Travelers sets up well for first-time wins

By Associated PressJune 22, 2011, 8:27 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Bubba Watson won his first PGA Tour event at last year’s Travelers Championship, becoming the third golfer in five seasons to break through at the Connecticut event.

J.J. Henry, a Connecticut native, won in 2006 and Hunter Mahan took the first of his three career PGA Tour wins on the course in 2007.

Mahan said he doesn’t think that’s just coincidence. The tournament starting Thursday, a week after the U.S. Open, sets up well for more inexperienced golfers.

“This is an opportunity for a lot of young guys to play well, like me and J.J. and Bubba,” he said. “You’re going to make a lot of birdies out here. It’s not like an Augusta-type golf course where you have to learn it over time. You can come out here right off the get-go and play well.”

It also doesn’t hurt that the Travelers comes when many of the top players are home resting, and others aren’t mentally at the top of their game.

“There is such a buildup to (the Open) like no other tournament has, so the week after that you kind of get a bit flat in the middle of the week,” said Geoff Ogilvy, who will be playing the TPC River Highlands for the first time in 10 years. “You really want to be intense, but it’s hard.”

Watson acknowledged that gave him an advantage last year, when he came into Connecticut after missing the Open.

“I got here mad that I wasn’t in the Open and then I somehow won,” he said. “So yeah, that might have some effect on it that you’re energized and you’re ready to go and you’re mad that you weren’t in a major, so now you’re ready to go at the Travelers.”

Watson overcame a six-stroke deficit during the final round to force a playoff with Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank and won on the second playoff hole. Watson is hoping to become the first back-to-back champion in Connecticut since Phil Mickelson won in 2001 and 2002.

Since that victory, Watson has won twice more: at Torrey Pines in January, and at the Zurich Classic in April. He is second in the FedEx cup standings, and credits his recent success to the confidence that came with winning in Connecticut.

“It showed me that I can play the game of golf,” he said. “It showed me that by winning here I can play with the guys. I belonged out here, I guess. It just gave me confidence, going forward the rest of my career, no matter how long or how short.”

Mickelson isn’t here this year, nor is U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy or the injured Tiger Woods, who has never played in the tournament.

But tournament director Nathan Grube said the field includes Padraig Harrington, Zach Johnson, Anthony Kim and Rickie Fowler.

“There’s nothing like accomplishing a big goal, and that’s the goal of every PGA Tour player is to win, especially when you’re just coming out of college or the Nationwide Tour,” Mahan said. “There is no better feeling.”

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Spieth, Reed in different groups during Tuesday practice

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 12:38 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Tuesday’s U.S. groupings at the Ryder Cup may give a glimpse into what potential pairings we will see this week at Le Golf National.

In the day’s first foursome, Tiger Woods, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed played together. The second group included Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas; and the anchor group was Bubba Watson, Tony Finau, Brooks Koepka and Webb Simpson.

Whether those groups will make up captain Jim Furyk’s version of the team’s pods, however, remains to be seen. Given that half of his team has never played Le Golf National, Furyk said he tried to match players on Tuesday with those who had some experience on the course.


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“Today is really about trying to learn the golf course and hit some solid golf shots,” Furyk said. “There may be some pairings out there and there's some groups there isn't. Just want them concentrating on their own game right now. They are very aware of who they will be playing with this week and they are very aware of some of the options they have.”

Given the success of previous pairings and some relatively obvious choices, it seems there are some likely options for the U.S. Woods and DeChambeau have become regular practice-round partners and at the Tour Championship they experimented with the other player’s golf balls on Tuesday.

It also seems likely that Spieth-Thomas and Fowler-Johnson will be paired in some form this week.

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Le Golf National nothing like wide open Hazeltine

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 12:00 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The layout at Le Golf National has a distinctly European feel, and captain Thomas Bjorn hopes to keep it that way at the Ryder Cup.

