Around this time a year ago, the pervasive narrative surrounding Tony Finau was that of a PGA Tour star who just couldn't find a way to close. Time and again, the Utah native would charge up weekend leaderboards only to come up short at the end. 

"They say a winner is just a loser that just kept on trying, and that's me to a T," he said. "How many times do I lose?"

The answer? Well, let's put it this way: he hasn't been losing much these days.

After winning just once in his first 188 career starts, Finau now finds himself on the heels of back-to-back wins at the 3M Open and Rocket Mortgage Classic. Add in his breakthrough victory in last season's FedEx Cup opener, and the Salt Lake City resident has found the winner's circle three times in his last 25 starts.

Suffice to say, the narrative has changed.

"I put myself in situations to win before, haven't been able to do it, but I'm very optimistic," Finau said. "I've always been that way. I've always had hope and faith that things will turn out if I just keep working hard and putting myself there. 

"I challenge myself every week to just push past what I feel like I'm capable of; by that I mean just my emotions, those hurdles that you face during a tournament. I proved to myself these last couple weeks that I've done that and won some golf tournaments. I'm proud of the way that I fought through adversity through my career and now I'm a back-to-back champion. That's what happens."

At the 3M Open, he erased a five-shot deficit with 11 holes to play after overnight leader Scott Piercy tripled the 14th hole. It was much smoother a week later, as the 32-year-old cruised to a five-shot triumph and a tournament record 26-under 262 total. 

Finau hit a career-best 66 greens in regulation in that second victory, which also marked the third-most by a winner on the PGA Tour since 1980. Aaron Wise and Hale Irwin matched that feat at the 2018 Byron Nelson and 1981 Sony Open, respectively, while Peter Jacobsen holds the record with 69 greens in regulation at the 1995 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Willie Wood hit 67 greens en route to the 1996 Sanderson Farms Championship.

His precision netted Finau a plus-4.65 stroke differential from the field average, his highest difference during an event on the PGA Tour. It barely edged out the career-best he set just a week prior at the 3M Open (plus-4.37) and safely beat his next-best marks of plus-3.70 (2021 St. Jude Championship) and plus-2.73, set at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, site of his first Tour victory.

Xander does it, too 

But Finau wasn't the only player making significant moves in July. Though his triumphs didn't come in consecutive weeks, Xander Schauffele also managed to find the winner's circle in back-to-back appearances.

After winning the Travelers Championship in late June, the former gold medallist travelled across the pond and did it all over again in his next start at the Scottish Open. He became the third player to pick up at least three wins this season (Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns are the others) and is one of three players to win this year in consecutive starts (Scheffler and Finau).

But how Schauffele did it may be the most impressive aspect. The San Diego native trailed by a whopping 11 strokes after the opening round, marking the largest 18-hole deficit overcome by a PGA Tour winner in a four-round event in the last 39 years. Seven other players rallied from 10-shot deficits – most recently Webb Simpson at the 2020 Phoenix Open – but no one overcame the odds that Schauffele did.

"Overall, I'm playing some of the best golf of my life and capitalising on playing really well," Schauffele said. "There's a lot of times [when] professionals play very well but don't get everything out of it, and I feel like I've been successful in getting the most out of my game."

Together, Schauffele and Finau became the fifth and six players to win back-to-back tournaments on Tour since the start of the 2016-17 season, joining Patrick Cantlay, Brendon Todd, Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas.

Cam double-dips

Being able to call yourself The Players champion is one of the most prestigious honuors in golf. The biggest names in the sport have all done it, from Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to Rory McIlroy.

But add in a victory at The Open Championship and you're in unprecedented territory.

That's exactly what Australian Cameron Smith did in July at golf's oldest championship, edging out McIlroy at St Andrews to win the Claret Jug. He became just the second player in history to win The Players and Open Championship in the same year, joining none other than Nicklaus. He, too, also won his major at the historic St Andrews after winning The Players earlier in 1978.

It wasn't Smith's only achievement that week. No winner had ever closed with a 64 at St Andrews before he did it, while his finishing score of 20-under 268 set a new Old Course record. It tied the lowest score to par in major championship history – Henrik Stenson shot 20 under at Royal Troon in 2016 – and his back-nine 30 was the lowest ever by an Open Championship winner.

"I got beaten by the better player this week," McIlroy said. "To go out and shoot 64 to win The Open Championship at St Andrews is a hell of a showing. Hats off to Cam."

Smith is the first Australian to win the Claret Jug since 1993 and the first to do it at St Andrews since Kel Nagle staved off Arnold Palmer in 1960.

"Those guys are great players. They weren't going to give it to me. I had to take it," Smith said. "It was a good thing that I was behind. My mindset would have been a touch different coming in, especially on that back nine, if I was ahead."

