Davis, Thatcher tied atop Travelers leaderboard

By Associated PressJune 24, 2012, 12:55 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – River Highlands has been the sight of the first PGA Tour win for four of its last six tournament champions.

Roland Thatcher and Englishman Brian Davis would like to make it five of seven.

Davis shot a 6-under 64, and Thatcher had a 65 on Saturday to share the third-round lead in the Travelers Championship at 12 under.

Davis said he's not sure why this tournament, which comes a week after the U.S. Open, has been so good to relative unknowns.

''Obviously, some of the big players aren't here, but there is still a really good field here,'' Davis said. ''It's just one of them things. I've had a couple of weeks off, maybe I'm not as tired as the other guys. But, I'll take my win anywhere. I don't care where it is.''

Davis made an early move, shooting a 29 on the front nine with six birdies. Thatcher overtook him with three straight birdies on the back nine and had a one-stroke lead before missing a 7-foot par putt on the 17th hole.

''I executed just really well in that stretch,'' Thatcher said. ''It's easy to say they're easy holes, and that's what you should do, but you still have to execute.''

Seventeen other players were within five strokes of the lead entering the final round.

John Rollins, James Driscoll and Stuart Appleby were two strokes back. Defending champion Fredrik Jacobson, who led after two rounds, shot an even-par 70 to remain at 9 under.

Davis said his fast start was helped by the thunderstorms that pushed the finish of the second round to Saturday morning and softened up the greens.

''I didn't even realize I had shot 29,'' said Davis, who has been a runner-up on the PGA Tour five times. ''I was just playing and everything was going right. Then obviously we hit the turn and we had the wind pick up for about three holes and it was playing tough all of the sudden.''

The first-time winners at River Highlands include Jacobson last year, Bubba Watson (2010), Hunter Mahan (2007) and J.J. Henry (2006).

But Thatcher said he's not worried about that.

''I figure when I play well, I'll play well and hopefully it's going to be enough to keep the job every year,'' he said. ''This week will go a long way towards that.''

Appleby, by contrast, is looking for his 10th tour win after making just one bogey in his round. The 41-year-old Australian said he's happy to be considered the old veteran among the young guns vying for the championship.

''It would be good to get back in the winner's circle, he said. ''The only cut I've made has been shaving for a long time. I played better golf when I was a rookie out here, and that's just not right.''

Jacobson recovered from a bogey on 17 to birdie the final hole and stay within striking distance as he attempts to join Phil Mickelson, the 2001 and 2002 winner, as the only players to successfully defend a title at River Highlands.

''I'm really happy being three behind going into tomorrow rather than five or six,'' he said. ''I'll take the positives.''

Watson also is in the mix, one of four players at 8-under par. He had a 15-foot birdie putt to go 10-under at the 17th hole, but hit the ball five feet past the hole and then missed the return shot.

''It broke about 6 feet, maybe a gust of wind or something, and then when I putted it back up it either bounced or broke right and it shouldn't do that, obviously, because it went one way and then the other,'' Watson said.

Seventy-seven players spent Saturday morning finishing their second rounds after thunderstorms halted play early on Friday.

J.B. Holmes, who underwent brain surgery last September, finished the morning with 62, the second best round of his career. But he followed that a few hours later with a 75 and was nine strokes behind the leaders.

Camilo Villegas shot a second round 64 and shot 70 on Saturday afternoon. Villegas, who has three top-25 finishes this season, was four behind the leaders.

''It's nice to see my name up on the leader board,'' he said. ''It's been a tough year and it's always good to play good.''

Eighty-eight players made the cut at even par. But former UCLA star Patrick Cantlay wasn't among them. He shot a 67 on Saturday morning to finish 2 over in the first tournament of his professional career.

''I struggled on the first day and never really recovered,'' he said.

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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.”