Piercy earns validation with Canadian win

By Doug FergusonJuly 30, 2012, 10:13 pm

ANCASTER, Ontario – Scott Piercy began the year with a chip on his shoulder, all because of the blank space on the front of his cap.

He had won for the first time on the PGA Tour at the Reno-Tahoe Open, but it didn't feel like much of a win. It didn't get him into the Masters, or any other major, not even the World Golf Championships.

And in a tough economy, he couldn't attract a sponsor for his hat, the prime billboard in golf.

Instead of giving it away, Piercy went blank.

'We thought we had a couple of deals lined up. It just didn't close as quick as we thought,' Piercy said. 'It gave me the ability to kind of put a chip on my shoulder and go play well, and maybe create some of my own value so that I'm worth it.'

Validation came Sunday in the Canadian Open on a course that required what Piercy referred to as 'boring golf.'

It was anything but that when he posed with the trophy after his one-shot victory over William McGirt and Robert Garrigus at Hamilton Golf & Country Club.

In a three-man race over the final hour, Piercy had to scramble for bogey on the 14th hole that dropped him two shots behind with four to play. Then, he chipped in for birdie on the next hole and closed with three pars as McGirt and Garrigus make just enough mistakes.

Piercy two-putted from 50 feet below the cup on the 18th hole for a 3-under 67, tying the oldest 72-hole tournament record on the PGA Tour at 263. Then, he had to wait.

Garrigus missed a half-dozen putts inside 8 feet in the final round, the last one proving to be the most costly. From short of the green about 75 feet away, he lagged his first putt to just inside 8 feet and missed that to make a bogey and fall one shot behind.

McGirt, atop the leaderboard for most of the final round and looking poised for a guy who had never seriously contended, three-putted the 15th hole by ramming his 45-foot putt about 15 feet past the cup.

It was his first and only three-putt of the tournament, and it cost him a one-shot lead. Needing a par on 18 to force a playoff, McGirt hit his approach into a deep bunker right of the green, hit a pedestrian bunker shot to 18 feet and missed it.

'I was just trying to make pars and get into the house,' said McGirt, who closed with a 69 for his seventh straight round in the 60s.

Garrigus had one last chance with a 15-foot birdie attempt on the 18th. It came up a fraction short, giving him a 70 and a bitter feeling about a wasted opportunity.

'I should have won this tournament by seven shots. Everybody knows that,' Garrigus said. 'If I could have just made a putt today.'

Self-deprecating as ever, Garrigus referred to the final hole as a 'good effort on 18 with my two shots and then lagged it up there for a nice, second-place finish.'

The win was timely in so many ways for Piercy.

He was headed to the Reno-Tahoe Open to defend his first tour title. Now, he is on his way to Firestone to play in the $8 million Bridgestone Invitational, his debut in a World Golf Championship.

He'll start his season in Kapalua again for the Tournament of Champions, and then make plans in April for his first trip down Magnolia Lane to play in the Masters.

'I've always told myself I'm not going unless I'm in the tournament,' Piercy said.

He also went to No. 13 in the FedEx Cup standings, leaving him in reasonable shape to advance to the Tour Championship for the first time and get into all the majors.

Piercy is on the A-list of power players in golf, though he doesn't get much attention without winning big tournaments. That's what led to his comments about 'boring golf' on the classic design at Hamilton. He prefers to smash drivers and attack flags. Hamilton is about position.

It raised the eyebrows of proud Canadians when he said that Friday - after opening with rounds of 62-67 to share the lead going into the weekend - because Hamilton is regarded as among the best on the Canadian Open rotation.

Lost in those comments was how much fun it would be to win the tournament. And that's how it felt.

Reminded of that comment, with the silver trophy from golf's third-oldest championship at his side, he smiled.

'That was taken a little out of context,' he said. 'I like to hit driver a lot, and this golf course I felt took the driver out of my hands. I did say, however, that at the end of the week if the score is good, it is exciting. So I'm pretty excited.'

It was anything but boring at the start of his round, when he quickly erased a two-shot deficit by running off four straight birdies. He used iron off the tee for the first two birdies, then turned to his power.

First, he blasted a 5-iron from 236 yards in the rough onto the green on the par-5 fourth hole for a two-putt birdie. Then, he hit driver onto the green at the 296-yard fifth hole for another two-putt birdie.

He never imagined playing the rest of the way at 1-over par and winning the tournament. His 263 tied the record set by Johnny Palmer in 1952 at St. Charles in Winnipeg, Manitoba. That leaves The Barclays (Bob Gilder in 1982) as the tournament that has gone the longest without its scoring record being matched or beaten.

Piercy, meanwhile, was only slightly disappointed at not going to the Reno-Tahoe Open, a special tournament for him because it was his first PGA Tour win.

Because play was so brisk at Hamilton, CBS Sports had time to fill in its broadcast, so the interviews with players were longer than usual.

Piercy was sure to thank his sponsors - one on front of his cap, two more on his shirt sleeve, his equipment sponsor and an apparel sponsor. 'Thanks for sticking by me,' said the guy who replaced a chip on his shoulder with a big silver trophy.

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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.”