Rhoden Leads Barkley Dead Last in Tahoe

By Associated PressJuly 14, 2007, 4:00 pm
STATELINE, Nev. -- After struggling in the U.S. Senior Open a week ago, Rick Rhoden was back in his element Saturday -- atop the leaderboard of the celebrity golf tournament he's won six times.
The former major league pitcher went birdie-birdie-eagle during one stretch on the way to a 5-under 67 worth 51 points in the modified Stableford scoring system at the 18th annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe.
Ex-NHL great Grant Fuhr was second with 48 points, followed by former quarterbacks Chris Chandler and Mark Rypien with 47 headed into Sunday's final round at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. The scoring system awards six points for eagle, three for birdie, one for par, zero for bogey and minus two for double bogey or worse.
Last week in his third U.S. Senior Open, the 54-year-old Rhoden shot 75-76 to miss the cut by three strokes at the links-style Whistling Straits and its 1,000-plus bunkers on the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin.
'That's the hardest course I've ever played, by far,' Rhoden said. 'I've played Oakmont and it's not even close.
'So I think visually, you show up here and it looks 10 times easier after playing there,' he said about the Edgewood layout with its lush, forgiving fairways winding through towering pines.
Rhoden was ineligible to play at Lake Tahoe last year because he qualified for conditional status on the PGA Champions Tour. He won the celebrity event in 1991-93-95-97-99 and 2003.
'Obviously, Rick's probably the best player out here. So he'll be a fun guy to chase,' said Fuhr, who had four birdies and two bogies on Saturday in a round of 71. 'You know Rick is not going to beat himself. That's something he's proved over the years.'
After parring the first hole Saturday, Rhoden played the next three holes 4-under par, hitting a 6 iron 185 yards to within 2 feet of the hole on the 536-yard, par-5 fifth. He also birdied the eighth and then parred every hole on the back.
'I feel a lot better leaving today than I did yesterday, that's for sure,' said Rhoden, who shot a 72 on Friday and started the day four points behind first-round leader Billy Joe Tolliver.
Tolliver, another ex-quarterback, has won the tournament twice. He shot 70 and tallied 28 points Friday, but had only 15 points on a round of 76 Saturday for a two-day total of 41.
Defending champ Jack Wagner had 42 points and Dan Quinn, a four-time celebrity champ, had 36. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, making his tourney debut, shot 68 Saturday for a two-day total of 40 points.
Rypien, playing in the same group with Rhoden, trailed him by 10 points at the turn on Saturday, but had three birdies on the back to finish with a 67 and pull within four points of the leader.
'It's nice to be around the leaderboard again,' said Rypien, who won the inaugural event in 1990. 'I've had 10 birdies in two days and I think that's more than I've had in three years.
'Rick was going to run away with this thing and he was gracious enough to par everything coming home. ... It's not a good sign when he says he's feeling good.'
While Rhoden was getting down to business, many of the competitors signed programs, shirts and hats between holes. Carson Palmer threw a football he, Romo and Jerry Rice had autographed to a man on a boat anchored just off the par 3, 17th. Earlier, Rice threw his hat down in mock disgust when an announcer introduced him not as a future hall of famer but a star of 'Dancing With the Stars.'
Charles Barkley, in last place with minus 63 points, had to take a two-stroke penalty on his first hole when he whiffed a shot in the fairway. His next shot hit a tree and his drive on the next hole hooked into the gallery, narrowly missing the spectators.
Ray Romano, the Emmy Award winning star of the long-running sitcom 'Everybody Loves Raymond,' did manage to hit a young man when his shot went wide of the par-5 16th skipped off a cart path.
'Are you all right?' he asked the victim. 'I'm unemployed now, so there's no money.'
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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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.”