Greg Chalmers in action today – image PGA of America

Australian Greg Chalmers has produced a third round of 66 at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor in Michigan and now has a share of the 54-hole lead with Ernie Els, the pair one shot ahead of Chris DiMarco and England’s Richard Bland.

Chalmers’s fellow Australian Richard Green is another shot back and alone in 5th place while Scott Hend is another shot back in a share of 6th place and only three shots from the lead.

Chalmers is in his first season on the PGA Tour Champions and this is his first major event at this level. He is playing his fifth PGA Tour Champions event, two of which he has finished inside the top ten.

Chalmers is a two-time Australian PGA and Australian Open Champion and won one event on the PGA Tour.

Chalmer’s round of 66 today was bettered only by Bernhard Langer’s 65 and it was enough for Chalmers to join Els in the lead and open the door for a significant win on the Champions Tour and open up permanent status there.

“It’s great. Yeah, look, this is the thing, I haven’t had this for so long,” said Chalmers. “This is the great thing about sort of Champions Tour golf. It feels like you’re part of a big event, which you are.

“So I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity. I need the challenge. I’m looking forward to see how I do tomorrow and how I play. See if I can embrace it with both hands and play some good golf.”

When asked how he might handle the pressure tomorrow after being so long away from this scenario Chalmers responded:

“Look, it’s relatively new me. Over the last few years I’ve been pretty much not dealing with that kind of stuff.

“I don’t know how much pressure is on me personally. I think there is a long way between now and when they hand the trophy to someone. There is a lot of golf that has to be played.

“You saw today how easy it was for people to fall down and back and up, so I’m not too concerned about that right now. I got to play good. Got to play some good golf. So I’m more focused on trying to do that.”

Green and Hend are within striking distance and for Hend he will be buoyed by the opportunity to win on his PGA Tour Champions debut and claim playing rights there.

Hend lost at the last hole of the New Zealand Open in March so has a game which is still reasonably competitive at the regular tour level but his length will prove a major benefit should he earn his right to play the PGA Tour Champions regularly.

Leaderboard

 

 


Leader Richard Bland studies the leaderboard during his round – image PGA of America

The KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Benton Harbor in Michigan has reached the halfway stage and several Australians are nicely placed as the second major of the year for the PGA Tour Champions heads into the weekend.

First-round leader Richard Green was unable to repeat his brilliant 64 on Thursday, adding a round of even par 71 today to be sharing 6th place and now five shots from England’s Richard Bland.

Michael Wright and Scott Hend are another shot back in a share of 11th place with Greg Chalmers at 5 under and sharing 13th.

Hend is playing his first PGA Tour Champions event while Wright, who is in his first year on the PGA Tour Champions, is playing his first PGA Tour Champions major.

Leaderboard


Richard Green in action during his round of 64 – image Ryan Lochhead PGA of America

Australia’s Richard Green has made a great start to the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor in Michigan, an opening round of 7 under 64 giving him a share of the lead with England’s LIV League golfer, Richard Bland.

Green, who is in his second season on the PGA Tour Champions, has yet to win but has shown a great level of consistency with numerous top tens and a near miss when beaten in a playoff late last year, but, in this second major of the year for the PGA Tour Champions, he has opened up the possibility of a breakthrough.

Green produced an eagle, six birdies and one bogey in his morning round on day one, making a fast start when 4 under through 5 holes. A bogey at the 6th was the only blemish of the day.

“It was an exceptionally good day,” said Green. “You know, it’s a very challenging golf course, and one that can really bite you at times.

“So the start of the day it was to go out there and treat it with as much respect as possible and play good golf shots, and I was doing that, which was nice. Got off to a great start.

“Made the opportunities when needed and scored on the difficult holes well. Yeah, just kept the round going.”

When asked about the state of his game ahead of this week Green responded; “It’s been okay. It’s obviously a work in progress all the time. Golf, you’re ebbing and flowing with form and your belief in what you’re capable of with everything in the bag.

“You know, I was just pleased at my preparation this week. It’s been really nice. I feel really good about my game. I feel everything that I’m using in the golf bag is what I’ve been using for most of this year and I’m feeling good with it, so it’s nice.”

Of the other Australasians in the field, Scott Hend, playing in his first PGA Tour Champions event, is at  3 under along with Mark Hensby, while PGA Tour Champions debutante, Cameron Percy and Greg Chalmers are the next best at 2 under par.

Leaderboard

 


Adam Scott – file image Australian Golf Media 

With just two weeks to go before finalisation of the US Open field, Adam Scott knows that to play the event for the 23rd consecutive occasion he needs to work his way back from outside the top 60 in the world ranking by June 10th.

