Strong start to the season for Stark, as Scheffler returns to No.1 and Strydom takes a second DP World Tour victory this season

Report from the LET

Sweden's Maja Stark saw off a star-studded leaderboard to win by four shots at the Lalla Meryem Cup and land a sixth Ladies European Tour (LET) title.

Leading Aditi Ashok by two ahead of play, things got interesting early on when last week's Magical Kenya Open winner birdied the opening hole to draw level with Stark after the Swede made bogey.

But Stark soon took control on the front nine, rebounding with birdies on two, five, and nine to steer four clear of the Indian as they approached the turn.

"I was very nervous for the whole round," she said. "I get a little bit passive when people are catching up so that wasn’t the best thing in the world." 

On to the back nine and the drama quickly unfolded. Playing in the group ahead, Linn Grant, who started the day five shots adrift, carded birdies on 12, 14 and 15 after going out in 34 (-3) to close the gap to two on her Race to Costa Del Sol rival.

Stark responded with a birdie of her own on 14, before Grant's momentum ended after she bogeyed the par-4 16th for a third consecutive day.

"The birdie on 14 was important because I could see Linn was making some birdies. I try not to look at the scoreboard, but I could see her draining putts and I thought 'shoot I really need to keep going!' Making that putt then gave me a little bit more momentum.

"I just kept going, kept being aggressive, and in the end I think that’s what’s did it." 

Strak three shots clear with four to play

Three shots clear of Ashok and Grant with four holes to play, Stark then exemplified the composure which saw her rise to fame last year. The 23-year-old birdied 17 before closing out the win with an excellent par save on 18 to finish on -12.

The victory was Stark's sixth on the LET and marks an exceptional start to 2023 after finishing tied second at the LPGA Tour's Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Championship last month.

On her continued rivalry with Grant, Stark said: "I love it. There's the competition against everyone that I have, and then there's a competition against Linn!

"It's a good competition that we have against each other and I know we're always trying to beat each other. For us to come out as top two again, that feels great."

Having piled the pressure on Stark throughout the day, Grant finished in solo second on eight-under-par while Ashok finished third on seven-under-par.

A final round 69 saw Switzerland's Albane Valenzuela finish fourth on six-under-par. Czechia's Jana Melichova and Spain's Ana Pelaez Trivino finished in a tie for fifth on three-under-par.

In the 2023 Race to Costa Del Sol, Stark sits second in the standings after collecting 500 points for winning her first event of the campaign. Ashok still leads the way after receiving 230 points to take her overall tally to 730. Grant then collects 320 points to position herself in third.

The Tour now moves to Saudi Arabia and the Aramco Saudi Ladies International Presented By Public Investment Fund which features a $5 million prize fund.

Scheffler goes back-to-back and rises to No 1

The WM Phoenix Open now firmly has a special place in Scottie Scheffler's heart as he put on a brilliant display of golf to win for the second year in a row. His title defence at TPC Scottsdale gave him his fifth PGA Tour title and his first since last year's Masters. Not only that, with the win Scheffler has returned to the World No. 1 spot, replacing Rory McIlroy who could only finish tied 32nd.

The American held off a relentless challenge from his playing partners Nick Taylor and Jon Rahm to shot a final round 65 to win by two shots.

It was a bogey-free round for the 26-year-old, with an eagle and four birdies to end the week on 19-under-par whilst Canadian Taylor, also with a round of 65 having to settle for second place, with Rahm five shots off the pace in third.

"I'm just proud with how I fought today. I didn't have my best stuff, but I grinded it out. I wasn't hitting it good off tee, my irons didn't feel as sharp, but I played a great round of golf today.

"I started to build some momentum early today and saw some putts go in, so I'm really grateful with the result. It [returning to world No 1] feels pretty good!"

This week it's The Genesis Invitational at The Riviera Country Club where a certain Mr Woods will be taking all the headlines.

Second DP World Tour title for Strydom

There's winning and there's winning in style. That's exactly what Ockie Strydom did at the Singapore Classic. The South African won his second DP World Tour title by shooting a final round nine-under-par 63 to finish one shot clear of Finland's Sami Valimaki.

Strydom adds the Singapore Classic to his Alfred Dunhill Championship victory from December in South Africa. Not bad to say that of the ten events so far this season, you have won two of them!