All eyes in the golfing world will be trained on St Andrews this week as The Open returns for its 150th championship.

The final major of a year of fracture for the sport will bring the biggest names together once more, but who is best placed to take home the Claret Jug?

Five Stats Perform writers have their say ahead of the tournament...

LIV AND LET LIVE? OOSTHUIZEN IS A ST ANDREWS MASTER – Pete Hanson

Is it time to live and let live (or rather LIV and let live)? The proverb is defined as being able to "tolerate the opinions and behaviour of others so that they will similarly tolerate your own", but in the instance of the LIV defectors it is increasingly difficult to accept the decision for jumping ship as anything other than a nauseating money grab. That being said, looking at this through a purely sporting lens, LIV players who have qualified for The Open are allowed to play this weekend and Louis Oosthuizen knows a thing or two about St Andrews. The South African romped to a seven-shot win at the home of golf in 2010 and only lost in a three-man play-off to Zach Johnson at the same venue five years later. He was also leading through three rounds at Royal St George's a year ago before a final round one over coupled with a Collin Morikawa masterclass saw him end up tied for third.

RORY WINNING POPULARITY CONTESTS AND NOW SEEKS ST ANDREWS SUCCESS – Ben Spratt

If the LIV breakaway has made villains of a number of star names, Rory McIlroy is the PGA Tour's hero. With news of each defector, McIlroy has stood firm in his opposition to the Saudi-backed series – all the while stringing together a superb run of form, finishing in the top 20 in each of his past seven entries and the top 10 in each of the first three majors of the year. Rory is a very real contender this week, and there could hardly be a more popular winner. He has unfinished business at St Andrews, too, having tied for third in 2010 and then missed the 2015 event – where he would have been the defending champion – through injury.

RED-HOT SCHAUFFELE IS THE MAN TO BEAT – Russell Greaves

Fresh from his victory at the Scottish Open – where other putative Open contenders floundered – Xander Schauffele is certainly one to watch. Last week's victory at the Renaissance Club, which came despite a two-over-par opening round, came hot on the heels of his triumph at the Travelers Championship, sending the Tokyo 2020 gold medallist to St Andrews as a man in form. The American has also been in the mix at golf's oldest major before, finishing tied second at Carnoustie in 2018, where a final-round 74 ended his hopes of a maiden major. That search will continue this week for the 28-year-old, with the Claret Jug firmly in his sights. 

MORE MORIKAWA MAGIC INCOMING? – Patric Ridge

Morikawa enjoyed a sensational 2021, triumphing at Royal St George's to claim his second major title aged just 24 and becoming the first player to win on his Open debut since 2003. Yet 2022 has so far failed to yield the same success for the defending champion. He went into the weekend with the lead at last month's U.S. Open, only for a wobble on the Saturday to prove costly. After recovering with a fourth-round 65 to finish tied for fifth, Morikawa said he had learned to "just go play golf", although that approach did not serve him particularly well at the Scottish Open, where he failed to make the cut. If he manages to find the composure that deserted him during that dismal third round in Boston, however, then the world number eight cannot be overlooked as a serious contender once again.

CANTLAY CAN COME GOOD ON THE MAJOR STAGE – John Skilbeck

As the rumour mill links him with an LIV Golf switch, Patrick Cantlay is keeping his focus on the course. The American had a win alongside Schauffele in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April and has achieved four top-fives and two top-15 finishes in his past seven events, including a tie for fourth at the Scottish Open. The elephant in the room is that Cantlay has mostly flunked the majors this year, tying for 39th at The Masters, missing the cut at the US PGA Championship and trailing home in a share of 14th at the U.S. Open. However, the 30-year-old is not fourth in the world rankings for nothing; his time is surely coming. Florida-based Cantlay ranks in the top five for birdie (or better) percentage on the PGA Tour when finding the fairway off the tee this year but is outside the top 70 when driving into the rough, so accuracy from the tee will likely determine his fate.

England cricketing great Kevin Pietersen has likened the controversial LIV Golf International Series to the formation of the Indian Premier League and hopes golf can soon settle its differences.

Pietersen was no stranger to controversy as a talented multi-format player, with his commitment to England questioned after the inaugural IPL, when lucrative T20 franchise cricket was born.

The South Africa-born batter captained England for just three Tests and 12 ODIs before his resignation and ultimately announced his international retirement in 2012 after scheduling disagreements – only to soon return.

Pietersen reportedly took issue with the strain put on players by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), with their involvement in franchise cricket around the world limited.

The 42-year-old, who suggested English players were jealous of those offered lucrative IPL contracts, spent the latter stages of his career in various domestic leagues, appearing in tournaments across India, Australia, Pakistan and the Caribbean.

