Four share Travelers Championship lead

By Associated PressAugust 5, 2016, 11:19 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. - Daniel Berger says he's healthy again and hoping to regain the form that helped him to his first PGA Tour title two months ago.

Last year's rookie of the year followed his first-round 66 with a 67 on Friday for a share of the lead in the Travelers Championship.

He matched 2012 Travelers champion Marc Leishman, Russell Henley and Tyrone Van Aswegen at 7-under 133. Leishman shot 68, Henley shot 65, and Van Aswegen 66.

Berger strained his shoulder at the U.S. Open after winning in Memphis at the St. Jude Classic, his fourth top-10 finish in seven starts. The injury forced him to withdraw after hitting his opening tee shot at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and he didn't return until last week at the PGA Championship.

''I definitely played better than I thought I would,'' he said. ''This is my seventh round in six weeks and for a professional golfer that's not a lot.''

Four players, including 49-year-old University of Hartford graduate Jerry Kelly, were a shot behind. Kelly had a 70 after sharing the first-round lead with a 64.

Blayne Barber had the best round of the day with a 64 of his own to top the seven players two strokes back.

''The wind got up a little bit today, so you had to be playing good golf to shoot a really good number,'' Leishman said.


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U.S. Olympians Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar remained in contention. Kuchar shot a 67 to reach 4 under. Reed, who turned 26 on Friday, also shot a 67 and was tied with Watson at 3 under. Watson, the defending champion, had a 70.

Seventy-three players made the cut by shooting even par or better.

''If you're close to the lead, you're close to missing the cut,'' said Paul Casey, who lost last year in a playoff and was among those tied for ninth place at 5 under.

Henley, who is playing this tournament for the first time, joined the leaders by sinking a 20-foot birdie on his final hole, the par-4 ninth.

''It was just a little bit tricky,'' he said. ''I think with no wind on this course we would have seen double digits (under par) by now.''

Van Aswegen put up an early 66 and led most of the day as the wind picked up and the greens dried out.

The 34-year-old, who is looking for his first PGA Tour win, followed up on his 67 Thursday with a second straight bogey-free round. His four birdies included a 45-foot putt on the par-4 10th.

''You make a birdie on 10, you're gaining a stroke on the field there,'' he said. ''I'm hitting the ball quite well and putting really well.''

Kelly had five birdies and five bogeys. He won the last of his titles in 2009.

''I'm tired,'' he said. ''I'm going to watch a movie and see if I can rest a little bit and see if the old bones will work for two more days.''

Reed, one of six Olympians playing in the tournament, turned 26 on Friday. He was presented with a cupcake on the first tee, and blew out the birthday candle on top with a practice swing. Watson then led the crowd at several holes in rousing renditions of ''Happy Birthday.''

''Half the people were chanting 'Happy Birthday' and the other half chanting for all of us, 'USA,' so it was cool,'' he said.

Andrew Loupe, among the leaders after the first round, held a brief one-stroke lead Friday before on his fourth hole of the day, the par-4 14th. He hit his drive out of bounds left, overcompensated right on his next drive and finished with a seven on the hole and missed the cut after shooting a 76.

The most unusual play of the day came from Vaughn Taylor, who put his tee shot on the par-4 17th hole in the course's signature lake. After conferring with a rules official, he was allowed to take a drop from the opposite shore near the 16th tee, because it was no closer to the hole. That gave him a better angle at the green. After a long cart ride around the lake, he was able to make bogey, despite clipping a corporate tent with his approach shot.

Matt Jones shot a second consecutive 69, despite suffering from what officials described as nausea and dehydration during his round. He took a 15-minute break at the turn and received three Intravenous bags of fluid.

After two days of sun and temperatures in the mid-80s, the forecast for Saturday afternoon include the possibility of severe thunderstorms. Because of that, tournament officials will have the players going out early in threesomes off both the first and 10th tees.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.