Notes: Scott says 1-2-3 pairing 'good for the game'

By Doug FergusonMarch 5, 2014, 11:02 pm

DORAL, Fla. – Adam Scott was the third wheel the first time a big event based the draw on the world ranking.

It was a big deal at Torrey Pines in 2008 when the U.S. Open put together the top three players in the world. At the time it was Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at Nos. 1 and 2, and then Scott at No. 3 who was more of an afterthought.

But not this week.

The PGA Tour has Woods (No. 1) playing with Scott (No. 2) and Henrik Stenson (No. 3). It has done that in recent years for the Cadillac Championship. Two years ago, there wasn't much of a crowd for that group of Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood.

There's always big interest in Woods, particularly after he walked out of the final round at Honda Classic last week with back spasms. Even more compelling is that Scott has a mathematical chance of taking over No. 1 if he were to win this week.

''I've been a part of that a few other times at U.S. Opens,'' Scott said. ''It's a fun pairing. I think it's a good way to do the pairing occasionally for the game of golf, because for whatever reason, you don't get 1-2-3 always Saturday and Sunday playing against each other like it seems a little more often in tennis. ... I think it is absolutely a good pairing with the No. 1 up for grabs.

The last time a change at the top occurred at Doral was in 2005, when Woods won the Ford Championship and went back to No. 1 in the world. He stayed there three weeks.

''I don't know how Tiger feels about it but it's obviously a position he's pretty comfortable with for a long time throughout his career,'' Scott said. ''And I can assure you from knowing him just a little bit, it's a position he probably wouldn't want to give up. So I don't know that we're going to be trying to play each other head-to-head because we know this field is a lot bigger than the two of us.''


SPIETH ANNIVERSARY: Jordan Spieth celebrates the one-year anniversary of the decision that often gets overlooked in his blockbuster rookie season.

He had an exemption to the Puerto Rico Open, and was getting advice to stay in South America to shore up his Web.com Tour status for the rest of the year. Spieth felt he should honor the commitment, tied for second in Puerto Rico to qualify for the next PGA Tour event in Tampa Bay, and he was on his way.

''It's just funny to think back to that week and how I didn't even think I was going to have PGA Tour status last years at this point, which it's already into March,'' Spieth said. ''I was just trying to have a good week because I was going to play a PGA event. I think if anybody gets an opportunity to have an exemption to go to a PGA TOUR event, they should take it no matter where their status is. I think it's better for them in the long run and so that's what I did.''

A tie for seventh in Tampa gave him enough money for special temporary membership. What followed was a win at the John Deere Classic, a spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs, a pick for the Presidents Cup team and No. 7 in the final FedEx Cup standings.

Good move.


TIGER EVERYWHERE: Rory McIlroy can't escape the looming presence of Tiger Woods. That would have been the case even if Woods had chosen not to play this week.

''I'm staying in this Tiger Woods Villa here and there's pictures all over my room of him,'' McIlroy said. ''I sent him a message last night, 'Can't get away from you here. I can't go to the bathroom without looking at you.'''

That much was true. McIlroy said on the bathroom wall is a picture of Woods and Jack Nicklaus.


ANCHORS AWAY: As expected, the USGA is not planning to make any exceptions when the new rule that bans anchoring goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

The PGA of America and PGA Tour had lobbied the USGA at its annual meeting last month for an extended ''grandfather clause'' that would allow amateurs players more time to adapt to playing with a conventional putter.

PGA president Ted Bishop provided the media a copy of the letter he wrote to his membership on Tuesday.

''While we are disappointed with the USGA's decision not to extend the implementation date beyond Jan. 1, 2016, I know that all PGA Professionals are committed to helping amateur players choose a permissible putting stroke that will help them continue to enjoy the game well into the future,'' Bishop wrote.

Bishop said one positive outcome of the anchoring debate is that the PGA of America and PGA Tour will have a ''more meaningful'' seat on future discussions about rules.

''We strongly believe that such enhanced communication among our respected organizations is essential to the long-term viability of golf,'' Bishop wrote.


DIVOTS: Victor Dubuisson of France arrived in Miami. His clubs did not. The Match Play runner-up finally got his clubs Wednesday morning. Titleist made him a wedge to practice with on Tuesday that had the image of a cactus stamped on the back. ... Jordan Spieth launched his own website Tuesday (www.jordanspieth.com). ... Rory McIlroy says he sprained his ankle playing soccer in Northern Ireland two days before Christmas. ''It was a worry,'' he said. ''I went to net and I shouldn't have went to net, either. I was standing up about half an hour and it really hurt. I stayed off it for a week and it was OK.''

