Highlights Tours

The Masters Tournament 2024: Jon Rahm struggles to find “swing” in third round

Jon Rahm faced a demanding third round this saturday at The Masters Tournament 2024. Despite a steady start with pars on the first six holes he experienced increasing difficulties, dimming hopes of defending his title.

Steady start for John Rahm in third round at the Masters Tournament 2024

The round began promising for Rahm, who completed the first six holes at consistent par. However, with the seventh hole, the challenges began and he recorded a bogey on a par-4. Rahm concluded the front nine with a 37 (+1), marking a deterioration from par.

Recovery on the Back Nine with Challenges

On the back nine, Rahm managed to score the opposite scorecard and play pars until the 16th hole. A glimmer of hope was a birdie on the seventeenth hole, followed by a concluding par on the eighteenth. These led to a score of 35 (-1) for the back nine, helping him to finish the day with an overall score of 72 (E).

Jon Rahm on Challenging Conditions and Missed Opportunities

Playing conditions were a central topic in the interview with Jon Rahm. ” There is still a couple spots where if it gusted still some heavy winds. Obviously a little bit easier, but the golf course is quite firm and fast also, so that’s always going to make things a little more interesting.,” Rahm describes the challenges of the course. When asked about his progress of the week, he commented on his performance of the second round on friday. “Yesterday was terrible. Today I kept in in play off the tee, which is going to do a lot.”

“Gave myself plenty of chances; just didn’t make them,” he shared in frustration, but commented on a few highlights of the day. “Luckily made the one on 17 to have the only birdie of the day, and the one par putt on 6. Besides that, it was just seeing a couple fall in. I had a few really good chances on 3, 4, and 5. 8. Couple others. 12, 13, 14, just — 15, none of them wanted to go in.”

Rahm also expressed his thoughts about his progress during the last couple of rounds of the Masters Tournament 2024: “Well, it’s — those first two days I think I said it yesterday, it’s just too hard of conditions to not have your swing. Being a little lost and not being under control of what was going on makes it so much harder.”

Highlights Tours

The Masters Tournament 2024: Jon Rahm Lags Behind the Leaders

Last year’s winner Jon Rahm is one of the top favorites for The Masters Tournament 2024, but the Spaniard struggled with the conditions on the first day. Rahm made a few mistakes on the back nine in particular.

Jon Rahm over par after the first round at The Masters Tournament 2024

After the start of the first day had already been postponed by more than two hours due to a thunderstorm, the players had to contend with the wind despite the sunshine. Jon Rahm was no exception.

The Spaniard got off to a good start and recorded his first birdie on hole 3, but fell back to even par straight away. Nevertheless, Rahm played his way to two under par on the first half of the course until the problems began. On the second half of the course, the wind had become stronger and stronger and Rahm had to record another bogey on the par-4 10th. After losing another shot on the 14th, Rahm briefly gained another stroke before having to record a final bogey on the 18th. At one over par, Rahm is already a few shots behind the leader Bryson DeChambeau, who leads the field at seven under par.

Jon Rahm: “It’s a difficult golf course”

In his post-round interview, Jon Rahm reflected on his first round as the reigning Masters champion, acknowledging the challenges of Augusta National. “It’s a difficult golf course. That’s all I can say. It’s not easy,” he remarked. “You’re not really having the luxury out there of being able to miss shots, especially tee shots.” Rahm expressed disappointment with his performance on the back nine, admitting, “Unfortunately on that back nine I missed a few too many shots. Never really in a good position to give myself the best chance for birdies and ended up with what could have been a little bit better of a score. It’s just too bad. Bad swings are bad swings, but I think 4 and 17 could have been avoided. Those two three-putts could have been avoided.”

When asked about his surprise at the low scores, Rahm’s response was mixed. “Yes and no,” he said. “There’s always somebody who seems to come out on Thursday and shoot 7-under no matter the conditions.”


Martin Slumbers to step down from The R&A by the end of 2024

Martin Slumbers will step down from his role as CEO of the R&A and Secretary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews at the end of 2024. Mr Slumbers, 63, brought his extensive global business experience and a passion for golf to the organisation. He has led The R&A as the global governing body of golf around the world (outside the US and Mexico) and as Secretary of the iconic golf club, which dates from 1754, he has supported its committees in serving its international membership.

Slumbers’ eventful last year and his legacy

Martin Slumbers will oversee The 152nd Open at Royal Troon, the return of the AIG Women’s Open to St Andrews and the 43rd Curtis Cup match at Sunningdale before relinquishing his role by the end of the year.

