Roger Federer ranks among sporting greats such as Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Tom Brady.

That was the message from 2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, who hailed Federer after he announced his appearance at September's Laver Cup would be his last in professional sport.

The 41-year-old won 20 grand slam titles across a legendary 24-year career, only Novak Djokovic (21) and Rafael Nadal (22) can boast more major crowns in men's tennis.

Federer has also won more men's singles main draw matches in grand slam tournaments than any other player in the Open Era (369), leaving behind a magnificent legacy as he prepares to step away from the court.

Bartoli has experienced retirement herself, having called quits on her career after a failed comeback from injury in 2018, and asked by Stats Perform whether Federer was a GOAT – greatest of all-time – Bartoli said: "Yes, he is very much in there – absolutely.

"Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, they are people that transcend their sports – they are icons.

"You go in the streets, you say Roger Federer. I'm in Dubai right now [and if] you say 'Roger Federer' everyone would know who he is. And the same for LeBron and Michael Jordan.

"When you transcend your sport and you become an icon and everyone knows who you are, that's when you know you have been one of the greatest of all time across every sport.

"Same for Serena [Williams], you can put Novak and Rafa in there as well. But it's just that amount of fame and that amount of inspiring [the next] generation."

Having spent 237 consecutive weeks ranked as number one, Federer holds the record for the longest such streak in men's singles history after a four-and-a-half-year spell at the summit.

Federer was also present in the top 10 of the men's singles rankings for 750 weeks, an unmatched number for a male player since the rankings were first published in 1973.

Regardless of Federer trailing Djokovic and Nadal for grand slam titles, Bartoli believes the Swiss remains the best of the trio due to his elegant playing style.

"It's very much depending on your own taste in a way. If you like beautiful, elegant, smooth tennis you have to go for Roger Federer," she added.

"Now obviously with Novak having 21 and Rafa having 22 grand slams, if we speak numbers only then you have two players on top of him.

"But I think it's very much a debate because it depends on the style of play you like and, that said, I absolutely love to see Novak play and win.

"I absolutely loved to see Rafa winning again at Roland Garros this year, I think it was one of the most incredible sports achievements that you can possibly witness.

"But in terms of game style, and the way he has revolutionised tennis, I think Roger was the first one. And then they pushed each other to new heights and I think that was really special to see."

While many youngsters look to emulate Federer, Djokovic and Nadal, Bartoli highlighted the importance of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, too.

"You can tell how much impact a player [has] when you see a new generation trying to copy your style. I think Pete Sampras had that impact as well as Andre Agassi on the generation of Roger, Rafa and Novak," she continued.

"Roger has had that impact on the new generation with Carlos Alcaraz. So that's why I say that he was really the first one to elevate the game to another level because he brought that dimension of his forehand when he was really almost able to play the ball wherever he wanted.

"I always remember that sentence from Andre Agassi, when he started to play against Roger saying, 'well, I never felt against anybody that I had to play on a 20-centimetre square because that's the only safe spot I can play, which is deep to Roger's back. If I play anywhere, he will take the game away from me'. [Federer] was the first one to [do that] and then obviously Rafa and Novak arrived and sought to change that and they pushed each other to new heights.

"When you have the pinnacle of the 2008 Wimbledon final and all those matches in between them that was just beyond epic for me."

Tributes have poured in across the sporting world for Serena Williams following her apparent US Open swansong on Friday, though the 23-time grand slam winner has kept the door ajar on a shock return.

The American, widely considered one of the greatest sportspeople of all time, suggested she would step away from top-level tennis following the tournament at Flushing Meadows.

Following a 7-5 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 loss to Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round, her journey now looks to be over – though the 40-year-old admittted "you never know" when asked about future appearances.

Her likely last dance, however, has prompted an outpouring of glowing tributes from far and wide, with a host of major names paying their respects to an unparalleld career.

15-time major-winning golfer Tiger Woods called her "the greatest on and off the court" while four-time NBA champion LeBron James hailed her as "so dope".

Serena Williams revealed how Tiger Woods encouraged her to return to tennis for one last glory mission after she powered into round three of the US Open.

Golf great Woods was on his feet and rapturously celebrating as Williams beat number two seed Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday night in New York.

