Four players tied after brutal day at Doral

By Doug FergusonMarch 7, 2014, 11:30 pm

DORAL, Fla. – The new Doral in raging wind looked a lot like an old U.S. Open on Friday.

Matt Kuchar played out of the rough to tap-in range for birdie on the 18th hole for a 2-over 74 that allowed him to join an exclusive group at the Cadillac Championship - one of only four survivors to par.

The Blue Monster gobbled up just about everyone else.

Dustin Johnson bogeyed three of his last six holes for a 74. Patrick Reed made only two birdies in his round of 75. Hunter Mahan atoned for a triple bogey with a short eagle putt for a round of 74. They joined Kuchar atop the leaderboard at 1-under 143.


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Only three players broke par in the second round. No one shot in the 60s. The average score was a fraction under 76.

''I don't think I've played in conditions this difficult in the U.S.,'' Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland said after a 71 that left him one shot behind. ''It's an Open Championship day. It's a real Friday afternoon at St. Andrews in 2010 before they called it. It was hard out there - really, really hard.''

Rory McIlroy (74), Francesco Molinari (75) and Jamie Donaldson of Wales (70) also were one behind at even-par 144.

Tiger Woods hit three balls in the water and scraped out a 73, thanks in part to a 90-foot birdie putt on the par-3 fourth hole. Phil Mickelson made back-to-back double bogeys, and then laid on his back along the bank of the fourth tee during a long wait. He got up, hit into the water and made another double bogey. Lefty shot 75.

Both were still in the mix, only six shots behind.

''It's a tough golf course as it is,'' Reed said. ''And with how hard the wind is blowing, it made it even tougher. Almost felt like we were playing at a major today.''

At times, it looked even worse.

Fist pumps were replaced by players stretching out their arm to take a penalty drop from the water - more than 100 balls in the water, which is everywhere on the course that Gil Hanse redesigned under the direction of new owner Donald Trump.

Trump described it as bold. It turned out to be brutal.

And just like a U.S. Open, there were plenty of complaints.

The greens were always going to be firm because the course was built in under a year. There was always going to be concern about the sharp edges of fairways and greens that sent balls down the bank and into the water. Throw in gusts that topped 30 mph, and any score was possible on any hole.

''The setup is horrendous,'' Webb Simpson said after a 78 that included a bunker shot that went onto and over the seventh green and into the water. ''Even if we had a 10 mph wind, it still would have been bad. I played terrible. I want to get that out there. But when you have conditions like this, and a setup like this, so much luck comes into play.''

Henrik Stenson prefaced his comments by saying, ''How do you say something you might regret the rest of your life?''

So he didn't.

Stenson, part of the Nos. 1-2-3 grouping from the world ranking, had a 76 and joined Woods at 5-over 149. Masters champion Adam Scott, the other member of that illustrious trio, had a 73 and was at 4-over 148. The group was a combined 14-over par for the tournament.

Stenson was walking off the 15th green Friday morning while finishing up the rain-delayed first round. Spotting a small group of reporters, he said, ''Are you having fun watching?'' And then as he walked away, he smiled and said, ''Because it's sure as hell not any fun to be playing.''

Johnson managed for the longest time. Even as everyone was succumbing to par, he was at 3 under with a birdie on No. 12. But he dropped a shot on the par-3 13th. His short iron into the 15th hit the green and rolled over the back and into the water. And on the 18th, his fairway bunker shot came out too strong and over the green, and he missed a 6-foot par putt that would have given him the outright lead.

The forecast is for less wind on the weekend, and surely a sigh of relief from the players.

And this World Golf Championship is wide open.

''We've all got a shot at it now,'' Woods said. ''No one is going anywhere.''

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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.”