Niall Farquharson, Chairman of The R&A said, “In Martin, we have been fortunate to have a CEO who has steered the organisation through a period of growth and enhanced the profile and reputation of our sport to make it more accessible, appealing and inclusive.  Through his stature and influence in the world of golf and sport more widely and in growing the proceeds of The Open to invest back into the game, he has been true to The R&A’s purpose of golf thriving 50 years from now and has shown transformational leadership.  He speaks often of reflecting history in a modern way and that will be his legacy to The R&A and to the Club.”

Martin Slumbers said, “It has been a privilege to serve golf at the highest level. It is a role that I have been proud to carry out on behalf of The R&A’s employees, the members of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club and all our global partners. In any career, there is a time to allow the next generation to have its turn. I am grateful to have had the honour, for nearly a decade, to have been the custodian of all that The R&A and the game of golf more broadly represents.“

During his tenure, Mr Slumbers has led a modernisation of The R&A’s activities, which included the merger with the Ladies’ Golf Union and its subsequent integration to enable The R&A to represent golf for men, women, boys and girls at the elite level.

In 2018, as part of his strategic approach to The R&A’s activities, its first Playbook was developed, explaining the purpose of the modern R&A: ‘To make golf open, accessible and inclusive and ensure it is thriving 50 years from now’. This level of clarity has led The R&A to double its financial commitment to golf, with greater emphasis on women and girls; establish a strategic business-driven approach to golf development; and proactively seek to improve the perception of golf as good for you, good for society and good for the environment.

He had oversight of the 2019 modernisation of the Rules of Golf, the roll-out of the World Handicap System in 2020 and the Distance Insights process, the outcome of which was announced in December 2023. He has served on the boards of the Official World Golf Ranking, the International Golf Federation and the LET.

A paradigm shift in the approach to the commercial affairs of The R&A, primarily at The Open, and the level of expertise in the executive team has enabled The R&A to substantially increase its investment into amateur golf around the world and, with partners, has enabled the AIG Women’s Open to grow into a world class championship.

In 2023, Mr Slumbers delivered a four-year project to create the ground-breaking new golf facility, Golf It!, in Glasgow. This family-centred facility based in the community creates an opportunity for more people to enjoy the unbound joy of golf and for members of the local community to gain work, volunteering and training opportunities. 2023 also saw the launch of the G4D Open for the world’s most talented golfers with disabilities and in 2024 a new Africa Amateur Championship will join elite amateur events in Asia-Pacific and Latin America. These include the Women’s Amateur Asia Pacific championship and the Women’s Amateur Latin America championship, both introduced by Mr Slumbers.

Text by R&A Media


Lydia Ko: Despite mom’s insult, the former prodigy is better than ever at 25

Lydia Ko will probably have to put up a new wardrobe at home in Orlando – with all the trophies she brings home from the CME Group Tour Championship: the glass globe for winning the LPGA final tournament, the silver bowl of the Vare Trophy, the “Player of the Year” awards and everything else the 25-year-old was presented with at the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples. “The winner takes it all,” ABBA once warbled. But despite the record check for two million dollars and a total of 4,364,403 dollars for three victories and a total of seven top-five finishes since the Amundi Evian Championship in July, the most successful prize money season of all time didn’t work out. Lorena Ochoa was “better” by $591 in 2007.

“She’s made peace with herself”

But money, as we all know, isn’t everything. Especially when the “main prize” is standing on the edge of the 18th green: Ko’s fiancé Jun Chung. “He makes me smile, motivates and inspires me to become a better person and a better player,” says the New Zealander. “Since she met him, she has made peace with herself,” confirms her sister Sura.

Lydia Ko and Jun Chung have been a couple for almost two years, writing letters to each other for six months until the Corona pandemic allowed the first real date. Meanwhile, Chung, who lives in San Francisco, is the son of a Hyundai manager, works in the finance department of the Korean car company and first had to Google his new pen pal’s golf career, had taken up golf himself. On December 30, the two will marry in Kos and Chung’s native Seoul.

But after that, not much will change, says Chung, who likes to stay out of the camera’s focus: “She’ll keep playing. I don’t want to get involved in that. I want ‘Lyds’ to give all she can in the time she has ahead of her at this top level.” In turn, she says, “Since I’ve been with him, I want to make better use of the time I have to work on my game. To then be able to really enjoy the time off. I feel like that helps me train better and focus more.”

Three “meager” years already count as a crisis there

Time is the key word in every sense of the word for change, for the development of exceptional golfer Lydia Ko, who began as a teenage sensation, won her first professional tournament at 14, became the youngest tour winner in LPGA history at 15 years, four months and two days at the Canadian Open in August 2012, was number one in the world amateur rankings for 130 weeks and won her first professional tournament at the age of 18. Before the age of 20, she had already won two majors and the silver medal in golf’s Olympic comeback, and now has 19 LPGA victories to her name.

