Aussie Scott Needing to Go to Next Level

By Associated PressApril 29, 2008, 4:00 pm
One of the most vexing labels in golf is best to have never won a major, which is now affixed to Sergio Garcia with little debate. But there is another description that is even more burdensome, and it belongs to Adam Scott.
Best to never even contend in a major.
Thats the last thing he needs to do to get to the next level, swing coach Butch Harmon said Monday night. You forget that hes won a lot of tournaments. But hes got to step up to the plate in the majors, and stop putting so much pressure on himself.
It is no disgrace that the 27-year-old Scott has not won a major. Those are hard to come by in the era of Tiger Woods, and it has become even more difficult in recent years now that Phil Mickelson has figured them out.
Only five players in theirs 20s, including Woods, have won majors this decade.
Perhaps even more startling is that in the last five years, only 13 players in their 20s have finished in the top five at majors. Garcia is the leader in the clubhouse with six top fives since 2003, which includes a playoff loss at Carnoustie last summer, and playing in the final group with Woods at Royal Liverpool the year before.
Thats why the best to have never won a major tag fits Garcia better than anyone else. Along with his six PGA TOUR victories and 10 victories around the world, he has eight top fives in the majors since he turned pro in 1999.
Scott turned pro a year later, and his record stacks up favorably to Garcia except in one major department.
The Australians only top five in a Grand Slam event came two years ago at Medinah, where he tied for third in the PGA Championship, albeit six shots behind Woods. His closest call came at Whistling Straits in the 2004 PGA Championship, when he tied for eighth, three shots out of a playoff won by Vijay Singh
That he has not seriously contended is a mystery, and it only deepened with his victory Sunday in Dallas.
Scott didnt earn any style points at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship, but he showed plenty of heart. He took a three-shot lead into the final round, let it slip away with a tee shot into the water, rallied with a do-or-die birdie putt on the 18th, then atoned for two 10-foot misses by holing a 50-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole.
I needed to walk out of here with a trophy, Scott said. I needed to go and close this thing out, and it was tough, but I managed to do it. I feel pretty good about myself. It would have been a tough defeat. Even in tough conditions, to let go of a three-shot lead doesnt sit too well with many people, and that goes for me, as well.
Forget the majors for a moment and consider Scotts consistency.
His victory at the Byron Nelson put him in some elite company'with an asterisk'by winning at least one PGA TOUR event each of the last six seasons. Only Woods, with victories in 13 straight seasons, has a longer active streak on tour. Scotts streak includes 2005 at Riviera, where he won in a playoff over Chad Campbell after rain limited the tournament to 36 holes, making it unofficial.
And while Scott hasnt won a major, he has won big events against strong fields.
The Aussie won the next best thing to a major in 2004 at THE PLAYERS Championship, becoming the youngest champion at age 23. He ended the 2006 season with a victory in the Tour Championship by three shots over Jim Furyk. His first PGA TOUR victory came at the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston.
But it all comes back to the majors, one glaring gap for a guy who seems to have everything.
His swing is so sound, so efficient, that he often was compared with Woods until the worlds No. 1 player revamped his swing. He is blessed with movie star looks, and no scene was more startling than at Oak Hill at the 2003 PGA Championship when women were handing their hotel room keys to security guards to give to Scott.
His manners are simply impeccable. He treats everyone with equal consideration.
Maybe hes too nice, more lamb than tiger. His demeanor is in stark contrast to that of Garcia, whose temperament can hurt him as much as it helps. You wont see Scott spit into a cup, nor will you hear him complain about his endless run of bad luck.
But there was something that caught Harmons attention late Sunday afternoon. With a chance to take a one-shot lead as he stood over an 8-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole, Scott left it short. He stood alone on the back of the green, lips pursed, anger visible.
He was chewing himself out, Harmon said.
Ryan Moore made a 12-foot birdie ahead of him on the 17th hole to take a one-shot lead. Scott responded with a two-putt par from some 80 feet across the 17th, then two perfect shots and a clutch birdie to force the playoff.
To lose would have stirred memories of Memphis last year, when he blew a three-shot lead in the final round with a 75. Or at the Accenture Match Play Championship, where he missed three putts inside 10 feet on the final four holes to lose to Woody Austin.
This is a big step for him, Harmon said. Its big for his confidence.
It was his second victory this year, having won the Qatar Masters with a 61 in the final round, and it sends Scott to the Wachovia Championship and The Players Championship the next two weeks on a high.
He can only hope its not another tease.
The real test comes six weeks from now at Torrey Pines for the U.S. Open.
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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.”