Watneys amazing ride leads to the top

By Associated PressNovember 5, 2009, 6:52 pm

SHANGHAI (AP)—So much for that notion that American golfers don’t travel well.

The first World Golf Championship in Asia opened Thursday to a leaderboardfilled with Stars & Stripes, led by wide-eyed Nick Watney and his 8-under 64that tied the course record at the HSBC Champions and including, as always,Tiger Woods .

Watney got more excitement than he expected when he went to Shanghai’smetropolis in a cab that weaved through six lanes of cars on a three-lanehighway. He felt far more safe at Sheshan International Golf Club, where he keptit down the middle and close to the flag. Watney made an accidental eagle andran off four straight birdies while building a two-shot lead.

Tiger Woods of the United Stat…
AP - Nov 5, 6:20 am EST

“It was just one of those days where everything was feeling really good, soI wasn’t too jumpy,” Watney said.

Ryan Moore wasn’t about to pass up a trip to China when he qualified bywinning his first PGA Tour event in August. With a new equipment deal in place,he shot a 6-under 66 to join Shane Lowry of Ireland and Martin Kaymer ofGermany, who is second in the Race to Dubai and facing a big week at this $7million event.

Woods was the star attraction again, although it is was demanding as ever.

Standing composed over his opening tee shot, he flinched all the way throughhis swing and let the 3-wood drop at impact upon hearing the shutter of so manycameras, inside and outside the ropes.

“The guy in the grandstand basically did almost a photo sequence,” Woodssaid. The shot was so short, buried in deep rough right of the fairway, thatcaddie Steve Williams had to walk 40 yards to find the yardage on a sprinkler.

It was a frenzy for the opening hour, with marshals barking at the gallerynot to take pictures, and Thongchai Jaidee ’s caddie having to walk up to agrassy hill and escort one photographer to the side of the ropes so his playercould hit the shot.

Ultra sensitive when it comes to cameras, Woods handled this day better thanmost and chalked it up to a maturing golf crowd in China. More frustrating wasnot knowing where his ball was going throughout a gorgeous afternoon. Still,Woods took care of the par 5s and made enough putts to get around in 67.

“It wasn’t my best ball-striking round today for sure, but I made someputts, which was nice, and just managed my game well,” he said.

Woods was joined by Anthony Kim , who spent most of Tuesday in Hong Kongtrying to get his visa situation sorted out, Paul Casey and Lin Wen-tang ofTaiwan, giving some local flavor to Asia’s biggest tournament.

Casey had reason to be thrilled with his start, no matter how many shots hefeels as though he squandered. It was the first time he kept score over 18 holessince Sunday at Turnberry in the British Open. He had missed three months with arib injury, returning last week in the World Match Play Championship.

“I don’t quite have the power there yet,” Casey said. “But there is a wayto get around the golf course without having that power, and I’m doing it quitewell right now.”

Matt Kuchar and Pat Perez were among those at 68, while Phil Mickelson ,Jason Dufner and Brian Gay checked in at 69. Of the top 20 on the leaderboardthrough the opening round, nine were Americans.

There were concerns that Americans would stay away from this World GolfChampionship, being halfway around the world at the end of a busy year and notcounting as an official event on the PGA Tour.

Even so, 13 of them made the trip and all but two broke par. Jerry Kelly wassmiling at the way he ground out a 71 while using new grooves in his irons toget ready for next year.

“Got my first shank out of the way,” Kelly said with a laugh.

On the first of two trips to China this month, Watney made an immediateimpression.

He birdied his first two holes from inside 10 feet, then hit a hybrid wherehe wasn’t aiming on the par-5 14th. He was playing away from the flag—and thewater guarding the right side—pushed it slightly and was relieved to see itsettle 30 feet behind the hole. He made the putt for eagle and turned in 31,then fired off four straight birdies.

“The greens are so good that if you hit a putt on line, it’s definitelygoing to go in,” Watney said. “So I was putting very well. Just tried to givemyself as many chances as possible, and I was able to make a few.”

Watney also had a chance to win a WGC event at Doral, finishing second byone shot to Mickelson.

The 28-year-old American is making his first trip to Asia, though not hislast. Watney decided a few months ago to play the World Cup the week ofThanksgiving at Mission Hills near Hong Kong. He wanted to stick around for afew weeks in between, but decided instead to return home to Las Vegas to rest.

Watney, who won at Torrey Pines earlier in the year, is not overly excitedabout leading after one day, nor was he the least bit concerned when a Chinesereporter mentioned that Woods was moving up the leaderboard.

“If it was Saturday night, I don’t know how well I’d be sleeping,” Watneysaid with a grin. “But just for Friday, I’m in a great position. At the sametime, there’s a really long way to go. It’s always good to beat Tiger, andhopefully I can keep a little cushion between us.”

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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.”