With such a golfing career, three years, the period between July 2016 and April 2021, with only one tournament title and a drop to 46th in the world rankings, can seem like a sporting crisis: “When you’re not playing so well, you have these weaker moments that feel so long. All too often, she has linked her existence exclusively to the numbers on the scorecard, identifying herself by her results on the golf course, Ko admits self-critically and unapologetically.

Interviewer rendered speechless

As bluntly as she spoke in June about her menstrual cramps and their effects on her back muscles (“It’s that times of the month”) after asking for medical help during the round – which literally left the interviewer from the “Golf Channel” speechless.

Equally candid, she says Jun Chung has given her “a new outlook on golf and life”: “How he perceives me doesn’t depend on my performance on the course.” And that’s precisely why “above all, I really wanted to win the BMW Ladies Championship last month in both our motherland, South Korea, with him by my side.” Mission accomplished. If Rosamunde Pilcher had written this plot, the whole world would have called it kitsch.

“You played better when you were 15”

So be it. From Ko’s point of view, the balance in her life has never been better. Without the period of the so-called form crisis, “I probably wouldn’t have the attitude I have today,” she says after her first season of multiple wins since 2016. “I feel like I matured a lot during that time.” And then isn’t fazed by a “You played better when you were 15” comment from her mother Tina: “What am I supposed to do with that information?” After nine years on the tour, you act differently, you’re simply more experienced, more familiar with the processes and conditions.

“Experience is the reason why some players play successfully on the tour for 15, 20 years. They hit their balls and know what’s going to happen. That comes naturally over time. Experience is like having a 15th club in the bag.”

Lydia Ko

On and off the court – starting with training on “more different types of grass than you can name in the same breath,” grins the new world number two behind Nelly Korda. “I used to play up liberated because I was young and clueless. Today I’m freer because I’ve learned to take things as they come and deal with them.”

Soon to be youngest Hall of Fame member

No question, the former child prodigy has grown up. And will probably soon become even the youngest member “ever” in the LPGA Hall of Fame. Until now, or since 2016, this privilege has gone to Inbee Park, who had to turn 27 to become a member. Ko, meanwhile, is only two points short.


LIV Golf Invitational Series: Two pros lose sponsor UPS

The PGA Championship in Oklahoma at Southern Hills Golf Club had a very interesting fringe event on the first day. Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood were spotted on the course and during the first round without their sponsor UPS on their shirts, the reason could be the LIV Golf Invitational Series. Westwood, who has been with UPS for 14 years, commented, “I consider myself lucky to have been with UPS for 14 years – such a great company.”

LIV Golf Invitational Series the reason for the end of the collaboration?

According to UPS, this decision is all about business. But when you consider the fact that UPS is also the Ryder Cup’s logistics partner, the split could very well have to do with the two pros’ aspirations for their future. Both Westwood and Oosthuizen have been positive about the LIV Golf Invitational Series and plan to participate in the inaugural event in London. As the Ryder Cup’s logistics partner, that might not be compatible for UPS. Especially since it is planned that all players who want to participate in the events will no longer be part of a Ryder Cup.

The LIV Golf Invitational Series has been at the top of the headlines for weeks and is the number one topic of conversation in the golf circuit. Whether it’s the memorable statements made by CEO Greg Norman about the murder of Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia, or that Saudi Arabia is sportswashing with these events, the new tour is facing harsh criticism. It remains exciting to see what further impact this new tour will have on the traditional tours, the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour.


PGA Tour: PGA chief in talks with Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson and the PGA Tour are in a difficult situation. The American has entered both the PGA Championship to defend his title and the first event of the LIV Golf Invitational Series. In addition, the conflict with the Tour has not yet been finally clarified and pronounced. In a podcast, the head of the PGA of America, which is hosting the second major, said he is in talks with Phil Mickelson. It is not yet clear whether Mickelson will play in the PGA Championship.

Talks have been going on for weeks

Seth Waugh, the head of the PGA, speaking to the podcast, said that there have been talks with Mickelson since the fall and also recently. If Waugh has his way, it’s not yet clear which of the tournaments Mickelson will choose. “Mickelson is trying to figure out when the right time is for him,” adding, “I think the game is also trying to figure out the right time for him. How long is long enough? And is he mentally and physically ready for it?”

The marketing company Sportfive is also not so sure whether the 51-year-old will even compete in one of the two tournaments. According to their information, Mickelson is leaving all his options open. However, the fact that Mickelson was recently seen on the golf course in California again suggests that he will soon be returning to professional golf. Seth Waugh also sees things positively but finds the whole situation extremely unfortunate: “The whole thing (Mickelson’s incident) is just sad,” adding, “It’s sad for Phil, it’s sad for the game. He’s been great for the game for a long time and I believe in making amends and I believe he can do it”


How far do amateur golfers hit their ball?

