Collin Morikawa has flatly dismissed talk that he could join the exodus from the PGA Tour to the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The Open champion and former US PGA winner had been linked in some reports as a player that might switch allegiance, but the 25-year-old American said that simply is not true.

Morikawa, who finished tied for fifth place at the U.S. Open last week, issued his denial on Twitter.

He wrote: "Last week at my press conference, I said the media loves creating drama. Sure enough, I woke up this morning to everyone thinking I'm next. Not to say I told you so but…I told you so.

"To state for the record, once again, you all are absolutely wrong. I've said it since February at Riviera that I'm here to stay on the @PGATOUR and nothing has changed. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some cereal to pour in my milk."

The Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway competition, which started earlier in June in London, has already drawn major-winning big names including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia.

Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed followed suit to play in LIV Golf tournaments, with all participants aware they would be indefinitely suspended from the PGA Tour.

The 'rebel' players were still allowed to play the U.S. Open, where four-time major winner Brooks Koepka said he was "tired of conversations", arguing LIV Golf debates were "throwing a black cloud" over the third major of 2022.

Now Koepka is said to have agreed a switch to LIV Golf, where players have been richly rewarded for agreeing to join the series, although he has yet to confirm the move.

Widespread reports have said Koepka will play the 54-hole tournament in Portland, Oregon, that runs from June 30 to July 2.

Collin Morikawa, the reigning champion of The Open, will head to St Andrews having learned from his experience at the U.S. Open.

Morikawa was among the favourites to clinch the season's third major at The Country Club this weekend, and was on course to challenge until carding a dismal 77 on Saturday.

He hit back with an impressive 65 on Sunday, though, putting him T5 at the time he went back into the clubhouse - only three off the lead.

While Morikawa required a huge slip up from all of the leaders to get him in contention for glory at Brookline, he was able to reflect on learning what he hopes will be a valuable lesson ahead of defending his Open title next month at St Andrews.

"I don't know if I found something. I think it just taught me that just go play golf," Morikawa told reporters.

"This year has been so much focused on trying to hit that cut and trying to be so perfect, and that's who I am, but just go out and play.

"Things are going to be tough. The ball is not going to go exactly where you want, but just figure it out.

"After this week it was a huge boost heading into the last little stretch of golf.

"I'm very excited. I think I'm going to have to really do a good job about prioritising every single day and splitting up what I need to focus on, whether it's the golf or whether I need to enjoy just being there at St. Andrews, being back as a defending champion.

"I think last year I was able to settle in a little quicker because I played the Scottish [Open] and you just kind of showed up. Time zones, everything, it was just go and play golf.

"This year I think there's going to be a couple more distractions just with being the defending champion and just knowing that it's such a golf-centred town, but that doesn't mean by Tuesday midday all I'll be focusing on is golf."

Morikawa went round in 69 on Thursday and built on that impressive start with a 66 in his second round in Massachusetts, yet it all fell apart on Saturday.

"I didn't see it coming. I think when you are playing well, you'll make doubles, right, and doubles aren't acceptable, just like three-putts," added Morikawa, who already has two major titles under his belt by the age of 25.

"Yesterday with two doubles, you just can't play with that. I know you can kind of rebound from that, and I think Scottie [Scheffler] kind of bounced back and still kept himself around there, but I just... the game and the approach shots and just off the tee, I was playing out of the rough yesterday, which is just impossible at a U.S. Open to play well and to hold and maintain pars.

"So I didn't think it was coming. I hope many seven-overs aren't coming in the future, but it just kind of made me refocus and kind of just get back into things, right, and just really start from the tee, get it in the fairway, and then worry about it from there."

Will Zalatoris and Matthew Fitzpatrick share the lead coming into the final round at the U.S. Open, finishing a tough Saturday on four-under par at Brookline.

Only nine players at this third major of the year have scores under par after 54 holes at the Country Club, and the tied lead between Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick only came after Jon Rahm's dreadful final hole in overcast and blustery conditions.

The world number two had the outright lead coming into his final hole on moving day, but three consecutive bunker shots and a two-putt led to a double-bogey on the par-four 18th and three-under after 54.

Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick have not won as professionals in the United States, with the former agonisingly finishing second at the 2021 Masters and this year's PGA Championship.

With Zalatoris finishing his round earlier in the day, Rahm finished as the conditions further cooled, placing particular difficulty on the approach to the green with club selection.

A visibly frustrated Rahm was able to compensate with some exceptional putting on the back nine, however, sinking a long birdie putt on the 14th to put him level with the two leaders. Three birdies between 14 and 17 were undone by the last hole, however.

Scottie Scheffler recovered from a double-bogey and three consecutive bogeys between 11 and 14 to finish Saturday on two-under, securing a birdie on the 17th before a massive par save on the last after hitting the bunker.

The usually stoic Scheffler did not hide his emotions with a triumphant fist-pump after the save, which left the world number one tied with Adam Hadwin and Keegan Bradley.

Joel Dahmen and Collin Morikawa fell down the leaderboard after opening Saturday with the lead on five-under. Morikawa's natural left-to-right game particularly suffered, shooting a seven-over 77.

Dahmen is joined on one-under by Sam Burns and Rory McIlroy, who only made seven greens in regulation but stayed in contention with a string of saves on the back nine.

 

Shot of the day

After two birdies and a bogey through his first seven holes, Scheffler really shone on the eighth.

His stunning eagle on the par-five hole saw him leap into a two-shot lead at the summit of the leaderboard.

Player of the day - Will Zalatoris

In a day characterised by survival in blustery conditions at Brookline, Will Zalatoris was one of the few on Saturday who thrived.

His ball-striking shone on an overcast day, scoring only one bogey as the rest of the field struggled to find the green.

 

Chipping in

Zalatoris: "Yeah, that was brutal. When I made a mistake, I made sure I was on the fat side of the green or having room where I could maybe at least chip one up there from eight to 10 feet."

Scheffler: "There's a lot of trees on this golf course, and it's gusty as well. So it's definitely unpredictable. I think that's what happens when you get these foresty golf courses, and then with the gusts, I mean, that little golf ball is just getting thrown around all over the place." 

 

A little birdie told me...

- Victory on Sunday would see Fitzpatrick emulate Jack Nicklaus, winning the U.S. Open at the same course he won the U.S. Amateur, after beating Oliver Goss at the Country Club in 2013.

Joel Dahmen is a surprise co-leader with Collin Morikawa after 36 holes of the U.S. Open at The Country Club – and he was contemplating skipping the qualifier.

Dahmen, 34, is one of three players to shoot 68 or better in both rounds, finishing the first round one off the lead after a 67, before backing it up with a 68 on Friday. Hayden Buckley and Aaron Wise both posted a pair of 68s, and are one stroke off the lead in a tie for third.

In his second trip around the course, Dahmen had a strong front nine, birdieing the first hole as well as the fifth and eighth, with a bogey on the second. He started the back nine poorly, with a bogey on 10, but followed it with seven pars and a long birdie putt.

Speaking to the media after his round, he confirmed the story that he almost pulled out of the qualifier where he punched his ticket.

"There was a lot of discussion leading up to it, yeah, the prior week," he said. "I told my wife I wasn't going to do it.

"Then I was tired at Memorial and said I wasn't going to do it. I was never really going to do it until I… sort of played better at Memorial and the game was there.

"My coach, Rob Rashell, came out and things started to trend in the right direction. And then [my caddie] Geno [Bonnalie], I felt bad because he didn't switch his flight when he could have got home Sunday night, so at that point I had to stick it out."

Clearly, he is thrilled with his decision.

"I'm incredibly happy now for sure," he said. "I mean, sometimes you take for granted what you have out here a little bit. 

"I think this is my eighth or ninth major championship, and you think not long ago I would have done a lot of things to play in one, and to think that I have an opportunity just to skip one, kind of looking back, even this whole week, you don't appreciate really.

"I've played 130-odd events. I've been six years out here. It's easy to get in a lull and be like, you just go home for two weeks and hang out and everything is all hunky-dory, but when you get here, everything changes as soon as you get on property. 

