friends.
“Great team of coaches. Positive vibes. I removed all toxic people from my life ruining my career I am in a good place now,” she said.
Arevalo doesn’t believe that lack of tournaments affects motivation.
“Motivation never goes away if you know what you want,” she said. “I still worked my ass off during quarantine in Manila.”
At the gym, Arevalo said she works hard and often gets the attention.
“They called me Bryson,” she said, referring to US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau who bulked up during the long break. “Was so confused because I’m tiny.”
She said she has gained 10 yards with her irons. She now carries her 8-iron to 148 yards.
Arevalo is hoping that the LPGT gets the clearance to restart.
“I hope it gets approved ASAP because I’m coming from the US,” she said. “I wanna show up. Put on a show in the Philippine stage.”
Arevalo is also preparing for the LPGA Q-School where she hopes to join Pagdanganan, Ardina and Clariss Guce.
One of the upsides of being a touring pro, Arevalo said she gets to drive to and from the tournament venues.
In Mississippi, Arevalo said she got to drive a Jeep Cherokee.
“I asked for an eco sedan, but I got lucky, the rental car gave me a Jeep Cherokee. It was pretty cool,” she said.
“I’m a new driver,” she confessed. “Pedal to metal.”
That about sums up the game of one of the country’s brightest stars.
3-way tie at Irish Open
Jordan Smith and Aaron Rai produced superb first rounds of 65 to join early clubhouse leader Dean Burmester on five- under par at the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
Smith has been consistent since golf’s resumption following the global health crisis lockdown which halted the schedule for over four months, recording five top 40 finishes in eight events.
And that consistency translated over to County Antrim as the Englishman was one of only two players to go bogey free as he carded five birdies in a testing first round at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort, where just 22 players were in the red numbers.
Early starter Burmester recorded a sixth placed finish at the English Championship and a top 25 placing at the ISPS HANDA Wales Open and continued his fine form in Northern Ireland.
The South African raced to seven under after 12 holes as thoughts of only the second 59 in European Tour history came into the reckoning as he led by five shots.
However, a double bogey at 17th saw his advantage cut to three as he set the clubhouse lead at five under before he was joined by Smith and Rai.
Smith’s fellow Englishman Rai was only the second player to not blemish his card as he came home in 32 courtesy of four birdies on the back nine to make it a three way tie at the top late in the day.
“I am happy with today,” Smith said. “I need to go work on my driving a little bit and holing out but apart from that, very happy.”
Smith got his round underway at the second hole when he registered his first birdie before adding another at the eighth.
The 27-year-old picked up further shots at the tenth and 12th to sit one adrift of Burmester and when he rolled in his fifth birdie at the 16th, he was joint leader.
Smith found the rough with his tee shot at the 17th but produced a fine approach to reach the green before rolling his birdie putt short.
He had the chance to go into the solo lead at the par five last but was wayward off the tee once again, finding the thick stuff.
His approach to the green also flew right into more rough but hit a fine chip to 12 feet for birdie, only for his effort to pull up short by a matter of inches to stay at five under.
Burmester began his round with a par, which was followed by a hat-trick of birdies from the second to propel the South African into an already commanding early advantage at the top of the leaderboard.
He reached the turn in 30 thanks to a birdie at the seventh before the 2017 Tshwane Open winner started the back nine in positive fashion.
The 31-year-old picked up shots at the tenth, 11th and 12th to climb up to seven under, with his closest rivals some five shots adrift.
“For 16 holes, I played flawless golf pretty much,” Burmester said.
“I didn’t really miss a shot.”
“A couple of great up and downs kept the momentum going and then unfortunately on 17 I fell asleep over a three-footer but other than that, honestly I played great.”
Rai worked his way into his opening round and carded his solitary birdie on the front nine at the sixth.
However, he it was on the back nine when he found his range as he holed gains at the tenth, 12th, 14th and 16th to move alongside Smith and Burmester.
