Annika Needs a Rally - COPIED - COPIED

By Brian HewittNovember 21, 2008, 5:00 pm
2006 ADT ChampionshipWEST PALM BEACH, Fla. ' After 72 LPGA victories, 17 international wins, and a Hall of Fame career that included a stunning 59, Annika Sorenstams swan song in America has been reduced to 18 holes that more closely resemble the final round of Q-School.
 
And isnt that more than just a little incongruous?
 
Yes, folks, Annika Sorenstam, arguably the best female ever to swing a golf club, has to climb into the top 16 by end of business Friday at the ADT Championship or her competitive career, at least for now, is finished.
 
You cant really practice this format, Sorenstam said Thursday after carding a disappointing 2-over 74 that would have been even worse if she hadnt birdied two of her last five holes. I didnt perform today.
 
Which means she must perform much better Friday if she wants to advance in this unique format that pares the 32-player field to 16 after 36 holes. Sorenstam is currently tied for 23rd with two other players, six shots behind leader Katherine Hull.
 
Sorenstam is a four-time winner of this event, but not since the format changed drastically in 2006. The smart money at tricky Trump International late Thursday was guessing that a Friday 69 would get Sorenstam to the weekend.
 
But she will have to start putting better on The Donalds fast and tricky greens. Its been like this for the last six months, Annika said. But Im making zero putts. Neither of her two birdie efforts was longer than 10 feet. Suffering with Annika was a decidedly pro-Sorenstam gallery that included her father, Tom Sorenstam; her agent, Mark Steinberg; and her fianc, Mike McGee.
 
All 16 players who survive Friday will begin at level par Saturday. The ADT format then calls for a cut from 16 players to eight before Sundays virtual winner-take-all final round. And again, all eight players Sunday will start out even.
 
Very funny, yeah, really funny, said South Koreas Ji-Yai Shin when asked about the format. Shin is tied with In-Kyung Kim, one back of Hull.
 
The good news for Sorenstam, who has two more events outside the U.S. in 2008 before getting married Jan. 11, is that the winner will walk away with a cool million. Second place money drops all the way down to $100,000. Third place pays a measly $20,500.
 
Sorenstam did not look at a leaderboard all day and wouldnt learn until later that world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa, at 3 over, was in an even more precarious position than she was. Im going to need to work harder, Ochoa said.
 
Hull is an Australian who admits that length off the tee isnt her strength. But she strung together a pair of nine-hole 34s that added up to 68 and sole possession of the lead.
 
Like just about everybody else here who believes Sorenstam wont play in 2009 but will return to the LPGA, perhaps after starting a family, Hull had an opinion. I dont think shes retiring actually, Hull said. I think shes too much of a competitor to really walk away from the game.
 
Which is precisely why Thursdays 74, despite a ball-striking effort that produced 14 greens in regulation, was so frustrating for Sorenstam. I was trying to enjoy this, she said. But I have too much competitiveness in my blood.
 
Friday she needs a competitive score on her card. She will have to improve on the 33 putts she needed Thursday. If not, she will have missed the first of two cuts on her last event in this country for a long time.
 
And it will be like Q-School in that there will be a number she will need to get her into the final 16 ' or at least into a playoff that will get her into the final 16. If she doesnt equal or better that number, her year in this country will be over.
 
And wont that be more than just a little incongruous?
 
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    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.


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    “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.”

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    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.”


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    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.”

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    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.


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    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.”

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    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.”


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    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.”