Phil Looks to Add PGA to PLAYERS Title

By Associated PressAugust 7, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA ChampionshipTULSA, Okla. -- At times Tuesday, it was hard to tell if Phil Mickelson was a promoter for the PGA TOUR or a contender for the PGA Championship.
 
During his news conference in advance of the season's last major, Mickelson insisted he'd already won a major this year -- THE PLAYERS Championship -- and talked more than once about how excited he was for the FedExCup playoffs, which debut in two weeks.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson looks to win his second career PGA Championship (2005) (Getty Images).
Although that must make TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem happy, it's still hard know what 'Fans of Phil' who show up at steamy Southern Hills this week should expect from the injured star.
 
Mickelson conceded his left wrist is still less than 100 percent. But he said he has been cleared to practice and no longer needs to apply a substance on the wrist to numb the pain.
 
A player who used to prepare for some majors, like last year's U.S. Open at Winged Foot, over the span of weeks and months, now finds encouragement in being able to practice more over the last several days.
 
'I've been able to put more time in my game now in the last week or two than I have in the last three months,' Mickelson said. 'And so I'm really excited about getting back out and playing. I'm excited about the upcoming FedExCup Series, but especially excited about trying to play well here at Southern Hills.'
 
Southern Hills has been good to Lefty. He finished third at the PGA here in 1994 and tied for seventh at the 2001 U.S. Open.
 
But he wasn't injured then. His experiences so far this year when playing at less than 100 percent have been bad.
 
He hurt his wrist Memorial Day weekend, practicing for the U.S. Open. He missed the cut at Oakmont in June, at the AT&T National in July, then once more later in the month at the British. It marked the first time he'd missed three straight cuts on tour since 1995. A 46th-place finish last week at Bridgestone marks the only time he's cashed a check on the tour this summer.
 
In between all that, he hit a pair of awful drives on No. 18 in the Scottish Open -- once in regulation, then again in a playoff -- to give away a victory there. Besides that, he hasn't been competitive.
 
He thinks things are getting better for this week. Not all the way back, but better.
 
'I've been talking to the doctors. They think another two weeks, I should be 100 percent,' Mickelson said.
 
Two weeks, Mickelson reminds, is the start of the PGA TOUR's first foray into establishing a playoff-like system to bring more oomph to the end of the year.
 
The winner will get $10 million in deferred payments. Mickelson said he'd like to see something more dramatic, like a big brick of cash laid out on the 18th green, sort of like they do at the World Series of Poker.
 
'I think it would be cool,' he said. 'But it's just me. I don't know.'
 
Some might say all this talk about the playoffs seems premature with 'Glory's Last Shot' bearing down on what will turn out to be the toughest field in golf this season, with 97 of the top 100 in the world ranking.
 
For Mickelson, a win at the PGA Championship -- which is run by the PGA of America, not the PGA TOUR -- would make him one of only five players to record a major victory in four consecutive years. Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen are the others.
 
Of course, according to Mickelson, he should already be on that list.
 
'I'd love to double up and win two,' Mickelson said. 'But that's just -- we look at THE PLAYERS a little differently. That was one of the biggest events that I was gunning for.'
 
THE PLAYERS debate was once reserved for March, but now takes place in May. That's the event's new spot on the schedule, during which Finchem and the PGA TOUR trot out their biggest tournament, with a $9 million purse and another of the toughest fields in golf, and say that one should be considered a major, too.
 
Mickelson won THE PLAYERS this year, marking his second victory and fifth top-5 of the season and giving indications that his meltdown on the final hole of the U.S. Open at Winged Foot last year could really be behind him.
 
Shortly after that, though, he got hurt practicing out of the rough for the U.S. Open at Oakmont.
 
Nothing has been the same since.
 
The good news for Mickelson fans is he insists he'll be fully motivated even after this week is over. Often in the past, he has shut things down -- mentally, if not physically -- after the last shot at the PGA.
 
'I missed some tournaments in the middle of the year,' Mickelson said. 'I hadn't played to the level that I expect. My desire is much higher at this point in the year than it has been in past years. I am looking forward and wanting to play more competitive golf.'
 
How competitive will he be this week?
 
Seems like anybody's guess.
 
'I think going into the FedExCup, I should be 100 percent,' he said. 'But I feel close to 100 percent this week.'
 
If not, he'll always have THE PLAYERS.
 
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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.”


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    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.”