He is also chasing a start in what would be his 92nd consecutive major championship if he is able to do so, a simply phenomenal record.

There are two other possibilities for the 43 year old, namely the Final Qualifying on June 3rd or relying on the generosity of the USGA to offer an exemption due to his standing in the game.

Scott now has three events remaining before the cut-off date to try and work his way back into the top 60, starting at this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, next week’s Canadian Open or the Memorial Tournament in Ohio ending on June 9th should he get an invite to that Signature event.

Scott has won at the Colonial Country Club previously when successful in 2014 following a brilliant weekend, but not having played there since 2018 he is no doubt in the event to assist his chances of playing at Pinehurst beginning June 13th.

“I can’t believe it’s been since 2018,” said Scott at his pre-event media conference this week. “But a new golf course this year, refreshed, maybe, is a better word than new, but a great golf course, a great venue on TOUR.

“With the improvement to the course I was very keen to come back, and it fit into the schedule nicely, which has been challenging it seems for me since 2018, but that’s how it sometimes goes. Hopefully, some of those great memories of 2014 come flooding back and inspire some good golf out of me this week.

“It was a great time in my career. I had just moved to world No. 1 the week prior and I hadn’t planned on playing the event, but I was world No. 1 by the smallest of margins and I felt like if I didn’t play I could lose the position.

“I thought, well, it’s been a long journey to get to world No. 1, it would be really fun to play as the world No. 1. So I decided to enter fairly last minute, and actually came in and got off to a pretty bad start that week, I shot 4-over my first nine and ended up winning the tournament. So, it was a great week to play as world No. 1 and I managed to hang on to that spot, at least that week anyway.”

Scott has had a solid year but has hardly set the world on fire and was frustrated when missing the cut at the PGA Championship last week.

“I had a disappointing last week. The state of my game had been pretty solid all around, but I struggled on the greens last week and I have struggled on the greens the two previous weeks before that.

“So that’s really held me back. I think my game is in better shape than results are showing. I know pretty much everyone who is not in the top 10 in the world is probably saying that, but that’s how I feel. A little like I opened with, I hope that some good karma from this golf course kind of inspires a few better things for me on the golf course this week.”

Scott has won all four of the regular tour events in Texas and suggested the similarities to Australian conditions might well be one of the reasons.

I’ve always felt that the state of Texas is most like Australia generally, from the trees to the golf courses are similar in a lot of ways. I think there’s always been a level of comfort and I have enjoyed success on the golf course here. It also makes it a great week every time I come back to play in Texas.”

Scott was asked about his role on the PGA Tour Policy Board and whether that had been any sort of distraction and a comparison was made with Rory McIlroy having been impacted by his time in the politics of the game.

“Maybe I need to struggle a little more like Rory on the golf course. I would like to struggle like he does. (Laughing). If it’s affecting his play, it’s hard to see. He’s played incredibly for a long, long time. Maybe he thought it held him back from some success.

“I don’t know, I think we are probably at different stages of our careers and I don’t think it has any impact on my play at all. I’m fully aware of where I need to put my time and at this point I have a little bit of time for being on the PGA TOUR board and I still think I have enough time to work on my game and other things in my life as well.

“So, but I understand everyone, if you asked me 10 years ago I probably wouldn’t have been willing to give that time at that point, and so I can understand maybe Rory found that challenging.”

Hend’s length should be of assistance – image Asian Tour 

PGA Tour Tour Champions is in Benton Harbor in Michigan this week where it plays its second major of the season, the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.

Included in this week’s field are 14 Australians and two New Zealanders with several gaining a rare opportunity to play such a significant event and for others the chance to experience a PGA Tour Champions major for the first of hopefully many.

Cameron Percy and Scott Hend will play a PGA Tour Champions event for the first occasion, Percy turning 50 recently after leading the qualifiers at the Tour School late in 2023 and they will be joined by Richard Green, Stuart Appleby, Rod Pampling, Mark Hensby, Greg Chalmers, John Senden, David McKenzie, Michael Wright, Stephen Allan, David Bransdon, Brad Burns, Mick Smith and New Zealanders Michael Campbell and Michael Long.

One notable omission from the field is the current leader of the Schwab Cup and two-time winner already this season Steve Alker. Alker, who won this event in 2022, is in the UK to attend his father-in-law’s funeral.

Hend and Percy will be interesting additions to the field and their reputation as long hitters during their regular tour careers suggests they will have some sort of advantage this week.

