Thursday, the countrymen each carded a pair of 6-under-par 66s to share the first-round lead at the Linde German Masters with Ireland's Padraig Harrington and Sweden's Patrik Sjoland.
The last time Sjoland held at least a share of the 18-hole lead, he won the event. That took place mid-way through the season at the Murphy's Irish Open. Now, the Swede looks for a repeat of that accomplishment in Cologne, Germany.
'After winning in Ireland I just haven't been getting good starts and it's always been a case of catching up,' Sjoland said.
'I'm lying 22nd on the rankings at the moment, and my target is top 15 so I can be sure of places in next year's U.S. Open and British Open, and there is very big money here this week,'
While Sjoland vies for win No. 2 in 2000, so too does Harrington. The Irishman captured the Brazil Sao Paulo 500 Years Open in April - his second-career Tour title.
Last week, Harrington was in position for a third European triumph. He led through three rounds of the Belgacom Open, but was passed by a surging Lee Westwood on Sunday.
While four players share first place, six more are just one-shot back. Germany's own Bernhard Langer is tied with Englishmen Roger Winchester and David Carter; Scotsmen Colin Montgomerie and Gary Orr; and Italian Emanuele Canonica.
Langer is in search of his fourth-career German Masters title, but more importantly, the 43-year-old German is seeking a return trip to the 2001 Ryder Cup. Over $400,000 and 450,000 Ryder Cup points are on offer for first place at the Gut Larchenhof Golf Club.
'I won't be playing 25 to 30 qualifying tournaments, so when I play, I have to play well,' said Langer, whose last European victory came at the 1997 Linde German Masters.
Montgomerie is a guaranteed lock to play at The Belfry in 2001. But what is in doubt for the 1998 German Masters champion is an eighth-straight Order of Merit title in 2000. Monty currently resides in 5th place in earnings, over $730,000 behind leader Lee Westwood.
Westwood is in a 16-way tie for 32nd place after opening in 2-under-par 70. In all, 62 of the 108 players in the field are within five shots of the first-round lead. Defending champion Sergio Garcia is six off the lead after shooting an even-par 72.
Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change
Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.
David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.
“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.
Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.
“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”
Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.
The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.
Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.
Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:
1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.
2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.
While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”
PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes
The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:
The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.
We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.
Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open
JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.
The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.
Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.
''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''
Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 5: Dec. 12
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18