“It’s amazing,” Higgo said. “I just stayed patient all week.”
Indeed, with a steady-and-sure approach, the 22-year-old Higgo won the Palmetto Championship at Congaree for his first career victory on the PGA Tour, taking the tournament after leader Chesson Hadley squandered a 2-shot lead with bogeys on his final three holes.
The 85-year-old Player told his rising, young countryman not to worry about trailing leader Hadley by 6 shots starting the final round.
“He’d told me he’s done it before, won quite a few times from 6 behind, 7 behind,” Higgo recalled. “Just try and do your thing and stay up there. You don’t know what can happen.”
Player was right as Higgo remained patient throughout — and made sure to take advantage when opportunities arose.
The left-hander did that with a closing 3-under 68 — his fourth round in the 60s this week — charged by an eagle on the par-5 12th hole and a birdie on the 14th to reach 11 under, the winning score.
Higgo kept himself in position on the challenging 17th hole, rolling in a 10-foot par save after not hitting the fairway on his first two shots.
Higgo sensed the moment was his if he could sink the putt. “I had a good feeling on that,” he said with smile.
He also benefited from a late collapse by Hadley, who held the lead after the second and third rounds. Hadley, seeking his first tour win since 2014, was still ahead by 2 shots starting the 16th hole. But a wayward tee shot led to a bogey there and he failed to get up and down on the 17th and 18th holes to give away the win.
Hadley finished with a 75 after rounds of 65-66-68.
“I can only imagine what it looked like on TV because it looked freaking awful from my view,” he said. “I just didn’t have it today. It was bad and (I’ve) got to do better and I will.”
Player later posted his congratulations to Higgo on social media. Player called it “one of the most enjoyable things for me to witness in my career. He is without a doubt the most humble, well-mannered young man that you could wish to meet. Watch this space, big things to come!”
Higgo had won twice on the European Tour in the Canary Islands before playing in the PGA Championship on Kiawah Island in South Carolina, where he tied for 64th. He’ll head West to Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California, for the U.S. Open next week.
After that, Higgo thinks he’ll likely fulfill his dream of playing regularly on the PGA Tour. His win makes him exempt through the 2023 season. He also earned $1.314 million for the career-altering victory.
“So at the moment, I’ll focus on that, see if I can keep going,” he said.
When Higgo tapped in for par on the 18th, he headed off to wait for a potential playoff. Turns out, he didn’t need the extra reps as Hadley missed a 10-footer for par to give the rising young player his first signature win.
Higgo took off his sunglasses and grinned when told of his victory, then hugged his caddie to celebrate.
Top-ranked Dustin Johnson made a run at the top late in the round, coming within a shot of Hadley after birdies on the 10th, 12th and 13th holes. His chances ended with a triple bogey on the 16th hole and he finished with a 70 to tie for 10th.
Van Pelt made birdie on the 15th to get to 12 under, then gave it right back with a bogey on No. 16.
Swafford came close to playing next week at the U.S. Open. A win at Congaree Golf Club would’ve meant a cross-country flight to Torrey Pines. He got within 2 shots of the lead before finishing tied for fourth.
The tournament at Congaree filled in for the RBC Canadian Open, which was canceled for a second straight year due to COVID-19.
The run capped an unprecedented stretch of golf in the Palmetto State.
It began in April with Stewart Cink winning his third RBC Heritage title at Harbour Town Golf Links and continued last month with 50-year-old “Lefty,” Phil Mickelson, becoming the oldest major winner at the PGA Championship on Kiawah Island.
And now, another lefty in Higgo brands himself a future star with his first win on tour.
DALY CITY, Calif. — Min Lee made a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th for a 4-under 68 and two-stroke lead Saturday in the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship.
Coming off a Symetra Tour victory, Lee also birdied the par-5 15th and par-3 17th to pull away from former Stanford player Lauren Kim and Finland’s Matilda Castren.
“I just tried to play my game and tried to be smart on the golf course, because the golf course is very hard,” Lee said. “There are some pin placement that you want to be on the fat side of the green if you miss it. So I was very focused on it.”
The 26-year-old Lee, from Taiwan, is trying to win for the first time on the LPGA Tour. She won the Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship two weeks ago in Florida on the developmental Symetra Tour, putting her in position to become the first player to follow a Symetra Tour victory with an LPGA Tour win in her next start.
“I don’t really thinking about making a record or breaking a record or something,” Lee said. “I just try to play my game. I play well, that’s good and everything comes together.”
Lee had a 9-under 207 total at Lake Merced as the tour completes its San Francisco Peninsula doubleheader after the U.S. Women’s Open last week at nearby Olympic Club.
