Four players tied for third-round lead at Valero Texas Open

By Sports Desk April 02, 2022

Brandt Snedeker and Beau Hossler both shot five-under-par 67 to join JJ Spaun and Dylan Frittelli atop the leaderboard, after the third round of the Valero Texas Open on Saturday.

Spaun and Frittelli bogeyed the last par-five 18th hole to finish on 10-under-par after 54 holes, shooting rounds of 69 and 70 respectively on Saturday.

It would have been a five-way tie for the lead had Scott Stallings not also bogeyed the final hole, finding the rough and then the far-side bunker on his second and third shots.

Among the many in the field who have yet to qualify for the US Masters, Matt Kuchar is two strokes back from the leaders on eight-under-par after three rounds.

In what is essentially the final qualifier for the first major of the year, and having missed the cut at Augusta last year, Kuchar is aware of the stakes.

"I think quality play trumps anything," he said.

"I'd take execution over course knowledge any day of the week. I think it's going to take just quality golf tomorrow to win this thing."

After shooting a bogey-free round on Friday, second round leader Ryan Palmer tumbled down the leaderboard on Saturday with a five-over-par 77, finishing in 21st on five-under-par.

Spaun and Hossler are both looking for their first PGA Tour win, while Frittelli last won in 2019 at the John Deere Classic and Snedeker took the Wyndham Championship in 2018.

Hossler finished with momentum on Saturday, making three consecutive birdies from the 14th hole. His career-best finish was a second at the Houston Open in 2018.

A win for Snedeker would make for his 13th trip to Augusta.

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  • USGA chief hopes to open pathway for breakaway LIV golfers at U.S. Open USGA chief hopes to open pathway for breakaway LIV golfers at U.S. Open

    World golf remains split on the divide between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, yet United States Golf Association chief executive Mike Whan hopes to create a pathway for the breakaway players at the U.S. Open.

    No permanent deal appears on the cards in the near future as the PGA and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), which funds the LIV circuit, held further talks last week.

    Tiger Woods described the meeting as "productive" but just 12 LIV players will be in action when the U.S. Open starts on Thursday at Pinehurst.

    Jon Rahm would have been the 13th if not for his withdrawal due to a troublesome foot injury as LIV representation remains sparse at golf's major events.

    Whan wants to change the dynamic between the two competitions, however.

    "I think we are serious about that," USGA chief Whan said when asked about creating a link between LIV and the U.S. Open. 

    "Exactly what that looks like, I'm not just being coy, we haven't done that yet.

    "I also think, if I'm being perfectly honest with you, we've always felt like for the last year and a half that we're always three months away from kind of understanding what the new structure is going to look like.

    "So before we kind of react, what is LIV going to be, what's the PGA Tour? We always felt like we were just about to know that answer, so let's figure that out.

    "Now, I think the reason we're being more vocal about looking at that [pathway] for next year is maybe this is the new world order, and if that's the case we wanted to take a look at that.

    "I think it's feasible. I don't think it's a huge pathway, but we do offer other pathways through DP World Tour or Korn Ferry Tour, so we know that there's an option to get there."

    Past U.S. Open champions Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Martin Kaymer are among the LIV golfers to feature at this week's major.

    LIV rookies Dean Burmester, David Puig and Eugenio Chacarra all made the field through final qualifying, while veteran Sergio Garcia was added to the list of players on Monday.

  • U.S. Open: Scheffler facing Schauffele shoot-out at Pinehurst? U.S. Open: Scheffler facing Schauffele shoot-out at Pinehurst?

    The third major of the year is upon us, and one man in particular will be hoping it goes more smoothly than the second.

    World number one Scottie Scheffler saw his bid for a first PGA Championship crown unravel at Valhalla Golf Course, with Xander Schauffele ultimately edging out Bryson DeChambeau and Viktor Hovland for his first major crown.

    Many expect the duo – currently the top two in golf's world rankings – to battle it out for glory on Course No. 2 at Pinehurst Resort this week, as the U.S. Open heads back to North Carolina. 

    Rory McIlroy could have something to say about that, with last year's second-place finish at the U.S. Open the closest he has come to ending his decade-long major drought.

    Ahead of the 124th edition of the tournament, which features the largest purse of any major at $20million, we run through the likely contenders, the storylines to keep an eye on and what to expect from the course.

    The course

    Pinehurst No. 2 is hosting the U.S. Open for the fourth time, having previously been used for the 1999, 2005 and 2014 editions. 

    Since it first welcomed the event, the course has been home to the tournament more times than any other venue.

    The course, which was renovated in 2011, is known for rewarding putting accuracy over driving excellence, and it has not always favoured home players in the past.

    While Pinehurst No. 2's first staging of the U.S. Open produced a United States-born victor in Payne Stewart, New Zealand's Michael Campbell triumphed in 2005 and Germany's Martin Kaymer won by eight strokes in 2014. 

    That was the second-largest margin of victory recorded at the U.S. Open since the World War II after Tiger Woods triumphed by 15 shots at Pebble Beach in 2000.

    Expect four gruelling days. Indeed, across the previous four editions of the U.S. Open to be played at Pinehurst No. 2, only Kaymer in 2014 (-9) finished with a score better than one under par for the week.

    The contenders 

    Fresh off the back of his first major success, Schauffele will expect to be in the running again. He is one of four players to finish inside the top 10 at both of this year's majors to date, having ranked eighth at the Masters. The others to do so are Scheffler, DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa.

    Five players have previous won both the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open in the same year – Gene Sarazen (1922), Ben Hogan (1948), Jack Nicklaus (1980), Woods (2000) and Brooks Koepka (2018).

