Notes Hoffmans Putter Toss Presidential Visit

By Associated PressMay 9, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 THE PLAYERSPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Charley Hoffman missed a 20-inch putt, then did something just about every golfer has at least considered after one shot or another.
 
He threw his club.
 
He whipped it actually.
 
Hoffman flung his putter into the murky water next to the 13th green Friday, a frustrating response to a double bogey that delighted the crowd and sent the 31-year-old player into a tailspin. It was a fitting highlight to Fridays second round of The Players Championship, which was played in gusting wind.
 
I had thoughts of diving in front of it, caddie Miguel Rivera said. I did actually think about going in, but the water looked a little funky.
 
Hoffman declined comment after he shot 11-over 83 in the second round and badly missed the cut at 15 over. He was 7 over when he reached the par-3 13th and needed a few birdies to make it to the weekend.
 
Instead, he missed what would have been a gimme on any municipal course and ended up shooting 8 over in the final six holes.
 
He used his sand wedge and a hybrid club to putt the rest of the round and actually had a few nice shots with them. Not knowing what to do with the head cover for the putter, Rivera threw it on the sand wedge for the final five holes just to make sure we designated it as our putter.
 
A volunteer eventually retrieved the putter, taking off her shoes, rolling up her pants legs, then tiptoeing along the edge of the water and pulling it out with an extendable ball retriever.
 
There was no word whether the volunteer planned to return it to Hoffman.
 
PRESIDENTIAL VISIT: After knocking his tee shot into the murky lagoon, Billy Mayfair walked to the drop area at No. 17 and found two dignitaries watching from the front row.
 
Former President George H.W. Bush made a brief visit to The Players Championship on Friday. Accompanied by PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, Bush spent a few minutes on the practice range and then headed to the famed island green at TPC Sawgrass.
 
Bush watched three groups play the treacherous hole in wind gusting to 35 mph. Mayfair, Bubba Watson, John Mallinger, Dean Wilson, Michael Campbell, Shaun Micheel, Mark Calcavecchia and Carl Pettersson teed it up in front of the former president.
 
Mayfair was the only one who didnt land safely on the green.
 
I didnt see him until after I hit my shot, said Mayfair, who was 1 over after the second round. I just wish I hit that green. Ive missed it twice, two days in a row, so that holes kind of hurting me. Other than that, Ive played pretty well.
 
Mayfair has met Bush several times, the first one in 1987 as a member of the Walker Cup team. So Mayfair didnt hesitate to stop, shake his hand and say hello.
 
I know him a little better and I feel very comfortable, Mayfair said. Its not every day you get to meet a former president of the United States.
 
But Mayfair knew better than to spend too much time socializing. After all, the former president is known to enjoy fast play.
 
Ive heard hes very quick, Mayfair said, adding that Bush probably wouldnt spend too much time worrying about the tee shot on the 17th. Its only 135 yards. It cant be that hard.
 
TORTOISE AND THE SCARE: Anthony Kims scariest moment of the second round had nothing to do with gusting wind or slippery greens.
 
Kim and playing partner Boo Weekley spotted a turtle as they walked from the tee box to the green on the par-3 No. 8. At first, Kim would only touch the turtles shell with his wedge. But Weekley convinced him to feel it with his hand.
 
Just as Kim started the stroke the shell, the turtle snapped its neck upward.
 
He jumped and backed up real fast, Weekley said.
 
He got me pretty good, added Kim, who shot 70 and was 4 under.
 
KRAFTS BREAK: Greg Kraft didnt think his tee shot on the par-3 17th stayed on the green. He even stopped at the drop zone to hit another one.
 
It wasnt until he was about to drop a ball that the gallery and his playing partners alerted him that his shot landed a few feet from the edge, hidden in a sprinkler head.
 
Its nice to get a good break on that hole because in 10 years Ive had some bad ones, Kraft said.
 
Kraft was allowed a free drop from the sprinkler, then two-putted for par. He could have easily had a bogey or worse, and thanks partly to the break, he made the cut at 3 over.
 
Im just worn out. This course beat me up today, he said. Starting at 3 over, knowing you have to shoot par to make the cut, it was a brutal day. Its a tough course.
 
STUPID STAT: The video boards behind the tee and green on the 17th hole are filled with information aimed at entertaining and informing the fans. But one of the statistics might be the most useless, which is saying something.
 
Among other things, the tour keeps track of how close a player hits his approach shot from various distances. The 17th hole was playing 142 yards Friday, and as each player stepped to the tee, it flashed his PGA Tour ranking on proximity to the hole from between 125 and 150 yards. Stephen Ames, for example, is ranked No. 94 on tour at 23 feet, 10 inches.
 
All that is great'except that most approach shots from that distance arent to an island green.
 
So how did the No. 1 player in proximity from 125-150 yards do Friday? Well, that would be Corey Pavin, and he didnt qualify for The Players Championship. The second-ranked player is Kent Jones. He isnt here, either.
 
Boo Weekley was the highest ranked player in the field at No. 3. But at The Players, his ranking from that distance is No. 116.
 
Go figure.
 
CLARKS RECORD: Tim Clark set a tournament record Friday'and not a good one.
 
Clark recorded a quintuple-bogey 10 on the 573-yard ninth hole. His first two tee shots landed in the water right. He found the fairway with his third shot, then hit his next one into a large bunker short and left of the green. His seventh shot flew the green. He chipped to about 20 feet and two-putted for 10.
 
It was the highest score every carded at No. 9 in the 27 years The Players Championship has been played at TPC Sawgrass.
 
Only four larger number have ever been posted at Sawgrass in tournament history. Phillip Hancock took a 12 at the par-4 fourth in 1985, Bob Tway carded a 12 at No. 17 in 2005, Robert Gamez finished the famed island hole with an 11 in 1990 and Andre Stolz wound up with an 11 at the 18th in 2005.
 
DIVOTS: Vijay Singh, Justin Leonard, Padraig Harrington, Mark Calcavecchia, Geoff Ogilvy, K.J. Choi and Justin Rose were among the notables who missed the cut, which was 3 over. Robert Garrigus had the shot of the day. He aced No. 13 with an 8-iron from 164 yards. And he did it without much thought. I was joking around, trying to chuck stuff in the garbage, not really paying attention, get up, slap an 8-iron right at it and ended up going in, he said. It was kind of a shock. Eighteen balls found the water on the par-3 17th Friday, giving the famed hole a two-day total of 37.
 
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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.”