Big Opportunity at Buick Challenge

By Associated PressAugust 25, 2004, 4:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)CROMWELL, Conn. -- The tournament that almost wasn't gets under way Thursday with a new name, a bigger purse and a wide open field.
 
The Buick Championship, formerly the Greater Hartford Open, was in danger of extinction after 52 years until the car company rescued it last year. While tournament officials scrambled to keep the popular event going, the players weren't worried.
 
'The players take it for granted that it was just going to continue because we know what a great tournament it is,' Kirk Triplett said Wednesday. 'The one thing this tournament has going for it and has always had going for it is tremendous support for the community.'
 
Triplett is making his 14th appearance here and has had four top 10 finishes.
 
Ryder Cup member Fred Funk, also among those chasing the $756,000 first-place check, hopes to work on his game at the TPC at River Highlands. He's had four top-10 finishes this season including a second at Milwaukee, but acknowledges he's lost some focus during his swing. Funk has missed the cut nine times in 22 events.
 
'I really haven't played very consistent this year at all,' he said. 'You need something to focus on during your golf swing, whether it's a takeaway thought, a transition thought, or a follow-through thought. I was trying to create the golf swing
instead of letting it hapen.'
 
Jerry Kelly, by contrast, has been a model of consistency. Kelly has missed just one cut in 22 tournaments. His best finish was fifth, in three different tournaments.
 
'I think it's a testament to the all-around game because I really struck it poorly at a lot of events,' Kelly said.
 
Kelly played college golf at the nearby University of Hartford. Despite being in familiar territory, Kelly has made the cut here just once in four appearances. This year, he's joined by fellow Hartford teammates Patrick Sheehan and Tim Petrovic. The three helped out at a golf clinic Tuesday night at their alma mater.
 
'It's great having the guys,' Kelly said. 'It's quite an accomplishment to have three guys from one team coming back and playing in your college city. I think it's pretty cool.'
 
The tournament will remain a Buick event through 2006 and offers $4.2 million in prize money, an increase of $200,000 over last year.
 
But timing is everything and sandwiched between the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup, many of the biggest names on tour have taken a pass, including two-time champ Phil Mickelson. Tiger Woods, a staple in the Buick stable, has never played Hartford and didn't break the streak this year.
 
Defending champion Peter Jacobsen has a commitment to play in a Champions Tour event this week in his hometown of Portland, Ore.
 
Triplett was part of the field for 13 straight years before missing the event last year. In his absence, Jacobsen captured his second GHO title, 19 years after his first.
 
'I missed not being here last year,' Triplett said. 'I saw Peter Jacobsen win and said, `If he can win, I can sure win.''
 
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    Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

    By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

    “I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

    Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

    “If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


    Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


    Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

    Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

    “He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

    As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

    "I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

    Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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    McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

    The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

    McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

    And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

    “I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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    Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

    No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

    Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

    With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

    “This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

    Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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    Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

    Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

    Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

    Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

    McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.