He had been invited to sit in Williams' player box and shared conversations with Venus Williams as they watched Serena push past Kontaveit with a dynamic display, coming through 7-6 (7-4) 2-6 6-2 on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

It was remarkable from the 40-year-old on court as she found an extra gear for the deciding set, teeing up a clash with Australian world number 46 Ajla Tomjlanovic.

Williams has firmly indicated this will be her final tournament before retirement, and a host of stars have come out to watch her in action, with former US president Bill Clinton in the crowd for her first-round match.

Woods, actress Zendaya and film director Spike Lee were among those watching the Kontaveit match, and Williams suggested afterwards that she and 15-time major champion Woods had helped each other with their respective comebacks.

At this time last year, Williams was sidelined by a leg problem sustained at Wimbledon, while Woods was recovering from the serious leg injuries he suffered in a car crash.

"He's one of the reasons I'm here, one of the main reasons I'm still playing," Williams said. "We talked a lot. He was really trying to get me motivated.

"There's a few people, but we were like, 'Okay, we can do this together'.

"It was good, because I didn't know what I wanted to do. I was just lost, so many questions. When you can rely on someone like that, I mean, my goodness, he's Tiger Woods, it was really helpful to get clarity."

What Williams is wary of at this stage is raising her own expectations.

She was charmingly dismissive of an on-court question when asked if she was surprised by how well she was performing.

As far as Williams is concerned, she has proven countless times she is the greatest player, certainly of her own era, so even with limited preparation she backs herself.

But thinking too intently about winning majors may have been costly in recent years, with Williams having lost her last four grand slam finals to remain on 23 singles titles, one short of Margaret Court's all-time record.

"I cannot think that far," when asked about the prospect of winning the tournament. "I'm having fun and I'm enjoying it. Honestly, I've had so many tough matches the last I don't know how long that I just feel like just being prepared for everyone that I play is just going to be really, really difficult. Get through those moments."

In typical Williams fashion, she has danced around the subject of retirement since writing in Vogue in early August she would be "evolving away from tennis".

She spoke of wanting to "relish these next few weeks" in the magazine article, and so far at Flushing Meadows she is savouring every moment.

Serena and Venus were due to play doubles on Thursday, again on the Ashe Stadium court, with more fanfare expected.

"I think I've mostly been kind of blocking everything out, but then at the same time I've been embracing a little bit of it, because I also want to enjoy the moment," WIlliams said.

"I just feel like I have had a big red X on my back since I won the US Open in '99. It's been there my entire career, because I won my first grand slam early in my career.

"But here it's different. I feel like I've already won, figuratively, mentally. It's just pretty awesome the things that I've done."

Rory McIlroy believes the announced enhancements to the PGA Tour are "a great step in the right direction" as the battle with the LIV Golf Invitational Series rages on.

On Wednesday, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan introduced several changes to the Tour, with the key emphasis on bringing the leading players together more often.

The announcements came after Tiger Woods and other leading players met last week to discuss what the PGA Tour should do going forward.

LIV Golf has sent shockwaves through the sport with many high-profile players making the switch to the Saudi-backed tour, including Phil Mickelson, and the Open winner Cameron Smith is reportedly set to follow suit.

Other alterations announced included a commitment from top players to feature in at least 20 PGA Tour events per year, an expansion to the player impact program and the guarantee of minimum earnings for full Tour members.

Four elevated events with purses of at least $20million have been added, taking the schedule up to 12 such tournaments next season, and the top players have agreed to compete in all of them.

McIlroy was encouraged by the changes, telling reporters ahead of the Tour Championship: "I care deeply about our sport. I care about its history. I care about its legacy. I care about the integrity of the game. 

"We all sort of are our own little independent businesses and we sort of try to compete against each other, and I think this is the first time in a long time where we sort of all sat down and were like, let's try to be business partners.

"How can we all pull in the same direction here to benefit everyone and to help the entire TOUR and to help each other basically.

"Unfortunately, Tiger Woods doesn't play as much as he used to. Tiger Woods was the single biggest draw that the PGA Tour had, amongst other things. We have to recognise that.

"So for the 23 of us that were in that room last Tuesday, including Tiger, we all have to sit down [and ask], okay, what is the best thing for our Tour going forward?

"What can we do to help put forward the best product possible so that in 50 years' time the PGA Tour is still thriving and we can safeguard the future of the Tour? That was basically what last week was about.