Straka rides on eagle to share lead
MIAMI (AFP) — Austrian Sepp Straka soared with an eagle and five birdies to join a four-way tie for the lead on seven-under 65 in the US PGA Tour’s Corales Puntacana Championship.
Tyler McCumber had six birdies and an eagle and got as low as eight-under on the picturesque par-72 course, but a bogey at his penultimate hole, the eighth, dropped him back into a share of the first-round lead.
He and Straka were joined by Scott Harrington and Hudson Swafford, with China’s Zhang Xinjun and American Joseph Bramlett a shot back on 66.
“Hitting the ball really well all day,” Straka, seeking a first US PGA Tour title, said of his round.
“The couple of times I missed the green I got up and down, chipped in once, so, really just kind of everything was falling into place today.”
Straka teed off on 10 and picked up four birdies in his first nine holes, the eagled the par-five fourth.
“Hit a pretty good drive in the fairway and had a good number for a five-wood in there,” he said of his eagle.
“Hit it about five feet and sunk the putt.”
The course yielded 93 sub-par rounds, but Straka said it still demanded patience.
“You can shoot a low round out here, but it’s got to be a consistent low round. You’ve got to let the birdies come to you.
“You’re going to hit a lot of fairways, fairways are pretty wide,” Straka added. “But you’re going to want to hit your irons good because the greens, you can miss it in some bad spots.”
Harrington said the island atmosphere made him more relaxed. He also has the confidence of knowing he shares the course record of 10-under 62, which he recorded in the second round of a Korn Ferry Tour event in 2016.
“I feel as kind of a longer player I can kind of let it rip a little bit,” Harrington said.
Ten players were two off the pace on 67 and another dozen were tied on 68. That group included American Kelly Kraft, who stormed home with two eagles in his last three holes. That included a hole in one at his final hole, the ninth.
Defending champion Graeme McDowell, meanwhile, got off to a quiet start, firing a two-under par 70 that included three
McDowell eyes dose of confidence
MIAMI (AFP) — Graeme McDowell is hoping a return to the Corales Puntacana resort, where he ended a near-four year title drought last year, will jumpstart his game.
“My game needs that little injection of confidence anyway,” McDowell admitted this week as he prepared to tee off Thursday in the US PGA Tour event in the Dominican Republic.
The 2010 US Open winner struggled mightily at the US Open at Winged Foot last week, missing the cut after shooting an 80 in the second round.
The 41-year-old expected a vastly different challenge this week.
“As opposed to the US Open last week, this is going to be about making some birdies,” McDowell said.
“Fifteen- or 20-under par to win down here.”
“It’s about taking advantage of the opportunities that this course gives you if you drive it well and get aggressive with your iron play.”
“And I really putted well here last year, so if I can kind of get the putter ramped back up, enjoy these greens again, I’ll hopefully have a good weekend.”
McDowell fired a three-under final round of 69 for a 19-under total and a one-shot win over American Chris Stroud and Canadian Mackenzie Hughes last year.
It was his first US PGA Tour title since the Mayakoba Classic in 2015.
“The win last year was pivotal for me and it really kicked me on into the sort of latter part of last year where I played pretty well,” McDowell said.
He won a European Tour event in Saudi Arabia to start the 2020 season and was playing well before Covid-19 brought the game to a halt.
McDowell admitted the lengthy break “derailed me a little bit.
“But that’s just one of those things,” he said. “It’s derailing a lot of people in a lot of ways all over the world, so I’m certainly not going to sit here and kind of be resentful.”
It’s been a different atmosphere as golf returned to action, with spectators largely banned in a bid to prevent any surge in coronavirus cases.
McDowell acknowledged it had been hard to adjust, and he was delighted that a limited number of spectators were to be allowed in designated hospitality areas this week.
“I’ve missed the old environment a little bit and perhaps this will give me a little bit of a taste of the old stuff again and maybe straighten me back out and maybe get me back on some leaderboards again,” he said.