"It's a USGA event. It's huge. People everywhere. So, yeah, that changes your mind pretty quickly."

After finding some form recently, Dahmen said he is starting to encounter fans who know who he is – something he does not believe will ever feel normal.

"It is unbelievable to me how many people know my name or yell for me out there," he said. "It's weird. 

"I'm getting recognized a little bit more off the golf course – my wife will look at me, like, what is happening? 

"It's not normal. I don't know if I'll ever get used to it, but it comes with good golf."

Collin Morikawa said he feels he is becoming a more complete golfer after ditching the traditional 'cut' action to his shots in favour of a 'draw' in a bid to rediscover some form, shooting Friday's round of the day.

Morikawa was the only player to shoot 66 in the second round, backing up his Thursday 69 to hold a share of the lead heading into the weekend, along with Joel Dahmen.

To get to five under, Morikawa produced a bogey-free, three-under back nine, collecting birdies on 12, 14 and 17. His only bogey on the day came at the par-four fourth hole.

When asked if he plans on making a full-time switch to his new swing style, he pushed back, saying he instead sees it like another tool in his belt.

"No – [but] that's a great question," he said. "I think what it proves is just that you can play this game with many shots.

"I remember the first time I played with Tiger, and he hit every shot that called for it. Pin is on the right; you hit a little cut. Pin is on the left; you hit a little draw.

"I think this is just going to hopefully make my iron play and make my game a little bit more well-rounded rather than just hitting a cut – but this week we're just going to work with what we have, and right now it's a little baby draw."

Morikawa was also thankful for not copping the brunt of the weather.

"Yesterday I said I thought I'd see a 66, even a 65 from those afternoon guys – the winds picked up," he said.

"Today I thought a couple under was going to be a really good score just based on what the wind forecast was going to be like, but we got lucky.

"I finally got a good side of the draw, and it kind of calmed down a little bit on a couple holes, especially when we made the turn on to the front side. 

"I didn't take advantage, but it was nice to see some decent weather kind of fall my way. A lot of the day kind of calmed down, was really nice, really sunny."

He went on to discuss how the course is playing in a tricky way, but that there are still opportunities.

"Fairways are bouncy, and you've got to keep it in the fairways out here," he said.

"You can play out of the first cut, but you get five, six, seven yards off the fairway, you're going to be trying to run up to greens, and sometimes you can't do that out here.

"But for the most part the greens are still – I'd say they're receptive. There was probably two or three greens out here that are getting a little bouncy, and you really have to make sure you hit your spots. 

"But for the most part if you're playing out of the fairway, you have a good shot at staying somewhat aggressive to some of these pins."

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.

World number three Cameron Smith headlines a six-way tie atop the Memorial Tournament leaderboard after Thursday's first round at Muirfield Village.

Smith is joined by American trio Luke List, Cameron Young and Davis Riley, as well as Canada's Mackenzie Hughes and South Korea's Lee Kyoung-hoon.

It is the largest leading group after the first round in tournament history, but they all got to their five-under 67 in different ways. 

Young finished the day second in average driving distance (316.8 yards), behind only Jon Rahm, while Lee, Hughes and Smith finished top-six in putts-per-green-in-regulation.

List was the only member of the leading group to finish with less than two bogeys, and Riley played an all-round game; top-15 in driving distance while being dialled in with his putter down the back-nine, going five-under from the 11th hole to the 17th.

US PGA Championship runner-up Will Zalatoris is part of the three-man group one stroke off the lead, while Max Homa and Canada's Corey Conners are in the logjam at three under.

A star-studded group finished with a two-under 70, including Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and Im Sung-jae, while Chile's Joaquin Neimann is with Collin Morikawa and Jason Day at one under.

Patrick Cantlay and Rahm were even-par, Mito Pereira will need a solid second round to make the cut after a one-over finish, and Hideki Matsuyama was handed his first career disqualification for using a wood with paint on its face – deemed illegal. He was three over at the time of the incident.

Sam Burns drained a putt from off the green to win the Charles Schwab Challenge in a playoff against world number one Scottie Scheffler.