Having been bought for a whopping £1.1million by Royal Challengers Bangalore for the second edition of the then-controversial IPL in 2009, Pietersen remains aware of the potential for differences of opinion when it comes to new beginnings in sport.

LIV Golf has come under intense scrutiny, with vocal opponents criticising the Saudi-backed breakaway league, which offers lucrative prize funds that the PGA Tour is yet to compete with.

Ten major champions have defected to LIV Golf, leaving a cloud hanging over the final major of the year, The Open Championship, where the R&A has allowed breakaway players to feature despite their PGA Tour bans.

Pietersen, speaking after playing the Old Course, St Andrews ahead of The 150th Open on Monday, hopes the issues between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour will soon be resolved.

"I don't really have a take on it because it doesn't matter what I think," he said. 

"But having been part of the Indian Premier League and franchise cricket around the world, I think eventually – and I hope – that everything just merges and everybody lives as one happy family in the future.

"Sport is such a unifying thing. It unifies people, it unifies countries, unifies teams, and the ability to make it into something great is important.

"So, I just hope that for the greater good of the sport, things happen in the next few years. Clearly, there was going to be an outcry at the start by certain people in certain countries. 

"But let's hope that in two, three years' time, golf is celebrated for the great game that it is."

Pietersen has been offered the chance to play at St Andrews before the major starts and believes the short distance of the course may offer the injury-hampered Tiger Woods a chance of success.

"These guys are just so special. I mean, they are quite something when they perform to the calibre of performances that we see these kinds of freak shows," he added.

"[Xander] Schauffele comes in with great form, having won three times in the last three weeks or so. Louis [Oosthuizen] as well, he won, and then he got a runner-up.

"I think you come in here with experience and – you can relate it back to cricket – there are certain grounds in the world that you go to [where] you think, 'Okay, I have a real good chance here because I know this place. I love this place and I know how to bat here.'

"So I think, in terms of golf, there will be a few players that say, 'Yep, I know this place. I like this place'. 

"Maybe even Tiger, this is not a hard walk; we walked it yesterday, this is a very easy walk. For him to be able to turn up here, show that dedication and commitment months ago towards this tournament... you never know.

"We played next to him yesterday, and he played in front of us. There's a crazy sound that comes off the back when he hits, it's very special."

Xander Schauffele warmed up for The Open Championship in superb fashion after securing back-to-back tournament wins with a one-stroke triumph at the Scottish Open.

The American, who overcame a two-over first round on Thursday to bulldoze his way through the pack, shot an even 70 to hold on for victory at seven under for the week at the Renaissance Club.

Following victory at the Travelers Championship last time out, it means the Tokyo 2020 gold medallist is in supreme form as he heads into the final major of the year at St Andrews.

Schauffele is yet to win one of golf's biggest prizes, having previously posted career-best T2 finishes at The Open at Carnoustie in 2018 and then a year later at Augusta for the Masters.

His performance proved just enough to keep Kurt Kitayama at bay after the 29-year-old shot a four-under 66 to sit one stroke behind Schauffele, taking second outright.

Kitayama had appeared poised to pip Schauffele at one stage, when the overnight leader carded three bogeys over four holes heading into the turn.

But golf's form man recovered his composure and even a further bogey at the 18th could not deny him – Kitayama's momentum also crucially slowing down the stretch.

Kitayama at least had the consolation of qualifying for The Open through his finish, as did Jamie Donaldson and Brandon Wu (both T6).

Jordan Spieth was back at T10 after a disappointing 72, having been in position to challenge Schauffele after Saturday's third round.

Xander Schauffele moved 18 holes away from successive tournament wins after snatching the lead with another excellent round at the Scottish Open.

Schauffele, who went into moving day four shots off the pace set by American compatriot Cameron Tringale, followed up his second-round 65 with a four-under 66 to move to seven under through 54 holes at The Renaissance Club.

It would have been even better for Schauffele, who prevailed last time out at the Travelers Championship, if not for successive bogeys at 17 and 18 to end the round.

But his two-over 72 on Thursday must now feel like a distant memory, with Schauffele going into the final 18 holes with a two-stroke lead over Rafa Cabrera Bello, who is in prime position to qualify for the Open Championship at St Andrews next week as the highest-placed player yet to clinch a spot in the final major of the year.

By contrast, Tringale endured a day to forget with a four-over 74 that dropped him back to three under.

It appeared as if he would strengthen his chances of victory when he eagled the par-five third. However, he did not make another gain the rest of the way, carding six bogeys.