"Obviously that has culminated in some of the announcements that have been made today [Wednesday]. I'm sure there will be some changes going forward, as well, but I think today was a great step in the right direction."

When questioned on how the changes would benefit the Tour, the four-time major winner replied: "If you're trying to sell a product to TV and to sponsors and to try to get as many eyeballs on professional golf as possible, you need to at least let people know what they're tuning in for.

"When I tune into a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, I expect to see Tom Brady throw a football. When I tune into a Formula 1 race, I expect to see Lewis Hamilton in a car.

"Sometimes what's happened on the PGA Tour is we all act independently and we sort of have our own schedules, and that means that we never really get together all that often.

"I think what came out of the meeting last week and what Jay just was up here announcing is the fact that we've all made a commitment to get together more often to make the product more compelling."

McIlroy also revealed he had spoken to Smith about his reported defection to LIV Golf.

"I had a conversation with Cameron Smith two days after the Open. Firstly, I wanted to congratulate him," McIlroy disclosed.

"But I would at least like people to make a decision that is completely informed and basically know this is what's coming down the pipeline. This is what you may be leaving behind.

"I just don't want people making decisions – hearing information from one side and not from another. So I think that's sort of been my whole thing this entire time.

"I've always said guys can do whatever they want. Guys can make a decision that they feel is best for themselves and their families. But I want guys to make decisions based on all of the facts."

 

Pat Perez has withdrawn his name from the lawsuit filed by LIV Golf players against the PGA Tour, stating the situation is "too ugly now".

The PGA Tour suspended all players who jumped ship to the Saudi-funded LIV Golf, which resulted in 11 players filing a lawsuit after claiming the action would harm their careers.

Carlos Ortiz removed his name from the suit shortly after it was filed and Perez's withdrawal leaves the total remaining at nine, as he acknowledged the messy situation that is developing in the golfing world.

"I'm a LIV guy 100 percent. I'm going to play for them. But I don't feel any need to go after the PGA Tour," Perez told Sports Illustrated.

"They gave me a wonderful opportunity for 21 years. I've got nothing against them, no hard feelings toward anybody. I earned everything I got out there, don't get me wrong."

Asked whether the LIV Golf and the PGA Tour could co-exist, Perez added that he felt any resolution is extremely unlikely.

The American added: "It's too deep; it's too ugly now. I don't see it happening anymore.

"There's just too much on both sides and it's gotten ugly. I just don't see a resolution, unfortunately. There was a time I did."

Elsewhere, LIV Golf chief Greg Norman has backtracked on his claims that Tiger Woods was offered a contract of $800million to defect after previously claiming that an offer in "that neighbourhood" was made.

Speaking to Fox Sports, Norman clarified the situation and said: "I just want to make sure for clarification here, the numbers that were thrown out were inclusive of future franchise value.

"And so if you take a look at this number that’s being thrown out there, the generational wealth that this franchise opportunity has for the individual players is incredible.

"That's how it is. It's not the cash value. We never offered that cash value to Tiger Woods. That's the reality of it."

Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas have praised the leadership qualities of Tiger Woods after a small group of leading players met to discuss the ongoing threat posed by LIV Golf to the long-established PGA Tour.

Woods, a 15-time major champion, flew to Delaware on Tuesday to meet fellow professionals involved in the BMW Championship, including the likes of McIlroy, Thomas and Jordan Spieth.

While the details of the meeting remain undisclosed, Woods was reportedly trying to rally support from his fellow PGA Tour professionals over the battle with the breakaway series.

The 46-year-old, who is believed to have turned down an offer between $700million and $800million to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf, has insisted he will play in limited events in the future as his glittering career winds down.

Nevertheless, his presence at the discussion was hugely valued by McIlroy, who feels that all in attendance are on the same page regarding what the PGA Tour must do during the ongoing battle.

The four-time major winner said: "I think the one thing that came out of it, which I think was the purpose, is all the top players on this tour are in agreement and alignment of where we should go going forward, and that was awesome.

"I think it shows how much [Tiger] cares about the players that are coming through and are going to be the next generation. We're moving into a different era, and we just have to think about things a little differently.

"Like it or not, they can't really sell Tiger Woods anymore. The tour had an easy job for 20 years. They don't have Tiger. They've got a bunch of us and we're all great players, but we're not Tiger Woods. 

"He is the hero that we've all looked up to. His voice carries further than anyone else's in the game of golf. His role is navigating us to a place where we all think we should be."