Despite making no birdies on Sunday, Scheffler was in contention all day after entering the day in the outright lead, but had to battle with the difficult conditions later in the day to post a 72.

Burns was in much better touch, and had the benefit of getting his 18 holes out of the way earlier before the wind picked up, notching a 65 for the round of the day. 

He was one shot back from a four-way tie at 10 under when he finished his tournament at nine under, and he had to wait two hours to find out – first if the field would come back to him – and then if Scheffler could hold on for the playoff.

Scheffler needed to save a number of tough pars down the back nine, including out of the bunker on the 18th hole to force the playoff, which he did by sinking a clutch five-footer.

In the playoff, after a pair of solid drives, Scheffler found the green a long way from the hole, while Burns put his approach just off the back of the putting surface. Approaching three hours since his last putt, Burns drained an incredible tournament-winner, with Scheffler not able to match him from distance.

Speaking to the media after securing the win, Burns said it was a hard-fought result.

"I think, just with the conditions today, and how tough it was playing, I'm just so proud of the way we hung in there," he said.

"I just played such a good round of golf today, and [caddie] Travis [Perkins] did a good job of keeping us in it, especially after hitting a foul ball at 12 which killed our momentum. Hitting that putt – that's just icing on the cake."

It is 11 years since Burns attended Colonial Country Club in person to witness David Toms win the Crowne Plaza Invitational, and he said it is hard to believe he is a champion at the same course.

"I don't know if I would've believed you – I remember that week like it was yesterday," he said.

"To finish it off here, and have [Toms'] family here… to add my name on that list now is really cool."

Scheffler's playing partner Brendon Todd finished one stroke outside the playoff, alone in third at eight under, while American trio Tony Finau, Davis Riley and Scott Stallings collected top-five finishes, tied for fourth at seven under. Finau and Burns were the only two players to shoot 67 or better in the final two rounds as the conditions worsened throughout the weekend.

A strong group rounded out the top-10, with pre-tournament favourite Jordan Spieth and US PGA Championship main character Mito Pereira headlining the five-man bunching in a tie for seventh at five under,

Spieth, Riley and Im Sung-jae – who was part of the logjam at three under – were the only three players to shoot 70 or better in all four rounds.

Norway's Victor Hovland was one of two players to finish at two under, while New Zealand's Danny Lee tied Burns for the round of the day, with his Sunday 65 bringing him to one under for the tournament.

Harold Varner III was part of the four-way tie for the lead at 10 under through 11 holes, but went triple-bogey, double-bogey, triple-bogey over his next three holes to plunge down the leaderboard and finish at even par.

Talor Gooch and Webb Simpson joined him at even par, Tommy Fleetwood finished at one over, and Collin Morikawa never shot worse than 71, but never shot better than 70 to finish two over.

World number one Scottie Scheffler remained in a tie for the lead after his second consecutive bogey-free round at the Charles Schwab Challenge, going one stroke better than his Thursday 66 to sit at nine under.

Scheffler's 65 was one shot off the round of the day, and he did it with back-to-back birdies on holes one and two, before also making gains at 10, 12 and 17 down the back nine.

Fellow round one leader Beau Hossler matched Scheffler again – but after two eagles on par-fours in his first round, he did it in much more traditional fashion this time around, also going bogey-free with five birdies.

Joining that pair atop the leaderboard was Scott Stallings, one of two players to shoot Friday's best score of 64, along with New Zealand's Danny Lee, who improved to sit six off the lead after a 73 on Thursday.

Speaking to Golf Channel after stepping off the 18th green, Scheffler said improvements he has made this season are paying off after traditionally struggling at Colonial Country Club.

"I've worked really hard, just creating a lot of different shots for myself," he said.

"This golf course is a lot about the approach play, and at first it didn't suit my eye, but I've really changed and improved my iron play and created a lot of different shots for myself, and it looks like the hard work is paying off here.

"I think I like it when the conditions are really hard, I'd rather it be very difficult than very easy.

"I feel like it's one of those things where if you're playing really good golf you can kind of extend yourself, so I'm excited for the challenges this weekend."

Patrick Reed sat one stroke back from the lead, alone at eight under after his second 66 of the week, with fellow Americans Pat Perez and Chris Kirk rounding out the top five at seven under.

