Final four holes determine Travelers outcome

By Jason SobelJune 25, 2012, 12:47 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – This year’s edition of the Travelers Championship may be complete, but there’s still plenty of work left to be done.

That’s because nearly every interesting, intriguing, entertaining stretch of holes on a PGA Tour venue – and even some that don’t qualify as any of the above – has been lionized with a nickname, a tangible way of distinguishing a tournament’s key holes from the rest of the course.

They range from the iconic (“Amen Corner”) to the literal (“Green Mile”), the traditional (“Hogan’s Alley”) to the kitschy (“Bear Trap”), the alliterative (“Horrible Horseshoe”) to the manufactured (“Snake Pit”).

If there’s one domain that truly warrants such designation, it’s the final four holes at TPC River Highlands, referred to by many competitors as the most exciting finishing stretch all year.

Leishman's early 62 holds up for Travelers win

They include the drivable par-4 15th, a 296-yard gem whose green is bordered by bunkers on the right and water on the left; the par-3 16th, which requires a mid-iron shot at worst into a heavily sloped green; the par-4 17th, a 90-degree bender where water is always in play; and the par-4 18th, a driver-wedge hole that annually plays stingier than it would appear.

Call it a cliché, but each of the four holes can easily be birdied and just as easily lead to double bogey.

In Sunday’s final round, four players in the eventual top-10 played this finishing stretch in under par, two played it in even par and four played it in over par. In fact, from that tensome alone, scores ranged from 2 under to 3 over, making it all the difference in the tournament outcome.

It should come as little surprise that winner Marc Leishman was one of the quartet under par on this fearsome foursome. It should come as even less of a surprise that others endured their demise on these holes.

Charley Hoffman finished double bogey, bogey to parlay a two-shot lead into a one-shot deficit. Tim Clark missed a two-foot par attempt on the penultimate hole. Roland Thatcher needed birdie on the last to force a playoff, but instead made bogey.

“It is a great tournament because of those last four holes, because of all the things that can happen in there,” said Thatcher, who played them bogey-par-birdie-bogey. “No lead is safe coming down the stretch. There's so many difficult holes, and there's some birdie opportunities there, too.”

“I love finishes like this because you can have a four or five-shot swing,” explained Brian Davis, who played them in 1 under to finish T-4. “Whenever you’ve got water, whenever you’ve got drivable par-4s and smelly little holes like 17, anything can happen – and obviously it did today.”

There’s no doubt it’s a great finishing stretch. The only thing wrong with these holes is that, well, they’re continually referred to as “these holes” as opposed to some literal or alliterative or, yes, even kitschy nickname.

And so even though this year’s edition of the Travelers Championship is over, there remains work left to complete.

We need to name the final four holes.

With such close ties to the surrounding community, it only makes sense that the closing quartet represents some local flavor. These holes need some sort of tangible connection to Connecticut.

A few ideas:

“Def-Conn 4.”

“Conn Job.”

“The Travelers Palaver.”

“Cromwell Death Knell.”

Kitschy? Sure. Manufactured? Absolutely. But if every other decent stretch of holes on the PGA Tour is allowed to be called by a specific name, then the determining factor for this tournament deserves similar recognition.

“They're awesome holes because every single one of them are birdie holes,” said Leishman, who played them par-par-birdie-par on Sunday. “Whether you're chipping to 15 or putting, you’ve got 8-iron into 16, 9-iron into 17 and then you hit the wedge into 18. So if you hit good shots, you can make birdies. You could realistically birdie all four of them. If you hit bad shots, like me and Charley both showed, you can double 17 in the blink of an eye. … It's a really good finishing stretch.”

Leishman understands just how volatile these holes can be. On Thursday, he played them in 2 over; on Friday, he was 1 under; on Saturday, he was 2 over; and on Sunday, he was 1 under. That’s a ticker line that reads as less steady than the stock market.

Turns out, he needed every stroke on those holes, claiming his first career PGA Tour title by a one-shot differential over Hoffman and Bubba Watson.

“I've played those four holes pretty bad all week,” Leishman admitted. “I doubled 17 one day.  … So that was a goal of mine to get through there under par.”

There. Them. Those holes.

The only problem with Nos. 15-18 at the Travelers Championship is that they don’t have a proper nickname, like so many stretches at other venues.

That’s why there’s still work left to complete. Hey, there’s only 51 weeks before the next edition of this tournament. Those generic references should be a thing of the past.

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook sank a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without making a bogey on the Plantation Course or the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

Cook was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back.

Bubba (64) fires his lowest round of 2017

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:12 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Bubba Watson’s plan when he left the Dell Technologies Championship in September was to take a few months off and come back fresh in 2018

Those plans changed after a few weeks.