Jordan Spieth perhaps looms as Schauffele's most ominous challenger. The 2015 Open champion began the day seven strokes back but closed to just three off the pace following a 66 that included eagles at the 10th and the par-four 15th hole.

Spieth sat in a group of three players on four under, with Ryan Palmer – also in the mix for a place at The Open – and Jordan Smith also firmly in contention. Smith had a hole-in-one on the 17th on Friday and went close to doing the same on Saturday, another fine tee shot leaving him with a tap-in for birdie.

Alex Smalley would be the third and final Open qualifier as it stands after a 67 took him to three under, putting him alongside Tringale and U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick.

Whatever data Mark Horton is supplying his PGA Tour clients these days, it seems to be paying off.

The English statistician counts both Sam Burns and Billy Horschel among those coming to him for guidance in their golf games. And each registered Tour wins in consecutive weeks last month, as Burns captured the Charles Schwab Challenge before Horschel cruised to victory at the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday.

"Hortsy (Horton) is unbelievable," Horschel said after his win. "He's been on my team since 2014. First year he comes on the team we win the FedExCup. He's very English and he's very blunt, and we had a conversation before he joined my team about my record on the PGA Tour and things I didn't do well.

"My short game wasn't very good and I had stone hands. And this week I showed him finally that I have a short game that can live up to the golf course and save me at times."

Horschel's game at the Memorial wasn't just good, it was unprecedented. His +13.58 Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green was the most at an event in his PGA Tour career and best since the 2018 Wyndham Championship (+10.74, tied for 11th). It broke his long-time career record of +13.07, set a decade ago at the 2012 Sanderson Farms Championship.

He was the fourth Memorial winner since 2003 to rank first in both Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green as well as Greens in Regulation (53), joining Patrick Cantlay (2021), Jason Dufner (2017) and Tiger Woods (2012). He also finished the week ranked second in Proximity to the Hole, his third time on Tour ranking in the top-two and more than four feet closer than his previous average in eight previous starts at the Memorial.

Credit to Horschel for his performance. And in the meantime, Horton will keep crunching the numbers.

"He just tells me where I need to be on holes, where guys are making bogeys, where the birdies are coming from, the perfect way for me to plot my way around the golf course," Horschel explained. "That's what I love to do. I love to put my ball here, put the ball there. And he backs me up with that data that's he's been giving me for the last eight years."

SCHAUFFELE FINALLY CONVERTS

Xander Schauffele knew the record. The numbers don't lie.

0-4 lifetime. Oh for four. Goose egg.

That was Schauffele's career record on the PGA Tour when holding a 54-hole lead or co-lead. The now six-time Tour winner was still waiting to successfully convert a third-round position atop the leaderboard into a victory, and the Travelers Championship was one more opportunity to do it.

"In the past when I had a 54-hole lead or close to the lead, my Sundays felt really fast," he said. "And I'd be sitting back in the hotel or at a house on Sunday [afterward] thinking, 'What happened today?'"

This time, he said, Schauffele wanted to stay in the present and focus on the task at hand, which was each and every shot. They would all be critical to stave off Cantlay, who trailed him by only a stroke entering the final round, with more players not far behind.

"I told [my caddie] to hold me accountable on the first hole walking up there," Schauffele said. "And he did a really great job, and both of us were pretty much dialled in from the first hole."

That they were. Schauffele finished the week hitting 63 greens in regulation, leading the field and tying his most hit during an event on Tour in his career. He also hit 63 earlier this season at the WM Phoenix Open, where he tied for third, and hit 60 twice at both the 2020 Sentry Tournament of Championship (T2) and CIMB Classic (T3).

That precision helped Schauffele finish with a Strokes Gained: Total of +16.39, the most at an event in his career. His previous best total was +15.31, set in 2020 at The CJ CUP.

Schauffele trailed Sahith Theegala by one stroke as he approached the last, but the tournament leader closed with a double-bogey before Schauffele hit his approach to 3 feet, setting up the winning birdie. It marked his first individual PGA Tour title since the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions.

"It's been a year where my stats have been very solid, just haven't really put in four good rounds of golf," Schauffele said afterward. "I think subconsciously or without myself even really knowing I was getting a little impatient. And this week I was just trying to be self-aware as possible to just stay as patient as possible. I had to just realise that I put the work in and if I can just sort of do what I've been doing and just focus a little bit more throughout the day that it will pay off in a big way, and fortunately it did."

MCILROY DIALS IT IN

When Rory McIlroy looked ahead to the final-round forecast at the RBC Canadian Open, a simple glance at the wind direction told him all he’d need to know about his chances for victory.

"Seeing that southerly wind again, I knew I needed to go out and shoot 5-or-6-under par to have a chance to win," he said.