There were many highlights from his round but holding his nerve on the par-five 18th was impressive. The 38-year-old was in some trouble having gone through the green with his second shot, but he chipped close to give himself a tap-in birdie and set the clubhouse lead at 19-under-par.

Talking about his chip on 18:

"It's a funny one. I said to my caddie that it's either got to go up in the air and if you hit a bit behind it, it's wet. I took a wedge, it came out absolutely phenomenal. I didn't think it was coming out that good. But it did and ended up where it was."

There was no doubt in Strydom's mind that his previous victory in December helped:

"It's a mindset that's changing at the moment. When you've been in that situation before and you know you can do it again.

"I was thinking about not being here this week. Hitting it so badly. My coach flew in and my wife said to me, 'listen, maybe this is your week'. And look what happened, it's my week."

The tour now moves to Thailand and the Thailand Classic at Amata Spring CC in Bangkok.

Vic Open success for Jiyai Shin

Report from the WPGA Tour Australasia

Cassie Porter came to 13th Beach on the final day with great expectations but was dealt a reality check by the game of golf, and Jiyai Shin is the Vic Open champion for 2023.

Australian Porter encountered a windy day – the first of the week at Barwon Heads – and it shook her game to the core.

Despite a two-shot lead at the start of the day, she could not match the relentless march of South Korea’s former World No. 1 Shin, who caught the Queenslander by the second hole, overtook her and ran away with a five-shot win.

It is 34-year-old Shin’s first win since 2021, which is an eternity for a player who has won more than 60 times around the world. “Finally, I won in Victoria, I’m so happy for this,” she said. “Finally I did. I have a good reason to come back.”

The Korean, who plays mostly in Japan nowadays but who is a previous winner of two women’s majors, shot a steady, closing even-par 71 and always looked the winner today.

Porter, by contrast, slumped to tied-fourth in shooting a closing 79, 7-over par, under the pressure of trying to go wire-to-wire against world class players.

Shin said she sensed that the Australian was nervous, a feeling she was familiar with from her past. “I had the same thing, but sometimes the rookie makes a more impressive game,” she said. “In this wind, it changes a bit, I’m so glad to play with her for three days and I look forward to her playing in all of the world. The first two rounds, she was making everything. I was so surprised. She’s a rookie! Today I want her with this experience to learn something.”

With Porter’s bogey at the last another Australian, Grace Kim, sneaked up into a share of second with her one-under-par round. Pavarisa Yoktuan from Thailand also took a share of second although she never threatened to win.

In the men's event, New Zealand's Michael Hendry won the 2023 Vic Open title by four shots as he finished 21-under-par.

The next event on the WPGA Tour is The Webex Players Series in Sydney being played at Bonnie Doon Golf Club.

Folke flies to Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am success

Report from the Sunshine Ladies Tour.

It took a special round to win it, and Moa Folke of Sweden provided just that with a brilliant bogey-free eight-under-par 64 on Sunday to take the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am at Fancourt.

The 27-year-old made the normally intimidating Montagu layout at Fancourt look easy on the final day of the R2.5-million Sunshine Ladies Tour event.

Starting the final round five shots off the lead, Folke fired an eagle and six birdies, and her eight-under-par 54-hole tally left her three shots clear of long-time leader Anne-Lise Caudal of France.

Five-time Investec South African Women’s Open champion Lee-Anne Pace finished four shots back in third, and England’s Lily May Humphreys, who couldn’t keep a grip on to the lead she held after the first and second rounds, was fourth on three-under. Kaleigh Telfer rounded out the top five, closing with a 69 to finish on one-under.

First place was worth almost R400 000 and boosted the delighted Folke to the summit of the Investec Order of Merit.

“I’m so happy,” said Folke, whose only other professional win came on the Swedish Golf Tour. “I got off to a very good start, which really helped me. I knew I started quite far behind, but I just felt I had to keep going and how long I could go. I played really well off the tee all week, but really struggled on the greens. But today everything clicked, and it just felt like I was never in trouble. That was a very nice feeling.”

Fortune favoured the Swedes for a second successive year as Folke follows in the footsteps of the superb Linn Grant, the fabulous Swede who took the title at Fancourt last year and went on to a dominating year on the Ladies European Tour.

Folke will have a chance to emulate Grant with back-to-back victories in the Cape Town Ladies Open, which tees off at a new venue – the Atlantic Beach Links – from February 15-17.

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