Notes: Park, Creamer disappointed in rough at Kraft

By Associated PressApril 2, 2014, 11:36 pm

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Defending champion Inbee Park and Singapore winner Paula Creamer were disappointed to see the short rough at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

''It's a shame it's not 5 inches,'' Creamer said. ''Definitely, you can hit a 5-iron out of the rough if you do hit it in there. The greens, I'm sure, will get faster as the weekend comes around. They're so green. I've never seen this golf course so green and lush.''

The rough is only 2-3 inches, taking away a big advantage for straight hitters.

''This golf course, I think, definitely needs more rough,'' Park said. ''It's a major. We're used to seeing narrow fairways on this golf course. I still feel there is a rough still, but it's not as long. Even if you're in the rough, you can go at the green. Last few years you couldn't go at the green. You just had to punch it out.

''Obviously, how I've been striking the ball, I really want it to be longer. ... It opens up a little bit more to the field. A lot more players can win now.''

In Singapore, Creamer made a breaking, downhill 75-foot eagle putt on the second extra hole to beat Azahara Munoz in the HSBC Women's Champions.

''I get to show my kids that one day,'' Creamer said. ''When they say, 'I'm not cool,' I can say, 'I did this, though.'''

The victory was her 10th on the tour and first since the 2010 U.S. Women's Open.


STUCK IN SECOND: Third-ranked Stacy Lewis has five runner-up finishes since winning the Women's British Open in August.

''I definitely would have liked some more wins, especially in the last six months or so, but I feel like I'm moving in the right direction,'' said Lewis, the 2011 Kraft Nabisco winner for the first of her eight LPGA Tour titles.

The Texan has finished in the top 10 in 15 of the last 16 tournaments she has completed. After her top-10 streak ended at 13 with a tie for 40th in Singapore, she tied for second two weeks ago in Phoenix and tied for sixth last week in Carlsbad.

''Last week, I didn't feel like I played my best golf, but I still had a chance going into Sunday,'' Lewis said. ''That's what I'm really proud of.''

She has been thinking about the Kraft Nabisco for months.

''Probably in December, as soon as the year is over,'' Lewis said. ''I work all offseason to get ready for the majors and to be peaking at the right time, to get ready for this week.''


ANNIKA MAJOR AWARD: The major champion who earns the most points in the five major championships will receive the Rolex Annika Major Award.

Annika Sorenstam won 10 major titles during her Hall of Fame career.

''Who better than Annika Sorenstam to represent the best in performances, at the biggest events,'' LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan said in announcing the award.

Points will be awarded to the top 10 at the five tournaments, with a victory worth 60 points, second 24, third 18, down to two for 10th.

Sorenstam was asked if she was responsible for requiring a player to win one the events to be eligible for the award.

''I had a little bit to do with that,'' Sorenstam said.

The winner will get $100,000 and a watch.


AMATEUR LINEUP: Nelly Korda, Bahamas winner Jessica Korda's 15-year-old sister, is one of nine amateurs in the field.

The younger Korda tied for 67th last summer in the U.S. Women's Open. Her father, former tennis star Petr Korda, is working as her caddie.

Korda is paired with Charley Hull, the 18-year-old English player who played in the Solheim Cup last year and won her first pro title last month in Morocco.

Korda is joined in the field by four other junior players - 15-year-old Angel Yin, 16-year-old Brooke Henderson, and 17-year-old Australians Minjee Lee and Su Hyun Oh.

Lee, ranked 110th in the world, will be part of Australia's four-player team in the International Crown in July at Caves Valley in Maryland.

Alabama's Emma Talley, the 2013 U.S. Women's Amateur champion, also is playing along with Southern California's Annie Park - the NCAA champion - and UCLA's Alison Lee and Clemson's Ashlan Ramsey. Stanford's Mariah Stackhouse turned down a spot because of a conflict with a college tournament.


TOP PAIRINGS: Defending champion Inbee Park will play alongside 2012 winner Sun Young Yoo the first two rounds.

They will open Thursday morning on the 10th tee, followed by the groups of Lydia Ko-Ai Miyazato, Stacy Lewis-Anna Nordqvist, Cristie Kerr-So Yeon Ryu, Jessica Korda-Brittany Lincicome, and Na Yeon Choi-Yani Tseng.

Karrie Webb is paired with Lizette Salas in an afternoon group that will start on No. 1. Other top afternoon pairings include Michelle Wie-Angela Stanford, Lexi Thompson-Azahara Munoiz, and Paula Creamer-Sandra Gal.


DIVOTS: Second-ranked Suzann Pettersen withdrew Tuesday because of an aggravated disk in her back. The Norwegian also withdrew last week before the Kia Classic. ... Hall of Famer Amy Alcott is making her 36th start in the tournament at age 58. She won in 1983, 1988 and 1991. In 1988, she became the first player to take the now-traditional victory leap into Poppie's Pond.

 

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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.”