Sports

With one week until the Masters, checking in on the big storylines in PGA, LPGA, LIV

The seven-time PGA Tour winner missed the first four signature events of the season and missed the cut at the Players Championship, which is played in his hometown of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Horschel, 37, currently isn’t qualified for any of the four major championships. He played in each one from 2019 to 2023.

“Yeah, I’m not happy that I’m not in Augusta or any of the majors as we sit here right now, but listen, it’s my own fault,” Horschel said. “I can’t do anything about that. I didn’t play well last year, but the great thing is this game of golf gives you opportunities to correct that wrong and I’m trying the best I can right now to make up for a bad year last year, and get myself back to where I feel like I deserve to be in the game of golf or I want to be in the game of golf.”

After missing the cut at the Players Championship by 2 strokes, Horschel said he had a dream in which he saw “fearless” written on his left wrist. He told his wife, Brittany, about the dream, and she made him a “fearless” bracelet.

Horschel said he didn’t know Taylor Swift’s second album was named “Fearless.” Horschel’s wife and two daughters attended one of Swift’s concerts in Atlanta last year.

“I’m not the biggest Swiftie,” Horschel said. “I get asked about it a lot from the fans now when I sign autographs — they ask if I’m a Swiftie or are they friendship bracelets or anything. It’s a cool little thing, but also just puts me in the right mind frame of when I’m playing golf of what I want to be thinking about.”

Horschel will have to win in San Antonio to qualify for the Masters for the seventh straight year. He’s currently fifth in the Aon Swing 5 standings after posting top-12 finishes in three of his past four starts, tying for ninth at the Cognizant Classic, for 12th at the Valspar Championship and for seventh at the Texas Children’s Houston Open. Staying in the top five would put him in the field for the next signature event at the RBC Heritage Open at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, on April 18-21.

LIV Golf Miami
When: Friday-Sunday
Where: Trump National Doral, Miami
Defending champion: Carlos Ortiz
Purse: $25 million ($4 million to winning individual; $3 million to winning team)

Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, who tied for second at Augusta National last year, says the Blue Monster course at Trump National Doral will be a strong test for what’s coming next week.

“It gives you an opportunity to get momentum if you play well but also gives you a chance to play every shot you’re going to need into Augusta,” Mickelson said. “Now, Augusta has more undulation and elevation changes, but Miami forces you to hit a lot of long irons, mid-irons, short irons. There’s trouble on every hole. You have to miss it on the correct side, and strategically [it] gets you ready for all the shots, challenges, physically and mentally, that we are going to face next week.”

The par-72 course, which is owned by former President Donald Trump, is 7,701 yards. It’s 991 yards longer than the last course the LIV Golf League used in Hong Kong and at least 585 yards longer than each of the first three in Mexico, Las Vegas and Saudi Arabia.

“It’s one of the first courses we play that you’ve got to hit it good from everywhere in your game,” said individual points leader Joaquin Niemann, a two-time winner this season, who received a special invitation to play in the Masters. “You have to hit it long and you have to hit it straight, and yeah, I think it’s going to be good preparation for me as well.

“It’s a good place, this course, to get committed to your game and get [prepared] for what is coming next week, which I’m really looking forward to.”

Rahm’s scouting trip

Jon Rahm, the defending Masters champion, took a scouting trip to Augusta National Golf Club last week. Mickelson, Koepka and two-time green jacket winner Bubba Watson elected not to play practice rounds in advance.

Rahm went to Augusta National last week with one of his best friends.

“I wanted to go back at least once before Masters week,” Rahm said. “I didn’t want the first time back at Augusta National to be tournament week, right? I wanted to get a lot of those emotions out of the way, and also see the golf course, see if they have done any changes. You know, pretty quickly when the scorecard came out, I got a million texts saying that it was 35 yards longer. Well, we’re going to see what they added and what they changed.”

Mickelson was supposed to play the course last week but said something came up. He’s planning to arrive in Augusta, Georgia, on Sunday night and play more on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday than he typically does.

Kim’s return

Former U.S. Ryder Cup team member Anthony Kim is scheduled to play in his first U.S. professional tournament this week. He returned from a nearly 12-year hiatus at LIV Golf League events in Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong. He also missed the cut in an Asian Tour International Series tournament in China in mid-March.

