All Work No Play for Leader Harrington

By Associated PressOctober 16, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA of AmericaTUCKER'S TOWN, Bermuda -- Someone forgot to tell Padraig Harrington this is supposed to be a working vacation.
 
The PGA Grand Slam of Golf felt much more like work Tuesday, with the British Open champion grinding so hard to keep control of his game that he barely noticed the turquoise coastline below the Mid-Ocean Club on his way to a 3-under 67 and a one-shot lead.
 
'I was struggling with my game, so my head was very much down,' Harrington said. 'I saw a little bit of the nice coastline and scenery, but it was very much a workmanlike day. Every shot I was a bit worried. It was a tough day out there for me, and luckily, the putts were dropping and it kept me right in there.'
 
U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera nearly caught him until his 15-foot eagle putt came up short on the 18th hole, giving him a 68.
 
Masters champion Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk each had a 71 in rounds that looked nothing alike. Johnson had to play a shot out of someone's backyard on the second hole and was 4 over through five holes until playing bogey-free the rest of the way. Furyk, the replacement for Tiger Woods, made 15 pars and very few putts and was only glad he wasn't farther behind.
 
Overall, it wasn't a bad start for an exhibition that changed islands and oceans for the first time in 13 years.
 
The Grand Slam of Golf, the most exclusive field in golf reserved only for the year's major champions, left Poipu Bay in Hawaii after 13 years for the Mid-Ocean Club in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a course that measures only 6,666 yards but still offered a stern test with swirling breezes, hidden pins and greens so pure the players at times got too aggressive.
 
'You feel like you can hole the putts,' Harrington said. 'I ran my putt by 6 feet on the 17th because I was thinking I could hole it from 20 feet. You get caught up by the facts that the greens are very good.'
 
Harrington has the most experience, having arrived early enough to play 15 holes on Sunday, followed by his pro-am round Monday. But he battled with his swing, hitting left into the water on par-3 third and scrambling for bogey, then nearly hitting his tee shot on the fifth hole into the water. He hit his approach into 18 feet for birdie and the recovery began.
 
The Irishman holed an 8-footer for birdie on the sixth, made a 20-foot putt on the eighth, and looked as though he might run away from the field with consecutive birdies early on the back nine, including his 5-iron to 18 feet on the 12th.
 
But the score was somewhat of a mirage.
 
'I didn't play very well,' Harrington said. 'I just managed to hole the right putts and made the right decisions.'
 
Sometimes, he did neither.
 
Harrington started coming back to the field with a poor chip from just left of the 13th green that ran 15 feet by the cup, which he missed for bogey. And on the 504-yard 15th, which played as a par 4, he pulled his approach into the gallery, then couldn't make up his mind how to hit his pitch until his ball had left the club and was sailing over the green into a bunker. He did well to escape with bogey.
 
Cabrera made short work of the par 5s, as expected, and had only one bogey on his card. That also came on the 13th, with his ball a few yards in front of Harrington, a chip that wasn't much better.
 
'I hit the ball pretty solid,' he said through his caddie, Eddie Gardino. 'I've played a lot of golf lately. I'm not 100 percent, but I will be up to 100 percent.'
 
Asked when that would happen, Cabrera needed no translator.
 
'Tomorrow,' he said.
 
Furyk walked around as though tomorrow were yesterday, and it sure felt that way. He finished third in South Korea over the weekend, hung around for a skins game for charity, and made the not-so-quick trip to Bermuda.
 
He finished about 3 p.m. Monday in South Korea, had a two-hour drive to the airport, arrived in New York about 7:30 p.m. Monday (having crossed the international dateline), cleared customs and arrived on this tiny resort island about 1 a.m. Tuesday.
 
Of greater concern was missing birdie opportunities on the last three holes.
 
'I'm four back, and I really felt like I should have come in a lot better than I did,' he said.
 
Johnson played great in the pro-am, but his expectations came crashing down with four bogeys through five holes, none more entertaining the second hole when his approach bounced over bushes into a backyard.
 
The bigger shock was learning there is no out-of-bounds at Mid-Ocean Club, so the Masters champion got free relief from a stone walkway that was treated like a cart path. Johnson was worried about tearing up the lawn, picked it as clean as he could to 15 feet and then two-putted for bogey, but only after running the first putt some 8 feet by the hole.
 
'We were quite amused by the ruling that there was no out-of-bounds on the golf course,' Harrington said. 'It was different.'
 
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    Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

    Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

    While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.


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    “It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

    Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

    “I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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    Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

    McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

    “I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”


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    The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

    “There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

    He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

    “I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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    Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

    Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

    Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.


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    It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

    “If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

    Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

    “It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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    Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

    Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

    Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

    “It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”


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    Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

    “I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

    Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

    “If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”