Business Trip Change of Attitude at WGC Event

By Associated PressAugust 1, 2007, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio -- The Bridgestone Invitational always felt like a working vacation.
 
Since becoming a World Golf Championship in 1999, it has been held the week after the final major of the year. It was a relief, a time to exhale. And with an $8 million purse and no cut, there was nothing to lose.
 
But that's not the case this year.
 
Padraig Harrington
Open champion Padraig Harrington signs autographs Wedensday. (Getty Images)
>Most of the players in the 84-man field were grinding on the practice range Wednesday, trying to get their games in shape. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were late arrivals, only because they flew in from Southern Hills after practice rounds for the PGA Championship, which starts next week.
 
Firestone has always been a major test with its deep rough and tree-lined fairways.
 
Now it's a major tuneup.
 
'You can look at it one of two ways,' Woods said. 'As you said, the exhale part of it. But I also think it's a nice way to prepare for next week, being such a demanding golf course. And basically, it's the same field. We're just playing back-to-back weeks. It helps. You get to see where your game is going into the last major of the year.'
 
Stewart Cink won at Firestone in 2004 after being selected for the Ryder Cup team, and he lost in a playoff last year to Woods. He would prefer the Bridgestone Invitational be played the week after the PGA, noting that he plays his best when the majors are over.
 
But he could think of no better place to be the week before a major.
 
'It's as tough as any major, with the rough high, and the fairways here are almost impossible to hit -- some of them -- as narrow and firm as they are,' Cink said. 'You come off this week feeling like you got beat up by a major championship course, and then you get to go to the PGA. You're mentally going to be ready after this week.'
 
Woods hardly ever plays the week before a major, preparing to practice at home. He didn't have much of a choice this year, not as the defending champion at a tournament has become an annuity for the world's No. 1 player. He is a five-time winner at Firestone, and he has never finished lower than fifth.
 
The PGA Championship has been one exception to his guideline of not playing a week before the majors. He played the Buick Open outside Detroit in 2000 and 2002 and it didn't seem to bother him. He won the PGA Championship at Valhalla one year, and finished one shot behind Rich Beem at Hazeltine the other.
 
'Did all right those two years, I think,' he said.
 
Put him on Firestone and he's nearly unbeatable.
 
'Golfers have often got horses for courses,' British Open champion Padraig Harrington said. 'Unfortunately for me, this is not one of my happy hunting grounds, and it is for Tiger. I wouldn't like to put my career on the line with challenging Tiger this week and being judged on that alone.'
 
Harrington now is judged by the silver claret jug that he left at home in Dublin after a week of celebration, in which the jug first was filled with Johnny Smith's Smooth Bitter, followed by champagne and then a mixture of other drinks.
 
'At this stage, if you smelled the inside of that claret jug, you wouldn't want to drink out of it,' he said.
 
It will be Harrington's first tournament since beating Sergio Garcia in a playoff at Carnoustie. For Angel Cabrera, it will be his first tournament in the United States since he held off Woods and Jim Furyk to win the U.S. Open at Oakmont.
 
Furyk, meanwhile, wasn't even sure if he could play. Coming off a one-shot victory in the Canadian Open that featured a hole-in-one in his final round of 64, Furyk was on the practice range Tuesday when he felt his back stiffen and the pain increase. He sought treatment Wednesday for his lower back, and wasn't sure he would be fit to play on Thursday.
 
Woods is gearing up for a busy end to his season after playing only 12 times the first seven months, three of them victories. He intends to play six of the next seven weeks through the end of the FedEx Cup season, then a week off before the Presidents Cup.
 
But if he's looking for momentum, this is the place to start.
 
'Each and every year I've played this golf course, it just seems to have worked out,' Woods said. 'I don't know what it is about this golf course. It just looks right. For some reason, I've had success here.'
 
Woods has won five times each at Firestone and Torrey Pines, site of the Buick Invitational (and next year's U.S. Open). He has won four times at Augusta National, and he adds St. Andrews on his list of courses where he has done his best. The British Open has gone to the Old Course only twice in his professional year, but he won both times by a combined 13 shots.
 
'Certain golf courses just fit your eye,' he said. 'It's hard to explain, but this is one of them for me.'
 
He has won in so many different styles.
 
There were times when he needed a late birdie to win, on the 17th hole in 1999 to beat Phil Mickelson and on the 16th hole in 2005 to hold off Chris DiMarco. He twice won in marathon playoffs, seven holes against Furyk in 2001, four holes last year against Cink.
 
And even is 11-shot victory in 2000 was unusual because it ended in darkness.
 
Last year might have been the most bizarre. At the end of the second round, Woods' shot from the rough on the ninth hole went over the green, bounced off the cart path, then went onto and over the clubhouse. Because the clubhouse is not marked out-of-bounds, he was given a free drop between the practice range and the first tee.
 
'I made 5,' Woods said when asked about his memory of that shot.
 
And it gave him a fifth title at Firestone, something to build on this week.
 
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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: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; 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.”