Tiger Comes Up Short in Bid for Three-Peat

By Associated PressJuly 22, 2007, 4:00 pm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- As he strolled down the 18th fairway on the final day of the British Open, Tiger Woods doffed his hat to the cheering crowd and flashed that world-famous smile.
 
He was just going through the motions. The claret jug wasn't waiting for him this time.
 
Woods' attempt to become the first golfer in more than a half-century to win three straight Open championships ended quietly Sunday, without providing even the glimmer of a rousing comeback.
 
He teed off trailing third-round leader Sergio Garcia by a daunting eight strokes, and he knew by the turn it was over. Woods needed to go low -- real low -- but he could only manage a 1-over-par 70.
 
'It would have been nice if I would have just hit the ball a little better and given myself a chance,' he moaned.
 
As it turned out, Woods was a mere afterthought on a wild, final day.
 
This Open was about Garcia, missing a 10-footer at the 72nd hole that would have given him his first major title. This one was about Padraig Harrington, beating Garcia in a playoff after knocking not one, but two shots into the Barry Burn on the last hole of regulation.
 
Woods opened with a solid 69, which gave hope to a repeat of his performances at St. Andrews and Royal Liverpool the last two years. Instead, he slumped to a 74 in the second round after one of the worst shots of his career -- a play-it-safe iron off the tee at the very first hole, yanked into the same pesky burn that meanders through much of the course.
 
While Woods did bounce back to break par in both weekend rounds, his iron play simply wasn't strong enough to give him a realistic chance at rallying. He often found himself far away from the cup on Carnoustie's tricky greens, leaving him more concerned with avoiding three putts than making one putt.
 
He did sink a couple of improbable birdies earlier in the tournament, one from 90 feet, the other finding the cup from 100 feet away. But no one, not even the world's greatest player, can expect those kinds of putts to drop on a regular basis.
 
Woods wound up tied for 12th, five shots back with a 2-under 282 total.
 
'I wasn't hitting the ball as close as I needed to all week,' Woods said. 'I was putting beautifully. If I hit the ball in birdie range, I made them. I just didn't hit the ball close enough.'
 
On Sunday, Woods made back-to-back birdies before heading to the par-5, 578-yard sixth -- one of the easiest holes on the course -- with a chance to shave another stroke off his score.
 
A third straight birdie certainly would have sent a shudder through those up ahead, and Woods might have given himself a better shot at one if he had pulled the driver out of the bag.
 
But, considering the wind blowing in his face and the out-of-bounds line hugging the left side of the fairway, he judged the risk greater than the potential reward. It was the sort of calculated decision that has worked so well for him in winning 12 major titles, all of them as a front-runner on the final day. He wasn't about to take some wacky gamble to prove that he could win one coming from behind.
 
He went with an iron.
 
'I couldn't get there in two,' Woods explained. 'If the wind had laid down a little bit, I could have gotten there in two. But the way it was blowing, I would actually struggle to carry the bunkers. It would have been driver, driver and maybe. I figured just play smart and there's plenty of holes left.'
 
Woods ended up settling for par at No. 6. He took a bogey two holes later. There would be no comeback at this major, either.
 
'If I could have gotten one or two more (birdies) by the turn and added a few on the back nine, it would have been an ideal round,' Woods said. 'It didn't turn out that way.'
 
He struck a magnificent approach shot on the difficult closing hole, but his birdie attempt spun around the lip of the cup. Woods rubbed the bridge of his nose, stared back out toward the fairway, then tapped in for a par that seemed to epitomize his week.
 
He's 0-for-the-majors this year, having finished as the runner-up at the Masters and the U.S. Open. He'll head to the PGA Championship in Oklahoma next month with one last chance to avoid his first shutout in the four biggest tournaments since 2004.
 
Until then, there are two people back home in Florida who might make this loss easier to take -- his wife, Elin, and their daughter, Sam, born right after a runner-up finish at Oakmont last month.
 
