Poulter stumbles, still shares Honda lead with Casey

By Doug FergusonMarch 1, 2015, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) - Ian Poulter didn't realize he had a three-shot lead in the Honda Classic, only that he was playing well enough to feel like he was in control of his game and the tournament.

One shank changed everything Sunday.

"That just came out of left field," Poulter said.

His next tee shot, which splashed down in the water left of the fairway, made it even worse.

"It was a bit of a body blow," he said.

What had been a marathon day at soggy PGA National suddenly turned into a sprint-to-the-finish on Monday morning when the final round was to resume. Poulter lost command of the Honda Classic, but he didn't lose his place atop the leaderboard.

He was at 7 under par through seven holes, tied with Paul Casey, who went out in 31 and was in the left rough on the 10th hole when the final round was halted at sunset.


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Patrick Reed, in the final group with Poulter, was one shot behind.

Phil Mickelson was among four players who were three shots behind at 4 under par. That group included Daniel Berger, the PGA Tour rookie from West Palm Beach whose final shot Sunday was a 35-foot chip-in for birdie on the 11th hole.

"I'm pretty pleased with the golf I've played throughout the whole of today," Poulter said. "I haven't really made many mistakes at all. I've put it in position an awful lot, which is encouraging right now. And If I do that tomorrow, then I'm going to be in a good position."

His two mistakes were big ones.

Leading by three shots, he tried to take a little off an 8-iron on the par-3 fifth hole, where the green is guarded by water on the left. Poulter hit a shank that went so far to the right it bounced into water on the sixth hole. He made double bogey and lost the lead.

On his next tee shot, he pulled his drive into the water down the left side of the sixth fairway and had to two-putt from 65 feet to escape with bogey.

"You take your foot off the accelerator for one second, all of a sudden you find yourself completely out of position," Poulter said.

For a day of plodding across the rain-softened fairways, the Honda Classic suddenly was full of energy, not to mention possibilities. There was a three-shot swing at No. 5 when Reed holed a 35-foot birdie putt from a swale right of the fifth green and Poulter made his double bogey. Reed took the lead on No. 6 when Poulter made bogey.

And then Poulter was on the right end of a two-shot swing at their final hole of the long day, the par-3 seventh. His eyes a little wider, his blood boiling, Poulter drilled a 6-iron to 3 feet for birdie, while Reed missed the green to the left and failed to get up and down.

No longer forgotten was Casey, who made four birdies on the front nine, all from no more than 12 feet. His birdie on No. 9 moved him into a share of the lead.

The Monday finish was caused by nearly 5 inches of rain and 50 mph gusts that washed out the third round on Saturday and took a 78-member grounds crew until 10 a.m. Sunday just to get the course ready. It had so much water that the crew had to chase off an alligator from the bunkers. Players finished the third round and went right back out to squeeze in as many holes as possible. The final round was to resume at 8 a.m.

"This sort of situation is going to be difficult for everybody, and it just breaks up momentum," said Casey, who had more than anyone. "Some guys will carry it through tomorrow. Others won't, and that's very difficult to predict. ...You just hope you wake up tomorrow and you feel like you've got the same kind of golf swing and putts are going in the hole. You just don't know. Hope the golfing gods are nice to us tomorrow."

That's what Mickelson was thinking.

He opened with two quick birdies and was getting closer to the lead until pushing a 4-foot par putt on the sixth hole. Mickelson had 10-foot par putt on the ninth hole when he returned Monday morning.

"I'm looking forward to just having a minute to regroup and take a look at what's going on," Mickelson said.

Jeff Overton, Brendan Steele and Russell Knox, who lost in a four-man playoff last year at PGA National, also were at 4 under.

Poulter was right about one thing. He did play some good golf, except for those two holes. He was bogey-free for a 66 in the third round, taking him from a two-shot deficit to a three-shot lead over Reed and Padraig Harrington going into the final round. It was his first 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour.

Harrington twice missed short putts - making bogey on No. 4 and double bogey on No. 6 - and was at 3 under.

Poulter at least was pleased with how he left the course with that 6-iron for birdie. He will try to end more than two years without a victory.

"Silly things happen," he said. "Tiring, and made a couple of really bad swings on 5 and 6. But that kind of angered me inside enough to spark a little bit of energy there to hit a good shot on 7."

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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.”