Should you want proof that golf is a game for life, played in different venues and for all ages, digest what was going on in various corners of the world 15 summers ago.

In the Dallas area, an 11-year-old named Scott Scheffler was crushing the competition on the North Texas PGA Junior Tour. There were victories at Shady Valley, The Links at Water Chase, Lantana GC, and by eight strokes over Vince Whaley at Twin Creeks GC.

Down in Bayou country, another 11-year-old named Sam Burns was shooting 84 in the annual Shreveport (Louisiana) City Amateur. He finished top five.

In Scotland, an 18-year-old mop-haired kid from Northern Ireland, Rory McIlroy, was low amateur in the Open Championship at Carnoustie. Rounds of 68-76-73-72 served notice that this kid might be pretty good.

With rounds of 72-70, a 14-year-old from Kentucky named Justin Thomas finished second in his age group, third overall, at the Evian Masters Junior Cup in France. One perk for winning was that he got to play alongside Juli Inkster in a pro-am before the Evian Masters.

And on the other side of the world, in Hawaii, a 15-year-old Japanese player named Hideki Matsuyama dominated his match against Henry Park, 6 and 5, to help the visitors post a 24.5 to 19.5 win in the Hawaii/Japan Junior Cup.

Those were the stages, of course, played in the shadows. On the stage that mattered, a guy much older, the 31-year-old Tiger Woods, was collecting a fourth US PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Ho-hum as that might have been, given it was his 14th major, what surely resonated was Woods' achievement at the end of that summer. With an overwhelming performance in the inaugural FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour, Woods earned a cool $10million.

What stands out about that 2007 Tour Championship that nailed down the first FedEx Cup were the suffocating numbers. Woods won the season finale by eight strokes, it was his 61st career win and seventh of the season, and he finished the Tour Championship at 23-under 257.

"It has been a phenomenal week," Woods said, then very much at his understated best. He had, after all, also pocketed a cheque for $1.26million for winning the Tour Championship.

"I enjoyed being on a scoring streak, hitting good shot after good shot, and I felt very comfortable with my game. It felt good."

That was then and this is now, and what feels remarkable is how quickly time has passed and how surreal it is to know this: just 15 years after they were playing golf on mostly unheralded stages as kids, the 26-year-old Scheffler (he's Scottie now, unlike in 2007), Burns, 26; McIlroy, 33; Thomas, 29; and Matsuyama, 30, were numbers 1-2-3-4-5 in the FedEx Cup standings when the calendar flipped to July.

The flip side of Woods now being 46 is the fact the game is getting younger and, oh, how the current FedEx Cup standings reflect that. After Scheffler, Burns, McIlroy, Thomas, and Matsuyama, we have Patrick Cantlay, Cameron Smith, Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris, and Max Homa.

Average age of those 10 players: 28.5.

That is more than four years younger than the average age in 2007, the first FedEx Cup when seven of the top 10 were 31 or older. This time around, eight of the current top 10 are 30 or younger.

But if this youth parade has many marchers, the warmest spotlight must be shining on the leader, the same kid who 15 years ago was dominating the competition on the North Texas Junior PGA.

All Scheffler has done in this, his third full season on the PGA Tour, is win four times and roar into the penthouse of the Official World Golf Rankings.

Not bad, this number one designation. But some might argue that Burns is number 1A, because all he has done is win three times before, and if you go back to the middle of the 2020-21 season, Burns secured victories in four of his last 29 tournaments.

The screeching noise you heard is the arrival of the Scheffler-Burns express; they are two young men who are great friends and as if to punctuate their new-found grip on the PGA Tour, they had an exclamation point of a Sunday back in May.

Locked in a play-off at the Charles Schwab Challenge, Burns poured in a long-range birdie on the first extra hole to beat his Texas friend.

Even Scheffler flashed a wide smile that day, nodding his approval to Burns, knowing there will be many more opportunities to return the favour. Perhaps even as soon as the upcoming FedEx Cup play-offs. These are the dates that matter: August 11-14 at the FedEx St Jude Classic in Memphis; August 18-21 at the BMW Championship in Wilmington, Delaware; and August 25-28 at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.

They are tournaments that showcase the best of the elite, and whereas you might have understandably expected them to put Scheffler in awe as a 24-year-old rookie in August of 2020, it didn't work out that way. In his second round in the play-offs, Scheffler shot 59 at TPC Boston.

He didn't win that week, but a tie for fourth set in motion a nice play-off run – tied 20th at the BMW, fifth at the Tour Championship. The three who finished immediately ahead of him in the FedEx Cup standings in 2020 – Schauffele, Thomas and Jon Rahm – are key contenders for the 2021-22 FedEx Cup as a dynamic era of young and talented performers continues into the 16th edition of this season-long race.