Simple enough. McIlroy posted an eight-under 62 to edge Tony Finau by two strokes for his 21st PGA Tour victory.

"You needed to keep your foot down, you needed to keep your foot on the pedal," McIlroy said of his mindset. "I got off to a faster start today than I have done the previous few days."

McIlroy has feasted in final rounds this year, joining Finau as one of only two players on Tour with four final rounds of six-under or better this year. Prior to his eight-under 62 in Canada, he also posted a pair of six-under 66s at The Players Championship and The CJ CUP to go along with an epic eight-under 64 at The Masters.

It marked his third final round of 62 or better en route to a PGA Tour win, something no other winner has done more than once since 1983. He also shot a final-round 61 to win the 2019 RBC Canadian Open, as well as a 62 at the Wells Fargo Championship.

The Northern Irishman was buoyed by an incredible approach shot performance, as he averaged just over 3 feet to the hole from 100 to 125 yards out, 14 feet closer than the field average in the final round.

Xander Schauffele was the beneficiary of an 18th-hole double-bogey from leader Sahith Theegala, going on to win the Travelers Championship by two strokes with a birdie at the last.

Schauffele finished the tournament at 19 under with rounds of 63, 63, 67 and finally a 68 on Sunday as wind picked up and the scoring conditions worsened.

The win is the sixth of his PGA Tour career and his first singles win since January 2019, also collecting the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in a team format with Patrick Cantlay in April of this season.

It was Theegala controlling the final stages after he moved to 19 under and the outright lead with birdies at 13, 15 and 17 down the stretch, but after finding the fairway bunker on 18, he muffed his first attempt to get out, requiring another two shots to get to the green, before his bogey putt lipped out.

It meant Schauffele only needed par to claim the championship, and he went one better, finishing in style with a perfect drive, approach and putt for birdie.

Speaking on the 18th green after his winning putt, he said it felt incredible to convert a 54-hole lead for the first time in his career.

"It's incredible," Schauffele said. "I was looking at birdie just to get into a play-off and saw there was a bit of a hiccup with Sahith when I was standing on the tee.

"I knew I had to hit that fairway and hit it anywhere on the green to make par."

Theegala finished tied for second at 17 under along with J.T. Poston, who was one of three players to shoot 64 or better on Sunday (also Chesson Hadley and Scott Stallings).

In outright fourth was Michael Thorbjornsen following a week he will never forget, finishing at 15 under after being the only amateur to make the cut, closing his week with rounds of 65, 66 and 66 to make a statement about his future on the PGA Tour.

Hadley held outright fifth place at 14 under, going bogey-free with four birdies and an eagle for his 64, while Keith Mitchell and Kevin Kisner shared sixth place at 12 under, with Kisner carding a disappointing 71 on Sunday to take himself out of contention.

The round of the day came from Stallings, who went bogey-free with seven birdies for his 63, rounding out the top 10 in a tie for eighth along with Brian Harman, Chez Reavie, William McGirt and Nick Hardy.

A star-studded group finished tied for 13th at 10 under, featuring world number one Scottie Scheffler, number six Cantlay and fellow top-20 American Tony Finau. It was tough work for the stars, with an even par 70 for Scheffler on Sunday, while Cantlay entered the day one stroke off the lead and carded a 76.

Rory McIlroy and recent winner Lee Kyoung-hoon were in the group that completed out the top 20.

Xander Schauffele shot a three-under 67 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead over Patrick Cantlay, coming into the final round of the Travelers Championship.

Looking for his sixth individual title on the PGA Tour, the reigning Olympic champion began the day with a five-stroke lead and went two-under over the front nine to help set up a career-best run of 48 holes without a bogey.

Schauffele hit trouble and a briefly fell into a tie for the lead on the par-five 13th, though, finding the water with his tee shot to eventually finish with a bogey.

He recovered to retake the solo lead however, claiming birdies on the 16th and 17th hole, hitting the pin on his approach and one-putting on the latter.

Schauffele leads by a solitary shot on 17-under from close friend Patrick Cantlay, who charged up the leaderboard on Saturday with a bogey-free, seven-under 63.

The two formed a close bond after being paired at the 2019 Presidents Cup and along with pairing up again at the Ryder Cup, took out this year's Zurich Classic together.

The reigning FedEx Cup champion will be looking to claim his first individual title of 2022, though, after losing in playoffs this year to Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth at the Phoenix Open and the Heritage respectively.

Sahith Theegala is three strokes back from Schauffele on 14-under after posting a six-under 64 on Saturday, even after a bogey on the par-four 18th.

The 24-year-old was otherwise in fine touch over the back nine in Cromwell, with an eagle on the 13th in contrast to the leader accompanied by three birdies.

