Woods closing in on Snead's PGA Tour wins mark

By Doug FergusonJune 26, 2012, 10:35 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – Halfway through the season, Tiger Woods has made it clear that he is hitting his stride in pursuit of a major record.

Just not the majors record.

Not yet, anyway.

Woods has been stuck on 14 majors for the past four years, and he hasn't even cracked the top 20 in the past three he played.

Before he can think about Jack Nicklaus and his benchmark of 18 professional majors, the percentages suggest that Woods has a better shot at first getting to a record that is no less impressive, even if it doesn't get nearly enough attention - Sam Snead and his 82 wins on the PGA Tour.

Woods won by five shots at Bay Hill and rallied from four shots behind to win the Memorial, pushing his career total to 73 wins, tied with Nicklaus for second place. He has nine more chances this year to move closer to Snead, compared with two more majors to end his drought and make some headway on Nicklaus.

All anyone talks about - all Woods really has thought about since the 1997 Masters - is Nicklaus and the majors.

As for Snead's record?

''I was aware of it, but at the time, everyone focused on Jack's record,'' Woods said Tuesday. ''But as I delved more into the game and was probably in high school, I started understanding Sam's contributions to the game of golf and his consistency. The fact that he won at age 52, when he won Greensboro, and to do it for that long is amazing. Truly amazing.''

Nicklaus won 14 times in the first 58 majors he played as a pro, same as Woods. Snead compiled 82 wins over 30 years. Woods has 73 wins in 16 years.

An argument can be made that Woods' 73 wins are more impressive than his 14 majors in relation to the record book.

''I don't think Snead gets his due on that record,'' two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange said. ''It speaks to longevity and talent. I think Sam could be the best player of all time. There's a hell of an argument for that. Certainly, Jack is the greatest champion of all time. But Sam's record doesn't get his due. In the Nicklaus era and forward, we give the majors so much PR. When we talk about majors, we discount the other wins. We talk about how much harder the majors are to win.

''Sometimes, that's not necessarily true.''

Golf now revolves around the majors. Those are the championships everyone remembers. That's where history is made. That's how greatness is measured.

But total wins should not be looked upon any less importantly. Remember, it took Nicklaus only 11 years to break Walter Hagen's record of 11 professional majors. In four decades, he could only get within nine Tour wins of Snead's record.

Still, most everyone would agree that majors are what matter.

Even if the courses for the odd major might be easier, the pressure of playing for history takes a toll between the ears.

''Majors are continuous in the modern era, which I guess would be 1934,'' said former British Open champion Stewart Cink, referring to the first year of the Masters.

''We have a lot of tournaments that have come and gone, just a lot of different setups on the PGA Tour since the 1960s.''

Justin Leonard, another British Open champion, said there are Tour events that present a more difficult test than some majors, but that doesn't make them harder to win than the majors.

''You get four majors a year,'' Leonard said. ''It's hard to time yourself to play your best those four times. And it's hard to pick those four weeks to play your best when everyone else picks those four weeks.''

The numbers favor Woods getting to Snead before he gets to Nicklaus.

He has won 27 percent of his Tour events. Throw out the majors, and he has won 29 percent of the time. And then consider that on average, his chances at winning tournaments compared with winning majors are about 18 to 4.

''Looking strictly at the math, you would think Tiger has a better chance to get to 82 wins than to 18 majors because he plays more tournaments,'' Cink said.

For Woods, this year is starting to resemble 2009, when he won all four of his pre-major tournaments but failed to win a major. He is playing this week in the AT&T National, which he won the last time it was held at Congressional.

Next week is The Greenbrier Classic, the final start before the British Open. He will play at Firestone, where he has won seven times, before playing the final major of the year at the PGA Championship.

Woods, when asked why there is more attention on Nicklaus than Snead, compared it with tennis. Fans could more easily identify with Pete Sampras or Roger Federer and their Grand Slam titles than the fact Jimmy Connors won more tournaments than anyone in the modern era.

''I believe it's over 100,'' Woods said. He was close - 109 titles for Connors.

''I think that the majors certainly have more importance, and we put so much more on it, especially now,'' he said. ''There's so much more media coverage and more attention on major championships. Certainly, that's something that wasn't exactly in Jack's day and obviously prior to him. Our big events are big, and they're bigger than any other events that we play.''

Perhaps there's another reason why the Nicklaus record gets more attention: He's still around to talk about it.

Nicklaus and Woods were paired together in the 2000 PGA Championship, which Woods won for his fifth major. Nicklaus rarely has an interview without someone asking about whether Woods can break his record in the majors.

Snead won for the 82nd and final time in 1965. At the time, only two other players had more than 50 wins - Ben Hogan (64) and Byron Nelson (52).

When Snead died in 2002, Woods only had 30 wins. He wasn't even close.

He is now.

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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.”