Funk Running Late for Open Date

By Associated PressJune 10, 2003, 4:00 pm
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. (AP) -- Brad Faxon was trying out a utility driver that might be a good fit for Olympia Fields. Tom Kite was hitting the last few balls on the practice range.
Tiger Woods was long gone. The sun was setting, the crowds headed for the exit.
Fred Funk was just checking in.
Any other year, Funk would have arrived at the U.S. Open on a Sunday evening, gotten some rest and spent most of his time Monday learning the nuances of an unfamiliar golf course.
This time, Funk and several others had to stay an extra day to finish the rain-delayed Capital Open on the PGA Tour.
That was OK with him. Not only did he earn $336,000 for tying for second, Funk thinks too much practice time at a major can make him antsy.
'I tend to overanalyze everything,' he said. 'The better I play, the less I analyze.'
Plus, he has some help.
His caddie is Mark Long, who compiles yardage books on several golf courses and sells them to other loopers.
'I haven't seen the course, but he's been talking about it for three weeks,' Funk said. 'He thinks it will be real good for me.'
Funk and everyone else, whether they showed up Monday morning or Monday night, probably won't find out until the U.S. Open begins Thursday.
One thing is certain: It's no Bethpage Black.
Faxon hit his utility driver -- half iron, half fairway metal -- then turned and said, 'You could play this course without a driver.'
Dudley Hart finished his practice round and thought Olympia Fields would be a wide-open tournament, unlike last year when only the big hitters contended at big Bethpage Black.
'It's like you have to fit your ball in off the tee,' Hart said.
Home-course advantage would seem to go to Jeff Sluman, the only player among the 156-man field who lives in the Chicago area.
Care to guess how many times he has played Olympia Fields?
Including two trips to the course over the weekend, and a practice round Monday, Sluman has played four rounds in the last 10 years.
'A buddy was in town and wanted to play,' Sluman said, referring to his past experience. 'Everyone assumes I've played it a lot. Actually, I had to call my home course (Hinsdale Golf Club) on Saturday to get directions, because I forgot how to get here.'
Truth is, nobody knows much about the 80-year-old suburban course about 25 miles south of downtown Chicago.
The last U.S. Open at Olympia Fields was in 1928, when Johnny Farrell outlasted Bobby Jones by one stroke in a 36-hole playoff. The last major at Olympia was in 1961, when Jerry Barber won the PGA Championship in an 18-hole playoff over Don January.
So, Angel Cabrera felt just as much at home Monday as Sluman, who lives a lot closer than Argentina.
Cabrera sized up Olympia Fields with words like 'mas corto' (shorter) than last year's Bethpage Black, 'mucho peligro' (trouble everywhere) and 'campo duro' (tough course).
In other words, it's a typical U.S. Open.
'At any U.S. Open, you've got to drive it ... and then capitalize on the drive,' Sluman said. 'You don't necessarily -- especially when it's difficult -- have to have the hottest putter going. You just have to be automatic from tee to green.'
Rain was in the forecast for Tuesday, which could make it even tougher for Capital Open winner Rory Sabbatini, David Duval, Funk and other players arriving late. They might not see the course until the day before the U.S. Open starts.
That would be nothing new this year.
At the Masters, rain washed out the practice round Monday, washed out the Par 3 Tournament on Wednesday and forced the first round to be postponed.
Funk remembers squeezing in a practice round on Tuesday at Augusta National, then not hitting another shot until Friday morning in the first round.
'Driver and a 3-wood on the hole,' he said, referring to the 435-yard first hole.
Funk left Olympia Fields not much longer after he arrived. He only wanted to register, go to his room and sleep in.
The practice rounds can wait.
'You know where you need to hit it and where you can't hit it,' Funk said. 'So just don't hit it there.'
Woods arrived Monday at 7 a.m. He was gone by the time most players arrived, even if they weren't at the Capital Open.
Woods won three of his first four tournaments this year, but has not been in contention on the back nine Sunday since he won the Bay Hill Invitational by 11 strokes in March.
Even though Woods played the course two weeks ago with Michael Jordan, he will spend the next three days taking a crash course on Olympia Fields, just like most everyone else.
Related Links:
  • U.S. Open Home
  • Full Tournament Coverage
  • Olympia Fields Course Tour

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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.”