Ace helps Merritt to share of lead with Niemann at Rocket Mortgage Classic

By Sports Desk July 03, 2021

Troy Merritt joined Joaquin Niemann atop the leaderboard heading into the final round at the Rocket Mortgage Classic thanks in part to a remarkable hole-in-one. 

In search of his third PGA Tour title and first in nearly three years, Merritt was one stroke better than Niemann (68) in the third round and turned in the highlight of the day in Detroit. 

The American's tee shot on the 218-yard 11th bounced on the green and arced straight into the cup, setting off a celebration in the gallery. 

It was Merritt's first ace in PGA Tour play and momentarily gave him a three-shot lead, but he spent more time after the round stewing over his bogey on the following hole. 

"The big thing is, when you get out in front, don't go back to the guys behind you," he said. "Make them come and get you." 

Niemann enjoyed a steadier day, carding birdies on the first and last holes to book-end his third consecutive bogey-free round and sit at 14 under par for the tournament. 

The Chilean will try to run down his first win since the 2019 Greenbrier Classic on Sunday, but he and Merritt will have plenty of competition. 

Hank Leiboda (66) and Cam Davis (67) begin the final round one stroke back, with Brandon Hagy (68) two back at 12 under and six more golfers at 11 under. 

Among the notables down the leaderboard, Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley are at nine under after carding 68s, with Bubba Watson (67) one stroke behind them. 

Former world number one Jason Day (69) is at seven under, Patrick Reed (70) at five under and Phil Mickelson at three under after a second consecutive round of 72. 

Related items

  • Juventus draw shows how far Milan have come, says Pioli Juventus draw shows how far Milan have come, says Pioli

    Stefano Pioli believes Milan's 1-1 draw with Juventus shows how far his side have come as they no longer require a "miracle" to win a game they are second best in.

    Milan battled back to claim a point in Sunday's Serie A clash at Allianz Stadium after Ante Rebic headed in 14 minutes from time to cancel out Alvaro Morata's early opener.

    Without a number of key players through injury, including strikers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Olivier Giroud, the Rossoneri struggled in the first half and could have been further behind.

    But they took more control of the game in the second half, when seeing 62.7 per cent of the ball, and almost snatched the win late on through a well-saved Pierre Kalulu strike.

    The draw ended Milan's perfect start to the league season, but they are level on points with champions and early pacesetters Inter after four matches.

    Pioli, who guided the Rossoneri to second place last season – their best finish in nine years – is pleased with the way his side recovered to avoid defeat in Turin.

    "We came here to win the game," he told DAZN. "We found a better opponent than us in the first 20 minutes especially, but we did much better in the second half.

    "It was definitely a positive performance from us on the whole. Maybe last year to win these games we had to hope for a miracle; now we are aware that we can win these games.

    "We tried until the end to claim the victory."

     

    Rebic led the line in the absence of Giroud and Ibrahimovic and responded with his second goal in as many games, having also netted in the 3-2 Champions League loss to Liverpool in midweek.

    The Croatian forward is the first Milan player to score against Juve in three successive Serie A games in the three-points-per-win era (since 1994-95) and Pioli heaped praise on Rebic.

    "Ante has immense intensity and quality to his game," Pioli said. "He can play in more or less any role and he helped us today. He is a very important player to break games open.

    "I've always seen my players ready to overcome any limitations. They have quality and work throughout the week with a sense of belonging. 

    "The opposition might be better on the day, but we will always give it our best shot going for the victory."

    Rebic's header from a Sandro Tonali corner ensured Milan avoided defeat at Juventus in a match they trailed for the first time since February 1996.

    While Milan are well positioned at the top end of the table, opponents Juventus are winless after their first four games for just the fourth time in their history.

    Despite boasting an eight-point gap on Massimiliano Allegri's men, who are inside the relegation zone, Pioli insisted it is too soon to look at the league standings.

    "We are only four games in," he said at his post-match news conference. "There is time for every team to improve their position. But of course were are satisfied with what we've done."

  • Benzema and Vinicius celebrate as 'indomitable' Real Madrid go top Benzema and Vinicius celebrate as 'indomitable' Real Madrid go top

    Karim Benzema bailed out Real Madrid once again, but the French striker insisted the 2-1 win at Valencia was richly deserved, as their unbeaten LaLiga run stretched to 23 games. 

    The capital giants had trailed to a fine 66th-minute strike from Hugo Duro that looked set to take Valencia to the top of the table, but instead it is Madrid who sit on that perch with 13 points from five games. 

