Notes Consolation Prizes Love Hurts

By Associated PressJune 15, 2008, 4:00 pm
2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- Either Tiger Woods or Rocco Mediate will hoist the U.S. Open trophy after an 18-hole playoff Monday.
 
As far as consolation prizes go, John Merrick and Carl Pettersson scored two big ones Sunday.
 
They tied for sixth at 3-over 287, good enough to earn an invitation to the Masters and an exemption from qualifying for next years U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.
 
Not bad for two guys who had to go through qualifiers to get here.
 
The top eight get Masters invites and the top 15 are welcomed back to the U.S. Open.
 
Pettersson, of Sweden, shot a 3-under 68 on Sunday at Torrey Pines. Merrick, from up the freeway in Long Beach, had a 71.
 
It was the second Open for Merrick, who missed the cut in 2005.
 
To play well like this is pretty gratifying, said Merrick, a UCLA graduate who had rounds of 73-72-71-71.
 
It was one of those weeks where I had a good frame of mind and I just played consistent all week and never got out of my mode all week, he said. Never got too excited. Never got too (upset) if something happened and just kind of moved on and just did my best.
 
That was pretty cool.
 
Also earning invitations to the Masters and an exemption from qualifying for the 2009 U.S. Open are Lee Westwood (even-par 284); Robert Karlsson and D.J. Trahan (2-over 286); and Miguel Angel Jimenez, who tied with Merrick and Pettersson.
 
Jimenez birdied the 18th, which wound up taking away a Masters invite from Eric Axley, who needed the top-eight finish to assure himself of a trip to Augusta. Axley finished in a tie for ninth at 288. Axley does get to come back to the U.S. Open.
 
Mediate, who had to make it through qualifying to get here, is assured of all that, and maybe more.
 
HAPPY FATHERS DAY, HEATH:
Heath Slocum gave himself a nice Fathers Day gift with a 6-under 65 on Sunday, the best score in a U.S. Open since Vijay Singh shot 63 in the second round in 2003.
 
That was obviously one of the better rounds Ive ever played, Slocum said after making six birdies and no bogeys. I hit the ball pretty good at times, but I kept it out of bad trouble. And I made a lot of putts today.
 
Slocum was in a good mood, in part because he was thinking about his 6-month-old daughter, Stella.
 
It was just a lot of fun out there I was enjoying myself, a good, solid frame of mind. I went out and had fun and played well.
 
He tied for ninth at 4-over 288, giving him an exemption into next years Open.
 
LOVE HURTS:
Davis Love III was two shots behind going into the weekend and wound up in a tie for 53rd with a 76-78 weekend.
 
It wasnt hard to see how he did it.
 
Love failed to make a single birdie during the weekend and he played the par 5s in 3 over.
 
TOP AMATEUR:
Its been a big year so far for Michael Thompson, and its about to get bigger.
 
Thompson finished as the low amateur at the U.S. Open with an 8-over 292 at Torrey Pines South Course, tied for 29th. He finished with his best round of the tournament, a 1-over 72.
 
I learned that I have a lot more composure than I thought I did, Thompson said. I never gave up this week and Im very proud of that. The last couple days Ive gotten off to some pretty bad starts and played 1-under there on in. I mean, that speaks more than if I would have finished second, you know, to me, I learn more from that.
 
Thompson was the runner-up at last years U.S. Amateur, losing 2 and 1 to Colt Knost at the Olympic Club. Thompson also played in this years Masters, although he missed the cut.
 
Thompson plans to play in the Travelers next week as an amateur, play in the Palmer Cup as an amateur in Scotland and then turn pro.
 
I feel like I belong out here. This is fun, he said. This is a great experience for me. I dont feel any different than the rest of the pros out here.
 
Thompson has gotten his golf career back on track after it was interrupted by Hurricane Katrina. Tulane disbanded its golf team after the storm devastated New Orleans and Thompson transferred to Alabama.
 
HAPPY LEFTY/SAD LEFTY:
Phil Mickelson had dueling emotions as he finished the first U.S. Open played in his hometown.
 
Leftys self-proclaimed once-in-lifetime opportunity to hoist his first U.S. Open trophy had long since ended before he finally played his first sub-par round at Torrey Pines South Course, a 3-under 68 on Sunday. He finished at 6-over 290, tied for 18th, done in by rounds of 75 on Friday and then Saturdays 76, when he had a quadruple-bogey 9 on the 13th hole.
 
I think that as I look back I am so proud to be from San Diego and to have this Open championship here at Torrey Pines. And the golf course was, again, I think the best, fairest setup its ever been. The mixture of tee boxes, the pin placements were all perfect to give the best players a chance to separate themselves.
 
Im disappointed I didnt play well, but Im not disappointed the way this championship is shaping into form and the way that San Diego has been presented. This has been awesome.
 
Mickelson teed off at 9:20 a.m. Sunday, just more than four hours before the final group, Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood. In fact, he had just finished his 18 holes when Westwood and Woods were walking toward the first tee.
 
Asked if he was going to stick around to watch, he said: Ill probably watch some of it, yeah. Its kind of my punishment.
 
Lefty, by the way, turns 38 on Monday. I kind of need a day off, he said.
 
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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.”