For years there has been discussion on the men’s professional tours about whether pros can hit the ball too far, and what effect that has on amateurs and on golf courses. A small study by a golf portal together with ShotScope show how far the amateur can hit his drive in all handicap classes, the comparison to the pros is enormous.

90 meters between professional and 25 handicap

The statistics show the average drive length for various handicap ranges. The scratch golfers among the amateurs hit the ball the farthest. They manage a solid 234 meters on average. The higher the handicap, the shorter the drives among amateurs. A handicap of 10 brings the ball into play at around 206 meters, but from handicaps of 15 and above, the distance of the tee shot drops well below 200 meters.

If you compare a player with a handicap of 25 with a tour pro, the difference is really serious: While the amateur hits the ball 172 meters with the driver, the average player on the PGA Tour drives 267 meters down the fairway. That’s more than 90 meters, and in our sport, of course, it’s worlds apart.

Even the comparison between scratch golfer and tour player is huge at this level. When the tour player hits 30 meters further than the scratch golfer the advantage is so great that once again you have to raise the question of whether the normal amateur can even grasp how the tour pro plays. Golf courses also face this problem. Many of the old courses, for example the Old Course at St. Andrews, are now actually too short for the pros. On the other hand, many of the newer courses are built to the length of the pros. The result is courses that are too long for the average golfer.

How to decrease the distances?

The fact is that many people are thrilled when Rory McIlroy or Bryson DeChambeau send the ball more than 300 meters down the fairway. But there is, firstly, an ever-growing faction that is not so happy about the whole thing. In addition, the R&A and USGA have to ask themselves how far they can and want to go with this game. The tours hit the ball further in each new decade than in the previous one, but this trend does not exist with the amateurs.

The first concepts on this subject are already being discussed. One idea, for example, is a flight-reduced ball for the pros. But even if one is convinced of the idea at the first moment, even such a simple solution brings with it a huge rat’s tail of problems. How does this ball behave? When will the amateur who wants to become a professional switch to this ball so as not to be at a disadvantage compared to those who have played with it for years in the future? To what extent do such ideas change the buying behavior of the broader golf community?

Golf’s elites must ask themselves these questions, and at some point there must be an answer to these questions. After all, courses can’t continue to grow in all directions, and the discrepancy between amateur and professional will eventually be so great that perhaps a broad mass will feel disconnected from professional golf. And nobody really wants that. The first regulations on drivers have already been issued by the organizations, but there is still a lot of work to be done.


PGA Tour: Cameron Smith press conference after Players Championship win

After his Players Championship victory Cameron Smith answered the journalists’ questions at the following press conference. He spoke about the significance of the victory for him and what influence his family had on it.

STEWART MOORE: Cam Smith, 2022 PLAYERS champion. Thank you for joining us here in the interview room. Quite a long week here at TPC Sawgrass and certainly a roller coaster of a final round for you today.

Maybe just some opening comments on the victory and thoughts on the week.

CAMERON SMITH: Yeah, it was obviously a long week. Yeah, today I think I just kind of held in there today. Lots of birdies, kept staying aggressive, kept trying to make birdies, and went through a little bit of a lull there in the middle, I guess.

And yeah, just bounced back really nice and proud of the way I hung in there.

Q. What was your heart doing when the ball was in the air going towards the flag at 17? What was your heart doing when the ball was going towards the water on 18? And could you explain hitting driver on 18.

CAMERON SMITH: I mean, on 17 I hit a really good shot. The wind didn’t quite hit it as much as what I thought it was going to. Kind of left it alone there for a long time and just kind of helped me out there at the end.

I’d be lying if I said I was aiming there. I was probably aiming 10 feet left of that. But still wanted to stay aggressive, still wanted to make birdie.

18, just a hole for me that doesn’t really suit my eye. I like to work the ball left to right off the tee. That’s where I feel comfortable, and I feel as though I can’t hit that shot down there. Just haven’t quite figured that hole out.

Driver, just because I just wanted to get it down there as far as I could basically. If it did turn over, I was going to have a short shot in, and it just didn’t quite turn over.

Q. The punch-out, did you think it was going to get to the water when you hit it?

CAMERON SMITH: No, I thought the shot was actually going to come out quite soft because it was in amongst some pine straw, and it actually come out really nice.

Definitely I was trying to hit it probably 30 yards less of that. I just thought it was going to come out tumbling and just roll out on to the fairway. Yeah, but just kind of come out nice, and it was unfortunate, but held it together. And great up-and-down.

Q. I’m assuming you last saw your family after Presidents Cup.


Q. You’ve talked outside so much about chill time this week, hang time, golf kind of a second priority. Do you think that helped you in terms of expectations, or do you even have any expectations at any event?

