The Big Three - from Milton Fla That Is

By Associated PressApril 9, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The guys in the green jackets had to love this.
Boo Weekley and Heath Slocum were back home at the Tanglewood Golf and Country Club last week, finishing up a quick round before starting a clinic for local fans. As they walked up 17'or maybe it was 18, Slocum wasnt quite sure ' Weekley came across a dead snake on the fairway. Ever the prankster, he picked up the carcass. Slocum knew somebody was in for a surprise.
Sure enough, that snake made an appearance during the clinic.
He said to my dad, `Hey Jack, can you get me a good golf ball. He reaches his hand in there and theres the dead snake, Slocum said, laughing. Boos mind, it just works funny. He looks at something and sees it completely different than I do.
Little Milton, Fla., is on the map in a big way this week. The city with fewer than 8,500 people'and the unfortunate former name of Scratch Ankle'has three homeboys in the 94-player Masters field. Imagine that. Weekley, Slocum and Bubba Watson all grew up in the same tiny Florida panhandle town and now here they are, each playing in his first Masters.
Its about as opposite of ritzy as you can get, Slocum said, referring to Tanglewood, where all three played as kids. I dont even know how to describe it. Its such an anomaly for three guys from the same college to get on the tour, let alone from the same high school. How does that happen?
Lots of luck.
And lots and lots of talent.
Slocum came by the game naturally. His father, Jack, was a longtime golf pro, and the family moved to Milton when Heath was 13 after Jack got the job at Tanglewood. Shortly after they arrived, Heath Slocum heard rumors there was another kid his age who could really play, and a lifelong friendship began.
Heath is just like a son, said Tom Weekley, Boos father.
Slocum and Weekley were in the same class at Milton High School, and played on the golf team together. When they werent golfing, they could usually still be found hunting, fishing or playing pranks. Weekley was as gregarious then as he is now'this, remember, is the guy whose thick Southern drawl and homespun naivete fascinated the locals at the British Open last year'and was the undisputed ring leader.
Pretty much. Though I might have egged him on, said Slocum, who is as low-key as his buddy is colorful. He brings a little more personality to me.
Watson is five years younger than Slocum and Weekley, so he wasnt nearly as tight with the older two growing up. But because he played at Tanglewood, too, the older boys knew all about the young kid with the big swing.
Its also kind of hard to overlook a kid who wore knickers'like his idol, Payne Stewart.
Good boys, all three, said Stacie Stutzman, the food and beverage manager at Tanglewood. Good Southern boys.
While Slocum and Watson both turned pro after playing golf in college' Slocum at South Alabama, Watson at Faulkner State and Georgia'Weekley worked at a chemical plant before he decided to see if he, too, could make a living on the course. All three spent time on the Nationwide Tour and, one by one, worked their way up to the majors.
Slocum was the first to make it, winning three Nationwide events in 2001. Hes been on the tour ever since, has won twice and earned his first trip to the Masters by finishing 30th on the money list last year.
Next came Weekley. After kicking around on the minitours for a few years, he got through Q-school at the end of the 2001 season. Jack Slocum was his caddie, just as he was for his son and Watson. His first stay on the PGA Tour was brief after he made just five cuts in 2002. Weekley spent the next four years on the Nationwide Tour, finally getting back to the big leagues after finishing seventh on the money list in 2006.
When he returned last year, he was a smashing success'on and off the course. He had five top-10 finishes, including a win at the Verizon Heritage, and his folksy ways made him a fan favorite. (Think John Daly, without the drama.)
Its caveman golf: Hit it, find it, hit it again, Weekley said, quite possibly the first person to describe Augusta National in such terms. I just try to play it as I see it.
Watson caught up to his older friends in 2005, earning his PGA Tour card after finishing 21st on the Nationwide money list. Hes still looking for his first victory, but his tie for fifth at the U.S. Open gave him exemptions for this years Open and the Masters.
Growing up from the same hometown were always pushing each other, Watson said. The Masters is going to be another one where were all pushing each other.
No matter how rich and famous they get, the three remain Milton boys at heart. Weekley and Watson still live in the area, and Weekley and Slocum were back at Tanglewood last week for the TPC'that would be the Three Pros Championship. Several members from Tanglewood and Stonebrook Golf Club, another club in the area, are here in Augusta, making the 7 1/2 -hour trip to watch the three in person.
We sent them off good. Tried to anyway, Stutzman said. Boo, Heath and Bubba say it all for Milton. Good boys, and a lot of talent.
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    Twice winner Kizzire on missing U.S. Open: 'Fuel to my fire'

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:59 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Based on recent form, there likely wasn’t a more decorated player watching last week’s U.S. Open from home than Patton Kizzire.

