‘I was born a fighter’ — the making of Saudi’s first MMA female fighter Hattan Alsaif

‘I was born a fighter’ — the making of Saudi’s first MMA female fighter Hattan Alsaif
‘I was born a fighter’ — the making of Saudi’s first MMA female fighter Hattan Alsaif

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Schauffele gets another major scoring record and sets the pace at PGA Championship

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky: Xander Schauffele is playing some of his best golf without a trophy to show for it. He at least put his name in the PGA Championship record book Thursday with a 9-under 62, and gave himself another entry in the record book for all majors.

Schauffele seized on the rain-softened conditions at Valhalla with a bogey-free 62, the lowest round in PGA Championship history, and matched the PGA record for largest margin after 18 holes with a three-shot lead over Tony Finau, Sahith Theegala and Mark Hubbard.

Schauffele, a 30-year-old who oozes California chill, kept this one in perspective.

“It’s just one day,” he said. “Very happy with how I played. I can’t think much more of it. I have to tee it up tomorrow.”

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler saw Schauffele’s score and cared only about putting together a good round in his first competition since his son was born last week.

That he did, holing out with a 9-iron from 167 yards on the first hole for eagle, the highlight in a round of 67. Scheffler failed to birdie the par 5s on the back nine and had a few other mistakes that sent him to the range after his round, but otherwise felt OK about it.

“I felt like there was a couple things I can clean up going into tomorrow, but overall today was a solid round,” Scheffler said after his 41st consecutive round at par or better.

This was an easy day to keep that streak going. A record 64 players broke par. The previous record for the first round of a PGA was 60 sub-par rounds in 2006 at Medinah, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Even players who stumbled from the start had ample opportunity to turn it around.

Jon Rahm opened with four bogeys in six holes, threw a club in disgust on the 16th hole and still managed a 70 by making four birdies down the stretch. Collin Morikawa was 2 over through five holes, but he responded with three straight birdies and finished with a 65.

Even so, this was a special round. Schauffele one-putted 12 times — two of them for par that he considered crucial to his round — and he didn’t go more than one hole without a birdie until the very end when he finished par-par for the record.

The three-shot lead matches the 18-hole record held by Bobby Nichols in 1964 at Columbus (Ohio) Country Club and Raymond Floyd in 1982 at Southern Hills. Both went on to win.

Schauffele had plenty of attention, playing alongside Louisville native Justin Thomas and in the group ahead of Tiger Woods, who was followed by Rory McIlroy. Thomas rallied late for a 69 that required some perspective of his own.

“When you’re playing with one of the easiest 9 unders you’ve ever seen, it makes you feel like you’re shooting a million,” Thomas said.

Finau closed with four pars for his 65. Theegala had 65 by finishing with three straight birdies. Hubbard had three birdies over his last four holes to join them late in the afternoon.

McIlroy, back on the course where he won his last major 10 years ago, ran off three birdies late in his round for a 66 that left him in a large group that included Morikawa and Tom Kim.

“You knew there were a lot of birdies out there,” Morikawa said. “It played soft and the greens were pretty slow.”

Defending champion Brooks Koepka played his final three holes in 3 under for a 67, while Jordan Spieth bogeyed his last hole for a 69 in his bid for the final leg of the Grand Slam.

There had been 17 scores of 63 at the PGA Championship, most recently Koepka in the opening round at Bethpage Black in 2019. The list includes Jose Maria Olazabal at Valhalla in 2000 during the third round.

Schauffele had to get up-and-down from behind the green on the par-3 eighth to a front pin, a chip of 60 feet that was right in the jar until stopping 2 feet short. His two-putt par from about 30 feet on the ninth hole gave him the PGA record.

That makes four rounds of 62 in all the majors, and Schauffele has two of them. He and Rickie Fowler shot 62 in the first round of the US Open last year at Los Angeles Country Club (par 70), while Branden Grace shot 62 in the third round at Royal Birkdale in the 2017 British Open.

And then he began the 24-hour wait before his next shot on Friday afternoon.

“The greens will be a little bit bumpier with a lot of foot traffic coming through. Who knows with the weather — it might rain — so the course might be playing completely different,” Schauffele said. “Just going to bed knowing I’m playing some pretty good golf, might just wipe the slate clean.”

Good golf, indeed. Just no trophy since the summer of 2022.

Schauffele had a one-shot lead last week in the Wells Fargo Championship and McIlroy zoomed by him on the back nine with a 65 to win by five. He also had a one-shot lead going into the final round at The Players Championship until Scheffler shot 64 to win by one.

“I’ve just been playing some really solid golf,” he said. “Been having close calls. My team and I, we just say let’s keep chugging along.”

This felt like a sprint from when he hit 6-iron to a pin back and left on the par-3 11th to 2 feet, followed by a 15-foot par save on the 12th, one of the few times he was out of position. Schauffele birdied three of the last four holes on the back nine for a 31, and then he ran off three birdies in a four-hole stretch — no putt longer than 10 feet — on the front nine.

It was the perfect recipe for scoring — the sun above, soft turf below, not much wind, and greens still relatively smooth.

“You for sure know there’s going to be some holes there for the taking,” Finau said. “You’re going to hit some good shots. You’re going to have a lot of looks. That’s what you saw out there today. ... I think you can go on a run here with the conditions.

“And it’s going to make for a fun week.”

It was frustrating for Woods, who holed enough putts and hit enough good shots that he was 1 under going to the final three holes. But he failed to take advantage of the par-5 seventh, and then he three-putted for bogey on his final two holes for a 72. That marked the eighth straight round in which he failed to break par in a major.

“That wasn’t the way I like to finish off a round,” Woods said. “Long way to go, and we’ll see what happens.”
 

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