'It's hard to believe you can miss something so bad only being gone a week,' Wood said. 'But I certainly do miss them. I'm looking forward to seeing them.'
 
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    Twice winner Kizzire on missing U.S. Open: 'Fuel to my fire'

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:59 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Based on recent form, there likely wasn’t a more decorated player watching last week’s U.S. Open from home than Patton Kizzire.

    Kizzire is in the midst of a breakthrough season that has already included two wins: a maiden victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November, and a marathon playoff triumph over James Hahn at the Sony Open in January. While those titles got him into the Masters and the PGA Championship, they didn’t mean an exemption to Shinnecock Hills.

    Kizzire got as high as 51st in the world rankings after his win in Honolulu, but his game started to turn shortly thereafter. A T-12 finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship is his lone top-25 finish in 12 starts since his Sony victory, and he missed four straight cuts from the Masters to The Players Championship.


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    The U.S. Open grants exemptions to the top 60 in the world at two different cutoff points close to the tournament. But in the midst of a cold streak, Kizzire was 63rd and 65th at each of those deadlines. He attempted to earn a spot at sectional qualifying in Columbus, only to find that his score of 5 under was one shot too many.

    “I guess just adding a little fuel to my fire, adding insult to injury,” Kizzire said. “Just to have narrowly missed several different ways of qualification was disappointing. But I just tried to spin it as a positive. I got two weeks off, and I did watch those guys struggle a little bit. I wasn’t struggling at home, we’ll just say that.”

    Kizzire hopes to put the disappointment behind him this week at the Travelers Championship, where he finished T-53 a year ago. And while his pair of trophies didn’t get him a tee time last week – or guarantee him a berth in The Open next month – they put him in prime position to make the season-ending Tour Championship, which would mean spots in the first three majors of 2019.

    The combination of two recent wins and a ranking outside the top 60 isn’t one that comes up often on Tour, but Kizzire maintains a balanced perspective as he looks to get back to playing the kind of golf that will ensure he doesn’t miss any more majors in the near future.

    “If I would have played better in between the U.S. Open and my last win, I would have gotten in. So my play was the reason I wasn’t in,” Kizzire said. “You certainly could look at it and say, ‘This guy’s got two wins, he should be in.’ But I’m not making too much of it.”

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    Masters, Players and U.S. Open champs grouped at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:50 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Fresh off a second straight U.S. Open victory, Brooks Koepka is getting right back to work at the Travelers Championship.

    Koepka has stood by his commitment to tee it up at TPC River Highlands, becoming the first U.S. Open champ to play the following week on the PGA Tour since Justin Rose played the Travelers after his 2013 win at Merion. Koepka will play the first two rounds alongside Masters champ Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, who captured The Players Championship last month.

    Here’s a look at some of the other marquee, early-round groupings for a star-studded field outside Hartford (all times ET):

    7:50 a.m. Thursday, 12:50 p.m. Friday: Jason Day, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger

    Day is making his second straight Travelers appearance, having missed the cut both last year in Cromwell and last week at Shinnecock Hills. He’ll be joined by reigning Rookie of the Year Schauffele and Berger, who took home ROY honors in 2015 and last year was on the losing end of Jordan Spieth’s playoff dramatics at this event.


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    8 a.m. Thursday, 1 p.m. Friday: Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson

    Koepka is making his third tournament appearance overall, but his first since a T-9 finish in 2016, before he had either of his two U.S. Open trophies. Reed has become a regular at this event and enters off a fourth-place showing on Long Island, while Simpson cruised to victory last month at TPC Sawgrass and tied for 10th last week.


    12:50 p.m. Thursday, 7:50 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Russell Knox

    This was the tournament that turned things around last year for Spieth, who took home the title in his debut thanks to one of the most dramatic shots of the year in a playoff against Berger. He’ll start his title defense alongside a pair of past champs, as Leishman won here for his first Tour title back in 2012 and Knox was a winner two years ago when the tournament was played in August.


