Senior leads by one at Ensure Classic

By Associated PressOctober 2, 2010, 1:42 am

Champions Tour

CONOVER, N.C. – Peter Senior eagled the final hole for a 7-under 65 and a one-stroke lead over Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples and Tom Kite at the Ensure Classic on Friday.

The 51-year-old Australian eagled the 18th hole in windy conditions at the Rock Barn Golf and Spa to take his first lead on the Champions Tour.

“I played pretty good today,” Senior said. “It was a good ball-striking round, which I haven’t done the last four or five weeks.”

Despite the wind, which gusted up to 25 mph and frequently changed direction on the tree-lined, 7,090-yard course, Senior had an error-free round, making five birdies in addition to his eagle.

“I didn’t hole anything outrageous,” he said. “All my birdies on the front side were 3 feet or less, and my longest (putt) was within 6 feet.”

Senior has had three top-10 finishes in his first year on the tour, including a tie for second at the Regions Charity Classic on May 15, and was 16th in Charles Schwab Cup points entering the tournament. He became eligible for the 50-and-over circuit at last year’s qualifying tournament.

Senior said he has been struggling since tying for sixth in the U.S. Senior Open on Aug. 1, with his best finish over the last six events a tie for 11th at last week’s SAS Championship.

So the Aussie brought swing coach Gary Edwin to this weekend’s tournament.

“It’s amazing what a little tweaking here and there can do,” Senior said. “But I kind of surprised myself out there today. The most important thing in this game, especially when you’re trying to change something, is to go out and do something early in the round.”

Senior opened with a birdie on the par-4 first hole, then added birdies on Nos. 4, 7, 9 and 15 before his eagle on No. 18.

“You start to feel a little confident in what you’re doing, and it just went from there,” Senior said. “It was just a real positive thing for me to play as well as I did today.”

Langer is seeking his sixth victory of the season, and also holds a 672-point lead over Couples in the Schwab Cup standings. There are four events left after this weekend.

Langer and Kite also had error-free rounds, with each making six birdies and sharing the lead with Couples before Senior’s eagle at 18.

“All in all, it was a pretty good round considering how the wind was gusting around out there,” said Kite, whose last Champions Tour win came in 2008 at the Boeing Classic. “Anytime you have wind and trees, you’re going to have lots of different wind directions swirling around. It was definitely bouncing around a little bit out there, and it made club selection difficult.”

The players also had the option to lift, clean and place, a result of five straight days of rain that soaked the course. Along with the softened greens, that led more than half of the 78-player field to shoot below par.

“That’s why the scores were still pretty good,” Langer said. “We had the ball in our hands, and the greens are so soft that you could really fly it in there. Even if you missed the green, it was still easier to get up and down.”

Couples, however, had his troubles at times. He mixed in a pair of bogeys – on the ninth and 13th holes – with five birdies and an eagle on the par-5 seventh.

“The wind wasn’t easy or difficult, but it was a nuisance at times,” said Couples, a three-time winner this season who missed Thursday’s pro-am because of back problems. “My back’s not bad, but it’s achy. … I didn’t have any real bad spasms or anything, though.”

Fulton Allem, Dan Forsman, Nick Price, Hal Sutton and Gary Hallberg were another stroke off the lead. Two-time and defending tournament champion Jay Haas was three strokes behind. Haas, Don Pooley, Tommy Armour III and Bob Tway all shot 68 Friday.

Russ Cochran, who has won the last two Champions Tour events, struggled in his opening round, making just one birdie with two bogeys and a triple-bogey on the par-3 15th hole to finish at 4-over 76.

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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.”