Rory McIlroy debunks LIV Golf rumors. Greg Norman claims unanimous support during Masters trip

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — This wasn’t the kind of attention Rory McIlroy was hoping for on the day after the Masters.

A London financial paper, City A.M., cited anonymous sources as saying McIlroy was believed to be close to an $850 million deal to join LIV Golf. The publication did not say how the sources would know. That set off speculation and innuendo across the internet.

McIlroy was able to shut it down when he arrived at the RBC Heritage.

“I honestly don’t know how these things get started,” McIlroy told Golf Channel from the range at Harbour Town. “I’ve never been offered a number from LIV and I’ve never contemplated going to LIV. I think I’ve made it clear over the past two years that I don’t think it’s something for me.”

He most recently said that at Bay Hill last month.

McIlroy said he won’t judge players going to LIV if they feel that’s what it is best for them. He also expressed anew how important it is to have the top players come together more often than the four majors. And he believes some PGA Tour players are still contemplating going over to the Saudi-funded tour. It’s just not for him.

“I’ll play the PGA Tour the rest of my career,” he said.

He wasn’t the only person getting plenty of attention involving LIV Golf. The commissioner and CEO, Greg Norman, spent three days at the Masters and made his presence felt at every turn.

Norman acquired a ticket to watch like any other spectator — presumably the 104 tickets available to the 13 LIV players in the Masters already were taken — and raved about the reception he received.

Norman took to Instagram to thank “the hundreds if not thousands of people” for what he called “unanimous support.”

“My right hand is sore from shaking hands with each and every one of you as well as the hugs given to so many,” Norman wrote.

Nelly Korda has more than a major championship at stake this week in The Chevron Championship. She will try to join Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam as the only women to win five straight tournaments on the LPGA Tour.

Korda would be more similar to Sorenstam than Lopez, and not just because the fifth in a row would come at the LPGA’s first major of the year. There also was a significant gap.

Sorenstam won twice at the end of the 2004 season — Japan, a week off, and then the ADT Championship. She skipped the 2005 season opener in Hawaii and then reeled off the next three tournaments on the schedule, capped by winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Korda won the Drive On Championship in Bradenton, Florida, in January, and then skipped the entire Asia swing, taking a seven-week break. She returned to win in Los Angeles, the Phoenix area and then captured her fourth in a row at the Match Play in Las Vegas.

Lopez won her five straight in a six-week span in 1978. She started with three wins in three weeks, skipped the Peter Jackson Classic in Canada and then won the LPGA Championship and the following week in New York.

Korda is the first to win four straight tournaments since Lorena Ochoa won four straight in four weeks by seven shots, five shots, 11 shots and three shots. She took a week off and then tied for fifth at Cedar Ridge in Tulsa, Oklahoma, five shots out of the lead.

The Chevron Championship pledged to upgrade the first LPGA major of the year, and it took a big step Tuesday. It announced a purse increase to $7.9 million, up from $5.2 million. The prize money has gone up $4.8 million in the three years that Chevron has been title sponsor.

The winner will get $1.2 million.

Chevron also said it would extend its sponsorship through 2029.

The purse is closer in line with the other traditional majors in women’s golf. The U.S. Women’s Open remains the highest at $12 million, followed by the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at $10 million. The AIG Women’s British Open is $9 million.

The LPGA made the Evian Championship a major a decade ago. Its prize money is $6.5 million.

In addition to the big purse increase, Chevron is giving $10,000 to every player who misses the cut to help with expenses in travel.

Patrick Reed left the Masters with a small measure of frustration because of a poor week driving the ball and not getting any momentum. He closed with an even-par 72 and had to settle for a tie for 12th.

It might have done him a world of good.

Reed had not received an invitation to the PGA Championship before he arrived at the Masters as the No. 112 player in the world ranking. With a good finish, the LIV Golf player moved up 27 spots to No. 85. The PGA Championship at Valhalla is a month away, and it’s unlikely Reed will have fallen out of the top 100 by then.

The PGA of America has a history of inviting everyone inside the top 100 in the world ranking, though it’s not part of the criteria. Oftentimes officials will go a little deeper.

At stake for Reed is a streak playing in every major dating to the 2014 Masters.

Reed said after the third round of the Masters he was uncertain of his schedule outside LIV Golf. He already got a small boost in the world ranking — LIV events do not offer ranking points — with a fourth-place finish in the International Series-Macau on the Asian Tour.

“Hopefully the PGA and the U.S. Open and The Open Championship take a look at things like that and take consideration on who they’re deciding to give exemptions to,” Reed said. “All I can focus on is playing good golf.”

The most poignant memory of a caddie at the Masters was how Shota Hayafuji replaced the pin after Hideki Matsuyama won in 2021, and then removed his cap and bowed to the course as a show of respect.

Scottie Scheffler’s classy gesture wasn’t so obvious.

Two years ago, he walked off the 18th green with his wife, Meredith. She was home in Dallas this year awaiting the birth of their first child. Scheffler hugged two of his sisters, his parents, swing coach Randy Smith and manager Blake Smith and was about to walk to scoring when he stopped and turned.

His caddie, Ted Scott, was still exchanging hugs when Scheffler called to him and waited. He had Scott go with him, leading the way.

“He doesn’t want to make the walk alone,” CBS announcer Jim Nantz said. “That was great of him. What a gesture.”

The final round of the Masters averaged a 5.2 rating and 9.59 million viewers on CBS, which Sports Media Watch said was 5% down in ratings and a drop of 20% in viewership compared with last year. Among reasons for the drop is that last year the final round fell on Easter Sunday and benefited from a boost in out-of-home audience. One other factor could be the streaming option on the Masters’ state-of-the-art website. … Scottie Scheffler is leading the PGA Tour in birdie average and bogey avoidance. … Rickie Fowler announced on social media that he and his wife are expecting their second daughter this summer. His wife, Allison, said the baby was due the week of the Olympics in early August. That also is two weeks after the British Open. … Webb Simpson is No. 138 in the FedEx Cup and it’s not from a lack of opportunity. He already has received sponsor exemptions into two $20 million signature events that did not have cuts. Simpson is playing on a sponsor exemption this week at the RBC Heritage, another signature event with no cut. Simpson won at Hilton Head in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scottie Scheffler is averaging $431,235 for every round of golf he has played this year on the PGA Tour.

“That’s what I’m looking forward to most about being a parent is being able to love my child like my parents loved me.” — Masters champion Scottie Scheffler.

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

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