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Analysis: David Puig left college for LIV. He's still playing in the majors and maybe the Olympics

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Analysis: David Puig left college for LIV. He's still playing in the majors and maybe the Olympics
News

News

Analysis: David Puig left college for LIV. He's still playing in the majors and maybe the Olympics

2024-05-15 00:19 Last Updated At:00:50

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — David Puig knew what he was signing up for when the Spaniard left Arizona State to join Saudi-funded LIV Golf, even if it really wasn't entirely about the money for him.

The guarantee that LIV offered Puig was not so much a rich bonus — he played two events as an amateur before turning pro — but rather a place to play against top players like Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.

What he gave up for his decision was a clear path to the major championships because LIV doesn't offer world ranking points.

As for the Olympics? That was barely a dream.

“Even at the beginning of the year, I didn't think coming here was an option,” Puig said at Valhalla, where the 22-year-old makes his PGA Championship debut.

This will be his second major. Puig (pronounced “pooch”) shot 64 in his second round last year in Los Angeles to qualify for the U.S. Open, an early indication that he was willing to go anywhere and try anything to get to where he wanted to be.

And yes, Paris is now in view. He currently holds the second Olympic spot available to Spain, making his performance in the PGA Championship crucial to his hopes.

Puig has become an example that even college players who join LIV don't have to forgo some of the perks afforded PGA Tour players.

It just takes a lot of work — and a lot of travel.

Puig has a U.S. base in Scottsdale, Arizona — he left the Sun Devils after his junior year but still finished his degree — and already has traveled close to 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers) since February.

During one seven-week stretch, he went from the Gulf Coast of Mexico to Las Vegas, from there to Malaysia, Oman and Saudi Arabia, and then to Hong Kong and Macau before returning home to Arizona. Only four of those stops were with LIV. The rest were on the Asian Tour.

His performance on LIV has been ordinary at best. Puig finished 31st in the standings in his first full year in 2023 and is 43rd after four events this year.

His play outside the league has been extraordinary.

He won the Malaysian Open, which came with a spot in the British Open this summer. He tied for 10th at the International Series Oman, and after two more LIV events in Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong, he was runner-up in the International Series Macau.

And his world ranking kept rising.

He was at No. 1,087 when he played in the U.S. Open last summer. He won the International Series Singapore last October for his first professional victory and went to No. 309.

The Macau result — the same week as The Players Championship — shot him up to No. 105 in the world, and Puig kept his ranking around there by flying back to Saudi Arabia for an Asian Tour event and finishing fifth.

“In my head it was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to play two or three events,'” Puig said. “Obviously, winning in Malaysia and getting that little bonus (a world ranking boost for two wins in a calendar year), finished second in Macau, a couple of other top 10s, I ended up moving to near 100. It's been a lot of travel, but it sure has paid off.”

He's in at least two majors this year — the PGA Championship and British Open — and unlike Talor Gooch, he will attempt U.S. Open qualifying again.

“He made a choice,” said Jon Rahm, who defected to LIV in December in a bold move that created even more of a fracture in golf's landscape. "You get an offer when you're in college, he made his decision, then he committed to try his hardest to still make it into the majors, into tournaments that are important. He's going where he needs to go to earn ranking points.

“I'm proud of the grind he's putting in,” Rahm said. “The fact he's taking that chance and then playing good when he gets there, it's important.”

And the Olympics are now very much in his sights.

Puig currently is No. 109 in the world going into the PGA Championship. Each country gets two spots — four if they are among the top 15 in the world — and Rahm already has one locked up.

“I obviously want to make the team with Jon,” Puig said. “That would be super cool.”

That makes Valhalla a massive week for Puig. If he doesn't qualify for the U.S. Open next month, the PGA is his last chance to earn ranking points.

Adrian Otaegui, who earned a spot in the PGA Championship through the European tour's Asia swing, is four spots behind Puig in the world ranking after his victory two weeks ago in the Volvo China Open on the European tour.

Jorge Campillo tied for fourth last week at Myrtle Beach on the PGA Tour and is two spots behind Otaegui. He is not at Valhalla but will be at the Canadian Open in two weeks.

Qualifying for the Olympics — based on the world ranking — is to be certified on June 19, right after the U.S. Open.

Puig has been refreshing the world ranking page every Monday to check his progress. Equally inspiring was the email that arrived a week ago informing him he had been invited to the PGA Championship. The PGA prefers to get as many players from the top 100, and it usually dips a few spots below that.

“I knew I had a chance just because of the world ranking, but I thought it was 50-50,” Puig said. “I didn't get a notification on Sunday (May 5) and thought, ‘Well, maybe I’m not going.' But then Monday I got the email, which was really cool to see.”

It brought a few headaches with logistics — his parents flew in from Spain, his girlfriend brought her father and he needed to find lodging for all. But then he thought about how far he has come already — air miles and the world ranking — and smiled.