Hend went oh so close to winning the New Zealand Open in March and finished 8th at the recent Saudi Open. His performances in what will be his first PGA Tour Champions appearance especially given he has no status on that tour at this stage will be watched with interest.

Having turned 50 recently, Percy can now play regularly on the Champions Tour where he is expected to make his mark. He has not played an event anywhere this season but has produced a steady career on the PGA Tour without winning in 14 years as either a PGA Tour of Korn Ferry Tour member.

Stuart Appleby and Mark Hensby have both performed well this season, especially in recent events for Appleby including a runner-up finish two starts ago.

Hensby made a great start to this season and while his most recent form has not been quite as hot he has been consistent and has shown a capacity to play the big events well at this level including when 3rd at the US Senior Open in 2022.

Richard Green is another to be playing well in 2024 and is one of the more consistent players on the PGA Tour Champions since joining in early 2023.

Mick Smith is an Australian now based in Wisconsin and has earned his place in the field via performances in Club Professional events.

Tee Times

Jason Scrivener earns his second US Open start

Perth’s Jason Scrivener will join his fellow Australians Jason Day, Min Woo Lee and Cameron Smith along with New Zealander Ryan Fox in the field for the 2024 US Open at Pinehurst on June 13th but with Final Qualifying still to be played at a further ten locations across the USA in the coming weeks there is the possibility of more being added to that total

Day, Lee, Smith and Fox were all exempt from qualifying via their various performances in world golf over the past year, while Scrivener will play his second US Open courtesy of Final Qualifying at Walton Heath in England overnight.

Scrivener missed the cut at his only other appearance in the event in 2018 but by gaining one of the nine qualifying spots yesterday he is on his way to North Carolina.

Adam Scott is currently not exempt from playing his 23rd US Open in succession and has either to be inside the top 60 in the world by June 10th, final qualifying or rely on the USGA’s generosity to earn a place in the field.

Scott is currently in 62nd place in the world ranking, his missed cut at the PGA Championship costing him his chance of being in the field by now as he was in 56th place heading into Valhalla.

Current Exempt Players  

Xander Schauffele – rewarded for consistency – image PGA of America

Xander Schauffele has today broken through for his much anticipated first major, a final hole birdie at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky to defeat Bryson DeChambeau, after leading or sharing the lead after every round and emerging from a last-day shootout.

Developing a reputation as the hardly derogatory ‘best player in the game not to win a major’, Schauffele’s season had already been very impressive with eight top tens but while losing a lead in last week’s final round of the Wells Fargo tournament to Rory McIlroy could have served to deflate him, he chose to learn from what he had gone through.

This week he produced the lowest score ever recorded in a major, beating by one shot the major record previously shared by Brooks Koepka in the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive and Henrik Stenson in the 2016 British Open at Royal Troon.

The last nine holes became a battle between Schauffele, DeChambeau and Viktor Hovland, Schauffele leading by two as he headed to the 10th hole.

A bogey at the 10th after a risky fairway would from the bunker allowed both DeChambeau and Hovland to draw closer but it would take until the 18th hole before DeChambeau would draw level but twenty minutes later Schauffele would himself hole an 8-footer for birdie to take the title.

Schauffele had done well to successfully negotiate an awkward stance alongside the fairway bunker at the last to set up the birdie but his pitch to 8 feet left the result in doubt until the last putt was struck.

“I am very satisfied,” said Schauffele. “I’m tired. Once I sat down in scoring, I felt a little bit more tired. But just a whirlwind of emotions.

“I knew I had to birdie the last hole, looking up at the board. I was trying to squeak a birdie in there somehow just to have some kind of cushion. It was a hectic birdie, as well, but it was awesome. I kept telling myself, I need to earn this, I need to prove this to myself, and this is my time.

“I stayed very patient. I was looking up at the board. There’s been times when I tried to look away from it until the back nine, but today I was looking at it.

“I just wanted to be aware of everything. I wanted to know exactly where I stood. I wanted to know — address my feelings when they were happening. That bogey was — I felt like there was a chance I could hit it over the green there, and if I could go back, I would have probably bumped it and played it differently based on the lie, but to bounce back with two birdies was tremendous, and I just kept fighting.”

“I was actually kind of emotional after the putt lipped in. It’s been a while since I’ve won, and I really just — I kept saying it all week, I just need to stay in my lane. Man, was it hard to stay in my lane today, but I tried all day to just keep focus on what I’m trying to do and keep every hole ahead of me. Had some weird kind of breaks coming into the house, but it’s all good now.”

The Australasian challenge fizzled out somewhat over the weekend with Min Woo Lee’s final round of 67 moving him to 26th and the leading Australasian.