Next came a five-man group at six under consisting of Americans Max McGreevy, Harold Varner III and Davis Riley, with Australian Cam Davis and Norway's Viktor Hovland.

Pre-tournament favourite Jordan Spieth, Webb Simpson and John Huh stood at five under, while Mito Pereira headlined the logjam at four under, still in the mix after his capitulation at the US PGA Championship last weekend.

Max Homa finished three strokes inside the cut line at two under, while Tony Finau and Rickie Fowler were at one under, and Im Sung-jae was one inside the line at even par.

Collin Morikawa and Talor Gooch made the weekend on the number, finishing at one over, while the US PGA Championship playoff pairing of Will Zalatoris and Justin Thomas were both at three over, out of the hunt this time.

World number one Scottie Scheffler was part of an eight-man group atop the leaderboard after the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge, played at Colonial Country Club in Texas.

Scheffler, who shot a bogey-free 66 despite only hitting 50 per cent of the fairways in regulation, was joined by fellow Americans Harold Varner III, Chris Kirk, Beau Hossler, Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, as well as Canadian Nick Taylor and Australian Cam Davis.

Hossler produced the most notable round, with two eagles – both coming on par-fours – in his last four holes to fly up the leaderboard.

One shot off the lead were a group including Davis Riley and Kevin Na, while pre-tournament favourite Jordan Spieth was back at one under, tied with Victor Hovland and Max Homa.

Spieth, who is from Texas, has an impeccable record at Colonial, with seven top-10 finishes – including three runners-up and a win – from nine starts on the PGA Tour.

Speaking to the media after finishing his round, Spieth said he is battling his putter at the moment but that he is confident things will turn in his favour.

"I think I'm typically more comfortable with reads here, although today here was totally different, I misread a number of putts today," he said.

"But I stroked it beautifully, I just felt great about the way I putted, I just didn't get much to go.

"Those are the kind of rounds where you can either look at it negatively, or you can say at it like 'hey, that lid is going to come off one of these times, and all of a sudden they're all going to pour in'.

"It's done that for me [previously] at Colonial, so I think that's the attitude I'm going to take."

At even par were a strong international group including Chile's US PGA Championship main character Mito Pereira, Colombia's Sebastian Munoz, England's Ian Poulter, American Collin Morikawa and the South Korean duo of Lee Kyoung-hoon and Im Sung-jae.

PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas was at one over, while his playoff opponent last week Will Zalatoris was a shot further back at two over.

Patrick Cantlay holds a two-stroke lead after the second round at the RBC Heritage following a four-under par 67.

After posting a bogey-free 66 on the first day, the world number six's second round featured three bogeys, but he closed it out with four consecutive birdies starting on the par-five 15th hole to tie for the best round of the day.

Over his first two rounds, Cantlay has birdied 10 of the 18 holes at Harbour Town.

Speaking to the media after his round, Cantlay explained that his finish was exactly how he wanted to head into the weekend.

"Obviously, that's a dream finish," Cantlay said. "I finally rolled in some putts and that was really nice to see going into the weekend.

"Just staying with my game plan and continuing to leave the golf ball in the right spots, which is paramount around this place, I think is the key."

Six players shot 67 on Friday, including second-placed Robert Streb, who is alone at seven under.

First-round leader Cameron Young could not come close to repeating his unbelievable round of 63, going 10 strokes worse, but he is still very much in the mix in a tie for third at six under with a group of players including Cameron Tringale and Erik van Rooyen.

Chilean pair Joaquin Neimann and Mito Pereira are one shot further back at five under, along with Jordan Spieth, while Corey Conners and Shane Lowry have continued their fine form from The Masters to be in the hunt at four under.

Pre-tournament favourite Collin Morikawa posted his second consecutive 70 to sit in a tie for 34th at two under, but blew a chance to go into round three in the top-20 after double-bogeying the 18th.

Justin Thomas finished one stroke better than the cut-line at one under, while reigning champion Stewart Cink held on to see the weekend at even par along with Webb Simpson and Danny Willett.