Kim, 38, last played in the U.S. when he withdrew after the first round of the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. He had surgery to repair his left Achilles tendon the next month and never played on the PGA Tour again.

Kim is scheduled to meet with the media Thursday.

Kim is playing as a wild card in LIV Golf League tournaments this year, meaning he can compete in the individual portion of events but his scores won’t count in the team standings.

What’s next on the LPGA Tour

T-Mobile Match Play presented by MGM Rewards
When: Wednesday-Sunday
Where: Shadow Creek Golf Course, Las Vegas
Purse: $2 million ($300,000 to winner)
Defending champion: Pajaree Anannarukarn

Nelly’s epic heater

World No. 1 golfer Nelly Korda is a 16-time winner around the world, an Olympic gold medalist and the 2021 PGA Championship winner. Yet Korda feels like she might be playing the best golf of her career.

At last week’s Ford Championship in Gilbert, Arizona, Korda became only the seventh golfer in LPGA Tour history to win in three consecutive starts and the first since Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016. She’ll try to become the first American to win four straight starts since Nancy Lopez won five in a row in 1978.

Korda, 25, captured the LPGA Drive On Championship in her hometown of Bradenton, Florida, on Jan. 28. After skipping the Asian Swing, she returned to win the Fir Hill Seri Pak Championship in a playoff in Palos Verdes, California, before taking the Ford Championship by two strokes.

“I would say that every victory I’ve had or every single time I’ve played well, I’ve felt more in the zone,” said Korda, an 11-time winner on the LPGA Tour. “But I would say that the past two weeks everything has just kind of clicked a little bit more. Even my mistakes I’ve made the right mistakes in a sense. And just playing really smart. Just not taking [on] too much risk.”

Korda leads the LPGA Tour in scoring average (68.88) and is third in greens in regulation (77.1%). She’s a lock to make the Olympics in Paris and is the top U.S. golfer in points for the Solheim Cup, which will be played Sept. 13-15 at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia.

“Getting to represent red, white and blue has always been a huge honor,” Korda said. “Every time I’ve done it, I’ve been super proud of doing it. You don’t just play for yourself, you play for your country. Getting to do that on many stages [such] as Solheim Cup, International Crown, Olympics has been so much fun. Hopefully, I get the opportunity to do that again.”

New format

The LPGA Tour is using a new format for its lone match-play tournament of the season. In the past, the 64 golfers in the field were divided into 16 groups and seeded from No. 1 to No. 64 based on their world ranking. Following three days of round-robin matches, the 16 survivors competed in a single-elimination bracket.

This year, the tour is using a combination of stroke play and match play to determine the champion. The golfers will compete in stroke play on Wednesday and Thursday with the top 65 and ties advancing after 36 holes. They’ll play another round of stroke play Friday, and the field will be cut to the top eight players after 54 holes. If there’s a tie for the final spot, it will be decided by a hole-by-hole playoff.

Any ties in seeding will be determined by a golfer’s score in the third round, followed by the score in the second and first rounds, and finally world ranking.

On Saturday, there will be a single-elimination match play tournament with the quarterfinals in the morning and semifinals in the afternoon. The championship match will take place Sunday.

Along with Korda, No. 3 Celine Boutier, No. 5 Minjee Lee, No. 8 Lydia Ko and No. 9 Hyo Joo Kim are in this week’s field.

Yin’s back

Angel Yin, one of the bright spots for the U.S. team in its loss to Europe in last year’s Solheim Cup in Spain, is making her first start of the season after breaking her left leg.

Yin was wearing a boot on her left foot and using a wheelchair when she withdrew from the season-opening Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions. She spent the next three months swimming, playing video games and meeting her neighbors in Orlando, Florida.

“[You] really don’t get breaks like that, so it was like another COVID for me,” Yin said. “Yeah, I actually really enjoyed it. I was like really integrating into the life and the society of Orlando and felt like I was half-retired with all my people that are in their 80s. All I did every day was wake up at noon and then go for a walk, eat, practice, swim, gym, go home, and look at my screen and then do it again.”

She said she walked her first round of golf about a week and a half ago.

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