Castren shot a 69, and Kim had a 71.
“I really like it,” Castren said about Lake Merced. “It’s very similar to Olympic that we played last week, so I feel like that was a really good prep for me coming into this week.”
Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela, another former Stanford player, had a 68 to join 2000 U.S. Women’s Open champion A Lim Kim (69) at 6 under.
Second-round leader Danielle Kang closed with a double bogey for a 74 that left her at 5 under with Lindsey Weaver (69), Jenny Shin (70), Jennifer Kupcho (70) and Jenny Coleman (71).
Lydia Ko (70) was 4 under with ANA Inspiration winner Patty Tavatanakit (71), 18-year-old Bay Area player Lucy Li (70), Ashleigh Buhai (70) and Yealimi Noh (71).
Lexi Thompson had a 70 to get to 3 under. Last Sunday at Olympic, she blew a five-stroke lead, playing the final seven holes in 5 over to finish a stroke out of a playoff that Yuka Saso won. Saso and Women’s Open playoff loser Nasa Hataoka skipped the event at Lake Merced.
Michelle Wie West, playing the weekend for the first time in five events this year, shot a season-beat 69 to get to 1 under. She opened with rounds of 73 and 75 to make the cut on the number.
DALY CITY, Calif. — Danielle Kang birdied the par-5 18th hole for a 6-under 66 and a 1-stroke lead Friday in the LPGA Mediheal Championship, the tour’s second straight event on the San Francisco Peninsula.
Coming off a 35th-place tie last week in the U.S. Women’s Open at nearby Olympic Club, Kang had a 7-under 137 total at Lake Merced for a 1-stroke lead over first-round leader Leona Maguire and former Stanford player Lauren Kim.
“It was just warmer weather,” Kang said. “I play well in really hot weather. Evidently, cold weather has not been my forte, but today weather was on my side.”
Kang rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 16th with a 6-foot par save on the par-3 17th and the closing birdie.
“The greens are slick and fast, and being poa, it’s just a little scary, a little bumpy,” Kang said. “You have to trust your lines, and that’s what I been doing. Just kept putting the way I did and started dropping on the back nine.”
The American won in consecutive weeks last summer in Ohio in the LPGA Tour’s return from the coronavirus pandemic. She has five tour victories — the first in 2017 in the major KPMG Women’s PGA Championship — and won the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2010 and 2011.
Maguire followed her opening 75 with a 73, rebounding after opening with three straight bogeys. The former Duke star from Ireland played alongside the tournament’s two past champions, Sei Young Kim (2018) and Florida neighbor Lydia Ko (2019).
“Really proud of how I sort of hung in there and battled back and holed some really nice putts and got some really nice up-and-downs and keep the round going,” Maguire said. “Kept myself in the tournament.”
Lauren Kim had her second straight 69.
“This week it’s just amazing to stay at home, sleep in my own bed, and just have the local support and know that people that are rooting for me are close by,” Kim said. “I think that’s really driven me to just kind of let it go this week and hopefully keep it going on the weekend.”
Min Lee was 5 under after a 69.
Michelle Wie West shot a 75 to make the cut on the number at 4 over, the first time in five events this year that she has advanced to the weekend. Wie West and eight other players got in when Katelyn Dambaugh, playing in the last group off the 10th tee, shot a 72, dropping from 3 under to 5 under with closing bogeys.
Stanford’s Rachel Heck, the NCAA player of the year playing on a sponsor exemption, missed the cut with rounds of 76 and 78 in the group with Wie West.
Ko was 2 under after a 70, and Kim was 3 over after a 74.
Saso and U.S. Women’s Open playoff loser Nasa Hataoka skipped the event.
DALY CITY, Calif. — Irish rookie Leona Maguire shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday at Lake Merced to take the first-round lead in the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship, the tour’s second straight event on the San Francisco Peninsula.
Lexi Thompson followed her Sunday back-nine meltdown in the U.S. Women’s Open at nearby Olympic Club with a 71, while Michele Wie West rallied for a 73.
Off last week after failing to qualify for the Women’s Open, Maguire had nine birdies and two bogeys. The 26-year-old former Duke star matched the tournament record in the third playing of the event, missing a chance to break it when she closed with a bogey on the par-5 ninth.
“It’s a tough golf course,” Maguire said. “You really have to hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens. I’ve been playing nice as of late. Things just haven’t been quite clicking, and they clicked nicely this morning.”
Jasmine Suwannapura of Thailand shot a 66, birdieing the par-5 18th late in the afternoon to pull within 1 shot.
Albane Valenzuela, the former Stanford player from Switzerland, was another stroke back with Alison Lee. Former Cardinal teammate Emily Wang caddied for Valenzuela.
