Stephen Ames wins in playoff at Disney

By Associated PressNovember 15, 2009, 11:36 pm

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP)—Stephen Ames was munching on sliders and drinkinga few beers at his coach’s house Saturday night when he realized that he neededall the help he could get to make his final round of the year a special one.

So at the place where the entrance gates declare “Where Dreams Come True,”Ames figured he should give it a shot.

“I wished for 64,” Ames said, “and I got that 64.”

Ames won his second title in three years at the Children’s Miracle NetworkClassic on Sunday, edging George McNeill and Justin Leonard in a playoff tobecome the oldest winner in the tournament’s history.

The 45-year-old Ames was calm and cool on greens that were too slick formost of the field on a sun-baked day at Disney World. The Canadian finished withan 8-under 64 for the clubhouse lead, watching as McNeill (67) and Leonard (67)failed to pass him.

It was the first win of the year and fourth career victory for Ames,including The Players Championship in 2006. This time, he had a few extra peoplein the gallery.

Among those who followed him on the back nine was his 10-year-old son, Ryan,who provided a little extra motivation walking up to the 18th tee needing abirdie.

“He said, ‘Dad, you need to hole this,”’ Ames recalled. “I said, ‘Allright, I’ll try my best.’ It was a very casual round. It’s Mickey Mouse, comeon.”

Ames got some help.

Leonard rimmed out a 16-foot putt for the win in regulation, even beginningto pump his fist in celebration only to watch the ball spin away. He twice leftputts short when he was eliminated on the first playoff hole—also the 18th.

“To be this close and not be able to pull it out is disappointing,”Leonard said. “Obviously, I thought I made it by my reaction. I was surprisedit didn’t go in.”

Ames also caught another break.

After McNeill saved par on the first playoff hole despite landing his teeshot between the trees, he had a 6-foot putt on the 15th to force a thirdplayoff hole. McNeill struck the ball right on the line, but it trickled aroundthe edge and popped off to give Ames the win and the $828,000 first-place prize.

“It made a full 360,” McNeill said. “It went down in the hole, and thenit spit back out.”

There were other rallies that didn’t end up on the leaderboard.

Sunday was the last day for players to secure a tour card for next year.Only those who finished the year in the top 125 on the money list are guaranteedfull status. The next 25 will at least get conditional status and be able toenter more than a dozen tournaments.

For as much back and forth as there was throughout the week, in the end,there wasn’t a lot of movement.

Former world No. 1 David Duval already had lost his full status by missingthe cut. Robert Garrigus also missed the cut and was knocked out of full statusfor next year.

Jimmy Walker and Nicholas Thompson were the only two players to move insidethe top 125 after beginning the week outside. Walker finished at No. 125.

“It’s tough. You can’t do anything,” Walker said. “You just have to sitback and relax. Not relax, you can’t relax. But I did all I could do.”

There were plenty others who cut it close.

Rich Beem shot a 68 to finish at 10 under for the tournament. The 2002 PGAChampionship winner finished at No. 122 for the season.

He admitted the pressure to perform this weekend got to him in the first tworounds. He talked to his coach Friday night and said that helped him find hisswing.

“I must say it was about as odd as I’ve ever felt thinking about it. Inever expected myself to feel the way that I did,” Beem said. “When somebodytells you that you can’t do your job next year when you know you’re so close,that’s not such a good feeling.”

After turning in his scorecard, Beem stood behind the 18th green watching amonitor with the projected money list. His name flip-flopped twice, and he hadto walk away. He later walked into the media center to check theminute-by-minute standings.

“I’m sweating,” he said. “But things look good.”

Ames is going to have to rework his schedule now, too.

He wasn’t planning to try to play at the next year’s first event in Maui.That just happens to be the place the Ames family vacations every winter, andthey were planning to leave a few days before the tournament.

Looks like they’ll need a new itinerary.

“I always tell Gary Player golf always gets in the way,” Ames said. “Idon’t want to play golf. I want to sit on the beach and relax.”

Now he’ll get to do both.

Getty Images

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.


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“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.”

Getty Images

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.”


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


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.”

Getty Images

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.


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


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.”

Getty Images

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.”