RESULTS

 

 


Hannah Green – two wins and now a runner-up finish in 2024

Australians Hannah Green and Gabi Ruffels have finished second and tied 3rd respectively in this week’s LPGA Tour event in New Jersey, finishing so close to the game’s hottest player right now, Nelly Korda, an indication of just where the games of Green and Ruffels stand.

Green, already a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour in 2024, began today’s final round two shots behind Korda but by the turn they were tied at 11 under before a battle royale developed over the closing nine holes.

In the end, it was a bogey after missing the green at the 72nd hole which would cost Green her third win of the season but she is the closest player to the ridiculously talented Korda on this year’s standings, Green adding another US$277,000 to her already significant earnings in 2024.

Green has now earned US$1.17 million in 2024 and takes her LPGA Tour career earnings to US$5.7 million.

For Ruffels, it was yet another indication of her climb in women’s professional golf after an outstanding amateur career, including a win and runner-up finish at the US Amateur Championship.

Ruffels dominated the secondary Epson Tour last year to gain access to the LPGA Tour for 2024 and given she missed out on entering the Q School eighteen months ago and was forced back to the Epson Tour may well have been a blessing in disguise.

That Ruffels has recorded three third place finishes in her rookie season and leads the standings in the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year title, earning close to US$600,000 in the process.

I have little doubt that Ruffels will be winning LPGA Tour events before too long and major championships at that, the daughter of Australian tennis stars Ray Ruffels and Anna Maria Fernandez, capitalising on her amazing sporting genes with classy skills of her own.

But what can we say about Korda? Her win 6th win of the season and the 14th of her career today takes her earnings in 2024 to beyond US$3 million and there is every indication that there is a lot more to come especially with the level of prizemoney in upcoming events.

Oh, my gosh, six,” said Korda referring to her 6th win on 2024. “I can’t even really gather myself right now with that, the head to head that Hannah and I had pretty much all day. Wasn’t my best stuff out there today, but fought really hard on the back nine.

“It was just amazing to share the stage with Hannah. I consider her a pretty good friend out here and it was a lot of fun going head-to-head against her.”

Minjee Lee was the next best of the Australian in a share of 21st place.

Leaderboard


Collin Morikawa en route to a share of the 54 hole lead – image PGA of America

With just one round remaining at the 2024 PGA Championship in Louisville Kentucky, 15 players are within five shots of the lead held by Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele and with only five of those previous major championship winners, Championship Sunday at the Valhalla Golf Club promises not only a shootout but the possible emergence of a new major champion.

Morikawa and Schaufelle at 15 under par lead by one over Sahith Theegala with another shot back to Shane Lowry, Bryson DeChambeau and Victor Hovland, Schauffele taking a share of the lead into the final round, one week after leading into day four at the Well Fargo Championship.

It has been a week of low scoring thus far. 15 players will begin tomorrow’s final round at -10 or better. Prior to this week, the most players that were double digits under par through 54 holes of a major was 7.

Both Shane Lowry and Xander Schauffele have this week become the 4th and 5th players to record the equal lowest rounds in major championship golf , Schauffele’s 62 on Thursday and Lowry’s 62 today having them join Ricky Fowler and Branden Grace in that regard. Schauffele had also recorded a 62 at last year’s US Open.

“I mean, It was easy going there the first round,” said Schauffele. “Everything felt super easy reflecting on putting issues on Friday and today.

“Felt like I’ve had to work for a lot of my birdies the last two days. Haven’t been able to make many putts. I feel like I’m still hitting the ball — I’ve got to look at the stats but feel like I’m hitting the ball pretty nice. If I can just get the putter going a little bit, it should free me up.

“I mean, it’s going to come down to a lot more than that but it kind of feels that way with the greens being receptive and the fairways being receptive. Hopefully it being a little bit — even drier, the ball might roll a little bit more.”

Morikawa already had two major titles, including this one and the Open Championship.

“I’m going to tap in just kind of that mental state I’ve been in, not only those two, but in other tournaments I’ve played well in,” said Morikawa. “I think the goal for me tonight before my tee time is just to be as mentally sharp by that first hole.

“I think looking back at a month ago at Augusta, I felt sharp in everything, but I feel like I could have had a little bit of self-talk before I went out on that first tee and really just not got ahead of myself. Not that I did, but two holes really cost me back there.

“I learned a lot over this past month, over these past two years, over the past five years of being a pro, and we’re going to really just — going to have a talk with myself.

“I normally just kind of go to sleep, eat my dinner, eat my breakfast, wake up and play golf. I think everything that I’ve gone through over the past couple years, I’m ready for these moments. A month ago, I felt like I was ready. Made a couple errors. Tomorrow hopefully we’re not.”

