Family gifts make Travelers attractive to top pros

By Associated PressJune 17, 2014, 11:30 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Bubba Watson's family arrived at their hotel in Connecticut this week to find that organizers of The Travelers Championship had left two gift packages, one for his wife and another for his 2-year-old son, Caleb.

''He got a little spaceship, but he thought it was an airplane, so he thought it was the greatest thing in the world,'' Watson said Tuesday. ''When the tournament does little things like that, it makes it special for us.''

The gifts are part of a carefully designed recruiting package targeting the families and caddies of PGA golfers. The idea, said tournament director Nathan Grube, is to make the tournament an attractive destination for them, and therefore more attractive to the golfers, who might otherwise want to take a break the week after the U.S. Open.

This year, four of the top-ranked golfers in the world (No. 3 Watson, No. 5 Matt Kuchar, No. 7 Jason Day, and No. 8 Sergio Garcia) and 16 of the top 50 decided to play in Cromwell.

Dozens of them, along with family members and caddies, arrived Sunday aboard a free charter the tournament has run from the U.S. Open since the Travelers took over the sponsorship of the Connecticut event in 2007.


Travelers Championship: Articles, videos and photos


Once they are here, the caddies receive wind jackets, free dry cleaning all week, and a party in their honor. The golfer's wives get a beach bag filled with wine and chocolate and a spa day in West Hartford.

The families also are offered free outings to attractions such as ESPN in Bristol, the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts and the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford.

''There were a lot of little things that we did that started adding up to the players,'' said Nathan Grube, the tournament's director. ''I call it relationship building.''

It began with a lunch in 2006 when the insurance giant began its sponsorship. About 10 golfers sat down with Grube and Andy Bessette, The Travelers chief administrative officer, to discuss what would make the tournament more attractive.

The charter flight was the first thing, followed in 2008 by a new 23-acre practice range. Each year Bessette would go into the clubhouse with a notebook, and fill it with ideas for the next year.

The recruiting, he said, doesn't end after the tournament. At the end of each season, the golfers receive a gift from the tournament (this year it was red Beats headphones). Whenever a golfer becomes a father, The Travelers sends the family a baby outfit with its umbrella logo.

''I get more thank you notes from the wives saying, 'That is a really cool idea,''' he said

The tournament also strategically uses its sponsor's exemptions, targeting up-and-coming golfers. Webb Simpson received one in 2008, and said that was major reason he chose to play here a week after winning the U.S. Open in 2012.

Top-ranked amateur Patrick Rodgers got one two years ago to play his first PGA event as an amateur. He got another one this year after deciding it would be a perfect spot to make his pro debut.

''They've just gone above and beyond to make me a spoiled player this week and make me feel like I'm just a regular out her on the PGA Tour,'' he said. ''The Travelers Championship will always have a special place in my heart.''

And that's just what the tournament wants to hear.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.