Piller leads suspended Volunteers of America Texas Shootout

By Associated PressApril 29, 2016, 11:50 pm

IRVING, Texas - Gerina Piller made herself right at home Friday in the LPGA Tour's Volunteers of America Texas Shootout, shooting a 6-under 65 to take the lead in the suspended second round.

The long-hitting U.S. Solheim Cup player lives in Plano, about 20 miles from Las Colinas Country Club. She birdied three of the final five holes in her bogey-free round to reach 10-under 132.

''I don't get to have my family out a lot, so having them out definitely takes my mind off of it because I just love spending time with them,'' Piller said. ''But it's hard to get in your tournament routine when you go back home and you might have laundry to do or dishes to put away, something that you don't normally do on the road. Tuesday trash day. So you've kind of got to remind yourself that it's a tournament and just stick to your routine.''

Play was suspended because of rain just after 4 p.m. and called for the day because of lightning a little after 6 p.m. None of the afternoon starters were unable to finish. The field will be cut to the low 70 and ties after the completion of the round Saturday morning, then trimmed again to the low 50 and ties after the third round.

Winless on the LPGA Tour, Piller tied for third last week in California in the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic for her third straight top-six finish. She hit her approach to 2 feet on the par-5 18th to set up her final birdie.

''The course is actually in soft conditions so that always helps to get the ball to stop,'' Piller said. ''These greens are pretty tricky. So getting it close is definitely huge out here because the greens, some of them are pretty big, and some of the breaks you can get pretty fast putts going downhill down grain, and you can also get really slow putts going the opposite way. It definitely helps to be hitting it really well.''

She's married to Martin Piller, the PGA Tour player who tied for fourth last week in San Antonio in the Texas Open. They crossed paths early Monday at the airport.

''It's always fun to see him and just makes those times that we have together much sweeter,'' Piller said. ''We definitely don't take our time that we spend together for granted. I'll see him probably in two weeks, so it was nice to be able to see him for at least a couple hours.

South Korea's Eun-Hee Ji was a stroke back at 9 under after a 66.

''I feel pretty good with my swing,'' Ji said. ''That's why I made a lot of putts because so close to the pin. I just keep working on my swing.''

First-round leader Mi Jung Hur was 8 under with six holes left. The South Korean player lives in the area in McKinney.

Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn was 7 under after a 66, and South Korea's Amy Yang was 6 under with seven holes left.

Fifth-ranked Brooke Henderson topped the group at 5 under after a 68. The 18-year-old Canadian has eight straight top-10 finishes.

''It was a little bit softer after the rain last night and the greens were holding and you were able to be aggressive,'' Henderson said. ''I didn't really take advantage as much as I would have liked, but 3 under is a solid round. I'll have to be better on the weekend.''

Cheyenne Knight, a 19-year-old University of Alabama freshman from nearby Aledo, and South Korea's Sei Young Kim also were 5 under. Knight, one of four amateurs who earned spots in the field March 16, had four holes left. Kim had seven holes remaining.

Fourth-ranked Stacy Lewis was a stroke over the cut line at 2 over with seven holes left. The 2014 winner in her home-state event, Lewis is winless in 47 events.

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson was 4 over with eight holes to play.

Michelle Wie will miss the cut after following her opening 76 with a 72. Last week, she withdrew during the final round of the Swinging Skirts because of neck spasms. She's winless since the 2014 U.S. Women's Open and hasn't had a top-10 finish in 34 events.

Second-ranked Inbee Park, the 2013 and 2015 champion, is sidelined by a left thumb injury.

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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.”