Woods won't read into what happened Saturday

By Doug FergusonJanuary 29, 2014, 12:36 am

SAN DIEGO – Too bad Tiger Woods can't go back in time and expand that chart of Jack Nicklaus he taped to his bedroom wall as a teenager.

One point of clarification – it was never about 18 majors.

Woods once said the chart contained only four or five items constructed in a timeline, such as when Nicklaus started playing, how long before he first broke 40 for nine holes, when he won his first U.S. Amateur and when he turned pro.

''It was just a benchmark for me growing up,'' Woods said in Australia a few years ago. ''Here's the greatest player of all time and this is what he did when he was 13, 17, 18. As a junior, you're always trying to compare yourself to, 'When did he do it?' And hopefully, I can do something a little bit better and maybe that might springboard myself into having a good career.''

Here are two more items he could have added to the list:

- Woods didn't shoot in the 80s for the first time until his 130th stroke-play tournament as a pro. Nicklaus first shot 80 in his seventh tournament. In fact, Saturday at Torrey Pines was only the fifth round in Woods' career of 79 or worse. Nicklaus had four in his rookie season alone.

- Woods went 37 majors as a pro before he finally missed a cut, in the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Nicklaus missed his first cut in his sixth major, the 1963 U.S. Open at Brookline, when he was the defending champion.

Woods was at Oakmont for a corporate day a few months before the 2007 U.S. Open when the conversation turned to his missed cut at Winged Foot. The surprise was not that he missed the cut, but that it took nearly 10 years to happen.

Woods shrugged.

''You figure you're going to have one bad week,'' he said.

That's why it's best – for now – to heed what he said Tuesday in Dubai. He was asked about any changes he made after a 79 at Torrey Pines caused him to miss the 54-hole cut last week in the Farmers Insurance Open.

The only thing he changed was his flight itinerary to Dubai.

''I know I'm not that far off,'' Woods said. ''I just happened to have one bad day, and that happens.''

It was surprising that it happened to him, especially at Torrey Pines, where he had won eight times. It was only his fourth round over par on the South Course for that tournament. Two of those rounds were in 2011, when he was just starting to rebuild his swing. And he was in reasonable position in the tournament until his meltdown began with a shot into the pond on the par-5 18th for a double bogey.

Woods was between 3-iron and 5-wood, tried to take a little off the 5-wood, paid the price and ''it snowballed from there.'' He had seven straight holes of bogey or worse.

''Unfortunately,'' he said Tuesday, ''the longer you play the sport, the more things like that happen.''

So maybe he's catching up on lost time.

Or maybe Father Time is catching up with him.

Johnny Miller, in a book he wrote in 2004 titled, ''I Call The Shots,'' was making arguments on both sides of Woods breaking Nicklaus' record of 18 majors. One reason against Woods breaking the record was that ''competitively, he's an old 28.''

Is he now an old 38?

Woods already has gone through four knee surgeries, including a reconstruct in 2008 after he won the U.S. Open (which happens to be the 14th and last major he won).

He was right to say Tuesday that ''I wouldn't read anything into what happened Saturday at Torrey Pines.''

It was just one tournament. One round.

Remember, last year Woods missed the cut in Abu Dhabi (with help from a two-shot penalty) and then annihilated the field at Torrey Pines the next week. He couldn't finish the final round at Doral in 2012 because of soreness in his Achilles' heel, and then won his next start at Bay Hill.

But let's go back to that last knee surgery.

Woods had never finished out of the top 10 in his first tournament of the year through 2008, including six wins on three courses (La Costa, Kapalua, Torrey Pines). In the six season-openers since then, he has no wins, two top 10s and three times didn't make it to Sunday.

How much work did Woods put into his game in the 45 days between his last round at Sherwood and his opening round at Torrey Pines? Woods is the only one who can say how he prepared, and after 18 years on tour, how much he felt like he needed (or wanted) to prepare.

Miller, however, wasn't referring to Woods' health when he wrote 10 years ago that he was an ''old 28.'' His hunch was that Woods' prime had arrived early, and that ''it won't be long before the hole shrinks back to its regulation 4 1/4-inch size.''

It sure seems like a long time since Woods stood over an important putt and there was no doubt it was going in.

Woods is playing the Dubai Desert Classic this week. In six previous trips, he has won twice and has finished out of the top 5 once – that was in 2011, again when he was in the early stages of his work with Sean Foley.

If the instruction from Woods is not to read anything into what happened at Torrey, it shouldn't matter – good or bad – what happens in Dubai.

Everyone has bad days.

It just seems like Woods has more of them than he once did.

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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.”