    1 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. Friday: Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

    This group should get plenty of attention in the early rounds, with Thomas entering as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 and joined a pair of players who will launch drives all across TPC River Highlands. Watson has feasted on this layout, winning in both 2010 and 2015 among five top-10 finishes, while McIlroy tied for 17th last year in his tournament debut but missed the cut last week at Shinnecock.

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    Travelers Championship: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2018, 5:30 pm

    There will be plenty of star power this week in Hartford as the PGA Tour moves north for the Travelers Championship. Here is the key info for this week's event.

    How to watch:

    Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


    Purse: $7 million

    Course: TPC River Highlands (par 70, 6,841 yards)

    Defending champion: Jordan Spieth. Defeated Daniel Berger with a birdie on the first playoff hole.


    Notables in the field

    Jordan Spieth

    • Missed last two cuts (the Memorial, U.S. Open) entering this week

    • 188th on PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting (4th in strokes gained: tee to green)

    • Only player to win Travelers Championship back-to-back: Phil Mickelson (2001-02)


    Brooks Koepka

    • Making third career start in Travelers Championship (last start: T-9 in 2016)

    • First player to play Travelers week after U.S. Open win since 2013 (Justin Rose)

    • First player to win U.S. Open back-to-back since 1988-89 (Curtis Strange)


    Justin Thomas

    • Fifth career start in this event (MC, T-3, MC last three years)

    • Second on PGA Tour this season in strokes gained: tee to green (+1.49)


    Rory McIlroy

    • Second career start in Travelers Championship (T-17 last year)

    • Missed cut last week at U.S. Open (shot 80 in opening round)


    Jason Day

    • Fourth career start in Travelers Championship (best finish: T-18 in 2014)

    • Leads PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting this season


    Patrick Reed

    • Earned second-most world ranking points of any player in 2018

    • Finished fourth at U.S. Open last week (three shots behind Koepka)

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    Day 'disappointed' in USGA's handling of course, Phil

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:16 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Jason Day had the weekend off following a missed cut at the U.S. Open, but that didn’t prevent the Aussie from keeping an eye on all the drama that unfolded at Shinnecock Hills.

    The former world No. 1 found it “disappointing,” – with “it” being both the deterioration of a major championship setup and the fallout from Phil Mickelson’s putter slap during the third round.

    Day is hoping to bounce back from an early exit at this week’s Travelers Championship, but before turning his attention to TPC River Highlands he shared that the brunt of his disappointment stemmed from the USGA’s inability to keep Shinnecock playable during the third round and their subsequent decision to water it down for the tournament’s conclusion.

    “It’s more the course, about how they set it up. Because Saturday was a total, it was like two different golf courses, practically, on the greens Saturday versus Sunday,” Day said. “I just wish they would leave it alone and just let it go. Not saying to let the greens go and let them dry out and make it unfair, I’m just saying plan accordingly and hopefully whatever the score finishes, it finishes, whether it’s under par or over par.”


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    But Day’s frustration also tied back to Mickelson’s head-turning decision to hit a moving ball on the 13th green during the third round, and the USGA’s subsequent ruling that the actions merited a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.

    “It’s obviously disappointing to see what Phil did,” he said. “I think a lot of people have mixed reviews about what he did.”

    USGA officials explained over the weekend that Mickelson’s actions explicitly fell under Rule 14-5, which called for a two-shot addition and turned his score of 8 into a 10, rather than Rule 1-2 or Rule 33-7 that could have resulted in disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules.

    Day felt it was unfortunate that all of Saturday’s drama deflected attention from a world-class performance from Brooks Koepka en route to a successful title defense, but when it comes to the handling of the Mickelson controversy he believes the USGA could have made good use of a mulligan.

    “It’s just unfortunate that it happened at the USGA’s tournament, where they enforce the rules, like the R&A. And I think they may have, they probably should have enforced a different outcome for Phil,” Day said. “But it is what it is. It’s done. It’s just disappointing that that is overshadowing the winner of the whole week. I think if they had it back again, they may have chosen a different outcome.”