CAMERON SMITH: I’ve never been one to expect much of myself. My expectations are I wake up, go to the gym, practice as hard as I can for a couple hours, and then go and have a good time. That’s it basically every day.

My expectation is to prepare well and then kind of let everything fall into place from there.

Q. How do you think seeing them this week helped or didn’t?

CAMERON SMITH: Yeah, I’m not sure if it did or not. It was nice having some company at home, I guess, in the rain delays. Last week we spent a lot of time just kind of hanging out, showing them around Jacksonville.

They obviously knew I had to play this week so they weren’t really expecting much, but it’s nice to come out here and play well for them.

Q. You mentioned staying aggressive throughout the round; was that an emphasis you had coming into today, or what went into your thinking of keeping the pedal on the metal throughout the day?

CAMERON SMITH: I think I just knew that the golf course was going to kind of let up a few — there was a few pin spots out there that were very gettable, and being the way that the course played with all the rain, just soft and sticky, I just knew I had to make plenty of birdies.

I was a few behind, I think, going into the start of the round, and just needed to get after it basically.

Q. In Atlanta you told us that you don’t know what you would do with $15 million. What are you going to do with $3.6 million?

CAMERON SMITH: Yeah, I don’t know. (Chuckling.)

I really don’t. I don’t have an answer for that. It hasn’t sunk in.

That’s a lot of money. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it.

Q. Kind of a nerdy question, but the tee shot on 16, is it similar to how you guys play the tee shot on 13 at Augusta National now?

CAMERON SMITH: Yeah, similar. I think you’re trying to work it maybe a little bit more on 13 at Augusta. I would typically hit 3-wood off 13, as well.

Like I was saying before, I typically like to move my driver left to right, and that hole kind of sits awkward for me, as well.

It’s very similar, but probably just a different club.

Q. Aside from the 10 birdies that you made today, could you talk also about the right-to-left par putts that you made on 14 and 15 and how nervy those putts were because of the break?

CAMERON SMITH: Yeah, the putt on 14 is not really a putt you expect to make, to be honest. You’re just trying to hit a good putt, and if it goes in, it goes in. That one had a lot of break. It was obviously a bit longer.

The one on 15 I felt really comfortable over the top of. It was probably only eight or nine feet, and the putter felt good all day, so felt really comfy over that one.

Q. After you went in the water on 18, what you did do to calm yourself down? Or did you even feel like you needed to calm down at all?

CAMERON SMITH: Yeah, I was obviously very frustrated at myself. For somewhat of an easy chip shot, probably the easiest shot I had all day, to hit it in the water was quite frustrating.

But yeah, just kind of regrouped. I knew I had to get up-and-down to really close it out.

Q. Which one of the pars on 14, 15, 16 was the most difficult?

CAMERON SMITH: I think 16. It was a horrendous drive. Had a chip-out and still had maybe 220 meters to the hole, so maybe 240. I think that’s where it could have got away from me a little bit.

Obviously hitting over the corner of the water there can get quite nervy, and yeah, just had to step up and hit a really good shot and was able to do it.

Q. You looked pretty confident with club selection and the line you took on 17. Were you feeling pretty calm inside?

CAMERON SMITH: Yeah, I struck the ball really well. It was the shot that I wanted to play. I just thought the wind was going to kind of hold it up for most of the way. It actually kind of drifted right and then held its line at the end there.

Yeah, heart was in the throat there for a second, but I knew it was the right club.

Q. Everyone has been trying to understand the Australian term of essentially toughness. Can you describe as best you can what it means to be a Queenslander and what it is about you guys that have got you where you are today?

CAMERON SMITH: I think it’s probably just never give up. I grew up watching rugby league and watching the Queenslanders come from behind, and even when it got gritty they’d somehow manage to win. I think that’s kind of instilled in all of us.

Q. Is it fair to say that the competition of golf is what you love the most, i.e., the fight rather than chipping, putting, driving, et cetera?

CAMERON SMITH: Yeah, absolutely. I had a bit of a break towards the end of last year, probably had two months off, and more than anything else I just wanted to get out and compete again.

I was sick of whacking balls at the back of the range and playing rounds with mates. I wanted to compete against the best guys in the world and try and beat them.

Q. For a guy who only made one par in his first 13 holes today, did it feel at all like a wild ride that it looked like, or did you feel like you had everything under control?

CAMERON SMITH: Yeah, I was hitting the ball really well. I felt really confident with my irons. My driver got a little bit skewy the last kind of 12 holes, but was able to kind of scramble around and hit really good iron shots when I needed to.

I felt really comfortable with my iron shots. I felt as though I had it under control. I just needed to hit the fairway. That was the big thing.

Q. You move to No. 6 in the world, and you’ve done things to get there. Do you feel like the No. 6 player in the world? Do you feel like you should be part of that kind of elite class of golf?