Reigning US PGA Championship winner Thomas added: "It was a productive meeting. I think it's just one of those things where we all want what's best for the players, and we're working to do that.

"I think if someone like [Tiger] is passionate about it, no offence to all of us, but that's really all that matters.

"If he's not behind something, then one, it's probably not a good idea in terms of the betterment of the game, but two, it's just not going to work. He needs to be behind something."

Tiger Woods was expected to meet a small group of leading golfers on Tuesday amid the ongoing threat posed by LIV Golf to the long-established PGA Tour.

Woods is not competing in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but Stats Perform understands the 15-time major champion elected to come to Delaware to meet fellow professionals involved in the BMW Championship.

The 46-year-old is reportedly trying to garner support among PGA Tour counterparts over the battle with the breakaway series for players' allegiances.

Woods has made his feelings over the Saudi-backed LIV Golf clear, and reportedly turned down a high nine-figure fortune to join, but Open champion Cameron Smith looks to be the next big name to defect.

"I disagree with it [the players' decision to join LIV Golf]," Woods said ahead of The Open. "I think that what they've done is they've turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position."

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was set to be available at the BMW Championship to talk informally to any players who have any questions to raise, as has been the case for several months.

It is understood up to two dozen players have sought out Monahan for chats at certain events, but there have been no emergency talks.

Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are among the high profile players who have joined LIV Golf.

Bryson DeChambeau says he is "not worried" about the PGA Tour's decision to indefinitely ban players who have defected to the controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The sport is embroiled in a battle between the PGA Tour and the new Saudi-backed LIV Golf, with 2020 US Open champion DeChambeau one of those who has chosen to break away.

Henrik Stenson also chose to defect and was subsequently stripped of Europe's Ryder Cup captaincy before he won the third LIV event in New Jersey last week, while other players such as Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia have joined too.

It has since been reported that Tiger Woods was offered up to $800million to join LIV Golf, though he chose to reject the money in order to stay with the PGA Tour.

The Wall Street Journal have reported that Mickelson and DeChambeau, as well as a number of other defectors, are planning to sue the PGA Tour over their suspensions.

But DeChambeau was not concerned about this development and was instead enthused by what LIV Golf could do for players financially, telling Fox News: "It doesn't make sense [the ban].

"I'm not worried about that. I think it will get figured out. I personally know that it will get figured out, whether it's legally or whether they come to the table and work out terms. I definitely think it will all wash itself out in the future, pretty shortly.

"Any time anyone invests over a billion dollars into the game of golf, how is that not going to grow the game and how is that not going to provide more opportunities?

"This is our livelihoods and it was a great economic opportunity for golfers to make a lot of money. That's why we grew up playing golf - also for the history, to go and win majors, PGA Tour events and now I want to win LIV events.

"You can see the passion and competitive aspect of this environment out here and we all want to win every single week."

Davis Love III told LIV Golf defectors "you can be Tiger Woods or you can be banned from the game" and can foresee a situation where "fed up" players boycott the big PGA Tour events to protect their interests.

Golf is engulfed in a war between those remaining loyal to the sport's flagship tour and those who have opted for the riches of the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Series.

Last week saw the third LIV event held in New Jersey, which was won by Henrik Stenson after he had been stripped of Europe's Ryder Cup captaincy over his decision to sign up.

Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia are among the notable names to have also jumped ship, while Tiger Woods is said to have turned down $800million to remain loyal to the PGA Tour.

Love III, this year's US Presidents Cup captain and a two-time Ryder Cup skipper, said earlier this week players could look to boycott the majors if LIV players are continued to allow to play.

He sought to clarify those comments at a news conference and warned LIV players there should be consequences for their decisions.

He said: "I told the players that I've talked to that have gone or thinking about going, 'it's your decision, you know, and you do what's right for you, but understand consequences'. 

"I tried to sound like my dad and I probably wasn't very good at it. I didn't argue. I said, 'look, you can do this or you can do this. You can be Tiger Woods or you can be banned from the game, take your pick. But understanding the consequences, you signed up for these rules'.

"And I keep using it kind of as a joke, but I'm wearing shorts today, but I can't wear shorts on Thursday, that's a rule. I had to commit by last Friday or I don't get to play this week. I have to play 15 tournaments or I don't get to vote and I don't get my retirement money. You have rules that you have to adhere to. 