“She just graduated yesterday from her master’s degree in international policy and she’s a Rhodes scholar,” Valenzuela said. “So, she is probably, have to say, the smartest caddie of the week because she outsmarts everyone.”
Thompson offset bogeys on Nos. 2 and 3 with an eagle on the par-5 fifth, birdied the other three par 5s and had two bogeys. On Sunday at Olympic, she blew a 5-stroke lead, playing the final seven holes in 5 over to finish a stroke out of a playoff that Yuka Saso won.
Wie West was 4 over with four holes left, then eagled the par-5 15th and birdied the par-4 16th. She has yet to make a cut in her four starts since returning from having her first child, shooting 74-80 last week at Olympic.
Hall of Famer Inbee Park was 4 strokes back at 69 with Jennifer Kupcho, Da Yeon Lee, Mariajo Uribe, Jane Park and Lauren Kim.
“It’s a little bit different atmosphere to this week,” said Inbee Park, coming off a seventh-place tie at Olympic. “It just makes me relax a little bit more after last week.”
Maguire played alongside the tournament’s two past champions, Sei Young Kim (2018) and Florida neighbor Lydia Ko (2019). Ko had five birdies and five bogeys in a 72, while Kim had four birdies and five bogeys in a 73.
“It was a lot of fun to play with Lydia,” Maguire said. “We played a lot together over the last few months at Lake Nona and she’s a great player. Obviously, Sei Young as well and they know what they’re doing around here, they have had some good success, so tried to learn a little bit from them.”
Maguire birdied four of the first six holes, dropped a shot on the par-4 16th, then had three straight birdies. She added two more birdies before making the closing bogey on the course that reminds her of Ireland.
“I suppose the weather is similar to home, even the golf course is similar to home,” Maguire said. “It’s very green and sort of tree lined a little bit like what we get at home. Northern California’s been good to me and I won my first Symetra event not too far from here, so these kind of golf courses suit my eye.”
Stanford’s Rachel Heck, the NCAA player of the year playing on a sponsor exemption, opened with a 76 in the group with Wie West.
Lucy Li, also in the field on a sponsor exemption, had a 71.
Brooke Henderson shot a 77. She birdied two of the first three, then dropped 7 strokes with five bogeys and a double bogey.
Saso and Women’s Open playoff loser Nasa Hataoka skipped the event.
The head of the proposed Premier Golf League is hoping to have a conversation with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and has reached out to him this week with hopes of explaining his concept.
Andy Gardiner, the CEO of the Premier Golf League, told ESPN an interview Wednesday that he’s been seeking such a meeting for two years.
“All we want is a conversation,” Gardiner said. “We’ve never been the enemy. But I can understand why we’ve been perceived as such. But we’d love to be friends. I’ve not had that opportunity so far. And I will be redoubling my efforts. We want to have a conversation in the best possible way to ensure they understand where we are coming from and why we are doing it and to ensure that nobody’s feelings will be hard done.”
The project is backed by British-based World Golf Group and the idea has been in the works for more than six years, with the basics being a 18-tournament schedule from January to August with 48 players in 54-hole tournaments that would begin in 2023.
Gardiner said there would also be women’s and junior components to the tour, which would typically be played Friday through Sunday, with the first two rounds played as a shotgun start and twosomes for the final round. The idea is to have 12 events in the U.S. and six others played internationally, with room for the major championships and Ryder Cup.
The big hook for possible players is $20 million weekly purses. Unlike the Saudi-backed Super League Golf, which made headlines last month when word came out about huge sign-on fees for the top players, the Premier Golf League — which at one time entertained the Saudis — is performance-based.
That said, with $150,000 minimums for finishing last per week, a player stands to earn at least $3 million per year, not including any team payouts.
Making this work with the PGA Tour is a huge sticking point. Despite Tour players being classified as independent contractors, they still are subject to regulations to be part of the PGA Tour. Among them is the Tour owning their media rights.
That means a player who wants to play in a competing event must get a release from the PGA Tour, or in essence, permission. When Phil Mickelson, for example, decided to play in the Saudi International in February as opposed to the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, he had to seek a release.
A player is typically granted three of these per year in return for meeting Tour obligations, which include playing a minimum of 15 events. To get more, in theory, other requirements would be asked.
Players such as Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, who are from Northern Ireland and Spain, respectively, are allowed to play unlimited events in Europe on their “home” tour as long they maintain their 15-event minimum on the PGA Tour — a stipulation for which the Tour is quite strict.