Cameron Smith's Masters hangover saw him finish one over, missing the cut along with Dustin Johnson, who followed up Thursday's 72 with an equally disappointing 71.

Other notable names to drop out include Kevin Kisner, Russell Henley and Matt Fitzpatrick, with the latter carding 75 to fall three strokes short.

Cameron Young shot a career-best eight-under 63, with a bogey-free first round to take the lead at the RBC Heritage on Thursday.

The 24-year-old flew out of the gate in his debut at Harbour Town, with five birdies on the front nine, and capped the stunning round off with another on the iconic par-three 18th hole.

Young leads Chile's Joaquin Niemann by two strokes and is three ahead of seven others, including reigning FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay and Shane Lowry, coming off his third-place finish at the Masters last weekend.

Former RBC Heritage winner Graeme McDowell, Mito Pereira, Adam Svenson, Corey Connors and Sepp Straka also put up scores of 66, with another ten a further stroke back, making light work of Harbour Town's famous tight fairways in the opening round.

Morgan Hoffman also played his first round on the PGA Tour since being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in 2019, remarkably shooting an even-par 71.

After taking out The Masters, world number one Scottie Scheffler will miss the RBC Heritage this year. In what is still a packed field at Harbour Town this weekend, five of the world's top-ten players are taking part.

Meanwhile, Collin Morikawa closed with a bogey in front of the lighthouse on the 18th to finish the opening round on a one-under 70.

Coming off his calamitous final day at The Masters, where his triple-bogey on the 12th at Augusta National dashed his hopes of catching Scheffler, Cameron Smith shot a two-over 73.

Young, a rookie on the PGA Tour, has had second-placed finishes at the Rivera CC and Jackson CC, and qualified for The Masters – where he missed the cut with consecutive scores of 77.

"Honestly, I wanted to play last weekend," Young said. "But in terms of the end of the week, [missing the cut] is not the end of the world.

"I know it would be really nice, but you have good days and bad days and rarely do you have four good ones in a row. I'm glad it came early and I'm happy I kept myself around for the whole tournament."

Scottie Scheffler is now the proud owner of a green jacket after winning the Masters with a terrific performance in the last round – even if he wobbled on the 18th green.

Scheffler, 25, finished 10 under overall and shot 71 on Sunday after a double bogey at the last, winning his fourth career PGA Tour title after landing his first just 57 days ago.

A terrific chip-in on the third hole helped him find his footing after a couple of wayward drives early on, but his ability to recover from less-than-ideal situations was on full display on the first nine.

He would birdie the seventh hole on the way to a bogey-free front half, before his first slip-up came with a bogey on the 10th as he missed a makeable par putt. He lost his putting poise on the final green, but had enough shots in hand that it hardly mattered a jot.

The final day shaped up as a two-horse race between Scheffler and Cameron Smith, but any chance Smith had at mounting a comeback went up in smoke as his tee shot on the par-three 12th found the water.

Smith went on to triple-bogey the hole, and fell apart from that point, pulling drives into the trees as his fight turned from a chance to win to a battle to hang on in the top five.

The surge of the day came from Rory McIlroy, who shot one off the course record with an eight-under 64 to finish outright second at seven under.

McIlroy went bogey-free, with birdies on one, three, seven, eight, 10 and 18, and an eagle on 13.

He capped off his round with a remarkable chip-in from the bunker on 18 – only for his playing partner, Colin Morikawa, to do likewise to put the finishing touches on a 67 to earn outright fifth place at four under.

Also finishing inside the top five was Shane Lowry, who finished with a three-under 69 to tie with Smith for third on a five-under aggregate, despite a triple bogey on the par-three fourth.

There is nothing in golf quite like The Masters.

Arguably the most prestigious of the majors, Augusta National becomes the centre of the sporting world once more over the weekend, as the famous green jacket goes up for grabs again.

In 1997, Tiger Woods won his first major when he triumphed in Georgia, and 25 years on he is set to make a sensational comeback from injury.

But Woods is not the only name to look out for.

 

The favourites

Let's start from the top. Scottie Scheffler is the world's new number one and he heads into the weekend on the back of three victories in his last five events, having not finished worse than T-19th in his six major appearances since 2020.