"Jay [Monahan] has been saying it for a year and they either understood it, some of them understood that, some of them said it's not going to happen, and some of them just flat out lied, I'm not doing this, I'm not doing that. 

"And you hear it, the talking points or the interviews, they're spinning their decision because they know they've turned their backs on their friends and they know they're taking the money and they know it's not the right thing to do. 

"But it is their decision and they can do that, they just can't come back and play The Players Championship. That's just not fair. If I grind it out, make the 125 and get in The Players Championship, I don't want those guys, that being the only PGA Tour event they play that year, that's not right."

 

Love III, the 1997 US PGA Championship victor, concedes he is surprised by the number of players turning their backs on the Tour.

He also suggested how PGA regulars may respond if LIV players attempt to take their ambition to play on both tours to the courts.

"Nobody saw the extent of LIV coming. It's hard to not be reactionary to something that when you're blindsided, you are being reactionary," he added.

"I told Jay a year ago, and you can ask him, I said, 'don't worry about it, it's not going to happen'. I was completely dead wrong. Six months ago I told my own tournament, 'oh, don't worry about it, not going to happen. Mickelson's going down, but nobody else will jump ship'. 

"So, I was wrong. I don't know what's going to happen from here on out, but I know it's going to be a fight and the players are getting more and more unified against it. 

"Now, some guys said that they don't like the new schedule and some guys don't like the old schedule. I might not like the fall schedule right now, but it's going to work out because I'm on board with whatever the Tour wants to do. 

"It will work out because I know the staff doesn't work for Jay exclusively, they work for the players and so does Jay.

"The whole situation is unfortunate. I didn't try to single out the U.S. Open as the players striking or threatening not to play. I was saying that if the LIV guys sue and are allowed to play on the PGA Tour, that the players are enough fed up with it, we understand that we make the rules on the PGA Tour and the commissioner's enforcing our rules and we don't want those guys playing, come and cherry-picking our tournaments, that we hold all the cards, not Jay or not Seth Waugh or Mike Whan. 

"They don't hold all the cards, we hold all the cards. If we say to the FTC and to Washington, no, we support the rules, we don't want those guys playing, we don't care what the courts say, our only option really, the nuclear option is to say, well, fine, if they have to play in our events, we just won't play. I think the Tour players, the Max Homas and Rory McIlroys have done a good job. 

"I think the undercurrent of guys are getting more and more fed up with it, that these guys are threatening our way of life, they're trying to take money out of our pockets and cherry-pick our best tournaments. The majors have to make their own decisions. I loved what Martin Slumbers said, I think they're all going in the right direction, but the PGA Tour players, we support the PGA Tour and we support the rules and we need to stand up for them."

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.

Tiger Woods was offered a package worth between $700million and $800m to compete in the LIV Golf Invitational Series, according to the competition's chief executive Greg Norman.

Woods, a 15-time major winner, has been an advocate for the PGA Tour, which has been embroiled in a tussle with the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway league.

LIV Golf held its latest event last weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey, with Henrik Stenson – who was removed as Ryder Cup captain after deciding to join the new tour – claiming victory in his first outing.

Norman previously said that Woods had been offered a "high nine digits" sum to join LIV Golf, which has so far been unable to attract many of the world's best, though has snagged big names such as Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson.

In an interview with Fox News with Tucker Carlson that was broadcast on Monday in the United States, Norman confirmed that Woods had been offered in the region of $700m to $800m.

"That number was out there before I became CEO. So that number has been out there, yes," Norman said.

"And, look, Tiger is a needle-mover and of course you have to look at the best of the best.

"So they had originally approached Tiger before I became CEO. So, yes, that number was somewhere in that neighbourhood."

 

Two-time major winner Norman has become a controversial figure within the sport, and was barred from attending the Celebration of Champions or the Champions' Dinner prior to The 150th Open Championship at St Andrews last month.

Woods failed to make the cut at that tournament, but backed the decision to disinvite Norman from the celebrations, saying: "Greg has done some things that I don't think are in the best interest of our game, and we're coming back to probably the most historic and traditional place in our sport. I believe it's the right thing."

Yet the Australian is unperturbed by any possible damage to his reputation.

"I really don't care," said Norman, who claimed he is unaware why LIV Golf has caused such uproar.

