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    Wednesday, June 12, 2024

    Golf roundup: Ancer wins LIV Golf tournament in Hong Kong in a playoff

    Abraham Ancer hits a shot on the third hole during the final round of LIV Golf Hong Kong at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Hong Kong Sunday, March 10, 2024. (Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via AP)

    Ancer wins LIV in a playoff

    Abraham Ancer regained just enough of the composure that helped him pull out to a five-stroke lead after two rounds to beat Cameron Smith and Paul Casey in a playoff and win the inaugural LIV Golf tournament in Hong Kong on Sunday.

    Ancer's comfortable lead at the start of the final round gradually disappeared with the Mexican struggling to keep pace with the chasing pack after a 2-over round of 72 at the Hong Kong Golf Club course.

    Casey's 6-under 64 final round, which led his Crushers GC to the team title, pulled him even with Ancer while Smith shot 4 under to secure a place in the playoff with the trio finishing at 13 under for the tournament.

    With heavy rain falling, Ancer rediscovered his touch to find the fairway with his opening drive of the first playoff hole on the 18th while Casey and Smith pushed theirs right and left, respectively. His spectacular approach shot set up a short birdie putt that he converted while Casey and Smith both finished with bogeys.

    “I made that so hard on myself,” said Ancer. “The ball striking wasn't there but mentally I was really strong so I felt really good, I felt like I was not going to give up.

    “That round could have gone south really quickly and hit some good bunker shots, some good putts that I needed to and just get myself in it and hit the right shot at the right time there in the playoff.”

    Joaquin Niemann, who won the Jeddah tournament in Saudi Arabia last week for his second LIV victory in three starts, finished a stroke back of the playoff group after a sparkling 7 under in his final round.

    The Hong Kong tournament is the second of three LIV Golf events that are part of the Asian swing, with the third in early May in Singapore. The week before Singapore, the LIV series will be in the Pacific region with a second consecutive tournament at The Grange in Adelaide, Australia from April 26-28.

    Tardy picks up her first LPGA Tour win

    Bailey Tardy picked up her first victory on the LPGA Tour, shooting 7-under 65 in the final round of the Blue Bay tournament on China's southern island of Hainan to win by four strokes ahead of Sarah Schmelzel.

    Tardy had a 19-under 269 total for the 72-hole event.

    Schmelzel closed with a 69. Ayaka Furue finished in third place, five strokes back after a 65.

    Tardy had the halfway lead at the U.S. Women's Open last year but saw victory slip away.

    "I mean, a lot of emotions right now," Tardy said after winning. "A lot of hard work and just a lot of doubt that was in my head that I could be at this level and win. This is special."

    Lydia Ko, who held the lead in China with Tardy and Schmelzel after three rounds, finished with a 71, six strokes behind the winner.

    A victory by Ko on Sunday would have earned her enough points for entry into the LPGA's Hall of Fame. It also would have been her 21st win on the LPGA Tour and her second this season.

    Garnett wins PGA Puerto Rico Open

    Brice Garnett holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the fourth playoff hole to win the Puerto Rico Open in his first tournament of the year, sending him to The Players Championship next week and giving him PGA Tour status for the next three years.

    Garnett closed with a 3-under 69 at Grand Reserve Golf Club, getting back in the game with consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th and then saving par on the 18th in regulation.

    Erik Barnes closed with a 68, also saving par on the 18th. They finished at 19-under 269.

    Both had their chances in the playoff, each time on the 630-yard closing hole. Garnett missed a 12-foot birdie putt for the win on the first extra hole. Barnes holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole, with Garnett matching him from 6 feet.

    Barnes narrowly missed from 12 feet after Garnett's birdie on the fourth playoff hole.

    Garnett was emotional when it was over, and it's easy to understand why. He won in the Dominican Republic in 2018 for his only PGA Tour victory, but he fell outside the top 150 last year and was reduced to having low status as a past champion.

    Given this year of signature events and high stakes on the PGA Tour, this was the first tournament that had room for him. The Puerto Rico Open was held opposite the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    Garnett referred to it as his "Augusta," so important because it would give him a chance to pick up FedEx Cup points. It worked out better than he can imagine.

    The victory comes with a two-year exemption — the rest of 2024 on the PGA Tour, plus the next two years. Along with The Players Championship next week and its $25 million purse, Garnett is in the PGA Championship, and he starts next year in Kapalua for The Sentry.

    "It's huge," he said. "I was so excited for the opportunity to compete out here again. I get three more years on this tour, some events I get in. There was really a lot of unknowns this year."

    Jimmy Stanger had a good chance to join the playoff. He was left of the green in two on the 18th and needed to get up-and-down for birdie. But he bladed his chip across the green and had to settle for par and a 70.

    Stanger tied for third with Victor Perez (65) and Hayden Springer (68).

    Ben Kohles, the 54-hole leader, didn't make a birdie until the 15th hole. He still had a chance going to the par-5 18th to join the playoff, but he three-putted from 35 feet for bogey and closed with a 73 to tie for sixth.

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