CAMERON SMITH: I feel as though I’m playing the best that I’ve ever played. It’s kind of weird to think like that, being kind of the — probably the last three or four years being the guy that kind of goes from 20th to 40th in the World Rankings, and then all of a sudden to be 6th is kind of weird.

But I feel as though I’ve put in the work and I feel as though I’ve done a lot of work on my body and I’ve put in the time.

Yeah, it’s nice to see all that stuff paying off.

Q. How often do you see your family even in the best of times, given the distance, and who exactly made it here?

CAMERON SMITH: Yeah, probably see them typically twice a year. I’ll go home in the middle of the year for a couple of weeks just for a little bit of a hangout, and then I’ll go back down and play some golf in Australia and have a little bit of a hangout over Christmas, as well, typically.

So I probably only spend six weeks at home. It was my mum and sister that had come over, yeah.

Q. Their names, and also the significance of being Australian and winning this tournament? There have been some pretty great champions from your country.

CAMERON SMITH: Yeah, mum’s name is Sharon and my sister’s name is Melanie. Yeah, it’s so cool. Obviously lots of Australians have won here, lots of great Australian golfers have won here, you know, but the best that have ever lived have won here, as well.

So it’s pretty cool to have the name on the same trophy as them.

Q. Was there a moment in the final round where you thought or said to yourself, This is my tournament to win? And if there was that moment, what did you do after to make it a reality?

CAMERON SMITH: Like I was saying before, I felt really comfortable on the range with my irons, and I knew if I could somehow get it in the fairway, I felt it was mine to win from the start.

I feel really comfortable on the greens around here, so I just needed to get it on the fairway, and if I could do that, then I knew I had a red hot chance.

Was able to do that a little bit on the front nine at least, and then kind of got a bit wavy there at the end.

Q. You told us yesterday that despite living five miles from here, you try not to play this course. How, if at all, did that help you? Or maybe now are you saying, maybe I want to play this course a couple more times a year?

CAMERON SMITH: Yeah, I try not to play it because it’s typically just set up a little bit softer and a little bit slower. I found myself — I thought moving here originally it would be a huge advantage, but I found out after a few missed cuts in a row that it maybe wasn’t.

Just hitting some different clubs off tees and some different lines when it gets firm and fast, and also the pressure of the battle. You don’t realize how tight this place is until you have to hit a shot.

When you’re playing hit-and-giggle with your mates it can be easy at times, but it’s a different beast.

Q. Who in your family, if anyone, do you think you inherited your mental toughness from?

CAMERON SMITH: Yeah, I don’t know. I think both sides of my family, my mum and my dad’s side. Both have — just both mentally strong. They’re working class people who have had to work their whole life to live basically, and yeah, I guess that’s just kind of what I grew up in.

Q. A lot of times when players win this tournament they have to go off to the next event or fly home, but you are home, so how are you going to celebrate this one?

CAMERON SMITH: Sleep. I feel like I haven’t slept in five or six days. It’s obviously been a long week. I’m sure there will be a few beers around the fire tonight, but yeah, I can’t wait for a good sleep.

Q. When you made three bogeys at 7, 8, and 9, did you tell yourself something in that walk between 9 and 10 to get to where you made four birdies in a row again?

CAMERON SMITH: I guess it was just keeping it simple, back to one shot at a time, just trying to hit the fairways off the tee.

Was able to hit a couple of nice drives off 10 and 11 and give myself some really good opportunities into the greens there.

Yeah, it was just kind of knuckling down and kind of knowing what I had to do.

Q. I don’t know how much you’ve watched this tournament over the years back home, but do you remember anything about Adam Scott’s win? And if you do, did you think about him at all?


Q. I was going to ask if you saw it. You don’t know that Adam did the same thing on 18?

CAMERON SMITH: No, I got told after the round, but I had no idea.

Q. And you didn’t see it being replayed on every screen around you as you were getting set for your drop?

CAMERON SMITH: No. No, I didn’t.

STEWART MOORE: Cam Smith, thanks so much, and congrats on your first PLAYERS Championship

(Text: ASAP Sports)

PGA Tour

Rory McIlroy: ” I’m maybe a little more outspoken than other guys in our game.”

Among the players, Rory McIlroy is considered one of the loudspeakers on the PGA Tour. The Northern Irishman forms an opinion on many topics and tries to classify current events. At the press conference before the Arnold Palmer Invitational, McIlroy explains why he thinks it’s important to express his opinion and what he thinks of the current discussion surrounding PIP and Phil Mickelson. Read the complete interview here:

Q: Rory, you’re going to be making your eighth start here. What is it like to be back, especially as a past champion?