It is amazing, the furious speed with which these kids have progressed from junior golf to the spotlight of a FedEx Cup. Then again, perhaps there are those who saw this coming. Joel Edwards, for instance.

A veteran PGA Tour performer, Edwards was in the twilight of his career when he used to practise at Royal Oaks at Dallas where Scheffler was the brightest of a stable of talented junior players.

Precocious and supremely talented, Scheffler would challenge Edwards and another PGA Tour veteran, Harrison Frazar, to random contests. Frazar confirms he lost sleeves of golf balls to a fourth-grader; Edwards concedes that "he cost me a fortune; I used to carry a bunch of quarters because I knew I'd get my butt beat [in a bid to hit practice-range poles with wedge shots]."

And if there was one thing that stood out about Scheffler back then, even beyond his uncanny golf skills, it was his appearance.

"He always wore pants. He looked like a Tour player at 10," said Edwards.

And at 11, while mowing down the local competition, perhaps Scheffler knew this brand-new FedEx Cup was someday going to be in his future.

LIV Golf will reveal the identities of another three players who have signed up to the breakaway series "in the next few days".

Cameron Smith did not rule out making the move to LIV Golf after winning his first major with a sensational final round at The Open on Sunday.

The Australian snapped at a reporter at St Andrews when asked if he could defect to LIV, saying: "I just won the British Open and you're asking about that? I think that's not that good."

When asked again, he said: "I don't know, mate. My team around me worries about all that stuff. I'm here to win golf tournaments."

Henrik Stenson is expected to join the Saudi-backed series, a decision that is set to see the Swede be stripped of his role as Europe's Ryder Cup captain.

Hideki Matsuyama, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Bubba Watson have also been linked with switches to LIV Golf.

Paul Casey will make his debut in the LIV Golf Invitational Bedminster, an event staged from July 29-31 at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.

 

Hideki Matsuyama will "keep on grinding" after carding the lowest score in the U.S. Open on Sunday.

Posting a 65, Matsuyama was five under on the final round and finished the tournament three under overall.

Matsuyama headed into the clubhouse in fourth place, though his efforts were not enough to put him in contention for success, barring a major slip up from the leaders.

The 2021 Masters champion conceded he did not feel he was at his best over the course of the tournament, though it gives him confidence moving forward and highlighted his putting as a strength.

"To be honest, I don't feel like this is my 100 per cent performance, but it does give me a lot of boost on my confidence," Matsuyama said.

"So, I'll try my best, try to connect this momentum to my next game, and I'll be prepared for it.

"Definitely my putting was helping my game a lot. Rolling really good putts. 

"My shots were pretty decent too. I was able to target most of the greens, so I think that really helped me."

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.

Hideki Matsuyama was disqualified from the Memorial Tournament midway through his first round on Thursday after breaching PGA Tour equipment regulations – the first disqualification of his career.

The 2021 Masters champion had just finished the ninth hole of a thus-far disappointing outing in Ohio, and would have made the turn at three-over after making three early bogeys. 

But Matsuyama, who won his first PGA Tour title at the 2014 edition of the tournament, was informed on the 10th tee that markings on the face of his three-wood breached equipment regulations.

Images showed what appeared to be white paint on the club face, which he used throughout his short outing on the course, leading chief referee Steve Rintoul to describe the club as "non-conforming".

Rintoul grouped with other officials to deem the three-wood in breach of equipment rule 4.1a, which states "a substance or any treatment can't be applied to the face of a club which could influence the flight of the ball, the spin, the loft or anything on the ball, how the ball performs".

The 30-year-old, who had never previously been disqualified in his nine-year professional career, refused to comment after being barred from completing his round.

Matsuyama tied for 14th in his unsuccessful defence of hi Masters title, having recovered from a neck injury to feature in Augusta, and will look to bounce back at the Canadian Open, which starts next Tuesday.

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.

 

Ryan Palmer holds a two-stroke lead over the field after the second round of the Valero Texas Open.

Palmer, who shot four under in round one, finished with a six-under 66 to move to 10 under.

The American finished the round bogey-free, and three times carded back-to-back birdies on the second and third, eighth and ninth, and 14th and 15th.

Speaking to the media after his round, Palmer said the key to his success is to limit the severity of his mistakes.

"It's a golf course – if you get it off-line, you're going to struggle," he said. 

"I was able to keep the ball in front of me. When I've missed fairways, I've gotten fortunate breaks, I think. 

"[This] weekend, it's a matter of just avoiding those big misses."