    Kizzire is in the midst of a breakthrough season that has already included two wins: a maiden victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November, and a marathon playoff triumph over James Hahn at the Sony Open in January. While those titles got him into the Masters and the PGA Championship, they didn’t mean an exemption to Shinnecock Hills.

    Kizzire got as high as 51st in the world rankings after his win in Honolulu, but his game started to turn shortly thereafter. A T-12 finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship is his lone top-25 finish in 12 starts since his Sony victory, and he missed four straight cuts from the Masters to The Players Championship.

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    The U.S. Open grants exemptions to the top 60 in the world at two different cutoff points close to the tournament. But in the midst of a cold streak, Kizzire was 63rd and 65th at each of those deadlines. He attempted to earn a spot at sectional qualifying in Columbus, only to find that his score of 5 under was one shot too many.

    “I guess just adding a little fuel to my fire, adding insult to injury,” Kizzire said. “Just to have narrowly missed several different ways of qualification was disappointing. But I just tried to spin it as a positive. I got two weeks off, and I did watch those guys struggle a little bit. I wasn’t struggling at home, we’ll just say that.”

    Kizzire hopes to put the disappointment behind him this week at the Travelers Championship, where he finished T-53 a year ago. And while his pair of trophies didn’t get him a tee time last week – or guarantee him a berth in The Open next month – they put him in prime position to make the season-ending Tour Championship, which would mean spots in the first three majors of 2019.

    The combination of two recent wins and a ranking outside the top 60 isn’t one that comes up often on Tour, but Kizzire maintains a balanced perspective as he looks to get back to playing the kind of golf that will ensure he doesn’t miss any more majors in the near future.

    “If I would have played better in between the U.S. Open and my last win, I would have gotten in. So my play was the reason I wasn’t in,” Kizzire said. “You certainly could look at it and say, ‘This guy’s got two wins, he should be in.’ But I’m not making too much of it.”

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    Masters, Players and U.S. Open champs grouped at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:50 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Fresh off a second straight U.S. Open victory, Brooks Koepka is getting right back to work at the Travelers Championship.

    Koepka has stood by his commitment to tee it up at TPC River Highlands, becoming the first U.S. Open champ to play the following week on the PGA Tour since Justin Rose played the Travelers after his 2013 win at Merion. Koepka will play the first two rounds alongside Masters champ Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, who captured The Players Championship last month.

    Here’s a look at some of the other marquee, early-round groupings for a star-studded field outside Hartford (all times ET):

    7:50 a.m. Thursday, 12:50 p.m. Friday: Jason Day, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger

    Day is making his second straight Travelers appearance, having missed the cut both last year in Cromwell and last week at Shinnecock Hills. He’ll be joined by reigning Rookie of the Year Schauffele and Berger, who took home ROY honors in 2015 and last year was on the losing end of Jordan Spieth’s playoff dramatics at this event.

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    8 a.m. Thursday, 1 p.m. Friday: Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson

    Koepka is making his third tournament appearance overall, but his first since a T-9 finish in 2016, before he had either of his two U.S. Open trophies. Reed has become a regular at this event and enters off a fourth-place showing on Long Island, while Simpson cruised to victory last month at TPC Sawgrass and tied for 10th last week.

    12:50 p.m. Thursday, 7:50 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Russell Knox

    This was the tournament that turned things around last year for Spieth, who took home the title in his debut thanks to one of the most dramatic shots of the year in a playoff against Berger. He’ll start his title defense alongside a pair of past champs, as Leishman won here for his first Tour title back in 2012 and Knox was a winner two years ago when the tournament was played in August.

