Debate Is He Right or Wrong

By Associated PressJuly 8, 2008, 4:00 pm
2006 John Deere ClassicSILVIS, Ill. -- Kenny Perry never imagined facing so much criticism over where to play golf.
 
There was a time when he was desperate to play anywhere. He was 26, with two children in diapers and no money for a third attempt at qualifying for the PGA TOUR. Thats when he made a deal with an angel, Ronnie Ferguson, an elder at the Church of Christ in Franklin, Ky., who offered him $5,000 for one last shot at Q-school with one string attached.
 
If he failed, Perry didnt owe Ferguson a dime. But if he made it, Perry would give back 5 percent of his tour earnings to David Lipscomb University, a small Christian school in Nashville, Tenn.
 
That was 22 years and $25 million ago.
 
Over the years, Perry has collected 11 victories on the PGA TOUR, including two in the last six weeks at the Memorial and the Buick Open. The kids who have gone to Lipscomb with help from his scholarship program have become teachers, nurses, youth ministers.
 
This is worth remembering as Perry gets buried next week for skipping the British Open, sticking to his original plan to play in Milwaukee.
 
As determined as he was to play golf for a living, Perry was equally tenacious about playing in the Ryder Cup at Valhalla, just up the road from his old Kentucky home.
 
This is a lifetime opportunity for him, U.S. captain Paul Azinger said Monday.
 
Azinger is partly responsible for Perry essentially wrapping up a spot on this team so soon. He revamped the qualifying process to put more emphasis on the current year, which was a good thing for Perry. He was 79th on the money list last year, but already this year has two victories and a playoff loss and is No. 4 in the U.S. standings.
 
Consider what happened the only other time Perry played in the Ryder Cup. He qualified for the 2004 team based almost entirely on his 2003 performance, when he won three times. Not surprisingly, he played only two matches at Oakland Hills and lost them both.
 
Clearly, those memories linger.
 
I told (wife) Sandy, this might be the worst thing Ive ever wished for, Perry said. I may play poorly and get drilled.
 
No need to wait for the Ryder Cup to get hammered.
 
There are plenty of guys who make a Ryder Cup team without winning a major. Perry might be the first to clinch a spot without having played in a major that year.
 
He wasnt eligible for the Masters. Then, he chose not to go through 36-hole qualifying for the U.S. Open the day after he won the Memorial because he was worn out. Besides, Perry said he has never played well at Torrey Pines and wanted to conserve his strength for PGA TOUR events that would give him a better chance at winning, and making the Ryder Cup team.
 
With only five weeks remaining in the qualifying process, Perry is virtually a lock to make the team. Along the way, his outstanding play earned him a spot at Royal Birkdale through a special money list.
 
This might be Perrys best chance to win a major, considering his form and Tiger Woods knee.
 
But he turned it down.
 
Woody Austin didnt go to Carnoustie last year because he had played two months straight and didnt want to show up at the toughest links course in the world and shoot a million. It would be one thing if Perry wanted to rest his 47-year-old bones. But hes playing this week at the John Deere Classic, and next week at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee.
 
I committed to all these tournaments when I was ranked 100th in the world, said Perry, who is now at No. 20. And now, all of a sudden, Ive won twice. Im not going to back out on them.
 
He risks the respect of his peers, however.
 
Why would anyone skip a chance to play one of four major tournaments that define a career? How does it look when one of the top Americans ducks a major to play against the B-Flight in Milwaukee?
 
The most peculiar part of Perrys decision is that he finished 16th or better in three of his last four Opens. His best finish was at Royal St. Georges, where he wound up four shots behind Ben Curtis in a tie for eighth. That was in 2003, the best season of Perrys career.
 
Anyone playing this well'and few are better at the moment'can win anywhere.
 
Such a decision contrasts with Sean OHair going through hoops to get a passport to St. Andrews in 2005 after winning the John Deere Classic, or Bob Estes flying across the ocean as an alternate and leaving without ever hitting a shot.
 
Then again, Perry isnt the first player to skip a major at the top of his game.
 
Arnold Palmer was the Masters champion in 1964 when he stayed home from the British Open because he was tired. Annika Sorenstam was 28 when she skipped the du Maurier Classic, citing fatigue after taking appearance money from two overseas tournaments.
 
Perry at least should get credit for being the first American to care more about the Ryder Cup than a major.
 
Besides, his captain is squarely behind him.
 
I dont care and he doesnt care, Azinger said about the British Open flap. So why should it bother anybody else? The guy has the guts of a burglar. Hes going to be 48. He can do whatever he wants. Im happy for him.
 
Azingers only instruction for Perry after he won the Buick Open was to set new goals so he stays sharp before Valhalla.
 
One might be to win the PGA Championship and gain a small measure of redemption at Oakland Hills.
 
Another would be leading his team to a rare victory at the Ryder Cup in Kentucky.
 
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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.”