Woods trails Reed by 3 through 54 at Doral

By Doug FergusonMarch 8, 2014, 11:18 pm

DORAL, Fla. - In only his second year on the PGA Tour, Patrick Reed already is used to playing in the final group on Sunday - and winning.

But not against a field of stars at a World Golf Championship.

And not looking at a familiar figure in a red shirt playing in the group ahead of him.

Reed turned his game around in four holes Saturday at the Cadillac Championship and wound up with a 3-under 69 in much tamer conditions at Doral. It gave him a two-shot lead going into a final round that will prominently feature defending champion Tiger Woods for the first time this year.

Woods, who only a day earlier looked to be on the verge of shooting himself out of the tournament, delivered the low round of the week and his best round of a short season. He made eight birdies for a 66 and was only three shots behind.

''That's fine. I've seen Tiger a lot on the driving range. Never had the opportunity to play with him and I still haven't been able to play with him,'' Reed said. ''Whenever he's close to the lead, he's a guy you have to watch out for. But at the same time, I have to go and just play my own game.''

He did that beautifully on a sunny afternoon with not nearly as much wind on the new Blue Monster.

Reed rolled in a 40-foot eagle putt on No. 8, and started the back nine with consecutive birdies. He drove the green on the par-4 16th for a two-putt birdie that gave him the outright lead and finished with a two-shot lead over PGA champion Jason Dufner (68) and Hunter Mahan, who bogeyed his last hole for a 71.

Reed was at 4-under 212, the highest 54-hole score to lead at Doral since a three-way tie at 212 in 1985.

The 23-year-old Texan will be going for his third win in his last 14 tournaments, dating to the Wyndham Championship in August. He was tied for the 54-hole lead that week and won in a playoff. Reed also went wire-to-wire to win the Humana Challenge in January.

He will be in the final group with Dufner, the most recent major champion. Right ahead will be Woods and Mahan.


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It's right where Reed wants to be.

''If you have a 54-hole lead, that means you're playing the best golf of the group through three rounds,'' he said. ''Tomorrow is Sunday, but at the same time, it's another round of golf. ... We've won twice since August. We've played great. And if I continue doing what I'm supposed to be doing, come Sunday afternoon, hopefully we're holding the trophy.''

Woods made three birdie putts of about 15 feet or longer on the back nine, including a 35-footer down the slope on the par-5 15th. His goal was to get back to even par for the tournament and hope to be within five shots of the leader.

It turned out much better.

Woods was one of five players who were under par, and he goes into Sunday only three shots behind as he tries to win at Doral for the fifth time. Jamie Donaldson of Wales escaped from the palm trees right of the 18th and made par for a 71 to share fourth place with Woods.

''It was nice to get back in the tournament again,'' Woods said.

The lack of big wind certainly helped with scoring and attitudes on Saturday. The average scores was 72.6, compared with 76.0 in the second round, allowing for plenty of movement on the leaderboard on a sunny afternoon in Miami. A dozen players were within five shots of the lead.

''Now it's playing more like a normal course,'' Woods said.

Dustin Johnson failed to birdie three of the par 5s and chopped up the 14th hole, which featured one shot he hit left-handed. He birdied the last hole for a 73 that put him at even-par 144, along with Miguel Angel Jimenez (69) and Zach Johnson (71).

Jimmy Walker, already a three-time winner this season who is starting to feel like contending is a habit, had a 67 and was in the group five shots behind with Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell and Matt Kuchar.

''The tournament will not be over until the last putt drops on 18,'' Mahan said. ''That always happens, but it seems like you just can't coast in here. You can't have a big enough lead going into 18 this week. So I don't think anyone is going to be too bothered if someone gets out to a three- or four-shot lead, because there's so much golf out there. And there's so much that can happen - good and bad.''

And it did on Saturday.

Woods made his move early and late, pouring in four birdies in eight holes to go out in 33 and getting under par for the first time all week with a bunker shot that narrowly cleared the lip and settled a few feet away for birdie on the 16th.

''I held it together yesterday - a long day, tough day - and that gave me a chance today,'' said Woods, who scratched out a 73 in the second round. ''I figured, 'Hey, I'm only six back. That's definitely doable, especially with the conditions and how difficult this golf course is playing. If I just get back to even par for the tournament, I'll be right there.' And I did one better.''

Rory McIlroy did not. The two-time major champion was only one shot out of the lead when he played his next four holes in 5-over, including a pair of double bogeys on the par 5s with shots into the water. McIlroy chipped in for birdie on the 18th for a 75 and was seven shots behind.

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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.”