    1 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. Friday: Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

    This group should get plenty of attention in the early rounds, with Thomas entering as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 and joined a pair of players who will launch drives all across TPC River Highlands. Watson has feasted on this layout, winning in both 2010 and 2015 among five top-10 finishes, while McIlroy tied for 17th last year in his tournament debut but missed the cut last week at Shinnecock.

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    Travelers Championship: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2018, 5:30 pm

    There will be plenty of star power this week in Hartford as the PGA Tour moves north for the Travelers Championship. Here is the key info for this week's event.

    How to watch:

    Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream:

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream:

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

    Purse: $7 million

    Course: TPC River Highlands (par 70, 6,841 yards)

    Defending champion: Jordan Spieth. Defeated Daniel Berger with a birdie on the first playoff hole.

    Notables in the field

    Jordan Spieth

    • Missed last two cuts (the Memorial, U.S. Open) entering this week

    • 188th on PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting (4th in strokes gained: tee to green)

    • Only player to win Travelers Championship back-to-back: Phil Mickelson (2001-02)

    Brooks Koepka

    • Making third career start in Travelers Championship (last start: T-9 in 2016)

    • First player to play Travelers week after U.S. Open win since 2013 (Justin Rose)

    • First player to win U.S. Open back-to-back since 1988-89 (Curtis Strange)

    Justin Thomas

    • Fifth career start in this event (MC, T-3, MC last three years)

    • Second on PGA Tour this season in strokes gained: tee to green (+1.49)

    Rory McIlroy

    • Second career start in Travelers Championship (T-17 last year)

    • Missed cut last week at U.S. Open (shot 80 in opening round)

    Jason Day

    • Fourth career start in Travelers Championship (best finish: T-18 in 2014)

    • Leads PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting this season

    Patrick Reed

    • Earned second-most world ranking points of any player in 2018

    • Finished fourth at U.S. Open last week (three shots behind Koepka)

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    Day 'disappointed' in USGA's handling of course, Phil

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:16 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Jason Day had the weekend off following a missed cut at the U.S. Open, but that didn’t prevent the Aussie from keeping an eye on all the drama that unfolded at Shinnecock Hills.

    The former world No. 1 found it “disappointing,” – with “it” being both the deterioration of a major championship setup and the fallout from Phil Mickelson’s putter slap during the third round.

    Day is hoping to bounce back from an early exit at this week’s Travelers Championship, but before turning his attention to TPC River Highlands he shared that the brunt of his disappointment stemmed from the USGA’s inability to keep Shinnecock playable during the third round and their subsequent decision to water it down for the tournament’s conclusion.

    “It’s more the course, about how they set it up. Because Saturday was a total, it was like two different golf courses, practically, on the greens Saturday versus Sunday,” Day said. “I just wish they would leave it alone and just let it go. Not saying to let the greens go and let them dry out and make it unfair, I’m just saying plan accordingly and hopefully whatever the score finishes, it finishes, whether it’s under par or over par.”

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    But Day’s frustration also tied back to Mickelson’s head-turning decision to hit a moving ball on the 13th green during the third round, and the USGA’s subsequent ruling that the actions merited a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.

    “It’s obviously disappointing to see what Phil did,” he said. “I think a lot of people have mixed reviews about what he did.”

    USGA officials explained over the weekend that Mickelson’s actions explicitly fell under Rule 14-5, which called for a two-shot addition and turned his score of 8 into a 10, rather than Rule 1-2 or Rule 33-7 that could have resulted in disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules.

    Day felt it was unfortunate that all of Saturday’s drama deflected attention from a world-class performance from Brooks Koepka en route to a successful title defense, but when it comes to the handling of the Mickelson controversy he believes the USGA could have made good use of a mulligan.

    “It’s just unfortunate that it happened at the USGA’s tournament, where they enforce the rules, like the R&A. And I think they may have, they probably should have enforced a different outcome for Phil,” Day said. “But it is what it is. It’s done. It’s just disappointing that that is overshadowing the winner of the whole week. I think if they had it back again, they may have chosen a different outcome.”