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it’s always good to be back at Bay Hill. I didn’t play this event for the first few years of my career and finally came here in 2015, and I don’t think I’ve missed a tournament since.

We all know what Arnold Palmer means to the PGA TOUR and to the game of golf in general. So it’s always nice to be here and try to sort of remember his legacy and remember what he meant to everyone. He was probably the catalyst with maybe a few other guys of why we’re here today and why the game of professional golf is at such a high level.

So nice to be here, nice to pay our respects. Looking forward to another good week.

Q: And as you stated, you haven’t missed a tournament since you started, have five consecutive top tens here. What about this course and this tournament really clicks with your game?

It’s one of these courses that I don’t feel like I have to do anything special to compete. I can play within myself. You take care of the par-5s here. You play conservatively the rest of the way, especially how the golf course here has been set up the past few years. You play for your pars, and then you try to pick off birdies on the par-5s and some of the easier holes. If you just keep doing that day after day, you’re going to find yourself around the top of the leaderboard.

Yeah, it’s been a course that’s fit my eye from the first time I played here, and just one of those courses that I enjoy coming back to and feel like I can contend at.

Q: Rory, congratulations on finishing third, I think, on the PIP.

Thanks (laughter).

Q: Do you understand exactly why you ended up third, and were there any surprises on the list for you when you saw the top ten?

Not really. I mean, you look at the ten guys that are on there, and they’re the ten guys that have been at the top of the game or have been around the top of the game for a long time. Obviously, everyone’s seen the five metrics that go into it and how everyone ranked in those metrics. I feel like it’s a pretty self-explanatory system. That’s how the numbers sort of rolled out.

Yeah, it’s certainly not something that I’m checking up on every week to see where I’m at, but I think it went the way most of us expected it to go.

QAlso, as you ramp up for this big stretch of golf tournaments, what are you kind of waiting to see in your game. What is it you’re kind of looking for as you do the run-up?

Just consistency. I mean, I felt like the three tournaments that I’ve played this year, I’ve played pretty well. I had a pretty solid week at Riviera without doing anything really special. I had a good weekend.

I think just more of the same. I’ve driven the ball pretty well. I’ve seen a bit of improvement in iron play. My short game’s been really good. If anything, just getting the consistency to a point where I feel like I can play like that day in and day out.

But the game feels good, so just sort of trying to keep doing what I’m doing.

Q: Rory, given your stature and success in the game, it gives you a voice. Do you feel though that, even if you weren’t a world renowned golfer, you would still speak out about injustices you see? And why are you that way?

Look, I’ll only voice my opinion on things that I believe I’m educated in and believe that I have a right to talk about. So there’s certainly things that I won’t get into just because I’m not completely educated on that topic and feel like giving an opinion probably isn’t the right thing to do.

But when it comes to golf and PGA TOUR stuff, I feel like I’m pretty educated on that stuff. And I guess with that voice comes responsibility to try to do the right thing. That’s all I try to do. I try to make comments or speak about things to do the right thing, and that’s the reason I’m maybe a little more outspoken than other guys in our game.

Again, it doesn’t go much further than the game of golf because I feel comfortable talking about that, but when you sort of delve into other things, I don’t think it’s my place to get into that.

QSpeaking of education, I thought I read something about you once that you wanted to drop out of school in like the fifth grade?

I did drop out of school in — well, not the fifth grade (laughter). I dropped out of school pretty early, yeah.

QWhat does that say about you, if anything, that you’ve got this appetite for knowledge, for learning, for reading, and hated school?

Learnt my lesson. I didn’t have — I just had no — I had no academic ambitions when I was a youngster. I don’t know, I think I got to a point in golf where I was pretty — all I wanted to do when I was young was play golf. Didn’t care about school. Didn’t want to go. Wanted to just go practice, play golf. And now all I do most every day is go practice and play golf.

So I have other things I want to do and hobbies. I think as you get older, you get interested in more things and maybe just become a little more curious. I’ve sort of become that way. But, again, I’m the first one to say I don’t know — I know a little about a lot, but I’m not as smart on a lot of things as I am maybe on golf and things in and around this world.

Q: One more golf question. Finchem probably back in ’10 had talked about this idea of somewhat of a world tour schedule and also how difficult it would be to put together. They’ve been trying for a long time. Do you get a sense that, given the dynamics of golf right now, that it could be getting closer to that and that it would still be just as difficult to implement?

So I certainly think there’s been steps taken that have got us closer to that point. Obviously, this strategic alliance between DP World Tour and the PGA TOUR, PGA TOUR buying a stake in European Tour Productions, Jay having a seat on the board in Europe, they’re certainly working much closer together, which is a great thing. I think it needs to be that way.