DeChambeau (3rd) and Dean Burmester (9th) are flying the flag for LIV Golf this week, DeChambeau’s chip in for eagle at the last today leaving him right in the firing line for a second major to go with his 2020 US Open victory.

“Exhilarating. I haven’t felt like that in a long time,” said DeChambeau. “The only other time I felt like it was when I shot 58 at Greenbrier. That was pretty exciting there. I was pretty pumped.

“I’ve got a good chance. I’m not executing to the level that I know I can, but playing well enough to give myself a chance, obviously.

“Got to keep strategizing around this golf course and putting the golf ball in the right areas and miss it in the right place and hit a bunch of greens out here. It’s iron play. The key is iron play this week and haven’t done my best but got up-and-down nicely.”

The leading Australian is Lucas Herbert who is currently in a share of 16th place and six shots from the lead.

Jason Day is next best in 29th place at 6 under and nine behind the leading pair.

Leaderboard


Lucas Herbert leading the Australians – in action this week – image PGA of America

 

 

 

The horseshoe-shaped green at the 18th hole at Valhalla – image PGA of America 

While the PGA Championship has often been seen as the poorer cousin of the four major championships, there is little doubt of the anticipation building for the 2024 version.

Despite the event typically attracting the strongest of the four major championship fields, the PGA Championship has been overshadowed through much of its history. The Masters has the luxury of being played at the same venue each year and therefore gaining familiarity with golf fans and the US Open and Open Championship offer fields open to all provided they meet the qualifying criteria and that they are national championships of the two major regions in the game.

The scheduling of the PGA Championship as the last major of the year until recent times, has also served to reduce its standing amongst the majors but in 2024 there are so many storylines which promise to make the fight for the Wannamker Trophy one of the more interesting for some time.

Scottie Scheffler returns to tournament golf after taking a month off following his win at the RBC Heritage. The arrival of his first born child during that period along with a month away from tournament golf will provide reasonable grounds for concern as to his capacity to challenge for a third major title.

It might be however that the break and the joy of fatherhood could serve to take him to an even higher level but there is that element of doubt, although Scheffler is comfortable about the time away.

“I was able to practice and play plenty at home,”said Scheffler. “Obviously the last week was a bit different with our son coming. But yeah, I would say three weeks is probably a bit of a longer break than I would usually take. I’m sure on a normal year I probably would have been playing at the Nelson.

“But yeah, definitely rested going into this week for sure. I don’t really feel like any rust has accumulated. I was able to practice and play a lot at home. I’m able to do stuff at home to simulate tournament golf, especially on the greens, competing and gambling with my buddies, I don’t really want to lose to them, either, so I was able to simulate a little bit of competition at home.”

Rory McIlroy looks to win his first major since the last of his previous four at this venue in 2014 so he has winning form at this week’s venue, is in oustanding form at present  and appears to be back playing at his free-flowing best.

A bombshell was announced today however when it was disclosed that McIlroy has filed for divorce from his wife Erica.

Clearly this is not an overnight thing and has been in the wind for some time. So the issues surrounding the divorce were also in place during last week’s Wells Fargo Championship which McIlroy won with ridiculous authority and ease, but the 35-year-old would not be human if the public disclosure of his marital troubles did not impact him in some manner.

Brooks Koepka is chasing a 6th major championship title and, amazingly, a 4th PGA Championship, his capacity to lift for the biggest events a hallmark of his career. Koepka won at his most recent start in a LIV Golf event in Singapore and so brings form and a love of the biggest stage to Valhalla and the defending champion cannot be counted out despite the disappointment of an ordinary Masters in April.

Xander Schauffele has recorded nine top tens this season and seems to put himself in contention every week without winning. He was unable to hold off the challenge of McIlroy last week but he was well clear in second place. He has yet to win a major but given his level of consistency then surely his time must come.

Of the leading Australians, Cam Smith has recorded only one top ten (9th) in six starts at the PGA Championship but he has played well on LIV this year including when runner-up at the recent event in Singapore and did finish 6th at the Masters so his chances can’t be dismissed.

“Everything feels good,” said Smith. “Game feels great. Feel like it’s just been improving this whole year basically and, yeah, I’m pumped and ready for this week. I’ve only managed to play the first nine so far, we’ve got a little weather here today, so I’ll go see as much of the course as I can today. It will be good. The course is great, it’s in great shape and it’s tough.”

Jason Day is a winner and runner-up at the PGA Championship and is playing well at present as his 4th place finish in Charlotte last week would suggest.

Tee Times