"I just love the game so much and I want to grow the game of golf and we at LIV see that opportunity not just for the men but for the women."

Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland will form Sunday's final pairing as the 150th Open Championship heads for a thrilling conclusion.

The duo played together on Saturday and both shot third-round 66s to claim a share of the lead on 16 under at St Andrews.

However, it is not quite a two-horse race at the famous Fife links, with Cameron Young and overnight leader Cameron Smith four strokes behind, while Scottie Scheffler and Kim Si-woo are within five.

The highlight of McIlroy's round was a hole-out eagle from the bunker on 10, but he and Hovland were both wayward on their approach shots to 17 as signs of nerves started to show on the notoriously tricky Road Hole.

McIlroy was close up against the stone wall to the right of the green and ended up with a bogey five, while Hovland – whose shot came to rest on the gravel path – recovered to salvage par and restore parity at the summit of the leaderboard.

A pair of birdies at the last kept it that way, setting things up for what promises to be a memorable final day at the home of golf.

Elsewhere in the field on an exciting moving day, Shane Lowry carded back-to-back eagles on the ninth and 10th before the 2019 winner faded on the back nine to sign for a 69.

Patrick Cantlay threatened to join the fun at the sharp end of things when he got to 11 under through 12, but he dropped three shots in the remaining six holes to end up eight off the pace.

SHOT OF THE DAY

McIlroy turned a threat into an opportunity after putting his tee shot into the bunker at the 10th, with rival Hovland having landed safely short of the pin.

A superb bunker shot pitched just shy of the cup and rolled in for an eagle two that piled the pressure on Hovland.

To his credit, the Norwegian got down in two for a birdie that ensured he stayed level with his playing partner.

PLAYER OF THE DAY

On moving day in Fife, it was crowd favourite McIlroy who really clicked into gear.

A pre-tournament favourite, the 33-year-old found his groove to chart a course for his fifth major and first since 2014.

On this form, he will take some stopping on Sunday, even with Hovland for company.

CHIPPING IN

Jordan Spieth: "What's difficult about it is a lot of the pin locations are in these tiny little tucked corners where, if you hit it more than five feet by, it goes 50 feet away."

Shane Lowry: "It wouldn't take Einstein to figure out what went wrong on the back nine. My putting was horrific."

Bryson DeChambeau: "I don't think you ever know how to play this golf course fully. Every day it's different. It showcases a unique golf course each time the wind pops up or doesn't pop up. It's just different."

A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME

- When McIlroy won The Open in 2014, he was 16 under after round three.

- The pairing of McIlroy and Hovland produced just one bogey between them on Saturday.

- Every winner of The Open at St Andrews has been within four shots of the lead heading into the final round.

Jon Rahm has said that he hopes Tiger Woods will carry on playing, after the American legend failed to make the cut after the second round at the Open at St Andrews.

Woods followed up his first round score of six over par with a second day three over to finish at nine over, with the cut line at par.

There were positive signs early on with a birdie on the third hole, but two bogeys in the following three holes and a double-bogey on the 16th eliminated any hopes of making it to the third round.

He was visibly emotional on the 18th hole, as he arrived to a rapturous reception from the gallery. 

The 15-time major winner alluded to the fact that he may never play in another Open at St Andrews, but Rahm remained hopeful that he would be seen back at the 'home of golf'.

Rahm told reporters: "From what I heard, it will be in 2030, which is eight years from now, which is probably a few years too long. I wouldn't be surprised if he makes the effort just to play and do a proper good-bye.

"I'm hoping this is not Tiger's last. I'm hoping somehow he can get healthier and be back. Obviously he's done amazing things here and amazing things everywhere in the world.

"You can tell he's in pain. I know he puts a front out there and he tries to walk normal, but you can tell in certain moments going down some of the hills. You can tell he's suffering.

"So hopefully they can – not fully fix it, I don't know if they'll be able to, but minimise it and have a normal life. As normal life as Tiger Woods can have obviously."

Rory McIlroy knows he has "got the game" to be the man who lifts the Claret Jug at the 150th Open Championship on Sunday.

The Northern Irishman carded a second-round 68 at Andrews to sit three shots behind leader Cameron Smith. 

McIlroy has not added to his major haul of four since 2014, when he was crowned Champion Golfer of the Year and won the US PGA Championship.

