Woods Falls Victim to Back Nine Miscues

By Associated PressApril 13, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- If the millions watching from their living room couches werent paying close attention Sunday, they might have thought this was quite a Masters.
 
Trevor Immelman made a hole-in-one. Tiger Woods chipped one from nowhere and the ball hung on the edge of the hole before dropping.
 
Great shots were breaking out all over the back nine, and with each one the roars seemed only to get louder.
 
Unfortunately, none was from this year.
 
Hard to blame CBS for showing highlights of previous Masters even while this one was going on. A senior bowling tournament would have been more interesting than this snoozefest.
 
By the time Immelman gagged his way in, almost everyone else had already gagged and gone home. He didnt so much win this green jacket as inherit it, and even the great Woods wasnt able to do anything about it.
 
Listen to the hushed tones of those who worship in the cathedral of golf that is Augusta National, and theyll tell you the Masters doesnt begin until the back nine on Sunday. On this Sunday, they might as well have saved us all the trouble and given Immelman the green jacket just for making it through the front nine without making too much of a mess of himself.
 
Zach Johnson may not have been the most exciting player ever to win the Masters, but at least he won it with a flurry of birdies on the back nine when it counted most. All well remember Immelman for is hooking his tee shot into the water on the par-3 16th when he had a five-shot lead he seemed destined to blow.
 
Turns out the new Masters champion could have put another Nike ball in the pond and still survived. No one else seemed to want this green jacket.
 
The three players right behind Immelman as the day started made their combined way around the course in a staggering 18-over-par. The greatest player ever couldnt even break par.
 
This wasnt so much a major championship as a NASCAR race, complete with wrecks scattered everywhere. Immelman emerged the three-stroke winner with a fat final round of 75 only because he was in the final group where it was easier to take a caution lap.
 
Woods managed a forced laugh afterward, but Brandt Snedeker took it personally. The aw-shucks kid with the Opie Taylor looks stood, head in hand, crying his heart out after the biggest day of his young career went bad.
 
I was laughing outside, Snedeker said. Im crying in here.
 
The only surprise was that more players werent crying under the pressure of trying to play perhaps the greatest course in the world in the final round of the Masters. Their job was made even worse by swirling winds that left even Woods guessing at yardages most of the time.
 
The green jackets who run the Masters wanted nothing more than a back nine filled with the kind of shots CBS kept showing from previous years, but even they didnt have the power to control Mother Nature. They tried to compensate by moving tees up and sticking pins in inviting spots, but a course already playing slick and fast turned into a monster that even the best players in the world had no clue how to tame.
 
Steve Flesch was doing better than most, cruising along only two shots from the lead at even par for the day when his 8-iron didnt even come close to clearing the water on the treacherous par-3 12th. On a course where eagles and birdies are usually available coming in, he played the last six holes a whopping 6-over-par.
 
There were similar tales of woe everywhere. Snedeker made only six pars all day on his way to a 77, while Paul Casey barely broke 80 after starting the day just four shots back. A day after the 45 weekend survivors made their way around the course in a combined 26-over-par, they were 120 over in the final round.
 
Its kind of like trying to breathe air at the top of Mount Everest; theres just not a whole lot of options left over, Stewart Cink said. Youve got a lot of lungs pounding in and out.
 
Even Woods seemed baffled by it all, just as he had been all week. Woods might have been the only player at Augusta National who wanted the wind to blow, but when it, did he couldnt take advantage of it. And, of all the majors that got away, this one may be the one he remembers most because it was there for the taking among a group of pretenders who hadnt been there before.
 
The enduring image of Woods at this Masters wont be one of him pumping his fist after making a 70-footer for birdie on No. 11, but hitting a shot from around a tree two holes later. The only thing his birdie putt on the final hole did was give him undisputed second place and the satisfaction of matching par 72 on a day when par seemed much higher.
 
The green jackets had to be horrified by it all, even more than they were a year earlier when they were criticized for making the course too tough for any fun to break out on the final day. Excitement usually reigns on the back nine, but the final six players could only manage seven birdies.
 
Almost fittingly, the day ended with the storied course taking one final insult. The wind was one thing, but the sight of Immelmans tee shot on the 18th hole sitting in a nasty divot on the otherwise perfectly manicured fairway is one that will haunt the people who run the Masters for the next year.
 
Their only consolation is that not many people were still watching.
 
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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.”