    Captain Benzema teed up Vinicius Junior to slot in an 86th-minute leveller, with the help of a deflection, before roles were reversed for the winner two minutes later. 

    A teasing cross from Vinicius was perfect for Benzema to attack, and although the ball went in off his shoulder rather than his forehead, as was the intention, they all count. 

    Benzema has now scored in his last six games against Valencia, and Sunday's late show was sweet revenge for the 4-1 thumping that Madrid took at Mestalla last November. 

    Coach Carlo Ancelotti described his team's spirit as "indomitable" and Benzema saw it similarly. 

    The 33-year-old said: "I think it was a difficult game for us against a great team who are always difficult to beat here. 

    "I think we deserved the three points that are important to us. Each game is a final, today was another final and we won. 

    "All the players on the pitch and the people who came on at the end of the game to help us, it is a victory for the squad. If I can continue like this, scoring, the most important thing is that they are important for the club." 

    Madrid are unbeaten in their last 18 away trips (W12 D6) in LaLiga, which equals their best such run in the competition's history, having previously reached 18 games unbeaten in 1997 (W11 D7) and 2016 (W13 D5). 

    Benzema has six goals already this season in LaLiga from an expected goals (xG) total of 2.61, indicating he is having an outstanding run in front of goal. 

    He has become the first player since Lionel Messi in 2011-12 to be directly involved in 11 or more goals in the first five games of a LaLiga campaign (six goals, five assists). 

    This season has seen Vinicius very much come to the party too, bagging five goals from an xG of 2.3, also outperforming expectations substantially, and now adding a first assist. 

    Quoted by AS, Vinicius said the win at Valencia was credit to Madrid's refusal to accept they are ever beaten.

    "It is always difficult to play here, but we continue to believe and Madrid never give up," said the 21-year-old Brazilian.

    "The main virtue is patience. It was the job of the coach and the whole team. We are doing things like never before. We played well, but things didn't work out and in the end we got the comeback. I am happy with the victory "

    It was a victory that delighted Ancelotti, who has yet to lose a competitive game since returning to the club in the close season.

    "We have not won because of quality, but because of the indomitable spirit of the team," said Ancelotti. "We continued to the end."

  • PSG boss Pochettino insists 'no issues' with Messi after substitution PSG boss Pochettino insists 'no issues' with Messi after substitution

    Mauricio Pochettino insisted there are "no issues" with Lionel Messi after the Paris Saint-Germain superstar's reaction to being substituted during Sunday's 2-1 win over Ligue 1 rivals Lyon.

    Messi had a puzzled look on his face as he walked past PSG head coach Pochettino, having been replaced by full-back Achraf Hakimi in the 76th minute of the league clash.

    Pochettino and Messi briefly exchanged words before the latter, who was making his home debut at the Parc des Princes following his blockbuster arrival from Barcelona, sat on the bench next to surprised team-mates.

    Messi was involved in six shots (four attempts, two chances created) against Lyon and only Kylian Mbappe against Clermont (seven) has managed better in a league game so far this season for PSG.

    A six-time Ballon d'Or winner, Messi also had 65 touches and made 48 passes with an accuracy of 83.3 per cent.

    Pochettino told a post-match media conference: "I think everyone knows that we have many great players, with a 35-man squad. 

    "We have to make choices, within the matchday squad and then during the game, keeping in mind what's best for the team and every player. 

    "Sometimes the decisions are positive, or not, but that's what managers are there to do on the sidelines, to make decisions. It can please people or not. 

    "I asked him how he was and he said he was fine, no issues."

    PSG secured victory over Lyon following a dramatic injury-time header from substitute Mauro Icardi from Mbappe's cross after Neymar's penalty had earlier cancelled out Lucas Paqueta's opening goal.

    Pochettino's PSG are now five points clear of Marseille at the top of Ligue 1 after six wins from six games.

    PSG have achieved a flawless start from their first six games for the third time after 2017-18 and 2018-19 – on both those occasions they went on to be crowned champions.

    "It's very positive for us," Pochettino said of their start to the Ligue 1 campaign. "After the difficult game [against Club Brugge in the Champions League], this was important for us. Lyon are a very good team that play well. 

    "We conceded that goal in the second half. The team needed to show some character. 

    "We're in a period where we're trying a lot of things. We have to work on it in training, but it's difficult because we have a game every three days, and the priority is that the players recover. 

    "We can only do video sessions. It's not an excuse, we need to improve."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.