Stanley collapses; Snedeker wins Farmers

By Doug FergusonJanuary 30, 2012, 1:03 am

SAN DIEGO – Brandt Snedeker won the Farmers Insurance Open in a playoff not even he thought was possible.

Kyle Stanley led by seven shots early in the final round Sunday, and he still had a four-shot lead as he stood on the 18th tee at Torrey Pines. Just like that, he went from being anointed a rising star to a meltdown that ranks among the most shocking in golf.

Snedeker, in the group ahead of him, hit wedge to a foot for birdie and a 67, then drove up to the media tent for an interview as the runner-up. He arrived in time to watch Stanley spin a wedge into the water, then three-putt from 45 feet for a triple-bogey 8 and a 74.

Two playoff holes later, both were in shock.

Snedeker’s tee shot hopped over the green and would have gone into a canyon except that it bounced off a television tower. He chipped to about 5 feet and made the par. Stanley three-putted again from just outside 45 feet, his five-foot par putt catching the right lip.

“It’s just crazy,” Snedeker said. “To get my mind around what happened the last 30 minutes is pretty hard to do right now. My heart is out to Kyle. I feel bad for him to have to go through this.”

Stanley, whose power, poise and polish was on display all week, was reduced to tears. His eyes were glassy and his lip quivered as he tried to answer questions, a sad ending to an otherwise spectacular week along the Pacific bluffs.

“It’s not a hard golf hole,” Stanley said. “I could probably play it a thousand times and never make an 8.”

But he did Sunday, a painful lesson for the 24-year-old out of Clemson.

Snedeker is making a habit of these comebacks. In all three of his PGA Tour wins, he trailed by at least five shots going into the last round. At Hilton Head last year, he came from six shots back and wound up beating Luke Donald in a playoff.

This one was handed to him.

“This one I kind of backed into,” Snedeker said. “You never like winning a tournament that way. But you do like winning.”

Stanley birdied his first two holes – Snedeker was nine behind at that point – and led by six shots at the turn until he started dropping shots from the sand. Even so, he made three straight par putts, starting with a 12-footer on the 14th, to seemingly regain control.

The kid knows heartache. Last summer, he was two shots ahead at the John Deere Classic until he bogeyed the final hole from a bunker, and Steve Stricker closed with two straight birdies to win.

This loss, however, put him in the wrong kind of company.

It was reminiscent of Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie, who made triple bogey on the last hole of the 1999 British Open and lost in a playoff; of Robert Garrigus, who made triple bogey on the last hole of the St. Jude Classic in 2010 and lost in a playoff; and even of Frank Lickliter at Torrey Pines, who three-putted from 12 feet on the 17th hole in 2001 to make triple bogey in the third playoff hole in losing to Phil Mickelson.

“I know I’ll be back,” Stanley said, pausing to allow the words to come out of his mouth. “It’s tough to swallow right now.”

Stanley stood over a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole with a four-shot lead, and it was matter of staying upright for the next 20 minutes to collect his first PGA Tour win.

If only it were that simple.

Snedeker made his tap-in birdie to finish at 16-under 272. Stanley hit a 300-yard drive and kept it simple by laying up.

Then, he fell apart.

His sand wedge had too much spin and did not get high enough on the green, spinning quickly down the slope and off the green, and it slowly tumbled down the bank and into the water. Stanley showed little emotion, took his drop in the first cut to eliminate some of the spin, and his fifth shot was safely on the back of the green, some 45 feet away.

With a putt down into the bowl of the green, he came up about 3 1/2 feet short, then missed it well to the left for a triple-bogey 8. He had to sign for a 74, without breaking the pencil, then head back to the 18th for a playoff.

Snedeker caught a minor break on the first extra hole when his second shot stopped directly in front of a loose divot. He managed to remove it without moving the ball, then hit sand wedge to 3 feet for birdie. Stanley went for the green in two this time. He went just over the green and chipped down to the same spot as Snedeker and matched his birdie.

It ended on the par-3 16th in a playoff, when again Snedeker looked to be in trouble and wound up a winner.

John Rollins had 235 yards to the green on the 18th hole, two shots behind Snedeker, two shots clear of fourth place. He elected to lay up and wound up with a par. It gave him a 71, and he finished alone in third at 14-under 274.

John Huh, the 21-year-old rookie out of Q-school, had a buried lie in a bunker, a duffed chip, a chip-in for birdie and an approach that nearly went over the cliff, all in the first four holes. He birdied the last for a 74, and while he was never a factor in the final group, he at least tied for sixth and earned a spot next week in the Phoenix Open.

But this was a two-man show at the end.

And for the longest time on a day filled with sunshine and hang gliders, it was a one-man show.

Staked to a five-shot lead, Stanley didn’t let anyone close to him until early on the back nine.

His opening tee shot showed some nerves, as the ball went well right and into a torrey pine, settling on the cart path. His approach was conservative, away from the bunker. From there, he rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt down the hill, and Stanley was off and running. He holed a 7-foot birdie putt on the next hole, and when Rollins made bogey on No. 3, the lead was up to seven shots.

Only when Snedeker began to creep up the board did the lead finally get under six shots, and then Stanley made it hard on himself.

Starting with the par-3 eighth hole, he was in five bunkers on the next seven holes, and three of them led to bogeys. He hit a splendid shot from the sand on the par-3 11th, only to miss a three-foot par putt.

From a fairway bunker on the 14th, he came up well short of the green to protect from going long and into the hazard and chipped weakly to just outside 12 feet. He saved par, made a five-foot putt to save par from a bunker on the 15th and completed a long two-putt par on the 16th with an eight-footer. And when Snedeker made his only bogey ahead of him on the 17th, Stanley looked to be in the clear.

How quickly it all changed.

“He’s going to have a tough night,” Snedeker said. “But he’s going to be better for it.”

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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.”