But he is confident he can change that on the Fife coast this weekend.

"I know I've got the game. That's all I need," he said. "I just need to go out and play my game and play my golf over the next two days and that's all I can do.

"Cam Smith goes out and shoots another two rounds like he did the first two days, I'm going to have a really hard time to win the tournament.

"I've just got to go out and do the best I can and worry about myself and hopefully that's good enough."

It was a day of low scoring at the home of golf, where Smith shot a blemish-free 64 to rise to the summit.

Australian compatriot Adam Scott also took advantage to sign for a 65, with McIlroy acknowledging it was important to be aggressive.

"It was one of those, you needed to go out and make birdies," he explained.

"It wasn't like you could be defensive at all. You had to go out and play well and make birdies because everyone was doing that.

"I just tried to play a little bit more on the front foot and be a little more aggressive."

But not everyone in the field managed to make the conditions count in their favour, with Tiger Woods labouring to a 75 as he missed the cut.

Afterwards, the 15-time major winner conceded he may never play an Open at St Andrews again, but Woods was heartened by the response he got from fans and his fellow professionals.

McIlroy was just starting his round and walking down the first when Woods was heading up the 18th to rapturous applause, with the two acknowledging each other.

"I've gotten pretty close to Tiger over these last few years," said McIlroy. "Especially after the accident, I think we've all sort of rallied around him down there in Jupiter and we all want to see him do well.

"He was our hero growing up, even though I'm maybe a touch older than some of the other guys, but we want to see him do well, we want to see him still out there competing.

"This week was obviously a tough week for him, but we're all behind him, we're all pulling for him."

Cameron Smith holds the 36-hole lead at the 150th Open Championship after a day on which Tiger Woods likely waved a fond farewell to St Andrews.

A stellar 64 from Smith handed the Australian a two-shot lead on 13 under at the halfway point, with Cameron Young his nearest rival, while the likes of Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Scottie Scheffler are firmly in the mix.

But 15-time major winner Woods, who has his name etched onto the Claret Jug three times, missed the cut following an untidy 75, conceding afterwards that he would probably not be returning when the home of golf next hosts the sport's oldest major.

Woods was met with rapturous applause as he made the walk down the 18th fairway, with McIlroy tipping his hat to the American as he headed down the first at the start of his round of 68, which left the 2014 winner three shots behind, level with Viktor Hovland.

After early rain on the Fife coast, the conditions were conducive to low scoring and Smith was one of a host of players to take advantage, with compatriot Adam Scott's 65 moving him to seven under and Tyrrell Hatton's 66 leaving him one better off.

Johnson got to nine under with a 67, one ahead of world number one Scheffler.

Other big names to join Woods in missing the cut were reigning champion Collin Morikawa, six-time major winner Phil Mickelson and four-time major winner Brooks Koepka.

SHOT OF THE DAY

Smith headed to the par-five 14th on the back of three consecutive pars and looking for something to ignite his back nine to match the fireworks of the front nine.

And my word did he find it. His approach shot found the green but was a long way from the hole, leaving him with surely a lag putt just to put it close enough for a birdie.

But that was never going to be enough for the on-form Smith, who rolled it all the way up to the hole and in the cup for a spectacular eagle. 

PLAYER OF THE DAY

Smith's 64 was Friday's lowest round on a day when his scorecard remained blemish-free.

The 28-year-old's putter stayed hot as he made six birdies and an eagle en route to a score that puts him in firm contention for a maiden major.

CHIPPING IN

Tiger Woods: "This is my favourite golf course. I fell in love with it back in 1995 and it hasn't changed. I just love how it can be played in so many different ways."

Mark Calcavecchia: "Forget about my golf. It wouldn't have mattered if I shot a pair of 75s or a pair of 85s, which I nearly did. It was about playing one more, my last one here at the home of golf, which is really cool to be able to end it here."

Cameron Smith: "I think there's going to be a few more gnarly pins, and I think being smart out there is definitely going to be the key to staying at the top of the leaderboard."

A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME

- Cameron Smith's combined score of 131 is a record after 36 holes in an Open at St Andrews.

- All four past champions at St Andrews missed the cut: Zach Johnson (2015), Louis Oosthuizen (2010), Tiger Woods (2000, 2005) and John Daly (1995).

- From his 22 appearances at The Open, this was only the fourth time Woods failed to make the cut.

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