Humble Major Champs Grouped Together at PGA

By Associated PressAugust 8, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA ChampionshipTULSA, Okla. -- Zach Johnson is the everyday guy from Iowa. Angel Cabrera is the burly underdog from Argentina. Padraig Harrington is the self-proclaimed journeyman from Ireland.
 
They will be together this week at the PGA Championship because of something else they are: golf's three most recent major champions.
 
A year ago, the three players wouldn't have turned a head had they been grouped together for the first two rounds of the last major of the year.
 
But so much changes once a player finally puts on a green jacket, or holds the claret jug or endures and wins a U.S. Open.
 
'A complete honor is what it comes down to,' Johnson said Tuesday. 'I know people back home, especially when they hear me announced -- from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 2007 Masters champion -- they take it to heart. They take pride in it.
 
Johnson says he takes pride in it, too, just not too much.
 
'I don't want to get too proud,' he said.
 
The aw-shucks modesty is something that runs through all three of golf's newest major champions. These victories, they insist, might have changed their circumstances, but not who they are.
 
'I'm not changing,' Johnson said. 'I'm still in jeans and T-shirts and shorts, whatever.'
 
Cabrera's victory was considered a huge thing for Argentina, a country that hadn't celebrated a major golf champion in 40 years previous to his win at Oakmont.
 
Could the win have helped golf surpass rugby or basketball in popularity in the near future?
 
'No. No chance,' Cabrera said, answering before his translator even had a chance to give him the question.
 
Cabrera, known as 'El Pato' or 'The Duck' because of his trademark waddles down the fairway, often with a cigarette in hand, knows his win emphasized the importance of giving back in the golf community in his country.
 
Not glamorous, but necessary, said the one-time caddie, who turned to golf because he thought it was the best way to help support his family.
 
'It's very difficult for Argentinean golfers to achieve good things, to get to the PGA TOUR or the European tour without the help of another professional golfer,' Cabrera said. 'There's not much help other than what another golfer can provide.'
 
For Harrington, the magnitude of the victory three weeks ago is still settling in.
 
Last week at the first teebox at Firestone, they didn't introduce him as 'Padraig Harrington, British Open champion.'
 
'I looked at my caddie and started laughing,' he said. 'You win the Open Championship, you can't wait to be announced as the Open champion. I wasn't disappointed. It's just strange. It's a hard one to describe.'
 
At 35 and ranked sixth in the world, he was among those considered the Best Player Never to Have Won A Major. He no longer has to deal with that. Also avoided is the heartache he would have felt had he lost the British Open with that ugly double-bogey on No. 18.
 
'There's no question that when you win, you've got to enjoy it but always taper it with a bit of `what if' and the alternative,' Harrington said. That way, 'You'll always be able to handle the bad days well.'
 
None of the three will be overlooked this week, though all would have to be considered underdogs to the guy who won this event last year.
 
Tiger Woods.
 
'We're all improving. We're all getting better,' Woods said when asked if he was surprised to see three first-time winners in majors this year, the second time it's happened in the last five years. 'The fields are getting deeper on top of that. So it makes it even more challenging to try to win major championships.
 
'We're seeing new faces that are springing up and this year is an example of that.'
 
The newest champions are not stars or household names. It figures they still won't draw near the crowd Woods will when he tees off Thursday, playing alongside Bob Tway and Rich Beem.
 
But Johnson, Cabrera and Harrington will be together for a reason.
 
'Just to be in that fraternity and have that title, more or less at least for this year, is very, very special,' Johnson said.
 
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    Twice winner Kizzire on missing U.S. Open: 'Fuel to my fire'

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:59 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Based on recent form, there likely wasn’t a more decorated player watching last week’s U.S. Open from home than Patton Kizzire.

    Kizzire is in the midst of a breakthrough season that has already included two wins: a maiden victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November, and a marathon playoff triumph over James Hahn at the Sony Open in January. While those titles got him into the Masters and the PGA Championship, they didn’t mean an exemption to Shinnecock Hills.

    Kizzire got as high as 51st in the world rankings after his win in Honolulu, but his game started to turn shortly thereafter. A T-12 finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship is his lone top-25 finish in 12 starts since his Sony victory, and he missed four straight cuts from the Masters to The Players Championship.


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    The U.S. Open grants exemptions to the top 60 in the world at two different cutoff points close to the tournament. But in the midst of a cold streak, Kizzire was 63rd and 65th at each of those deadlines. He attempted to earn a spot at sectional qualifying in Columbus, only to find that his score of 5 under was one shot too many.

    “I guess just adding a little fuel to my fire, adding insult to injury,” Kizzire said. “Just to have narrowly missed several different ways of qualification was disappointing. But I just tried to spin it as a positive. I got two weeks off, and I did watch those guys struggle a little bit. I wasn’t struggling at home, we’ll just say that.”

    Kizzire hopes to put the disappointment behind him this week at the Travelers Championship, where he finished T-53 a year ago. And while his pair of trophies didn’t get him a tee time last week – or guarantee him a berth in The Open next month – they put him in prime position to make the season-ending Tour Championship, which would mean spots in the first three majors of 2019.

    The combination of two recent wins and a ranking outside the top 60 isn’t one that comes up often on Tour, but Kizzire maintains a balanced perspective as he looks to get back to playing the kind of golf that will ensure he doesn’t miss any more majors in the near future.

    “If I would have played better in between the U.S. Open and my last win, I would have gotten in. So my play was the reason I wasn’t in,” Kizzire said. “You certainly could look at it and say, ‘This guy’s got two wins, he should be in.’ But I’m not making too much of it.”