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Lopez fires flawless 63 for lead in Arkansas

By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 12:41 am

ROGERS, Ark. – Former Arkansas star Gaby Lopez shot a career-low 8-under 63 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship.

Lopez, a three-time All-American for the Razorbacks, matched her career best by finishing at 8 under - doing so after missing the cut in her last two tournaments. The Mexican player began the tournament at Pinnacle Country Club ranked 136th in the world but finished just two shots off the course record of 10 under in her third year on the LPGA Tour.

Moriya Jutanugarn was a stroke back along with Minjee Lee, Catriona Matthew, Nasa Hataoka, Lizette Salas, Mirim Lee and Aditi Ashok.

Local favorite Stacy Lewis, expecting her first child in early November, had a 66.

Defending champion So Yeon Ryu, coming off a victory Sunday in Michigan, shot a 67.

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Harman rides hot putter to Travelers lead

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:28 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – There are plenty of big names gathered for the Travelers Championship, and through two rounds they’re all chasing Brian Harman.

Harman opened with a 6-under 64, then carded a 66 during Friday’s morning wave to become the only player to finish the first two rounds in double digits under par. The southpaw is currently riding a hot putter, leading the field in strokes gained: putting while rolling in 12 birdies and an eagle through his first 36 holes.

“Putted great today,” said Harman, who ranks 22nd on Tour this season in putting. “Got out of position a couple of times, but I was able to get myself good looks at it. I started hitting the ball really well coming down the stretch and made a few birdies.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

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Harman, 31, has won twice on the PGA Tour, most recently at last year’s Wells Fargo Championship. While he doesn’t have a win this year, he started his season in the fall by reeling off five straight finishes of T-8 or better to quickly install himself as one of the leaders in the season-long points race.

Now topping a leaderboard that includes the likes of Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, he realizes that he’ll have his work cut out for him if he’s going to leave Connecticut with trophy No. 3.

“The putter has been really good so far, but I’ve been in position a lot. I’ve had a lot of good looks at it,” Harman said. “I’m just able to put a little pressure on the course right now, which is nice.”

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10-second rule costs Zach Johnson a stroke

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:06 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – Zach Johnson heads into the weekend one shot back at the Travelers Championship, but he was a matter of seconds away from being tied for the lead.

Johnson had an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 3 at TPC River Highlands, his 12th hole of the day, but left the ball hanging on the lip. As Johnson walked up to tap the ball in, it oscillated on the edge and eventually fell in without being hit.

Was it a birdie, or a par?

According to the Rules of Golf, and much to Johnson’s chagrin, the answer was a par. Players are afforded “reasonable” time to walk to the hole, and after that they are allowed to wait for 10 seconds to see if the ball drops of its own accord. After that, it either becomes holed by a player’s stroke, or falls in and leads to a one-shot penalty, resulting in the same score as if the player had hit it.

According to Mark Russell, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competitions, Johnson’s wait time until the ball fell in was between 16 and 18 seconds.


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“Once he putts the ball, he’s got a reasonable amount of time to reach the hole,” Russell said. “Then once he reaches the hole, he’s got 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, the ball is deemed to be at rest.”

Johnson tried to emphasize the fact that the ball was oscillating as he stood over it, and even asked rules officials if marking his ball on the edge of the hole would have yielded a “bonus 10 seconds.” But after signing for a 2-under 68 that brought him within a shot of leader Brian Harman, the veteran took the ruling in stride.

“The 10-second rule has always been there. Vague to some degree,” Johnson said. “The bottom line is I went to tap it in after 10 seconds and the ball was moving. At that point, even if the ball is moving, it’s deemed to be at rest because it’s on the lip. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just the way it is.”

While Johnson brushed off any thoughts of the golf gods conspiring against him on the lip, he was beaming with pride about an unconventional par he made on No. 17 en route to a bogey-free round. Johnson sailed his tee shot well right into the water, but after consulting his options he decided to drop on the far side of the hazard near the 16th tee box.

His subsequent approach from 234 yards rolled to within 8 feet, and he calmly drained the putt for an unexpected save.

“I got a great lie. Just opened up a 4-hybrid, and it started over the grandstands and drew in there,” Johnson said. “That’s as good of an up-and-down as I’ve witnessed, or performed.”

