Sunday, June 4, 2023

Connors retains PGA Championship lead as Scheffler crashes out

The American, ranked second in the world, had started the day at the top of the table alongside Connors and Norwegian Viktor Hovland, but stumbled with four bogeys on the first nine holes to drop him to provisional sixth place.

Scheffler, winner of the 2021 Augusta Masters, was one of the players who suffered the most from the hellish conditions at the Oak Hill course in Rochester (New York State), which were affected by heavy rain and wind since morning.

Fewer than a dozen golfers managed to break par in the round. Not even Spaniard John Rahm, whose hopes of a comeback soon sank under the Oak Hill deluge, a terrifying scenario in any weather scenario.

Rain made driving difficult out of the dense ‘rough’ and slowed down the ‘greens’ despite organizers’ efforts to reduce moisture on the course.

“It’s very difficult to keep everything dry,” said American Jordan Spieth, a three-time Major winner. “The ball can go anywhere. You have to be very accurate outside the tee and the rain makes it more difficult to be accurate.”

Of the three leaders at the start of the day, Corey Connors was the one who first adapted best to these conditions.

The Canadian, No. 29 on the PGA and with two titles in his career, was extremely solid, adding a birdie and not bogeying his first nine holes.

That result gave him a partial lead with a cumulative score of six under par, followed by Hovland and Englishman Justin Rose, who were at -4 after completing nine and 12 holes, respectively.

Next came Americans Brooks Koepka (-3) and Bryson DeChambeau (-2), two figures on LIV Golf, the enemy circuit of the PGA and financed by Saudi Arabia.

Conner is attempting to join fellow Canadian Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters winner, as the only Canadian male golfers to hoist a Grand Slam trophy.

Hopeless mercy

Jon Rahm, for his part, was left without fighting for a second consecutive Grand Slam trophy after his brand new victory in April at the Augusta Masters.

The Spaniard, weighed down by his disastrous opening day on Thursday, entered Saturday nine shots behind the leaders, so he needed a comeback that only two players have been able to achieve in this event.

The world number one has shown he knows how to push through the toughest of moments but he was once again caught in a trap at Oak Hill on Saturday, where he narrowly missed the cut on Friday.

The Spaniard faltered with two early bogeys as soon as he started, leaving him with painful travel for the rest of the day.

The first half of the course ended with three bogeys and only one birdie. After a poor shot on the fifth hole, Rahm vented his frustration by smashing the microphone on the grass with his club.

In the second half, he was able to find his rhythm and carded three birdies in the last six holes to sign a card of 72 strokes, two over par.

Rahm was 44th with 216 hits (+6) and had little choice but to become the first Spaniard to capture the title.

“I think the first hour and a half, where you wait for (the rain) to stop and you don’t know what’s going to happen, can be the toughest. After that, you can adjust a little bit,” Rahm said. A Masters which prevailed in April also went through water, in which several days of rain were interrupted.

Already sheltered at the club, Rahm watches with relief Scheffler’s collapse, which threatens to unseat him as world number one if he wins on Sunday.

On his part, Chile’s Mito Pereira, the only Latin American player in contention this weekend, fell from 19th to 35th after 16 holes in which he made four bogeys and no birdies for a +5 total.

Last year, Pereira was the big sensation of the event, leading until the dramatic last hole of the final round, in which he fell with a double bogey and fell one step away from becoming the first Latin American champion.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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