BANGKOK – Branden Grace became the first LIV Golf player to retire during an event when he had to retire on Saturday due to a problem with his rib cage.
Grace, a South African who holds the record for the lowest score ever in a major – 62 during the third round of the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale – began experiencing pain on the second hole at Stonehill in the second round of the tournament. The LIV Golf Invitational Series event in Bangkok.
He received treatment from a physical therapist after hitting the tee in the third hole and then completing the hole but was unable to continue.
Grace, 34, was a co-leader in the event’s first round with Richard Bland and Eugenio Chacara after shooting the 65th. Chakara slipped one blow when he pulled up.
“He hit a great shot at the start and everything looked fine,” said Bland, who was playing in the same group. “But when he shot the second he struggled. From then on, he obviously couldn’t pull the trigger. It’s a shame because he was playing really well.
The injury was also painful financially. Grace came in the week behind Dustin Johnson in the LIV singles race of the champion that concludes following next week’s championship in Jeddah. Johnson has 118 points and Grace is second with 79 points.
But with Johnson struggling a bit and possibly competing with Grace, there was an opportunity to bridge the gap. The singles title deserves a bounty of $18 million, with $8 million for the second and $3 million for the third.
Grace was not substituted on the field for the team part, which meant that the Stinger team consisting of South Africans Louis Oosthuizen, Charles Schwarzl and Sean Norris had to count their scores in the second round as well as Sunday. The team reached the championship in second place in the team standings, with the top four through Jeddah earning a buyout deal on day one in the season ending team championship later this month in Doral.
After pulling out, tournament officials said Grace was headed to get an MRI and it’s not clear if he’ll be able to play in next week’s tournament.
Without warning and without fanfare, it looks like LIV Golf has its first sponsor on site. At least the first one year. Bangkok Bank has signs on number 16The tenth A pit as well as some small signs in the driving lane. It is the first time that any kind of noticeable advertisement has appeared on the track at any of the six LIV Golf events.
LIV officials acknowledged they had a deal this week with Bangkok Bank, but no details were released.
The topic of golf’s rankings isn’t far from the surface this week. LIV Golf has taken a bold step in partnering with the MENA Development Tour as a way to try to get approval faster. On Thursday, OWGR said it would not approve the plan in the short term because it needed a review period.
So it looks like LIV Golf will at least move into 2023 before the world-ranking points – if any – are awarded.
“We were excited (for the possibility of the MENA tour), but I don’t think it’s over,” said Sergio Garcia. “We still struggle for it and try to get what we think we deserve. I hope it comes soon.”
When asked if he thought there might be another system to explore if OWGR disagreed, Garcia said: “If it continues, it probably does. But at the end of the day, we’re very happy where we are. If they keep blocking us, it’s because they see us.” As a threat. So this is a good thing.”
The tournament has been very fortunate to avoid bad weather up to this point. It’s the rainy season in Thailand, and thunderstorms have been a part of every day. Sometime on Friday afternoon, certain areas of the course were evacuated due to strong winds. But it was an hour after the play ended.
With the threat of more bad weather on Sunday afternoon, tournament officials decided to initially move the gun for an hour and 15 minutes. Instead of starting at 10:15 a.m. local time, you’ll start at 9 a.m. (10 p.m. Saturday ET).