Yet to win a tournament on the PGA Tour, Theegala is followed by Kevin Kisner on 13-under, then a tie for fifth between Martin Laird and KH Lee on 12-under.

Xander Schauffele shot his second consecutive 63 to head into the weekend at the Travelers Championship at 14 under – five strokes clear of the chasing pack.

Remarkably, Schauffele is yet to post a bogey in the tournament, with 14 birdies and 22 pars through his 36 holes.

He started beautifully in his second trip around TPC River Highlands, birdieing three of his first five holes, and capped off his round by birdieing the picturesque 17th hole for the second day in a row.

Schauffele was one stroke behind J.T. Poston and Rory McIlroy after Thursday's action, and tied for the round of the day on Friday along with Harold Varner III.

At 14 under, Schauffele has tied the TPC River Highlands 36-hole record, and it ties him with Justin Rose back in 2010 for the lowest 36-hole score at the Travelers Championship since 1984.

The five-man group tied for second place at nine under is made up of Americans Patrick Cantlay, Harris English, Nick Hardy and Kevin Kisner, as well as Australia's Cam Davis. Hardy and Kisner were the pick of that group on Friday, shooting 64s.

McIlroy and Poston sit one shot further back at eight under after the first-round leaders both shot even-par 70s, and are joined at eight under by a group including Lee Kyoung-hoon and Matthew NeSmith.

Webb Simpson is at seven under, rounding out the top-20, along with Michael Thorbjornsen, who is the only amateur to make the cut after rounds of 68 and 65.

World number one Scottie Scheffler is at five under, along with Varner, with the pair taking very different routes to that number. Scheffler has been consistent, with a 68 and a 67, while Varner has been the opposite, following his opening 72 with a 63.

With the cut-line at two under, Danny Willett and Mito Pereira were two of the players to miss out on the weekend despite being under par, while Sam Burns finished his week even, Jordan Spieth was one over, and the talented duo of Rickie Fowler and Joaquinn Neimann were at three over.

Rory McIlroy continued to lead the way both on and off the course, shooting a bogey-free eight-under 62 at the Travelers Championship on Thursday.

After defending his title at the Canadian Open for a 21st PGA Tour win a fortnight ago, following up with a top-five finish at the U.S. Open, McIlroy opened with five birdies over the front nine on the TPC at River Highlands course.

The most vocal of critics against the LIV Golf Invitational Series, the in-form Northern Irishman then closed with two birdies over the final four holes, including a birdie on the par-four 18th to punctuate a blistering opening round.

The birdies were flying at the opening day in Cromwell however, with JT Poston taking a share of the opening-round lead with an eight-under of his own.

They hold a one-stroke lead over Xander Schauffele, who closed with four birdies over the final six holes on Thursday to finish on a seven-under 63, tied for second with Scotsman Martin Laird.

Schauffele was in fine touch with his approach game, hitting the ball particularly cleanly and could have finished with an even lower score had he capitalised with his putter.

They were followed by a three-way tie for third, with Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson and Charles Howell III all posting scores of six-under in the opening round.

Meanwhile, Cam Davis and Matthew NeSmith share fourth place after the opening 18 holes, finishing on five-under for the round.

While others shone in Cromwell, Jordan Spieth had a tough day out for his opening round despite three birdies over the last five holes, finishing with a five-over 75 for the day.

He will have plenty of work to do on Friday just to make the cut, while world number one Scottie Scheffler posted a two-under 68.

Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen are the 36-hole leaders of the U.S. Open after an entertaining second round at The Country Club on Friday, tied at five under.

Dahmen was one stroke off the lead after the first round, and he followed it up with a strong 68 in windy conditions. He is one of three players to shoot 68 or better in the opening two rounds. Morikawa came into the day at one under, and shot the round of the day as the only player to get around in 66. 

One stroke back from the lead is a five-man group headlined by stars Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, along with American duo Hayden Buckley and Aaron Wise. Buckley and Wise were the two players along Dahmen to shoot back-to-back 68s.

Beau Hossler joined that group at four under thanks to a chip-in birdie on his final hole.

World number one Scottie Scheffler is part of the group at three under, and he shared the early clubhouse lead following a three-under 67. He is joined by Nick Hardy, Matthew NeSmith, Patrick Rodgers and Brian Harman to round out the top-10.

Overnight leader Adam Hadwin is a further shot back at two under with Sam Burns and Matt Fitzpatrick, while South Africa's M.J. Daffue – who was three strokes clear atop the leaderboard early in his round at six under – posted five bogeys and no birdies down the back nine to head into the weekend at one under.

Also at one under are hopefuls Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris, still well within striking distance, while Hideki Matsuyama and Brooks Koepka headline the group at even par.