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Travelers becoming marquee event for star players

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 11:29 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Get lost in the throngs following the defending champ, or caught up amongst the crowds chasing the back-to-back U.S. Open winner, and it’s easy to forget where this tournament was a little more than a decade ago.

The Travelers Championship was without a sponsor, without a worthwhile field, without a consistent date and on the verge of being jettisoned to the PGA Tour Champions schedule. The glory days of the old Greater Hartford Open had come and gone, and the PGA Tour’s ever-increasing machine appeared poised to leave little old Cromwell in its wake.

The civic pride is booming in this neck of the woods. Main Street is lined with one small business after the next, and this time of year there are signs and posters popping up on every corner congratulating a member of the most recent graduating class at Cromwell High School, which sits less than two miles from the first tee at TPC River Highlands.

Having made it through a harrowing time in the event’s history, the local residents now have plenty of reason to take pride.

The Tour’s best have found this little New England hamlet, where tournament officials roll out the red carpet in every direction. They embrace the opportunity to decompress after the mind-numbing gauntlet the USGA set out for them last week, and they relish a return to a course where well-struck shots, more often than not, lead to birdies.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Ten years ago, this tournament was also held the week after the U.S. Open. Stewart Cink won, and for his efforts he received a paltry 36 world ranking points. But thanks to a recent influx of star-power, this week’s winner will pocket 58 points – the same amount Rory McIlroy won at Bay Hill, and two more than Justin Rose got at Colonial. Now at the halfway point, the leaderboard backs up the hefty allocation.

While Brian Harman leads at 10 under, the chase pack is strong enough to strike fear in the heart of even the most seasoned veteran: McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson, they of the combined eight major titles, all sit within three shots of the lead. Former world No. 1 Jason Day is one shot further back, and reigning Player of the Year Justin Thomas will start the third round inside the top 20.

Paul Casey and Bryson DeChambeau, both likely participants at the Ryder Cup this fall, are right there as well at 8 under. Casey lost a playoff here to Watson in 2015 and has come back every year since, witnessing first-hand the tournament’s growth in scope.

“It speaks volumes for what Travelers have done and how they treat everybody, and the work that Andy Bessette and his team put in to fly around the country and speak highly of this event,” Casey said. “And do things which matter, to continue to improve the event, not just for players but for spectators.”

Part of the increased field strength can be attributed to the Tour’s recent rule change, requiring players who play fewer than 25 events in a season to add a new event they haven’t played in the last four years. Another portion can be attributed to the short commute from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands, a three-hour drive and even shorter across the Long Island Sound – an added bonus the event will lose two of the next three years with West Coast U.S. Opens.

But there’s no denying the widespread appeal of an event named the Tour’s tournament of the year, players’ choice and most fan-friendly in 2017. While Spieth’s return to defend his title was assumed, both Day and McIlroy are back for another crack this year after liking what they saw.

“Anyone that I talked to could only say good things about the tournament about the golf course, how the guys are treated here, how the fans come out, and how the community always gets behind this event,” McIlroy said. “Obviously I witnessed that for the first time last year, and I really enjoyed it.”

After starting the week with all four reigning major champs and five of the top 10 players in the latest world rankings, only Masters champ Patrick Reed got sent packing following rounds of 72-67. The remaining top-flight contingent will all hit the ground running in search of more low scores Saturday, with Spieth (-4) still retaining a glimmer of hope to keep his title defense chances alive, perhaps with a 63 like he fired in the opening round.

The Tour’s schedule represents a zero-sum game. Outside of the majors and WGCs that essentially become must-play events for the game’s best, the rest of the legs of the weekly circus become victim of a 12-month version of tug-of-war. Some players like to play in the spring; others load up in the fall. Many play the week before majors, while a select group block off the week after for some R&R far away from a golf course.

But in an environment where one tournament’s ebbs can create flows for another, the Travelers has continued a steady climb up the Tour’s hierarchy. Once in jeopardy of relegation, it has found its footing and appears in the process of turning several of the Tour’s one-name stars into regular participants.

Rory. Jordan. Bubba. JT.

It’s been a long battle for tournament officials, but the proof is in the pudding. And this weekend, the reward for the people of Cromwell – population 14,000 – looks to be a star-studded show.

“All the events are incredible,” Thomas said. “But this is kind of one of those underrated ones that I think until people come and play, do they realize how great it is.”