Scheffler said he has been resting up at home ahead of travelling to Augusta, where he joked he has already been brought down a peg or two.

He told Sky Sports: "I've been humbled a couple of times already, showing up here. The guy who picked me up in the cart this morning called me Xander, so that brought me down to earth real quick! It's been great, really looking forward to this week."

The Xander in question is Xander Schauffele. He finished T3 last year, three shots back from the champion Hideki Matsuyama, and was looking good on his final round until he sent a ball into the water on the 16th, but he won gold at the Tokyo Olympics and comes into the tournament in strong form.

Reigning champion Matsuyama cast doubt over his participation when he withdrew from the Texas Open with a neck problem, meanwhile, which may hinder his title defence.

 

Brooks Koepka has won four majors, but did not make the cut last year and will be out to put that right this time around, having defeated Jon Rahm in the WGC-Match Play last 16. 

Rahm has finished in the top 10 in each of his last four Masters appearances. However, the Spaniard has not won a tournament since triumphing in the US Open last year, but did secure a place in the top 10 in all four of last year's majors.

Dustin Johnson failed to make the cut in 2021 in a torrid title defence. He had dropped out of the top 10 up until an impressive performance at the WGC-Match Play moved him up to number eight, and he'll be determined to rekindle the form that saw him clinch the green jacket in 2020.

Viktor Hovland is ranked fourth in the world, though his weak chipping game may prove costly to his chances at Augusta, while Collin Morikawa cannot be discounted for a third major title and Justin Thomas will be out to win a second major having won the US PGA Championship in 2017.

 

The outsiders

Augusta is where golfers can shoot to stardom over the course of four spectacular days, and there will be plenty of the field who fancy their chances despite not being among the bookmakers' favourites.

One such player capable of a challenge is Cameron Smith. The Australian is ranked at a career-high six, won the Players' Championship last month and has finished inside the top 10 in three of the last four Masters.

Will Zalatoris, meanwhile, comes into the weekend with the best SG (strokes gained, which compares a player's score to the field average) tee-to-green* statistics on the PGA Tour this season, with his 1.767 average just edging out Thomas, and he came second on his Masters debut in 2021.

Zalatoris only has one pro win to his name so far but the 25-year-old has largely impressed at the majors. He finished T2 in 2021 at Augusta and T8 in last year's PGA Championship, while recording a T6 finish in the 2020 US Open.

Rory McIlroy's Masters record is frustrating. It is the only major the former world number one has not yet won. He finished in the top 10 six times between 2014 and 2020 before missing the cut last year, and now he'll have another stab at sealing a career Grand Slam, though his best finish this season has been third in the Dubai Desert Classic.

 

Only five players have previously completed a clean sweep of the majors, and McIlroy has not won one of the big four events since 2014.

Russell Henley will feature for the first time since 2018 after 12 top 10 finishes in the past year, and he has finished in the top 25 at Augusta three times, while Bryson DeChambeau is going to compete despite missing a chunk of the season with a hip problem. He finished T46 on three-over-par in 2021.

Marc Leishman finished fifth a year ago, improving on T13 from 2020, and Sergio Garcia will at least hope to make the cut for the first time since he won in 2017. Perhaps if the Spaniard can just make the weekend, he can go all the way again?

 

The return of the king

As far as comeback stories go in sport, Woods has already provided one of the very best.

In 2019, against all odds following years of back issues and surgery to fix the problems, Woods won The Masters for a fifth time in his illustrious career, taking his total of major victories to 15. He trails only Jack Nicklaus in that regard.

But this comeback might just top the lot.

The 46-year-old admitted he cheated death in a major single-car crash in February 2021, which left him with serious leg and foot injuries. Woods was unable to walk unaided for several months and has not played serious golf since, but he is all set for a remarkable return on the biggest stage of them all.

It will be his first appearance in any tournament since he played at Augusta in November 2020. Since winning his maiden major a quarter of a century ago, Woods has claimed nine more major titles than any other player, while he is one of only three players to win successive Masters titles (2001 and 2002).