Can Augusta cope with the ‘Incredible Bulk?’
HONG KONG (AFP) — Bryson DeChambeau dismantled one of golf’s most feared courses to win his maiden major title at the US Open, raising concerns about what he might do to Augusta when the Masters rolls around in November.
DeChambeau, bulked-up from a regime of weight training and protein shakes during the coronavirus lockdown, brutalised Winged Foot with a singular strategy that upset the purists and prompted soul-searching among the golfing establishment.
Tossing convention out of the window, the 27-year-old eschewed accuracy in favor of smashing his drives for pure distance — hitting just four of his last 21 fairways — and relying on his new-found strength to muscle recovery shots out of deep rough.
Together with rock-solid putting, the result was a six-shot triumph, with DeChambeau the only player to shoot below par in the final round on Sunday.
The fact that it came at a course famed for 1974’s “Massacre at Winged Foot” and the 2006 meltdowns of Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie — when Geoff Ogilvy won with a five-over-par total — underlined the feeling that this could be a game-changer.
“I don’t really know what to say because that’s just the complete opposite of what you think a US Open champion does,” said a flabbergasted Rory McIlroy, a four-time major winner.
DeChambeau, a physics major, has long prided himself on the analytical approach that has earned him the nickname “Mad Scientist.”
He’s known for cutting his irons and wedges to the same length, floating his balls in Epsom salt to discover their lighter and heavier sides, and even writing backwards and left-handed to improve his fine motor skills.
For the Masters, Dechambeau, dubbed the ‘Incredible Bulk’ since his physical transformation, is planning to add another 10 pounds (five kilos) of muscle and is considering using an outsized, 48-inch driver.
The danger for the sport’s hierarchy is that DeChambeau repeats his success at Augusta, which suits long hitters and has little rough, forcing them to change the rules or equipment to stop golf turning into a driving contest.
But DeChambeau warned: “It’s tough to rein in athleticism. We’re always going to be trying to get fitter, stronger, more athletic.”
“Tiger (Woods) inspired this whole generation to do this and we’re going to keep going after it. I don’t think it’s going to stop.”
Six of the worst
While DeChambeau was turning heads at Winged Foot, New Zealand’s Danny Lee was losing his.
After an increasingly irate six-putt on the final hole of his third round, Lee slammed his putter into his bag and hurled it into the turf, before withdrawing with a wrist injury.
“The most likely cause for a sore wrist would have been the 30-year-old smashing his putter into his bag as he stormed off the green,” quipped New Zealand’s Stuff website.
Lee’s quintuple bogey left him 13 over for the tournament — no disgrace on a course that has been the undoing of many a player — but it was his fit of pique that drew negative attention.
“Danny Lee is in danger of being permanently tagged with the label no professional sportsperson desires — quitter,” Stuff’s opinion piece added.
“Bad loser? Well, that’s been thrown at him too.”
To his credit, South Korean-born Lee issued an apology calling his actions “foolish and very unprofessional.”
“My frustration took over me and combined with injury I had to fight with it all week,” he said.
“It is still just an excuse. I shouldn’t have left like that.”
Women’s tennis world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty has been without her coach for most of the year due to Australia’s coronavirus restrictions, leaving her at something of a loose end.
Not one to mope around the house, the reigning French Open champion has been out on the golf course, where she showed her skills by winning the women’s title at the Greg Norman-designed Brookwater Golf Club near Brisbane.
“Is there anything you can’t do?” asked a social media user of Barty, who famously took a break from tennis to play cricket for Brisbane Heat in the 2015-16 Women’s Big Bash League.
Australian media said Barty had slashed her handicap from 10 to four while playing rounds with fellow Grand Slam winner Pat Rafter and her boyfriend Garry Kissick.
Last December, the multi-talented Aussie even upstaged 15-time major-winner Tiger Woods by finding the green at her first attempt in a demonstration event before the Presidents Cup in Melbourne.