Sindelar Thrilled at Turning 50

By Associated PressJuly 3, 2008, 4:00 pm
Champions TourENDICOTT, New York -- Birthdays dont seem to phase Joey Sindelar, even the big ones. He was so excited about turning 50 he was gushing about it long before the fact.
The prospect of playing the Champions Tour can have that effect on newcomers to pro golfs senior circuit.
It was probably less stressful because in our world that means you get to be a rookie again, said Sindelar, who celebrated his 50th on March 30. So, there was all kinds of positive impact to go along with a potentially not-so-positive milestone. I probably looked forward to it more than most people.
Sindelar also is looking forward with great anticipation to Friday, when the Dicks Sporting Goods Open begins at En-Joie Golf Club. Sindelar, who won the B.C. Open in 1985 and 1987 on the course before the tournament was eliminated from the PGA TOUR, tees off in mid-morning in a threesome with Andy Bean and defending champion R.W. Eaks.
Youre going to look at two guys who can really play, Sindelar said. I think the folks will be surprised at the level of play. R.W. shot 17 under last year. Thats pretty amazing.
Eaks beat Bruce Vaughan by three shots for his first Champions Tour triumph by making three eagles and 15 birdies, shooting 8 under on both the par 5s and par 4s.
This tour is amazing for those of us who are eligible, said Sindelar, who has won just over $380,000 in his inaugural season. As a pro golfer, unless youve got some kind of hangup or desire to be on the biggest stage in the world'the regular PGA TOUR'this has to be the best job in the world. The guys put it in the hole like you cannot believe.
Including Sindelar, who has three top-5s in eight starts, including a tie for third in the Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill in May. His new life didnt start out so well, though'he shot 75, 76, 71 to finish in a tie for 61st in his first event, the Cap Cana Championship.
My first two weeks I was not able to get a handle on it, said Sindelar, a seven-time winner on the PGA TOUR. It was a very funny thing. Clearly, in hindsight, I had been staring at that opportunity for way too long. I had been talking about it for several years with my friends, family, anybody who knew me from golf. Youre going to be 50, its going to be great. Youre going to do this, youre going to do that.
I got out there and I was shook. I was very, very nervous those first two weeks. Its funny, non-tour friends of mine found that hard to believe, that I had played competitively my whole life and that I would be whacked-out going on to this new place. That just goes to show you the power of the brain. It became way too important.
The B.C. Open was staged at En-Joie from 1971-2005, when flooding from the Susquehanna River forced the finale of the event to be moved to Turning Stone Resort about 90 miles northeast. Sindelar, who grew up and still lives in Horseheads, hadnt played En-Joie in three years prior to this week and was stunned when he returned.
Its shocking how much improvement theyve made, he said. And thats not compared to last year or the flood years. Thats compared to any of my last 20 years out there. Dicks (Sporting Goods) made a commitment and it shows.
Ironically, the B.C. Open managed to survive for so long without ever having a title sponsor. Its future was placed in doubt when the PGA TOUR moved it opposite the British Open beginning in 2000, which assured it would be dominated by players at the lower reaches of the money list or from the minor leagues of professional golf.
The quaint, small-town feel of the tournament was an anomaly on a circuit dominated by big-money corporate sponsors and network television contracts. Named after the cartoon strip, the event struggled financially in one of the tours smallest markets.
Still, it managed to survive more than three decades and raised more than $8 million for local charities before finally becoming a victim to the major modifications to the tour schedule that began in 2007.
Sindelar likes what has transpired since, especially since Dicks, which was founded in nearby Binghamton, has become that long-sought-after benefactor. The purse this week is $1.6 million, with $240,000 going to the winner.
I just always felt this Champions event might be a better fit, Sindelar said. I just think this is a perfect place for them. I just hope the future is bright.
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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.”