Notes: Clark gave passionate plea at Tour meeting

By Doug FergusonJanuary 29, 2013, 9:39 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tim Clark would have been easy to miss among dozens of PGA Tour players who poured out of a hotel ballroom after a two-hour meeting on the proposed ban of the stroke used for long putters – except he was the only guy with a suitcase.

Clark didn't bring golf clubs to Torrey Pines, only an overnight bag. He didn't play in the tournament, but he paid his way to San Diego just so he could be at the mandatory players meeting, the one Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson did not attend. The special guest was U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis, invited to explain the proposed rule on anchoring and to take any questions.

Clark wanted to be heard.

''I didn't realize until that night he wasn't in the field,'' Lucas Glover said. ''I thought it was very courageous of him to do what he did. He flew here. He spent his own money to get here and back for something he cares about. My opinion on it doesn't matter. He spoke his mind in a respectful way. He did not lash out. He asked honest questions and stated honest opinions. And I was proud of him. The way he handled himself was brilliant.''

No one has more to lose over this ban than Clark.

He has a genetic condition that keeps him from turning his forearms and wrists inward. Clark has anchored the long putter to his chest for about as long as anyone has seen him play. Despite the physical limitations – Clark has never ranked higher than 140th in driving distance - he has won The Players Championship, Australian Open, Scottish Open and twice the South African Open.

Based on several accounts of those in the room, Clark spoke with dignity and integrity.

''I think what he did to fly in for the meeting showed a lot,'' Keegan Bradley said. ''He's got something he wants to stand up for, and that's something I admire. He presented some nice points. When he talks, people listen.''

Exactly what Clark said remains private, another show of respect by his peers.

Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem is headed back to San Diego this week to meet with the USGA before its annual meeting. Finchem said the Tour's objective had always been to follow the lead of the USGA and R&A for rules. He also said there might be a place for two sets of rules in golf, though perhaps not in the case of anchored strokes.

Geoff Ogilvy felt the majority of players who don't use an anchored stroke are ambivalent about the proposed rule and that ''the passion is coming from 5 percent.''

He was impressed with Clark, especially with how prepared he was.

''He's been researching this the whole offseason,'' Ogilvy said. ''He basically put his position out there and probably positions that Mike hadn't thought about or didn't acknowledge as importantly as Tim saw them.

''What Tim did achieve ... whether he had any effect on the USGA position, a big portion of the ambivalent people were on Tim's side when they walked out of the room.''


BACK TO THE ROCK: Geoff Ogilvy went from one home to another in consecutive weeks on Tour.

Ogilvy has been living in Del Mar, Calif., about 5 miles down the coastal highway from Torrey Pines for the last couple of years. But he felt something was missing from his game. That turned out to be Whisper Rock Golf Club, where he gets plenty of competition from Tour players.

Ogilvy moved his wife and three children back to Scottsdale, Ariz., last summer before 6-year-old Phoebe started school.

''I played well last year without getting anything out of it. The scoring was bad relative to how I was playing,'' he said. ''If I had played like that five years ago, I would have been in the top five on the money list. That's how I felt, anyway.''

The tale of two cities came down to the golf he played away from the Tour.

''I used to play golf all the time with really good players,'' he said. ''All I've done over here is range sessions and putting. That got better, but the scoring got worse. And at the end of the day, it's about scoring.''

Ogilvy is keeping his house in Del Mar and will spend his summers there, when the Pacific summer is more enjoyable than the desert.

''Whisper Rock is a special place,'' he said. ''This is less about Arizona and more about Whisper Rock. It was a hard decision because we love it over here so much. But as soon as we got back, I realized it was the right thing. I get up in the morning, take the kids to school and go to the golf course.''


SOUTHERN HILLS: Southern Hills has not given up on its hopes of hosting a fourth U.S. Open.

It hosted the U.S. Amateur in 2009 and had been working to bring the U.S. Open to Tulsa, Okla., in the next available date. The club was disappointed to learn that the 2020 U.S. Open instead was going to Winged Foot.

''We knew it was coming down to us and Winged Foot,'' Southern Hills general manager Nick Sidorkis told Golf Oklahoma. ''They are two great courses with great tradition. Obviously, Tulsa is not the same as New York when it comes to corporate hospitality potential, but we know that we can hold a successful championship.''

Southern Hills hosted seven majors – three U.S. Opens, most recently in 2001 won by Retief Goosen, and three PGA Championships, the last one in 2007 won by Woods. Sidorkis said it would not pursue other big tournaments until the USGA told the club it is not interested and that hasn't happened.

''Our endeavor is we want to host the national championship. We're going to continue until they tell us otherwise,'' he said.


FOG MULLIGAN: When fog wiped out Saturday's round at Torrey Pines, the 87 players who made the cut played straight through the next two days to try to get in 72 holes. There wasn't time to make a 54-hole cut to the top 70 and ties, ordinarily the case when more than 78 players make it to the weekend.

That's worth keeping in mind later in the year.

Had there been a 54-hole cut, 10 players would have been eliminated after the third round and given one FedEx Cup point. Given the extra round, James Driscoll shot a 68 and Hank Kuehne had a 70. They received 16 points. Doug LaBelle shot 71 and received eight points.

It might not seem like much now, but keep in mind that Jhonattan Vegas missed out on the playoffs by two points and that Kyle Stanley was seven points short of qualifying for the Tour Championship.


DIVOTS: Lee Trevino is this year's recipient of the PGA Distinguished Service Award. He will receive the highest honor from the PGA of America at the PGA Championship on Aug. 7 at Oak Hill, where Trevino won the 1968 U.S. Open. ... No one was more irritated by CBS Sports wanting the late start to the Monday finish at Torrey Pines than Ben Curtis. He is playing the Dubai Desert Classic this week, and the late start meant getting into the Dubai on Wednesday morning for the pro-am, instead of Tuesday night. ... Woods has more than half of his 75 Tour victories in three states – 14 in California, 13 in Florida and 12 in Ohio. ... And then there were three: Kyle Stanley, Tommy Gainey and Scott Stallings are in the Phoenix Open, making them the only players at all five Tour events this year.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods has won 80 percent of his stroke-play titles on Tour playing in the final group.


FINAL WORD: ''I'm trying to shoot the lowest score I possibly can. I don't know if I look calm or intense or relaxed or jovial, whatever it is. I'm trying to beat everyone in this field, and that hasn't changed and it won't change.'' – Woods.

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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.”