Hahn, Castro lead Humana Challenge second round

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2013, 1:15 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – James Hahn and Roberto Castro remained atop the Humana Challenge leaderboard Friday, shooting 5-under 67s in the pro-am tournament.

Hahn and Castro were 14 under after another day of perfect conditions in the Coachella Valley. They began the round tied for the lead with Jason Kokrak at 63.

Hahn had four birdies, an eagle and a bogey at La Quinta Country Club. He played a three-hole stretch in 4 under on his back nine, birdieing the par-4 fourth, holing a 30-foot eagle chip on the par-5 fifth and making another birdie on the par-5 sixth.

''Any time you have back-to-back par 5s that are reachable, it's definitely something to look forward to,'' Hahn said. ''Especially if the round's not going well.''

Castro had the lead alone at 16 under, but bogeyed two of his last three holes – three-putting the par-4 ninth – on PGA West's Arnold Palmer Private Course.

''A couple slipped away there at the end, but yesterday I made a 50-footer on the last,'' Castro said. ''Today, I felt like I hit a good putt and three-putted. So, that's stuff over 72 holes that's going to even out.''

Hahn opened his rookie season on the tour last week in Hawaii with a tie for 67th in the Sony Open. The 31-year-old South Korean-born American played briefly at the University of California and won the Web.com Tour's Rex Hospital Open last year in a playoff.

''I'm just soaking it in, having a good time,'' Hahn said. ''Any time that I play a good round, it feels good and makes me cherish the momentum a little bit more, because I know they're few and far between.''

Castro missed the cut last week in Hawaii. The 27-year-old former Georgia Tech player is in his second season on the tour.

''They had a lot of Sunday pins today,'' Castro said. ''I only played here one time, but the pins they used today were a lot of the ones they used Sunday last year. So I think Palmer was playing pretty tough. There were a lot of tucked pins.''

The stats agreed with the Palmer course having the highest scoring average in the first two rounds at 69.596. La Quinta was next at 69.529, and the Nicklaus course the lowest at 67.923.

Darron Stiles, Scott Stallings and Richard H. Lee were 13 under, all shooting 65. Stiles and Stallings played at La Quinta, and Lee was on the Palmer course.

Kokrak had a 69 on the Nicklaus course to drop into a tie for sixth at 12 under.

Phil Mickelson shot a 67 on the Nicklaus course after opening with a 72 at La Quinta. The tournament winner in 2002 and 2004, he was nine strokes behind the leaders and two strokes off the projected cut Saturday.

''The last two holes were the first time that I actually hit solid shots and my rhythm felt good and I made good swings,'' Mickelson said. ''I've been quick from the top. My rhythm has been off and I've hit a bunch of squirrelly shots. I made a lot of rusty mistakes.''

The tournament is his first since tying for second in early November in the HSBC Champions in China, the only event he played after the Ryder Cup. He plans to play five or six straight events, a run that will end at Riviera or the Match Play Championship.

''I really want to build some momentum here on the West Coast,'' Mickelson said.

Russell Henley, the Sony Open winner Sunday in his first start as a PGA Tour member, had a 69 at the Palmer course to reach 11 under. He shot a 64 on Thursday at the Nicklaus course, and is 35 under in his first six rounds this year.

Matt Kuchar, paired with Mickelson, had a 64 – matching the best round of the day – to get to 10 under. He's playing for the third straight week.

''It certainly helps playing the last couple of weeks,'' Kuchar said. ''My first week out at the Tournament of Champions there was definitely some rust and lack of scoring. Even if you have been practicing, which I was, tournament play is just a little bit different.''

DIVOTS: Mike Weir, the 2003 champion, followed his opening 67 at La Quinta with a 75 at the Nicklaus course to drop into a tie for 130th in the 156-man field at 2 under. The Canadian has missed 16 consecutive cuts and finished only one tournament – a tie for 70th in the AT&T National in July 2011 – in his last 28 events. The top 70 and ties after the third round Saturday will play Sunday at the Palmer course. ... FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker shot a 68 on the Nicklaus course to reach 9 under. He's the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 8. ... Defending champion Mark Wilson was tied for 138th at 1 under after a 66 on the Nicklaus course. He opened with a 77 at La Quinta.


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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.”