Can I have an afternoon tee time please

By Associated PressJuly 17, 2008, 4:00 pm
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Open ChampionshipSOUTHPORT, England ' John Daly shot another 80, and it wasnt even worthy of a chuckle.
 
Heck, Ernie Els shot 80. So did Vijay Singh, whos never been videotaped hitting balls off a beer can or playing a round of golf sans shirt and shoes. And, if anyone comes across Sandy Lyle or Rich Beem, make sure they know how to get out of town.
 
Luck is a big part of golfs oldest championship, and that was never more evident than Thursdays opening round at the British Open. Tee times were just as important as the clubs in the bag ' maybe more so, given the dramatic turn of the weather that essentially turned one day into two.
 
If you were unfortunate enough to be sent off in the morning, well, the reward was a steady, sometimes driving rain and a howling breeze off the Irish Sea that occasionally gusted up to 35 mph.
 
Which was a big reason Els signed a scorecard that including a devilish stretch of holes ' 6-6-6 ' among its 80 strokes, the worst Open score ever for the Big Easy. Which is why Singh actually talked of playing pretty well after putting up the second-highest score of his Open career. Which is why Phil Mickelson thought anything in the 70s ' even a 79, which is what he shot ' would be a pretty respectable score.
 
It was miserable, miserable, miserable weather, moaned Singh, who just couldnt get off that theme. It was just a miserable day, he added.
 
Now, if you were one of those assigned a tee time with a p.m. attached to it, things were much different. While Royal Birkdale didnt suddenly transform into sunny, balmy Florida, the showers dried up and the wind tapered off ' which, for a golfer, is about all you can ask for at a links course along the Irish Sea.
 
We did get the better side of the draw, no doubt about it, said Greg Norman, who was one stroke off the lead after shooting 70. When you watch it in the morning, you feel sorry for the guys, but theres times when you say, Well, Ive been there before. Ive been on that side of the draw, too. Youve got to take it. It all balances out, and you have to take advantage of it.
 
The late starters sure took advantage of their meteorological advantage.
 
Rocco Mediate, Graeme McDowell and Robert Allenby were tied for the lead at 69. All played in the afternoon. Norman, Adam Scott and Bart Bryant found themselves deadlocked one shot back. Guess what time of day they played?
 
Anyone who didnt say afternoon might as well leave now. Besides, they probably still need some folks out at the sixth hole to look for Mickelsons ball, submerged somewhere in the prickly rough. Yep, Lefty played in the morning ' and paid the price, losing a ball along the way.
 
Among the top 14, only Retief Goosen and Mike Weir teed off in the morning. Both shot 71s that probably felt more like 61s. Going deeper, just four of the top 27 on opening day were morning starters.
 
Starting the day, I would have definitely taken a 1-over par given the weather we had when we started, Weir said. It was just tough to keep dry, and the wind was as strong as Ive ever seen.
 
Of the first 78 players who went out ' exactly half the 156-player field ' there were 19 scores in the 80s, three of them in Singhs group. Hunter Mahan and Reinier Saxton made it 80 across the board.
 
You got rain blowing sideways. It was cold. It was windy, said Singh, who played the first 11 holes at 10 over and insisted, I didnt play badly.
 
Lyle and Beem were on the way to exorbitant scores until they walked off the course without finishing, drawing the scorn of R&A honcho Peter Dawson, who accused them of not being professional. But it was certainly easy to sympathize with them based on their cards.
 
The 50-year-old Lyle, whos getting ready to play senior golf, was simply overmatched by the brutal conditions. He shot an 11-over 45 on the front side and called it a day after going out with some degree of dignity, a par at No. 10.
 
It was just constant rain all the time, he said. It was difficult keeping my hands dry and, of course, I wear glasses, so that didnt help. Its a brutal golf course.
 
Beem started this way: bogey, quadruple-bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, double-bogey. He finally made his first par at No. 8, then bogeyed the next hole too. Already at 46 ' 12 strokes above par ' he saw no reason to go on.
 
If I had continued, I dont think I would have broken 90, Beem said.
 
Certainly, Kenny Perry must have been chuckling to himself after taking all that grief for deciding to skip the oldest of the majors because he didnt think it suited his game.
 
It got to the point where you just dont care, said Pat Perez, who went off in the second group of the day and shot 82. Now I know why Kenny stayed home.
 
Compare that with the afternoon. No one shot in the 80s. No one walked off. The average score was three strokes lower (74.4 compared to 77.4) than it was in the morning.
 
All because of a break in the weather.
 
I certainly would be the first to admit that, McDowell said. I sat at home this morning with my breakfast cereal and cup of coffee in my hand going, God, do I really have to go out there this afternoon? Obviously we got pretty lucky.
 
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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.”