Lee Kittleson in US Amateur finals

By Associated PressAugust 23, 2008, 4:00 pm
2008 U.S. AmateurPINEHURST, N.C. ' After a week full of autographs and adulation, Danny Lee is starting to feel like Tiger Woods at the U.S. Amateur.
 
One more victory, and hell surpass him.
 
Lee moved to the brink of supplanting Woods as the youngest champion in U.S. Amateur history on Saturday by defeating Patrick Reed 3 and 2 in one semifinal.
 
If Lee ' who is 18 years, 1 month old ' beats Florida State sophomore Drew Kittleson in Sundays 36-hole final, he would be six months and 29 days younger than Woods was when he won his first U.S. Amateur in 1994.
 
Im just having a really, really good week, Lee said. Everything I hit, everything I putt just falls in the hole.
 
By advancing to the finals, Lee and Kittleson earned exemptions into next years U.S. Open and invitations to the Masters, as long as they remain amateurs.
 
There is no way Im going to turn pro, Lee said.
 
For the past week, all eyes have been on Lee. The worlds top-ranked amateur and closest thing this event has to a celebrity will play competitive golf for the 11th consecutive day.
 
The medalist and match play winner at the Western Amateur tuned up for the Amateur last week by debuting on the PGA Tour, making the cut and tying for 20th at the Wyndham Championship across the state in Greensboro.
 
Though making light of his fatigue all week ' and tweaking his left shoulder while warming up for the quarterfinals ' the New Zealander has been nothing short of dominant at the renowned No. 2 course at Pinehurst.
 
He has trailed for only one hole in five match-play rounds, and until Saturday, never needed more than 15 holes to finish off his opponent.
 
Lee closed out the Georgia freshman with a par on the par-4 16th ' a hole he hadnt needed to play since the second round of stroke play four days earlier.
 
He was always putting pressure on me, Lee said.
 
Lee placed his second shot 40 feet from the pin, left his putt 1 foot short and walked off with a gimme. Reed ran into trouble on his second shot, landing it on the back left edge of the fringe, inches from the sand. He had one foot in the hazard and one on the grass when he attempted his putt, which went left and rolled nearly 10 feet past the hole.
 
Reeds last-chance putt for par looked on line, but broke left late to seal Lees victory.
 
I knew I had to make par, so I just thought that (the odd stance) would have been the best option for me actually making par, Reed said. I just didnt make the 6-footer coming back.
 
The other semifinal also was decided on the 16th, where Kittlesons 20-foot par putt wrapped up a 4-and-2 victory over Georgia senior Adam Mitchell.
 
Kittleson, of Scottsdale, Ariz., had to rally to extend his second Amateur appearance after Mitchell went 2-up through four holes.
 
Kittleson squared the match with a birdie on the par-4 seventh, then took the lead for good midway through his round, sandwiching pars on Nos. 9 and 11 around a birdie on the par-5 10th.
 
It was kind of new territory for me this week, and I had to flip the switch and turn it around and get something positive going, Kittleson said. And (I) ended up doing it.
 
Kittleson took a 3-up lead through 15 holes to put Mitchell in a must-win situation.
 
The Georgia seniors drive found the sand to the right of the fairway, his recovery attempt sailed into left-side rough and his third shot nearly rolled off the back of the green before stopping 30 feet from the pin. His uphill putt broke left and rolled 2 feet past the hole.
 
Meanwhile, Kittleson recovered nicely after his second shot kicked hard off the green and nearly bounced past the back ropes, placing his chip about 20 feet from the flagstick and then sinking his long putt to end the match.
 
We both hit the ball really well, Campbell said. He just seemed to make a couple more of those 10- to 15-footers.
 
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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.”