Woods has never failed to make the cut in 21 appearances, and even if he does not challenge at the top of the leaderboard this time around (though you would not put it past him) his comeback is already the story of the weekend.

 

After two years of disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, things are back to normal at Augusta National for this year's much-anticipated Masters – though choosing a winner is as tough as ever.

Dustin Johnson won the delayed 2020 event with a record score after it was pushed back by seven months from its usual slot, while Hideki Matsuyama made history of his own last year by becoming the first Japanese male to win a major.

Matsuyama's triumph was a memorable one, albeit with only a limited number of patrons present in Georgia due to social distancing measures being in place, though the build-up to his title defence has been far from ideal as he continues to battle a back injury.

Golf's elite can look forward to the return of spectators for the 86th edition of the most prestigious tournament of them all – and if excitement was not already at fever pitch, Augusta could also see the return of Tiger Woods, who has not played on the PGA Tour since November 2020 after being involved in a car accident.

But exactly who is best placed to claim the green jacket in the first major of the year? The expert team at Stats Perform have a go at answering that question ahead of the tee off on Thursday.

RAHM TO ADD TO US OPEN SUCCESS – Daniel Lewis

Despite being usurped by Scottie Scheffler at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking after an admittedly slow start to the year, Jon Rahm remains the man to beat heading into the Masters. The 27-year-old has posted top-four finishes in each major, while also finishing inside the top 10 in each of his last five participations. Following his success at the US Open at Torrey Pines 10 months ago, this is Rahm's time to shine at Augusta. 

SMITH TO GO ONE BETTER THAN 2020 – Patric Ridge

Less than a month on from his triumph at the Players' Championship, world number six Cameron Smith seems well placed to go on and seal a maiden major triumph. The Australian finished T2 at Augusta in 2020, albeit five strokes back from Johnson. But he comes into this tournament ranked higher than ever before in his career, and the 28-year-old has won two of the five events he has featured in this year. A T10 placing in last year's Masters will have been a disappointment, but Smith has the tools, and the form, to challenge this time around.

GOOD WILL HUNTING FOR GREEN JACKET – Peter Hanson

A year ago, you could be forgiven for not knowing a lot about Will Zalatoris. But the then 24-year-old finished just one stroke shy of eventual winner Matsuyama, and his clean ball striking will be a big advantage on a typically unforgiving Augusta course. Voted PGA Tour Rookie of the Year for 2021, Zalatoris has three top-10 finishes in 2022, including losing a play-off to Luke List at the Farmers Insurance Open. And how about this if you want more persuading: eight of the past 10 Masters champions were at 1.7 or better strokes gained tee to green in the three months leading into the Masters. Zalatoris is one of eight players who meet that criteria heading into the 2022 instalment.

DON'T BE A-DOUBTING THOMAS, BACK JUSTIN – John Skilbeck

Until his challenged fizzled out over the weekend last year, when he went from only three shots back to finish tied for 21st place, Justin Thomas was following a trajectory that seemed sure to lead to Masters glory. His record showed year-on-year progress, going from a tie for 39th in 2016, to a tie for 22nd a year later, then tied 17th in 2017, tied 12th in 2019, and fourth outright in 2020. Amid this, he won the 2017 US PGA Championship, and Thomas is too good a player to sit too long on just one major. He has the second-lowest scoring average this season on the PGA Tour, has three top-10 finishes in the past two months, and Augusta practice rounds with his great friend Tiger Woods can hardly have hindered his cause.

TIGER... JUST IMAGINE! – Russell Greaves

Lazarus was a one-trick pony, but if Woods were to win the Masters again it would constitute the second bona fide sporting miracle of his remarkable career. Woods' triumph in 2019 – his fifth at Augusta National – was his 15th major success, coming 11 years after his previous one. He became only the third golfer over 40 to win a major on US soil, joining Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson. Now 46 and absent from competitive action since 2020 following his car accident, a win here would surpass anything Woods has ever achieved. He needs one more to equal Jack Nicklaus' six Masters titles, but would be putting a proud record on the line if he does choose to compete, as Woods has made the cut in each of his 21 appearances at this event.

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