The game of professional golf, everyone needs to be trying to pull in the same direction instead of pulling against each other. I think we’re getting closer to that spot. I think it would be easy for — it’s not as simple as this, but the guys at the PGA TOUR could just literally walk down the street to the guys in the ATP and just have a chat about what they do.

It’s two very, very different structures and different schedules, but I think there is a path where one day there could be — it might still be two Tours running side by side parallel to each other, but basically for — it would be a global tour, a global schedule.

Q: Would it be important for Europe’s identity?

I think so. I think there’s quite a long history and tradition and heritage there. You go back to — yeah, the formation of the European Tour wasn’t that long after the PGA TOUR. I think European Tour was in the ’70s, and PGA TOUR was in the late ’60s. So there’s history there that you would like to keep.

QAre you surprised that so many golfers and sponsors have separated themselves, distanced themselves from Phil, who’s one of the legends of the game, or do you think his comments were so volatile that that was necessary? And how unfortunate is the whole situation?

It is unfortunate. I think Phil has been a wonderful ambassador for the game of golf, still is a wonderful ambassador for the game of golf. It’s unfortunate that a few comments that he thought he was making in confidence or off the record got out there and were — not used against him, but this whole situation is unfortunate.

Look, Phil will be back. I think the players want to see him back. He’s done such a wonderful job for the game of golf, and he’s represented the game of golf very, very well for the entirety of his career.

Look, we all make mistakes. We all say things we want to take back. No one is different in that regard. But we should be allowed to make mistakes, and we should be allowed to ask for forgiveness and for people to forgive us and move on. Hopefully, he comes back at some stage, and he will, and people will welcome him back and be glad that he is back.

QI know you to be a student of the world and what’s going on and you’ve traveled all over the world. The world is such a tender place right now. What do you do to sort of put that aside so you can focus on your day job?

I try to look at the news once a day and sort of leave it at that. You sort of try to keep up to date with current events and everything that’s happening. I guess I have to understand that sitting in my position right here in Orlando, Florida, there’s not much that I can say or do that’s going to help the situation. So I can just focus on what’s most important to me, which is my family and my golf, and live my life.

THE MODERATOR: That’s all the time we have for questions. Rory, we thank you for taking the time to talk with us, and we wish you the best of luck this week.


Portrait: Sepp Straka – first Austrian-born winner on PGA Tour

Sepp Straka is one of the few Austrian professional golfers currently playing on the world’s major tours. At the Honda Classic he achieved something that no Austrian had ever done before: he left the rest of the field behind him at a PGA Tour tournament and climbed to the top of the leaderboard. In the world rankings, he thus moved into the top 100. What is behind the sympathetic Austrian and his path to becoming a professional golfer?

Sepp Straka crossed the Atlantic at an early age

Sepp Straka was practically born to play golf. His American mother and his Austrian father met while buying golf gloves in Salzburg, Austria. On 1 May 1993, Josef “Sepp” Straka was born – two minutes after his older twin brother Sam. The two boys initially spent their childhood in Austria mainly on the football pitch, with Sepp beeing the goalkeeper. When the two took part in a one-week golf camp at the age of eleven, no one imagined that this would be the start of an impressive career. Big brother Sam decided for himself and Sepp that they would play a bit of golf from then on. But it soon turned out that the Straka boys had talent. At the Fontana Golf Club in Oberwaltersdorf, they evolved into hard-working golfers who played their way into the junior national team of Austria.

When the sons were 14, the family decided to move to America. Here the basis for Straka’s career on the PGA Tour was laid. Besides finishing school and studying business administration in the US state of Georgia, Sepp and Sam continued to swing their golf clubs eagerly. Sepp initially remained in his brother’s shadow for years. While Sam Straka was then unable to gain a professional career, Sepp applied to the Q-School of the Korn Ferry Tour and European Challenge Tour, which offered him a suitable platform for the switch to the PGA Tour.

On PGA Tour since 2019

In 2019, Straka became the first Austrian to qualify for the PGA Tour. Since then, he has been trying to compete against the best golfers in the world. His biggest successes here so far have included a third-place finish at the 2019 Barbasol Championship and several other top-10 finishes. In 2021, Sepp Straka represented the country of his birth, Austria, at the Olympic Games. His brother Sam supported him as a caddie at his side. With a record round on day 1, Straka initially took the lead in Tokyo, but then finished the tournament in tenth place.

February 2022: Straka makes history on PGA Tour

For Sepp Straka, a long-cherished dream came true at the Honda Classic in February 2022: It is not only the first victory on the PGA Tour for him personally, but also the first victory ever by an Austrian on the PGA Tour. In Florida, he not only received fame and honour, but also 1.44 million US dollars in prize money, a place in the top 100 of the world rankings for the first time and an invitation to The Masters 2022. In the winner’s interview, Straka described his appearance at the Major tournament in Augusta as a “lifelong dream”.