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Snedeker trying to earn Masters spot in Indonesia

By Doug FergusonDecember 5, 2017, 7:43 pm

NASSAU, Bahamas – Tournaments in two countries last week might have gone a long way toward who finishes in the top 50 of the world ranking at the end of the year and gets into the Masters.

Dylan Frittelli, the South African who holed the winning chip for Texas when it won the NCAA title in 2012, defeated Arjun Atwal in a playoff in the Mauritius Open and moved to No. 55 in the world. Frittelli is playing the Joburg Open this week, the final event of the calendar year on the European Tour. He also is entered in the Indonesia Masters next week on the Asian Tour.

In the final event on the Japan Golf Tour, Sotoshi Kodaira closed with a 67 to tie for 21st. Only the top 22 received world ranking points, so it was a big finish for Kodaira because that allowed him to move up four spots to No. 49. Yusaki Miyazato won the tournament and moved up 16 spots to No. 58. Both Japanese players are entered in the Indonesia Masters next week.

And they will have company.

Brandt Snedeker missed five months with an injury to his sternum and slipped 15 spots to No. 47 before he returned for the PGA Tour's last official event of the year at Sea Island. He shot 70-70 on the weekend and tied for 29th. Snedeker fell to No. 50 this week and will keep losing ground.

But the American has entered the Indonesia Masters, the last event of the year that offers world ranking points. The field will get a tiny bump because Justin Rose (No. 6 in the world) has decided to play. That would be Snedeker's last chance to try to crack the top 50.

Players still have until March 25 to get into the top 50 and earn a spot in the Masters, but it would help to have that taken care of going into the new year.

Also playing in Indonesia is Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, who is No. 60.

Among those not playing is Ian Poulter, who is No. 52. Poulter did not play two weeks ago in the Hong Kong Open, where he is a past champion. He said in a text message it has been a long year and he needs time off, but that ''I will make the top 50 before the Masters I promise.''

Bill Haas also is outside the top 50. He has not missed the Masters since 2009.

A year ago, 12 players not already eligible for the Masters finished the year in the top 50 to earn invitations. That number will be smaller this year. Players who are assured of finishing in the top 50 are Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren, Matt Fitzpatrick, Branden Grace, Ross Fisher, Yuta Ikeda and Bernd Wiesberger.

Among those who will have to earn their invitations in the spring is Lee Westwood, who is No. 66 and not playing the rest of the year. Westwood has been eligible for every major since he missed the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. The last time Westwood failed to qualify for the Masters was 2004.


JORDAN'S JACKET: Jordan Spieth doesn't know his jacket size. He only knows one of the jackets he owns - a green one - is too big.

''I never got it tailored, so it's huge,'' Spieth said of his green jacket from winning the 2015 Masters. ''I never trusted anybody, never wanted anyone to go do it. I didn't give them my size originally. I wore the one off the green that day, and I never gave it back to them to tailor or anything. I should now.''

Asked for his jacket size, Spieth wasn't sure, only that it was somewhere around a 40.

There's a reason he doesn't know. Spieth doesn't own a lot of jackets. He did get a couple of them before the Presidents Cup, and he put it on the tab of Justin Thomas.

''I bought two suits on Justin's Polo account ... and that's the only nice clothes that I've ever bought,'' Spieth said. ''I bought two suits and the shoes and sweaters and whatnot because he got a discount. So I got some really nice stuff.''

What did Thomas get out of the deal?

''I asked him if he wanted any underwear in return or something,'' Spieth said with a smile.

One of his top sponsors is Under Armour.


TOUR SWITCH: The European Tour has tapped into the PGA Tour to find its latest executive to oversee television production.

Stu Nichol, the senior vice president of broadcasting and programming for the PGA Tour, has left to become head of television production for the European Tour. Nichol is expected to start his new job in January at a time when the European Tour is taking control of European Tour Productions. Previously, it was a shared venture between the European Tour and IMG Media.

Nichol's decision stemmed from a chance meeting with European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley during the World Golf Hall of Fame induction in New York in late September. Both are Canadians. Nichol's first job in the late 1980s was at TSN in Toronto, where he was an assignment editor and Pelley was the producer.

Nichol was not looking to leave the PGA Tour, though the move became attractive when the PGA Tour decided not to opt out of its television contracts and consider the possibility of its own network. Nichol had been involved in potential models.


AILING KOEPKA: Brooks Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix by nine shots, then returned home for Thanksgiving and to get ready for the Hero World Challenge. Somewhere along the way, the U.S. Open champion felt soreness in his left wrist.

''I have some wrist issues,'' Koepka said in the Bahamas. ''I want to figure that out. I can't grip anything strong with my left hand.''

Koepka said he first felt some tightness on Saturday before going over to Albany Golf Club. He has the next month to let it heal or figure out if anything is wrong before starting the new year in Kapalua at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


TRAVELING MAN: A year ago, Justin Rose withdrew after the first round of the Hero World Challenge with a nagging back injury. This year, he's stronger than ever, and he has the airline miles to prove it.

Rose won the HSBC Champions in Shanghai and then went straight to the Turkish Airlines Open. He came home to the Bahamas for one week before returning to Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, then returned to the Bahamas for the Hero World Challenge. After a week at home with friends, Rose is off to Jakarta for the Indonesia Masters.

''It's been a test - I can't lie,'' he said. ''But I'm feeling good. I'm feeling really good.''


DIVOTS: Sony Corp. has agreed to extend its title sponsorship of the Sony Open another four years through 2022. Sony took over as title sponsor in 1999. The tournament has been held at Waialae Country Club down from Waikiki Beach since 1965. ... Ian Poulter missed the cut at the Valero Texas Open and thought he had lost his full PGA Tour card until he was spared by a technical oversight in tour regulations. Since then, he has made the cut in 19 consecutive tournaments worldwide to finish out the year. ... Scott Reid, formerly tournament director of the RSM Classic, will be the tournament director for the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. ... The World Cup returns to Melbourne next fall, only this time it will be headed to Metropolitan Golf Club. Metropolitan held the Match Play Championship in 2001 won by Steve Stricker.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Dustin Johnson will become only the third American to finish the year at No. 1 since the world ranking began in 1986.


FINAL WORD: ''You can't go through a career without some heartache.'' - Justin Rose.

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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.”