Gone are the wide fairways and short rough of Hazeltine, where the Americans bombed and gouged their way to their first team victory in nearly a decade. This week players will encounter one of the tightest and most demanding tracks on the European Tour, where water lurks around nearly every corner.

“Well this is a tough golf course, to start with,” Bjorn said Tuesday. “I like the idea of a golf course that’s set up like a championship golf course. You’ve got to identify guys that are hitting the golf ball well. Identify guys that are playing good golf that week.”


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Unlike the other recent Ryder Cup host venues on this side of the Atlantic, Le Golf National is somewhat of a known entity in that it annually hosts the European Tour’s French Open. It’s a tournament that Ryder Cup rookies Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren have won each of the last two years, while teammates Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia both cracked the top 10 in June.

That should give the Europeans an advantage when it comes to familiarity, and Bjorn’s plans for course setup included a desire to ensure the experience factor for his players would still be relevant this week amid larger-than-normal grandstands.

“There’s guys on this team that have played a lot of French Opens. I don’t want them to show up and it’s a completely different golf course to what they are used to,” Bjorn said. “This is very similar to what it is normally.”

Despite the similarities in setup, there will still be plenty of adjustments for the American squad. Justin Thomas was the only U.S. player to make the trek for this year’s French Open, and captain Jim Furyk admitted that only six of his 12 players had seen the course at all prior to this week.

“We’re just trying to figure it out,” Furyk said. “Europe knows this golf course well. They have played the French Open here. We’re trying to figure out the setup and what they have in store for the week.”

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Bjorn '85 percent' done with Ryder Cup pairings

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 11:45 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Practice-round groups at the Ryder Cup typically give fans a sense of what to expect when the Day 1 pairings are announced on Thursday afternoon.

Though European captain Thomas Bjorn said that “not too much” should be gleaned from his groupings during the first official practice round on Tuesday, he also doesn’t want to waste valuable time as players get adjusted to Le Golf National and each other.

Here were the three practice groups for the Europeans:

  • Sergio Garcia, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose
  • Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Paul Casey and Thorbjorn Olesen
  • Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Ian Poulter and Tyrrell Hatton

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“You get some of the new guys out with somebody with a bit of experience so they can talk the way around," Bjorn said, "but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are pairing up together."

It's worth noting U.S. captain Jim Furyk made similar remarks, that each of his three groups had at least one player who had seen Le Golf National previously.

“I don’t feel like I’ve given away anything in what’s happening on the golf course today,” Bjorn said.  

Still, Bjorn said that he’s “80 or 85 percent” certain of the pairings he’d like to use this week.

“I’m pretty set in my mind,” he said.

Asked where he was in his own process, Furyk joked “86 percent” before saying that he has a “really good idea” of his plan for Day 1 fourballs and foursomes.

“I think coming in here we both were going to have a plan of exactly what we wanted to try to do,” Furyk said. “There’s always going to be a reaction to what you’re seeing on the golf course, what you’re feeling, options to branch off of, but I’ve got a really good idea of what I’d like to do for Day 1.”

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Six players named in the race for Tour Player of the Year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 11:26 am

The PGA Tour announced six nominees for the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award on Tuesday; although, to many, it won’t be a competition.

Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose and Justin Thomas have been nominated for the Jack Nicklaus Award.

DeChambeau won three times this season, including the first two playoff events; Johnson was also a three-time winner and had 12 top-10 finishes; Molinari had two victories, including The Open; Rose won the FedExCup, and Thomas had three victories. But if player reaction last week at the Tour Championship was any indication, they are all vying for second place behind Koepka.

Although Koepka only had two victories they were both majors, the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, after missing a good portion of the season with an injury.

The Tour also released the five nominees for the Rookie of the Year Award, although that race appears to be a foregone conclusion as well. Aaron Wise was the only member of the rookie class to advance to the Tour Championship and also won the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Voting for both awards ends on Oct. 1.