“What we figured out was the mental side, preparing for kindergarten - not for me, for my son - preparing for [wife] Angie's knee surgery. It's been a tough go,” Watson said.

“Being home and being with the family and everything, I realized how much I missed the game of golf, and that's why I wanted to come and play in these tournaments.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

The plan has paid off this week at the RSM Classic, where Watson is tied for 12th place after a second-round 64 on the Seaside course moved him to 7 under par.

Watson, who tied for 51st two weeks ago in Las Vegas, got off to a quick start on Day 2, playing the opening nine in 29. Despite a miscue at the 14th hole, when his tee shot wedged into a tree, he was solid coming in for his best individual round this year.

The left-hander was particularly sharp with his ball-striking after what has been a difficult year.

“I want to play golf now and right now I'm swinging at it pretty nicely,” he said.

S.H. Park (65) builds three-shot lead at LPGA finale

By Doug FergusonNovember 17, 2017, 9:58 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Golf felt so easy to Sung Hyun Park that only when she took out her card to catch up on her scores did she realize she had closed out the front nine with five straight birdies at the CME Group Tour Championship.

Park kept right on attacking.

The 24-year-old from South Korea added a 30-foot eagle putt late in her second round and finished with a 7-under 65, giving her a three-shot lead going into the weekend at Tiburon Golf Club.

Nothing seems to bother her, even the chance to cap off an amazing rookie season by sweeping all the big awards on the LPGA Tour.

''To be honest, I don't feel quite as nervous as I thought I would,'' Park said through an interpreter. ''After the first shot, after the first hole, I felt a lot more comfortable. I'm not feeling as nervous as I thought I might be going into today.''

Leave that to the players chasing her.

Even with a three-putt bogey on the final hole, Park was at 12-under 132 and was three shots clear of Caroline Masson (66) and Sarah Jane Smith (69).

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

More importantly, none of the other players in the chase for the $1 million Race to the CME Globe bonus or any other big award was within five shots of Park, who is trying to become the first rookie since Nancy Lopez in 1978 to win LPGA player of the year.

Lexi Thompson, who leads the Race to the CME Globe and the Vare Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average, shot a 67 and wound up losing ground. She was six shots behind and must stay within 10 shots of Park to win the Vare.

So Yeon Ryu, who leads the points-based award for player of the year, managed a 71 with her sore right shoulder but was 11 shots back.

The other two players who need to win the tournament to collect the $1 million bonus also had their work cut out for them. Brooke Henderson had another 70 and was eight shots behind, while world No. 1 Shanshan Feng shot 73 and was 11 shots behind.

Park was in control, only she didn't see it that way.

''I don't think it's quite that far of a lead,'' Park said. ''Two, three shots of a lead can change at any moment. We will have to see what's in store for this weekend.''

Park began her big run with an 18-foot birdie on No. 5, got up-and-down for birdie from just off the green at the par-5 sixth, holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 7, and then closed out the front nine with birdie putts from 8 feet and 15 feet.

''I actually didn't know that I was going five birdies in a row,'' Park said. ''Come hole No. 10, I realized that I hadn't been jotting down my scores as diligently, and so I realized it a little bit later on. And it felt great.''

That gave her the lead by one shot over Suzann Pettersen, except that Pettersen faded badly on the back nine.

Pettersen dropped four shots in a three-hole stretch by getting out of position off the tee and she shot 39 on the back nine for a 70 to fall five shots behind.

''I feel like I'm playing good,'' Pettersen said. ''Three bad drives on the back nine cost me four shots. That should not be possible on this course, where the fairways are about 100 yards wide.''

Park was honored at an awards banquet Thursday night as the LPGA rookie of the year. Now, she has more awards in her sights. A victory would give her the award for player of the year. She would capture the money title, which she leads over Ryu. And depending on how the weekend goes, she might be able to surpass Thompson in the race for the Vare Trophy.

Thompson did well to recover from two bogeys on her opening three holes.

''I hit a few really erratic shots in the beginning. It wasn't a good start to the round,'' Thompson said. ''Just tried to stay positive and find something that could work for the last 14, 15 holes.''

Lydia Ko fell six shots behind in her bid to avoid a winless season. She was one shot behind going into the second round but managed only three birdies in her round of 71.

Park, meanwhile, had everything going her way. Even when she pulled her drive on the par-5 14th into a sandy area with a root next to her ball, she picked it clear and sent it through a goal post of trees back to the fairway. Three holes later, she blasted a drive and had only a 7-iron into the green at the par-5 17th, which she hit to 30 feet and made the long putt.

Does anything make her nervous?

''I hate spiders,'' she said. ''But in terms of golf, I always get nervous to this day on the first tee. I can feel my heart pounding.''

It's a feeling that doesn't appear to last very long.