Star-studded duo Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson are at one over, and the pair of Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau are at two over, one stroke clear of the cut-line.

Finishing right on the cut-line at three over was recent winner Lee Kyoung-hoon and Colombia's Sebastian Munoz, who has a pair of top-three finishes this season.

Plenty of big names missed the cut, with the international contingent of Spain's Sergio Garcia, Ireland's Shane Lowry, Chile's Mito Pereira and Canada's Corey Conners all one shot out at four over. Tony Finau finished five over, Cameron Smith was six over, and the pair of Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland were both at seven over.

 

Shot of the day

Cameron Young had a moment he will never forget when he conjured up a hole-in-one at the par-three sixth.

There were huge cheers after the American's dream tee shot at the 165-yard hole dropped in. Young was unable to make the cut – missing out by one stroke – but not without achieving a rare feat.

Player of the day - Collin Morikawa

Morikawa produced the round of the day to ensure he is the man to catch heading into the weekend.

The two-time major winner was not at his brilliant best, but five birdies and just the one bogey at the par-five fourth putting him in the lead.

Chipping in

Morikawa: "No one has taken it deep so far and kind of run away, but you know what, right now my game feels really good. The last few days is a huge confidence booster for me heading into this weekend, and hopefully we can kind of make some separation somehow."

Scheffler: "I've been number one in the world for a while now, and it doesn't really feel like it, so I kind of like just under the radar. I can show up and do my thing and then go home and rest."

 

A little birdie told me...

- Young's ace was the 48th in US Open history.

- Nick Hardy and M.J. Daffue emerged from the Springfield, Ohio qualifying. They both held a share of the lead on Friday.

- Scheffler is bidding to become only the second player to win this major while world number one since the Official World Golf Rankings began in 1986. Tiger Woods (2000, 2002 and 2008) is the only man to achieved that.

- Matthew Fitzpatrick is looking to emulate Jack Nicklaus by winning the US Amateur and US Open on the same course.

Justin Thomas ultimately prevailed in a thrilling US PGA Championship, lifting the Wanamaker Trophy after Mito Pereira's collapse on the 18th hole forced a playoff.

Holding the lead coming into the final round, Pereira only needed a par on the 18th hole to secure his first PGA Tour victory, but put his drive in the water and could not even salvage a bogey to earn his spot in the playoff.

With a double-bogey capping off a final round 75, he went from six under to four under, tying for third with Cameron Young.

The playoff was contested between Thomas and Will Zalatoris after both players produced clutch shots late in their rounds to finish at five under.

Thomas – who tied for the round of the day with his 67 – had a birdie putt on 18 to move to six under, but could not convert from 10 feet, finishing with a par to head into the clubhouse in outright second place, trailing Pereira by one shot.

Zalatoris, on the other hand, bogeyed the 16th to drop to four under, but came right back with a birdie on 17. He had a tricky par putt on 18 to remain tied with Thomas, and he remained cool under pressure.

In the playoff – which was contested over the aggregate score of three holes, the first being a par-five – Zalatoris appeared to strike first as he found the fairway with his drive, while Thomas hit the rough. Thomas was forced to lay-up, while Zalatoris made the green in two.

Zalatoris two-putted for his birdie, while Thomas put his wedge to within six feet, converting his birdie putt to tie the first playoff hole.

The second playoff hole was the 17th – a drivable par-four – and Thomas found the green with his drive. Zalatoris did not, and after chipping into birdie range, he missed his putt, tapping in for par. Thomas, on the other hand, safely two-putted for birdie to take a one stroke lead into the final playoff hole.

Both players drove well and made the green in regulation on the last, and after Zalatoris failed to sink a long birdie putt, Thomas only needed to two-putt for par to secure his second career major, making no mistakes. It is his second PGA Championship, five years after winning at Quail Hollow.

Also making the top-five was the English duo of Matt Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood – with the latter matching Sunday's best score – and American Chris Kirk, tied for fifth at three under.

It was a strong final round from Rory McIlroy, who rebounded from a disappointing 74 on Saturday to shoot 68 – one stroke off the round of the day – to finish outright eighth at two under.

McIlroy looked like he may be trending for a legendary final round after four consecutive birdies starting on the second hole, but he would claim no more from the fifth.

A four-man group of Mexico's Abraham Ancer, Ireland's Seamus Power and the American pairing of Tom Hoge and Brendan Steele rounded out the top-10, and the last players to finish under par.

Cameron Smith and Xander Schauffele highlighted the group at even par, while the big names struggled, as Jordan Spieth finished at four over, Jon Rahm wrapped up at six over, and Collin Morikawa at eight over.

