Notes: Miller says game produced 'train wrecks'

By Doug FergusonJanuary 10, 2012, 8:09 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii - Johnny Miller was quick to point out how different he and Nick Faldo were as players, and he said this with some regret. Miller aimed at every flag he saw. Faldo was more of a strategist.

“Nick was the ultimate in restricting the temptation, playing a cautious game - middle of the green, swing easy, basically think his way around in a non-exciting way,” Miller said. “And that lent itself to winning majors.”

Miller won 25 times on the PGA Tour but had only two majors - the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont (lest anyone forget, he shot 63 in the final round) and the 1976 British Open at Royal Birkdale over a rising teenage star named Seve Ballesteros.

Faldo won six majors, three times each in the Masters and British Open.

“I played just the opposite,” Miller said. “I hit it as hard as I could, fired at every flag stick, and that lends itself to having train wrecks in the majors. If I had to do it over again, I’d have two gas pedals - one of the majors, one for the regular tournaments. I never figured that out.”


HAT FOR SALE: Scott Piercy’s hat looks like a blank billboard, which is about what it is.

Piercy has Titleist on one side of the hat and FootJoy on the other. The front was supposed to be another corporate sponsor but the deal fell through. Piercy, the Reno-Tahoe Open winner, wasn’t going to give it away for free.

“We had a couple deals that looked like they were going to close, and they fell through at the last minute,” Piercy said. “As everyone knows, it’s tough out there right now. The deals that we did have weren’t the greatest, so we decided to keep it blank.”

Piercy said he had a few offers, but “we didn’t get anything that we felt was fair.”

The hat deal didn’t sour his mood - not in the least. Piercy made his first trip to the winners-only Tournament of Champions and tied for 12th after a rocky start.

Next up is the Sony Open, and Piercy already has noticed a change that comes with winning. He has a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and no longer feels he has to rush into the year.

“It’s nice not to play for three months and have the first tournament be one you can kind of work into it, instead of showing up at Sony and having a so-so day or two and you’re going home,” he said. “You have a so-so day or two here, you still have the weekend.”

At Waialae, the course will be filled with rookies eager to get going.

“They’re like, `Oh, man, I finally made it to the PGA Tour.’ We’ve all seen that. I’ve done it,” he said. “As a rookie, you’ve got to kick butt on the West Coast, and everybody but the rookies know it. So it’s nice to ease into the year.”


AMERICAN RICHES: The Race to Dubai was announced with great fanfare for 2009, which was to conclude with a $10 million purse at the Dubai World Championship and a $10 million bonus pool.

Because of the economic crisis, the prize fund for both was reduced to $7.5 million.

Going into its fourth year, the bonus pool for the top 10 players now is $3.75 million, with $1 million going to the winner - that compares with $10 million for the FedEx Cup champion on the PGA Tour from a $35 million bonus pool.

The good news for Europe is that it extended its agreement for the Race to Dubai through the end of 2014.

And while the bonus pool dwindled, the prize money for the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai has increased to $8 million, the same amount offered at The Tour Championship.


GOLF CHANNEL: The Golf Channel must wait a few days to see if that Monday finish at Kapalua helped the viewership. But it couldn’t complain about the start of the new season.

Coming off its biggest year, Golf Channel began 2012 with the highest-rated opening round at Kapalua since it began broadcasting the Tournament of Champions in 2007. Friday’s coverage averaged 705,000 viewers (0.7 household rating), up 27 percent over Round 1 at Kapalua last year, and 50 percent higher than any previous opening round Golf Channel has broadcast at Kapalua.


DIVOTS: Martha Lang has been appointed to another one-year term as chair of the USGA’s Women’s Committee. … Gaylord Sports Management, whose list of clients includes Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney, has been acquired by French-based Lagardere Unlimited. Steve Loy, who founded Gaylord in 2000, will be the president of Lagardere Unlimited Golf. … Ryo Ishikawa is beefing up his U.S. schedule. Along with playing in the Sony Open, the Japanese star has accepted a sponsor’s exemption to play the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. David Duval also received an exemption to Torrey Pines. … Of the last 20 winners of the Tournament of Champions, Daniel Chopra (2008) is the only player who failed to make it to the Tour Championship. … Hunter Mahan has renewed his equipment contract with Ping.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Fifty years ago, Jack Nicklaus tied for 50th at the Los Angeles Open and earned $33.33. A three-way tie for 50th at the Sony Open this week pays $13,530.


FINAL WORD: “This is really the first and only event that is kind of like a congratulations for winning.” - Scott Piercy, making his debut in the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua.

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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.”