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    Masters, Players and U.S. Open champs grouped at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:50 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Fresh off a second straight U.S. Open victory, Brooks Koepka is getting right back to work at the Travelers Championship.

    Koepka has stood by his commitment to tee it up at TPC River Highlands, becoming the first U.S. Open champ to play the following week on the PGA Tour since Justin Rose played the Travelers after his 2013 win at Merion. Koepka will play the first two rounds alongside Masters champ Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, who captured The Players Championship last month.

    Here’s a look at some of the other marquee, early-round groupings for a star-studded field outside Hartford (all times ET):

    7:50 a.m. Thursday, 12:50 p.m. Friday: Jason Day, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger

    Day is making his second straight Travelers appearance, having missed the cut both last year in Cromwell and last week at Shinnecock Hills. He’ll be joined by reigning Rookie of the Year Schauffele and Berger, who took home ROY honors in 2015 and last year was on the losing end of Jordan Spieth’s playoff dramatics at this event.


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    8 a.m. Thursday, 1 p.m. Friday: Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson

    Koepka is making his third tournament appearance overall, but his first since a T-9 finish in 2016, before he had either of his two U.S. Open trophies. Reed has become a regular at this event and enters off a fourth-place showing on Long Island, while Simpson cruised to victory last month at TPC Sawgrass and tied for 10th last week.


    12:50 p.m. Thursday, 7:50 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Russell Knox

    This was the tournament that turned things around last year for Spieth, who took home the title in his debut thanks to one of the most dramatic shots of the year in a playoff against Berger. He’ll start his title defense alongside a pair of past champs, as Leishman won here for his first Tour title back in 2012 and Knox was a winner two years ago when the tournament was played in August.


    1 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. Friday: Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

    This group should get plenty of attention in the early rounds, with Thomas entering as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 and joined a pair of players who will launch drives all across TPC River Highlands. Watson has feasted on this layout, winning in both 2010 and 2015 among five top-10 finishes, while McIlroy tied for 17th last year in his tournament debut but missed the cut last week at Shinnecock.

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    Travelers Championship: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2018, 5:30 pm

    There will be plenty of star power this week in Hartford as the PGA Tour moves north for the Travelers Championship. Here is the key info for this week's event.

    How to watch:

    Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


    Purse: $7 million

    Course: TPC River Highlands (par 70, 6,841 yards)

    Defending champion: Jordan Spieth. Defeated Daniel Berger with a birdie on the first playoff hole.


    Notables in the field

    Jordan Spieth

    • Missed last two cuts (the Memorial, U.S. Open) entering this week

    • 188th on PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting (4th in strokes gained: tee to green)

    • Only player to win Travelers Championship back-to-back: Phil Mickelson (2001-02)


    Brooks Koepka

    • Making third career start in Travelers Championship (last start: T-9 in 2016)

    • First player to play Travelers week after U.S. Open win since 2013 (Justin Rose)

    • First player to win U.S. Open back-to-back since 1988-89 (Curtis Strange)


    Justin Thomas

    • Fifth career start in this event (MC, T-3, MC last three years)

    • Second on PGA Tour this season in strokes gained: tee to green (+1.49)


    Rory McIlroy

    • Second career start in Travelers Championship (T-17 last year)

    • Missed cut last week at U.S. Open (shot 80 in opening round)


    Jason Day

    • Fourth career start in Travelers Championship (best finish: T-18 in 2014)

    • Leads PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting this season


    Patrick Reed

    • Earned second-most world ranking points of any player in 2018

    • Finished fourth at U.S. Open last week (three shots behind Koepka)

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    Day 'disappointed' in USGA's handling of course, Phil

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:16 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Jason Day had the weekend off following a missed cut at the U.S. Open, but that didn’t prevent the Aussie from keeping an eye on all the drama that unfolded at Shinnecock Hills.

    The former world No. 1 found it “disappointing,” – with “it” being both the deterioration of a major championship setup and the fallout from Phil Mickelson’s putter slap during the third round.

    Day is hoping to bounce back from an early exit at this week’s Travelers Championship, but before turning his attention to TPC River Highlands he shared that the brunt of his disappointment stemmed from the USGA’s inability to keep Shinnecock playable during the third round and their subsequent decision to water it down for the tournament’s conclusion.

    “It’s more the course, about how they set it up. Because Saturday was a total, it was like two different golf courses, practically, on the greens Saturday versus Sunday,” Day said. “I just wish they would leave it alone and just let it go. Not saying to let the greens go and let them dry out and make it unfair, I’m just saying plan accordingly and hopefully whatever the score finishes, it finishes, whether it’s under par or over par.”


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    But Day’s frustration also tied back to Mickelson’s head-turning decision to hit a moving ball on the 13th green during the third round, and the USGA’s subsequent ruling that the actions merited a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.

    “It’s obviously disappointing to see what Phil did,” he said. “I think a lot of people have mixed reviews about what he did.”

    USGA officials explained over the weekend that Mickelson’s actions explicitly fell under Rule 14-5, which called for a two-shot addition and turned his score of 8 into a 10, rather than Rule 1-2 or Rule 33-7 that could have resulted in disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules.

    Day felt it was unfortunate that all of Saturday’s drama deflected attention from a world-class performance from Brooks Koepka en route to a successful title defense, but when it comes to the handling of the Mickelson controversy he believes the USGA could have made good use of a mulligan.

    “It’s just unfortunate that it happened at the USGA’s tournament, where they enforce the rules, like the R&A. And I think they may have, they probably should have enforced a different outcome for Phil,” Day said. “But it is what it is. It’s done. It’s just disappointing that that is overshadowing the winner of the whole week. I think if they had it back again, they may have chosen a different outcome.”