“Those are good headaches," he said.

AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

David Puig of Fireballs GC hits his shot from the eighth tee during the first round of LIV Golf Singapore at Sentosa Golf Club in Sentosa, Singapore, Friday, May 3, 2024. (Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via AP)

David Puig of Fireballs GC hits his shot from the eighth tee during the first round of LIV Golf Singapore at Sentosa Golf Club in Sentosa, Singapore, Friday, May 3, 2024. (Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via AP)

Next Article

Shaqiri scores stunning goal in Switzerland's 1-1 draw with Scotland at Euro 2024

2024-06-20 09:28 Last Updated At:09:30

COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — “Shaq” did it again.

At the age of 32 and having left top-flight European soccer behind to play in MLS, Xherdan Shaqiri is back on the international stage and back scoring again.

His stunning first-half strike secured a 1-1 draw for Switzerland against Scotland at Euro 2024 on Wednesday.

It is the sixth-straight major international tournament in which Shaqiri has scored, dating to the World Cup in 2014.

That’s three World Cups in a row and now three European Championships for the Chicago Fire forward. According to UEFA he is the first player to achieve that feat.

“He proved tonight that he lives and breathes for moments like these,” Switzerland coach Murat Yakin said.

Shaqiri rolled back the years with a first-time curling effort from about 20 meters out at Cologne Stadium.

Scotland led from the 13th minute when Scott McTominay’s shot took a wicked deflection off Fabian Schar to beat Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer.

But Shaqiri pounced on Anthony Ralston’s loose pass in the 26th to even the match with a left-footed shot into the top corner and past Scotland keeper Angus Gunn.

“If that chance falls to any other player in the Swiss team, it’s not a goal,” Scotland manager Steve Clarke said. “You knew when it was rolling towards Shaqiri it was destined for the back of the net. He’s a top, top player, so you don’t give top, top players that kind of chance.”

Shaqiri’s career has seen him play for some of Europe’s most iconic teams, including Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Liverpool. He joined the Fire two years ago, but in that time has continued to produce for his country on the biggest stage.

“Shaq always gives everything in training,” Switzerland defender Manuel Akanji said. “I don’t know how many other players are able to score that goal.”

The draw leaves Switzerland on four points, second in Group A behind Germany and likely to advance to the round of 16.

Germany became the first nation to advance after a 2-0 win over Hungary earlier in the day.

Scotland’s hopes of making the knockout round depend on its final game against Hungary on Sunday and results elsewhere. No team has failed to advance from the group stage with four points.

Both teams had chances to win the game.

The Swiss should have taken the lead just before the hour mark when Dan Ndoye turned Kieran Tierney on the edge of the box. With just goalkeeper Angus Gunn to beat, Ndoye fired wide of goal.

Grant Hanley then headed against the post from a Scotland free kick and Switzerland’s Zeki Amdouni headed wide at the far post late on.

Scotland has never advanced beyond the group stage of a World Cup or Euros on 11 previous attempts.

But repeated disappointment doesn’t seem to dampen optimism among its fans, who filled Cologne’s square before the game.

Swiss supporters were out in numbers, too, creating a raucous atmosphere in the stadium.

It was certainly a more enjoyable evening for Scotland’s fans than the opening game of the Euros — a 5-1 loss to Germany.

“It was what we expected. It was a good reaction to a disappointing night. We’re still alive in the tournament,” Clarke said.

Goals from Jamal Musiala and İlkay Gündoğan made it two wins from two for host Germany after victory against Hungary and ensured there would be no repeat of its group stage exit from the 2022 World Cup.

Albania substitute Klaus Gjasula scored in the fifth minute of stoppage time to hold World Cup semifinalist Croatia to a 2-2 draw in Group B. Gjasula’s own goal, just four minutes after entering the game in the second half, had looked like handing Croatia the win until his late strike.

James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates after Switzerland's Fabian Schar scored an own goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates after Switzerland's Fabian Schar scored an own goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Ricardo Rodriguez, right, fouls Scotland's Billy Gilmour during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Switzerland's Ricardo Rodriguez, right, fouls Scotland's Billy Gilmour during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Scotland's Che Adams reacts during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Scotland's Che Adams reacts during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, left, celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, left, celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri and team mates celebrate their side's equalising goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri and team mates celebrate their side's equalising goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Scotland's goalkeeper Angus Gunn fails to save a shot by Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Scotland's goalkeeper Angus Gunn fails to save a shot by Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri scores his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri scores his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, left, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, left, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates after Switzerland's Fabian Schar scored an own goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates after Switzerland's Fabian Schar scored an own goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Scotland's goalkeeper Angus Gunn is unable to stop a shot for a goal by Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP)

Scotland's goalkeeper Angus Gunn is unable to stop a shot for a goal by Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates his side's equalising goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates his side's equalising goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

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