BANGKOK — Branden Grace became the first LIV Golf player to withdraw at an event he had to withdraw on Saturday due to a problem with his rib cage.
Grace, a South African who holds the record for the lowest score ever shot in a major championship – a 62 in the third round of the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale – began to experience pain on the second hole at Stonehill in the second round of the LIV Golf Invitational Series event in Bangkok.
He received treatment from a physiotherapist after hitting his tee shot on the third hole, then completed the hole but was unable to continue.
Grace, 34, was co-leading the first round of the event with Richard Bland and Eugenio Chacarra after shooting a 65. He trailed Chacarra with a shot when he retired.
“He hit a great tee shot on the first and everything was fine,” said Bland, who was playing in the same group. “But when he hit the second shot he was struggling. And from that moment on, it was clear he couldn’t pull the trigger. It’s a shame because he was playing really well.
The injury was also potentially painful financially. Grace entered the week behind Dustin Johnson in the LIV Individual Champion Race which ends after next week’s tournament in Jeddah. Johnson has 118 points and Grace is second with 79.
But with Johnson struggling and Grace potentially in contention, there was an opportunity to close the gap. The individual title is worth an $18 million bonus, with $8 million for second and $3 million for third.
Grace was not replaced on the court for the tag team game, meaning her Stinger squad of South Africans Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Shaun Norris were set to see their scores count in the second round as well as on Sunday. The team entered the tournament in second place in the team standings, with the top four by Jeddah earning a day one buy at the season-ending tag team championship later this month in Doral.
After withdrawing, tournament officials said Grace is heading for an MRI and it is unclear if he will be able to play in next week’s tournament.
Without warning and without fanfare, LIV Golf apparently has its first sponsor on hand. At least the first audience. Bangkok Bank has signage on 16e hole as well as some small signs on the driving range. This is the first time there has been any sort of noticeable publicity on the course at any of the six LIV golf events.
LIV officials have acknowledged that they have an agreement for this week with Bangkok Bank, but no details have been released.
Chatter World Ranking
The subject of the Official World Golf Rankings is never far from the surface this week. LIV Golf has made a bold move by partnering with MENA Tour development in an attempt to gain approval faster. The OWGR said on Thursday it would not approve the short-term plan because it needed a review period.
So it looks like LIV Golf will go until at least 2023 before world ranking points are awarded – if at all.
“We were excited about (the possibility of the MENA Tour), but I don’t think it’s over,” said Sergio Garcia. “We are always fighting about it and trying to get what we think we deserve. I hope it will happen soon.”
When asked if he thought there might be another system to explore if the OWGR didn’t approve, Garcia replied, “If it continues, probably. But at the end of the day, we are very happy where we are. If they keep blocking us, it’s because they see us as a threat. So it’s a good thing to have.”
The tournament has been extremely lucky to avoid bad weather so far. It’s the rainy season in Thailand, and thunderstorms are part of every day. At one point Friday afternoon, some areas of the course had to be evacuated due to high winds. But that was an hour after the end of the game.
With even worse weather looming on Sunday afternoon, tournament officials decided to move the tee time by an hour and 15 minutes. Instead of starting at 10:15 a.m. local time, it will start at 9 a.m. (10 p.m. Saturday ET).