Notes Carnousties Redemption Steroid User
For years reputed to be the toughest links course in the world, Carnoustie had become somewhat of an enigma for the younger generation. It had gone 24 years without hosting a British Open, and when it returned to the rotation in 1999, the setup was so outrageous that it became known as 'Car-Nasty.'
There was nothing but high praise this time around.
The Royal & Ancient proved that a golf course that can be a strong test without rough up to the knees and fairways cut at the waist. The conditions could have not been more ideal for scoring last week. Rain all summer in Scotland made this a green British Open with lush fairways and soft greens, and the wind rarely got stronger than 10 mph all week.
The result was the first winning score all year in a major (7-under 277), and by far the most exciting major of the year.
It allowed for a dynamic charge by Andres Romero, who made 10 birdies in 16 holes before the pressure overcame him. Romero's play over 16 holes rivaled Johnny Miller at Oakmont in 1973. If not for an approach into the gorse bush for double bogey on No. 12, and a bounce off the stone face of Barry Burn that went out-of-bounds for double bogey on No. 17, golf might have had its first 62 in a major.
Train wrecks were a certainty.
One only had to watch Padraig Harrington twice hit into the burn on the 18th hole and make a gutsy double bogey, then see Sergio Garcia make bogey by playing an iron off the tee for safety, leaving him a 3-iron to the green. He went into the bunker and missed his par putt from 10 feet to set up the playoff.
Harrington twice had birdie putts inside 10 feet in the four-hole playoff, far more entertaining than hanging on with pars.
It should be a lesson that nasty rough might make it a tough test, but not a good one. Ian Poulter and Romero had good rounds evaporate because they were given a chance to advance the ball out of the rough and paid dearly for it. And the wild fluctuation in scores along the back nine, such as Harrington's eagle on the 14th and double bogey on the 18th, made for better golf than seeing who can get to the clubhouse with the fewest bogeys.
Augusta National will always be the most mystical major because of its history and familiarity. St. Andrews will always have the tradition as the home of golf. And with one week, Carnoustie was such a good show that the British Open can't return soon enough.
Gary Player was saluted by some and vilified by most for saying he knew for a fact that at least one player had tried performance-enhancing drugs, although he refused to identify the player.
Turns out at least one player at Carnoustie was taking a steroid.
'I suspect in the next year, I'll be getting more and more questions about it,' former PGA champion Shaun Micheel said. 'I'm not a doctor, but I'm married to a lawyer, so I know how to answer the questions.'
Micheel was diagnosed two years ago with low testosterone, and he has been taking a synthetic steroid (Testim 1 percent), and says he could be on the drug for a while. He said doctors told him his testosterone level should be between 700 and 800 for someone his age (38), and his is around 480. It was 260 when he was diagnosed in April 2005.
'I think people have a better understanding of it because I've been outspoken about it,' said Micheel, who wears 'Testim.com' on the front of his cap. 'I've been on it a couple of years, and I suspect I'll be on it a long time. Once you start taking something, your body stops making it. If I were to test way high ... it wouldn't benefit me in any way. I'm in the wrong sport for something like that to happen.'
He catches some flak from players, but only because of how he takes the drug. It's a clear gel he rubs into his shoulder.
'That's where I get harassed the most,' he said. 'They say I'm using the clear. I do laugh about it. But I don't want to take this stuff. I don't like taking stuff for a cold.'
ON A ROLL
John Wood sounded like a typical caddie when he said his boss was swinging well at the U.S. Open at Oakmont and could be about to break through.
Wood was only off by a week.
Hunter Mahan tied for 13th at the U.S. Open, then won the following week in Hartford at the Travelers Championship. He tied for eighth in the AT&T National at Congressional, then shot 69-65 on the weekend at Carnoustie to tie for sixth in the British Open.
Suddenly, things are looking up.
He is 16th in the FedEx Cup standings, and 16th in the Presidents Cup standings, which is determined by PGA TOUR earnings. Mahan has three weeks left to make up more ground, including his first World Golf Championship next week at Firestone.
'I'm letting myself play,' Mahan said. 'It was a struggle early in the year. I was thinking negative and using my mind as a disadvantage and not an advantage.'
Mike Weir is playing better, but finding it hard to pick up ground in his bid to make the Presidents Cup team for what figures to be the biggest event in Canada (Royal Montreal). He tied for eighth in the British Open, but was passed in the standings by Richard Green of Australia, who shot 64 on Sunday and tied for fourth. Weir has moved up only two spots the last three weeks to No. 17. ... Some players who missed the cut at Carnoustie hung around to catch a charter flight for the Canadian Open. One of them was Brett Wetterich, only he was going in the opposite direction. The Ryder Cup rookie is playing in Germany on the European Tour this week.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Three of the seven British Opens held at Carnoustie were decided in a playoff.
'John Daly is on about every non-performance enhancing drug imaginable.' -- Bill Kratzert.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers
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.
“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.”
Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close
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.”
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.”
Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence
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.
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.”
Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection
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.”
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.”