    The clear favourite once again, though, is Scheffler. 

    He was arrested and charged with second-degree assault of a police officer, third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding traffic signals from an officer after attempting to pass an incident outside Valhalla ahead of his second round last month.

    He finished the tournament in a share of eighth – an admirable effort, given the disruption – and saw his charges dismissed just 12 days after his arrest.

    The incident has not done much to affect his form. Scheffler claimed his fifth title of the year at the PGA Tour's Memorial Tournament last week, becoming just the second player – alongside Woods – to win the Players Championship, Masters and Memorial in the same year.

    He has won five of his eight tournaments on the PGA Tour since March, finishing T2 twice and T8 once in the other three. 

    Reflecting on the way he responded to his arrest at Valhalla, Scheffler said: "I call it compartmentalising parts of my life.

    "So I have my off-course life and then I have my on-course life, when I'm out here practicing and playing tournaments. I don't show up to these tournaments just to play. I'm here to do my best and compete."

    Besides Scheffler and Schauffele, McIlroy will be hoping to go one better after finishing one stroke behind champion Wyndham Clark at last year's U.S. Open.

    Having fallen short at the year's first two majors, the Northern Irishman hopes the firm conditions expected in North Carolina will play into his hands. 

    "After the Open Championship in 2019 I'd had a disappointing run in the majors, and I tried to change my mindset," he told The Telegraph.

    "Since then I've come to love it when it is fast and firm. If you look at my results in the U.S. Open and some of the toughest tests from 2019 until now, I would say the U.S. Open has arguably been my best major in the last few years."

    Morikawa should also be there or thereabouts, having been narrowly edged out by Scheffler on his most recent outing at the Memorial.

    Alongside Ludvig Aberg, he has the most top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year without a victory (six). Might his luck turn this week?

    The legends

    The U.S. Open will also feature a couple of players attempting to recapture past glories, with Woods the one most fans are looking forward to seeing.

    He missed the cut at the PGA Championship after carding scores of 72 and 77, subsequently admitting improvements are needed in all areas if he is to fare better on his first U.S. Open appearance since 2020.

    "I need to clean up my rounds," Woods said after the PGA Championship. "Physically, yes, I am better than I was a month ago.

    "I still have more ways to go, lots of improvement to do physically, and hopefully my team and I can get that done pre-Pinehurst."

    Only four players – Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones, Hogan and Nicklaus (four apiece) – have bettered Woods' three U.S. Open triumphs, and his most recent victory at the event was the last to be decided by a playoff, seeing off Rocco Mediate in 2008.

    While Woods has enjoyed plenty of success at the U.S. Open, the same cannot be said for Phil Mickelson.

    It is the only major he has not won in his 32 attempts, 30 as a professional and two as an amateur, and his six second-place finishes at the U.S. Open are more than any other player.

    The first of those came 25 years ago, at Pinehurst No. 2.

    The history 

    For all the big names on show, the U.S. Open does have a tendency to throw up surprise victors.

    Indeed, since Woods triumphed at Torrey Pines in 2018, 12 of the next 15 U.S. Opens have produced a first-time major champion. That includes the last five editions, with Gary Woodland, DeChambeau, Jon Rahm and Matt Fitzpatrick triumphing before Clark.

    Clark could become just the fourth player since World War II to retain the U.S. Open title, after Hogan (1950 and 1951), Curtis Strange (1988 and 1989) and Koepka (2017 and 2018). 

    Last year's victory at Los Angeles Country Club remains his only top-30 finish at a major – he missed the cut at this year's Masters and PGA Championship.

    The U.S. Open was formerly known as a real test of endurance, but things have changed somewhat in recent years.

    From 2005 to 2013, six of nine editions produced an even/over-par winning score, but nine of the last 10 have been won with an under-par score, the exception being Koepka's 2018 victory at Shinnecock Hills (+1).

    What kind of score will be required this time out? If Scheffler maintains his outstanding form, he will take some beating. 

  • Scheffler does not feel there is a target on his back at US Open Scheffler does not feel there is a target on his back at US Open

    Scottie Scheffler has insisted that he does not feel there is a target on his back as he aims to capture his third major championship victory in this week's US Open at Pinehurst. 

    Scheffler's victory at the Memorial Tournament last week saw him become only the fourth PGA Tour player in the past 60 seasons to win five times before the end of June.

    It was the American's fifth win in eight PGA Tour starts, having also won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, The Players, The Masters and RBC Heritage, last missing a cut in August 2022. 

    "I try not to think about the past too much, and I try not to think about the future too much," Scheffler told the media.

    "I just try and live in the present. Sometimes it's easier and sometimes it's a bit harder.

    "I feel like coming off of last week, I was really excited and celebrated for a few minutes there, but my mind kind of just goes on to the next thing. I was getting ready, trying to get out of there and trying to prep for next week.

    "I'm not thinking about my wins anymore. All I'm focused on is this week and getting ready to play. Just because I won last week doesn't give me any shots against the field this week.

    "We all start even par, and the field is level again starting on Thursday. Last week doesn't really matter. I still don't feel like there's much of a target on my back. It's not like anybody is out there playing defence."

    Scheffler will tee off with PGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy in Thursday's first round, the players closest to him in the world rankings. 

    "When I play with Xander and Rory here Thursday and Friday, they're not going to be saying weird stuff to me out on the golf course or trying to block my putt from going in the hole," Scheffler added.

    "As far as a target on my back, even if there was, there's really not much we can do in the game of golf. Most of it is against the golf course and playing against yourself."

    Scheffler would be the first golfer to win on tour and capture a major the following week since McIlroy at the 2014 PGA Championship.

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