Duke's Travelers win a long time coming

By Rex HoggardJune 24, 2013, 1:30 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – TPC River Highlands has a history of giving up first-time hardware, but no one saw this one coming.

At 44 years young, Ken Duke emerged from a crowded leaderboard and a career largely defined by obscurity to hoist his first PGA Tour title on Sunday at the Travelers Championship, but then anyone can have a tough two decades.

It seems about right that it would be a potent cocktail of karma and cool nerves that would ultimately deliver the journeyman to the winner’s circuit. Any other way would have seemed anti-climactic.

There were fortunate bounces – like at the 10th hole when Duke pulled his approach into the trees only to be rewarded with a beneficial rebound and a 3-foot birdie putt.

There were cruel twists – like Chris Stroud’s chip-in for birdie to tie Duke at 12 under from 50 feet at the 72nd hole.

There were heroics – like Duke’s approach shots on both playoff holes.

And ultimately there were tears when Duke was reminded that Bob Toski, his longtime swing coach, won this event 60 years ago.

“I wouldn’t be here without him,” said an emotional Duke, who signed for a final-round 66. “I talked to him this morning and he said, ‘It’s about time to win your first one where I did.’”

Duke began the final 18 at TPC River Highlands two strokes back and something of an afterthought as Bubba Watson closed on his second Travelers title and U.S. Open champion Justin Rose loomed just three back.

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Video: Duke tops Shroud in Travelers playoff

But as another Chamber of Commerce afternoon wore on Duke muddled along, making his miracle birdie at No. 10 and then adding another at the 11th to move into the lead at 11 under. He kept pace with Watson with a 6 footer at the 15th for birdie but seemed to run out of holes when the southern southpaw chipped in at the 15th to move to 13 under.

A gust of wind at the 16th hole, however, ended Watson’s run, dropping his tee shot into a water hazard and leading a triple bogey-6 and a not-so-pleasant exchange with his caddie.

“The guys played great down the stretch and I didn't,” said Watson, who closed with a 70. “That's one of the things I just have to learn from that. You know, maybe look at the difference of we need to be long (at No. 16) instead of short on that situation.”

As Duke waited in the scoring area, Stroud dropped his chip for birdie at the last to force overtime.

“Are you kidding me?” Duke smiled as he marched to the putting green to prepare for the playoff.

Even in the playoff it wasn’t pretty, or easy. On the first extra hole, Duke’s drive caromed through a bunker down the left side of the fairway while Stroud split the fairway, but the veteran gouged his approach onto the green while Stroud found a greenside bunker.

Both players made par at the first playoff hole and Duke secured the title with a sand wedge from 118 yards at the 18th to 3 feet for birdie.

“I gave it everything I had. I had nothing left in the bag,” Stroud (67) said.

Duke has probably thought the same thing since turning pro in 1994, but then you don’t go 0-for-186 in Tour starts without some resilience.

“We just kept battling and battling and we knew this year was important because of his age,” said Duke’s caddie Chris Carpenter.

Through tears, Duke dedicated his victory to Toski, who he worked with last Wednesday in south Florida.

“How can you not (play well) after working with Bob. The guy is a legend,” Duke said on Saturday. “He always tells me something different, that’s the beauty of what he does.”

Duke could have also given an assist to modern medicine. Slowed by tendinitis in his right elbow for much of this season, Duke finally relented and had a cortisone shot to ease the pain four weeks ago before the Colonial.

Such is the life of 44 year old with more hard miles than a ’67 Mustang. After nearly two decades of trial and error, it turns out all Duke needed to get off the Tour victory schneid was a little belief and a few beneficial bounces.

“I signed up to play this game for a living in 1994. Obviously you don't know how it's going to work out,” Duke said. “Some people make it, some people don't. But I've always just believed in myself and tried to have fun with the game.”

For Duke, it seems some decades are better than others.

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

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“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time.