Shot of the day

The shot of the day went to Englishman Laurie Canter, who birdied the difficult par-four 18th hole from the fairway.

After his drive found the rough, he was forced to lay-up 97 yards from the pin, but was able to convert it thanks to some sharp backspin.

A little birdie told me…

Before his horror drive on 18, Pereira earned his 71-hole lead with great success on the difficult par-fives and par-threes. He joined Webb Simpson as the only players to shoot a combined six under on the par-fives (fifth and 13th holes) over their four rounds

Only four players finished under par for the week on the par-threes (sixth, eighth, 11th and 14th holes) – Fitzpatrick and Rose were two under, while Pereira and Steele shot one under.

On average, nobody drove the ball further than Rory McIlroy this week, posting 347.6 yards per drive. However, the longest drive of the week went to Jon Rahm, with a 418-yard bomb.

Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with a tournament-record score of 29 under.

It was an incredible week for the duo, setting the course-record 59 in Thursday's four-ball format, and nearly matching it on Saturday with a 60, while also performing strongly in the alternate shot style in rounds two and four.

They also became the first team to win the tournament in wire-to-wire fashion, leading after all four rounds, and setting the record for best score at each interval.

Sunday was the toughest of the four days for the winners, after back-to-back bogeys on nine and 10 cancelled out their eagle on seven, with a birdie on 11 and a bogey on 18 capping off an even-par finish.

Speaking to the media after stepping off the 18th green, Schauffele expressed his excitement at winning alongside such a close friend.

"It's awesome – I said it earlier this week, if there's any success that I could share with someone, it would be Pat, so I'm happy we could get it done," he said.

"I'm not sure [how we broke all the records], we just plodded along. Today was the worst of our four quarters, but Pat was very calm, which helped me stay calm. 

"It's been a while since I've been in some sort of contention here, so I think it was just overall calmness and patience."

Cantlay added: "We had a lot of fun both on and off the golf course, and we're really happy to get it done. We definitely bring out the best in each other, and we really enjoy being out here together."

Sam Burns and Billy Horschel finished outright second, two strokes behind the leaders, but three strokes clear of third place with a score of 27 under that equalled the previous tournament record.

The pairing of Doc Redman and Sam Ryder finished outright third at 24 under, and with a 67 on Sunday, they were one of two teams – along with Burns and Horschel – to shoot four rounds in the 60s.

Davis Riley and Will Zalatoris posted the round of the day with a bogey-free 66, finishing with birdies on 17 and 18 to jump up into a tie for fourth at 23 under.

Joining Riley and Zalatoris at 23 under were the groups of Keegan Bradley with Brendan Steele, Harold Varner III with Bubba Watson, Taylor Moore with Matthew NeSmith, Garrick Higgo with Brandan Grace, and Aaron Rai with David Lipsky.

Reigning Masters champion and the season's points leader Scottie Scheffler finished at 18 under with partner Ryan Palmer, while The Players champion Cameron Smith was 17 under with compatriot Marc Leishman.

Father-son pairing Jay Haas and Bill Haas shot an even-par 72 to finish even or better in all four rounds as Jay became the oldest player to ever make a PGA Tour cut at 68 years old.

Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele are on track to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, closing the third round of play with a five-stroke lead.

After a record opening-round score of 59 in the first day of four-ball play on Thursday, the Presidents and Ryder Cup teammates scorched the back nine at TPC Louisiana with eight birdies to finish with a 12-under 60 for the day.

The two lead the field at an extraordinary 29-under after three rounds, with the South African duo of Garrick Higgo and Branden Grace five strokes back in second, improving on a solid second day to put themselves in the frame from Presidents Cup selection this year.

The pair will be seeking to go one better than their countrymen Louis Ooosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, who finished second at TPC Louisiana last year to Australian pair Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman.

Another Australian pair looking to work their way into calculations for Quail Hollow in September are Jason Day and Jason Scrivener, who improved on scores of 65 over the opening two rounds with a nine-under 63 on Saturday, birdieing the final four holes to sit on 23-under.

They're joined by the team of Aaron Rai and David Lipsky, along with Sam Burns and Billy Horschel, who bounced back from a bogey on the par-three ninth to close the back nine with five birdies.

Cantlay and Schauffele have been the stars of the weekend, however.

After blitzing the 54-hole record, only a catastrophic final round of alternate play would deny the reigning FedEx Cup and Olympic champions from smashing Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown's 72-hole record of 27-under.

Closing out on Sunday would make for maiden PGA Tour win this season for both Schaffele and Cantlay, with the latter coming into this weekend off a playoff loss to Jordan Spieth at the RBC Heritage.

Though Schauffele claimed the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year, his last tour win came in 2019.

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