Is it possible Woods has already won his last major?

By Associated PressApril 8, 2014, 8:20 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Arnold Palmer never had an easy time winning majors until the last one.

This is the 50th anniversary of Palmer going wire to wire in the 1964 Masters to win by six shots, giving him a record four green jackets. It was his seventh major, significant because it tied him with some of the greats in the game: Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead. Two more and he could have tied Ben Hogan. Four more majors would have put him alongside Walter Hagen.

Palmer was only 34. He was the King. He was on a roll, winning roughly one of every three majors.

He never won another one.

''Well, of course you never think you're going to be at your last stop,'' Palmer said last week. ''But it was great. I suppose that psychologically I had accomplished maybe more than I even realized by winning the Masters and walking up the 18th hole comfortably. That was something that was truly great for me.''

Tiger Woods was 32 when he won his last major.

Through all these years, Woods has only been linked with Jack Nicklaus when the conversation turns to the majors. They are the only players to win the career Grand Slam three times over. The endless chatter is whether Woods will break the Nicklaus benchmark of 18 majors.

Is it even remotely possible that Woods, much like Palmer, already has won his last major?

Palmer went on to win 19 more times on the PGA Tour. He should have won at least one major and could have won more. Palmer famously lost a seven-shot lead on the back nine of Olympic Club in the 1966 U.S. Open, and then was beaten by Billy Casper in a playoff. He had close calls in 1964 and 1968 at the PGA Championship, the one major that kept him from a career Grand Slam.


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Unlike Woods, he wasn't the best in the world when he stopped winning majors.

Woods captured his 14th major in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. That was six years ago, and so much has happened since, on and off the golf course. The knee surgery. The collapse of his marriage and change in his appeal. Another swing change under a third coach. More injuries.

And he no longer seems to make clutch putts, which might be worse than an injury.

Woods has won 14 times, two Jack Nicklaus awards as PGA Tour player of the year and one FedEx Cup title since his last major. He is still No. 1, not only in the world ranking but in the eyes of his peers.

Speculation about his future in the majors is fueled by this being the golden anniversary of Palmer's last major at Augusta National, and the fact Woods isn't here. He had surgery last week on his back to relieve a pinched nerve that has been bothering him for longer than he cares to reveal.

Woods won't return until this summer. No telling how many more majors he will miss before he is healthy enough to compete at a high level. His age suggests he is in his prime, but add five surgeries to those 38 years and he seems older.

It's foolish to suggest Woods won't win another major. If nothing else he can win one just as easily as Justin Rose did at the U.S. Open or Jason Dufner did at the PGA Championship – not because of who they are or what they were ranked, but simply because they are very good players and it happened to be their week.

Phil Mickelson won a British Open last year when he was 42. Yes, Woods can win another major and probably will.

But there was a time when ''probably'' wasn't part of the equation.

''I probably would have put every last dollar I had on the gamble that he would break Jack's record pre-2009,'' Graeme McDowell said. ''Now, slightly longer odds. I'm not quite sure I'd put every dollar I had on it now.''

McDowell has seen enough of Woods and the shots he could hit to never rule him out. But he has a good eye for the landscape. McDowell believes 30 percent of the challenge for Woods will be physical and the other 70 percent will be the field. The competition has never been this deep.

What made it tougher on Palmer, more than anything, was the arrival of Nicklaus.

There is no one like Nicklaus – other than Woods, of course – in today's game. Rory McIlroy is the best player in golf when he puts his game all the way back together. But that would be comparing a 24-year-old McIlroy with a 38-year-old Woods who will be coming off the disabled list this summer for the second time in three years.

Callaway, which sponsors Palmer, had made up special golf bags for its players this week with a crown on the side as a tribute to the King and the 50th anniversary of his last Masters. Is it possible that Nike will be doing the same for Woods at the 2058 U.S. Open?

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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.”