Kevin Chappell worked his way into a three-way tie for second after he shot 65 for the best round of the day, and he is joined at eight under by South Africa's Dylan Frittelli and American Matt Kuchar.

Chappell – who is ranked as the world number 547 – played the course beautifully, nabbing an eagle on the par five second hole before going bogey-free and birdieing the eighth, ninth, 12th, 15th and 17th.

The leader after round one, Russell Knox, had a poor day, bogeying four of his first six holes on the way to shooting 76, dropping down to three under and a tie for 27th.

With the cut-line at even par, Jordan Spieth followed up his even par first round with a 70 on Friday to sneak into the frame.

Plenty of notable names who will hope to contest the US Masters crown next week failed to make the cut, including Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Bryson DeChambeau.

 

Hideki Matsuyama's defence of his Masters title has been left in doubt after a neck injury forced the 30-year-old to withdraw from the Valero Texas Open.

Matsuyama became the first male Japanese golfer to win a major championship with last year's success at Augusta National, edging out American trio Will Zalatoris, Xander Schauffele, and Jordan Spieth in the final round for a one-stroke victory.

However, with less than a week remaining until the 2022 edition of the Masters begins on April 7, Matsuyama withdrew nine holes into his second round in San Antonio, citing a neck injury. 

Reports have suggested that the 30-year-old has suffered a recurrence of the same injury which kept him out of The Players Championship last month, eventually won by Australia's Cameron Smith.

Matsuyama's most recent result saw him tie for 20th position at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and he has won two PGA titles since last year's Augusta triumph, winning the Zozo Championship on home soil last October before lifting Hawaii's Sony Open in a play-off in January.

Matsuyama sits 12th in the world rankings, and has made the top 10 in four of the 10 PGA events at which he has featured in the 2022 season.

Russell Knox's bogey-free 65 earned him top spot on the Valero Texas Open leaderboard after the first round of action at TPC San Antonio.

The Scotsman was excellent all day, highlighted by his four consecutive birdies starting on the 12th hole to finish seven under.

He is one stroke ahead of Denmark's Rasmus Hojgaard, who eagled the par-five 18th to finish at six under and make up for his double-bogey on nine.

Speaking to the media after his round, Knox spoke about getting control of his driver, and the potential to play in next week's US Masters.

"I would love to win and get to play next week," he said. 

"I know my game is good, so I've got to keep playing well and see if I can have a great finish.

"I've been a little more consistent tee to green. I'm back to kind of feeling like the way I should be playing, which has been nice.

"Off the tee's been kind of important for me. Over the last couple years I just kind of got off track slightly, hitting a few wayward tee shots.

"I've worked hard with my coach, Mark McCann, and we've really gone back to fundamentals, got my set-up correct and it just gives me the freedom to kind of swing away.

"I know it's never going to be perfect, but the last couple months it's really been a strength of mine again."

Matt Kuchar and Englishman Aaron Rai are in a four-player tie for third at five under, with India's Anirban Lahiri and Australian Matthew Jones part of the large contingent at four under.

In-form Canadian Corey Conners finished tied with Richard Bland and Tony Finau with a big group at two under, with Ian Poulter and Keegan Bradley one shot further back.

It was an up-and-down round for Rickie Fowler, with his bogey on 18 forcing him to accept even-par for the day, which he shared with stars Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.

Bryson DeChambeau and Lee Westwood highlighted the group at plus one, while Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama will be fighting to make the cut after carding plus two.

Hideki Matsuyama produced a stunning second shot on the first playoff hole to claim victory at the Sony Open in Hawaii as he triumphed over Russell Henley.

The reigning Masters champion had trailed by five strokes on the back nine but produced a surge capped with a birdie at the last to force a playoff with Henley after both finished 23 under par.

Henley's putt on the 18th to win the tournament skimmed the outside edge of the hole and he was left to rue that miss in quite astonishing fashion.

They returned to the same hole for the playoff and Matsuyama, having gone for the 3-wood off the tee, elected to use the same club for his second shot from 277 yards away and could not have hit it any better, sending it to three feet for an eagle putt to secure his eighth PGA Tour title and his third in less than a year as Henley made bogey.

Waialae Country Club holds a special place in Japanese golf history, with it being the course where Isao Aoki became the first player from the country to win on the PGA Tour.

And Matsuyama was thrilled to replicate his achievement.

"I got on a roll, I'm glad it came out this way," said Matsuyama. "To follow him [Aoki] up, I'm over the moon."

Kevin Kisner and Seamus Power were Matsuyama and Henley's closest challengers, finishing in a tie for third, four strokes off the pace.

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