Sunday's golf: PGA Tour hopes for best after rain soaks Liberty National
Jersey City, N.J. — Liberty National avoided the brunt of the wind from Hurricane Henri, but not the rain that forced the final round of The Northern Trust to finish on Monday.
That was the hope, anyway.
Jon Rahm and Cameron Smith finished the third round Saturday tied for the lead at 16-under 197, one shot ahead of Erik van Rooyen.
The PGA Tour decided before the third round even began that Henri posed too much danger for players, spectators and volunteers to be at Liberty National on Sunday. Officials came to the course along the Hudson River and found the course to be in reasonable shape.
“Really good for 5 inches of rain,” said John Mutch, the PGA Tour rules official overseeing the event. “They were working on the bunkers when I was there. There's not a whole lot of standing water. I was pleased. I've seen a lot worse.”
A steady rain kept falling into early Sunday afternoon. Mutch planned to check on it later in the day and decide then, along with an updated forecast, when the players would begin the final round. Some pop-up storms were possible late Monday afternoon.
The course was built on a former landfill and drains relatively well.
It was no small task to prepare for Henri, which was downgraded to a tropical storm before it made landfall Sunday in Rhode Island.
Hours after Smith had set the course record with a 60 — he missed a 12-foot putt for a 59 — and Rahm finished with a par for a 67 to share the lead, workers at Liberty National worked well into Saturday night securing anything that might blow away.
The portable toilets were bundled and fastened. The ShotLink cameras that measure every shot on every hole were taken down. All the metal fences that formed lines for the ferry across the river to Manhattan or the walkway for players going to the practice range were secured.
Those need to be replaced before the final round can begin.
As for the players, it was a rare day off. They last had an entire washed out during the Zozo Championship outside Tokyo in the fall of 2019. The BMW Championship at Aronimink outside Philadelphia was washed out on Sunday, leading to a Monday finish. In that case, the decision to postpone was not announced in advance.
Several players were staying in Manhattan, ordinarily a good place to be to sit out a delay, except it was messy to get around.
There was plenty at stake in the PGA Tour postseason. The top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings after this tournament advance to the BMW Championship, which starts Thursday outside Baltimore.
Keith Mitchell was at No. 101. He is in a six-way tie for 11th place and currently is projected to move up to No. 69, which would get him into the BMW Championship. Tom Hoge was at No. 108 and in a three-way tie for sixth at Liberty National, projected to move to No. 57.
Van Rooyen was in position to win at one shot out of the lead, and his travel schedule suddenly became a lot less complicated.
The South African arrived at Liberty National at No. 76 and planning to play next week, whether that was at Baltimore or Switzerland for the Omega European Masters.
Van Rooyen won the Barracuda Championship two weeks ago for his first PGA Tour title. With the points now worth quadruple value, he appeared certain to extend his tour season one way or another.
Anna Nordqvist kept her ball out of trouble to make a routine par at the last and win the Women’s British Open for a third major title.
For playing partner Nanna Koerstz Madsen, her 72nd hole of the tournament could hardly have been more traumatic.
The Scandinavians were tied for the lead on 12-under par as they made their way down the famous No. 18 at Carnoustie on Sunday, with even their tee shots unable to really separate them.
After Nordqvist landed her approach from the middle of the fairway safely on the green and 25 feet from the pin, Koerstz Madsen turned away in disgust as she pushed her shot from the light rough on the left into a horseshoe-shaped greenside bunker on the right.
Facing a plugged ball and a downhill lie at the back of the bunker, Koerstz Madsen shanked a shot that flew sideways and almost out of bounds at the back of the green.
The Danish player's chip from straggly rough fell short and left of the cup, leaving Nordqvist with two putts for the title. The second was a tap-in from a couple of inches, securing a one-shot victory on what proved to be a shootout in perfect conditions over the storied Scottish links.
“The only thing I could really control was myself,” said Nordqvist, who closed with a 3-under 69. “It was going to be my time.”
Three players — Lizette Salas (69), 2018 champion Georgia Hall (67) and Madelene Sagstrom (68) — tied for second place, with a double bogey at the last dropping Koerstz Madsen (71) into a tie for fifth with Minjee Lee (66).
By adding the Women's Open to her victories at the 2009 LPGA Championship and the 2017 Evian Championship, the 34-year-old Swede became just the third European woman — after Annika Sorenstam and Laura Davies — to have won three or more majors. She received a check of $870,000 from the $5.8 million purse, the largest in women’s golf.
When it was all over, Nordqvist was joined on the 18th green by her husband, Kevin McAlpine, a former Scottish Amateur champion who is from Dundee, a city barely 20 minutes from Carnoustie. On Christmas trips back to Scotland, the couple play the storied links course that can often bring players to their knees but was defenseless Sunday because of little wind and almost balmy temperatures.
A third round of 65 — the lowest round of the week — set up Nordqvist's first win in four years, since the Evian Championship. But the title was up for grabs midway through the final round when, at one stage, there were six players in a share of the lead on 9 under, including the overnight leaders in the final group.
In the end, what transpired on the 18th hole over a stretch of couple of hours decided the championship. First, Lee, who started five shots back but briefly moved into outright first place, made bogey to drop to 10 under overall after nearly going into the Barry Burn that runs in front of the green.
Sagstrom, playing in the third-to-last group, also bogeyed the last to fall out of a three-way share of the lead.
Salas missed a 15-foot birdie putt in the next-to-last group and couldn't get to 12 under, leaving Nordqvist and Koerstz Madsen to duel it out.
While Nordqvist played the 72nd hole perfectly, Koerstz Madsen lost her nerve as she sought to become the first Dane — male or female — to win a major.
“On 18, I tried to not make a mistake,” she said, “and that was the only thing I shouldn’t do.”
It was the first year since 2010 that a South Korean failed to win a major.
The last 13 LPGA majors have been won by 13 different players.
Johannes Veerman closed with a 4-under 68 to win the Czech Masters on Sunday for his maiden European Tour title.
The American finished two strokes ahead of Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and another American Sean Crocker for a 15-under total of 273 at Albatross Golf Resort near Prague.
Veerman’s previous best European Tour finish was third at the Irish Open earlier this season.
“It’s unbelievable. I mean, I played with two great players today, both of them played really well the whole entire way," Veerman said. “At one point there were four of us all tied for the lead and I just stuck to my game. I can’t believe I won. I’ll wake up tomorrow and then I’ll really feel it."
He recovered from a bogey on the 2nd with three birdies on the front nine after he started the round in the final group with former British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Pulkkanen and was two strokes behind the leading Finn.
Veerman took a one-shot lead for the first time after opening the back nine with another birdie and added another pair on the 12th and 16th following a bogey on the 11th.
Pulkkanen built a four-shot lead early but dropped two shots with bogeys on the 8th and 10th. He regained his lead after a couple of birdies on the 15th and 16th but finished the round with a bogey and a double bogey on the final two holes for a 72 to tie for second at 13-under 275.
With his fourth straight birdie on the 12th, Crocker jumped into the lead before producing bogeys on the 14th and 15th for a round of 70.
Stenson hit the water on the 16th for a double bogey to card 71 and tie for fourth a shot back along with American Paul Peterson (70), who won the Czech Masters in 2016.