In 2015, Germany’s Martin Kaymer — who had won the Players Championship and U.S. Open the year prior — lost his PGA Tour membership in 2016 because he had not met the 15-tournament minimum. He still had access to PGA Tour events via sponsor exemptions, but was limited to 12 total including the major championships. And he was not eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs.
It is difficult to envision the PGA Tour allowing someone to play 18 times on another circuit, as that is a requirement of the PGL.
“It’ll be interesting to see what the position is,” Gardiner said. “We have made an approach in the last 24 hours setting out our thoughts in the best possible way. We just want to have this conversation for these reasons and we think it’s workable.
“We will require those in the league to commit on a contractual basis as long as they are fit to play 18 in a season. We believe they are independent contractors, and as long as they turn up as required, we can assure them that this will be the best place. It’s been done in Formula One. It’s been done in tennis, other sports. Golf is one of the few sports left where fans and broadcasters and sponsors are left with a lottery as to who they are going to get.
“I do know the existing PGA Tour rules. The players will ultimately decide where they are going to play. There have been rumors of bans and not getting ranking points, but all individuals should have the right to choose how and when and where they work. These guys are professionals. If the PGA Tour changes its rules that allows them to remain members … we hope that would be feasible.”
For now, the PGA Tour is maintaining that any player who joins the PGL or the Super League Golf would lose their membership and face a possible ban.
It is also unclear how the Official World Golf Ranking would handle PGL events. Gardiner suggested that the major championships would want all of the best players, and thus might tailor their qualification criteria.
Gardiner, 49, is a London-based attorney who worked at a regulated investment management company that had dealings in golf. He long heralded the idea of a “world tour” that he said he was frustrated to never see come to pass.
At one point, he penned a 100-page document in which he put together his idea for a world tour in which the top players would compete against each other from week to week. That evolved into the Premier Golf League, which first surfaced publicly in January of 2020.
Gardiner said the group was not ready to go public at that time, and the coronavirus served to put it in the background. But sometime last year, the PGL entered into serious discussions with the European Tour about some sort of partnership – which was aborted when the PGA Tour and the European Tour formed a strategic alliance in November.
“It took a little moment to step back and reconsider our path,” Gardiner said. “It was at that moment that we began to work and put our timetable in place. We needed to let everyone know what we are about. Here we are. What motivates us. We started this as fans of the game and we are still massive fans of the game. We are only doing what we are doing because we believe it will be better long term for the league to exist. We went back and reapplied everything we learned.”
Among the changes were an increase in purses to $20 million per week and a player draft concept that will see the 48 players come from the 12 teams with owners who may or may not be players. There is also a 13th-team component that would see a fan-owned team that chooses players.
Unlike the PGA Tour, the PGL would own all of the tournaments. Instead of title sponsors, there would be various groupings of sponsors would in most cases be on board for all 18 tournaments.
Gardiner said that no deals have been struck with any players, venues or broadcast networks, although numerous conversations have taken place on all of those levels.
“To maintain confidences, I’ve never named individuals,” Gardiner said. “I can say the dialogue we’ve had with players or their agents has given us a strong cross section of our market and the answer is we’ve spoken to nearly everyone.”
BUENOS AIRES — Argentine golfer Angel Cabrera was extradited from Brazil to his homeland on Tuesday to face trial on charges he assaulted three former partners.
Cabrera, who has won both the Masters and the U.S. Open, has been in jail since January when Brazil’s federal police arrested him on an Interpol warrant.
Cabrera, 51, had spent months on the run from an Argentine case involving assault claims filed by former girlfriend Cecilia Torres Mana. Her case was unified with those of former wife Silva Rivadero and former partner Micaela Escudero. They accuse Cabrera of assault, intimidation and causing injuries.
Argentinian television networks showed the golfer being handed over to local authorities in the border city of Puerto Iguazu, 745 miles (1,200 kilometers) north of Buenos Aires. He will be transported Wednesday to his native Cordoba to face trial, expected to begin in July.
Cabrera’s lawyer, Carlos Hairabedian, downplayed the allegations.
“The accusations come from long ago,” he told Argentine news, Todo Noticias.
In a recent interview, Torres Mana said Cabrera was controlling.
“We have to stop him so he leaves us at peace. He thinks you are his for the rest of your life and that you have to take the attacks and constant humiliation,” she said.
The golfer traveled to the United States in July 2020 without asking for permission, as requested due to the investigation. Prosecutors in Cordoba then issued an international arrest warrant. Cabrera then came to Brazil, where he was arrested.
Cabrera is the most accomplished golfer from South America. He won the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 2007 by one shot over Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk. He won the Masters in a playoff in 2009 and lost in a playoff at the Masters in 2013 to Adam Scott.