Fatherly Things at Fathers Day

By George WhiteJune 16, 2005, 4:00 pm
Sunday of the U.S. Open has traditionally fallen on the Sunday that is Fathers Day. Most of the competitors are fathers. All have a father. Therefore, Sunday is an emotional day - emotional for a couple of reasons.
For some, the emotions are not happy ones. I think of Briny Baird and his father Butch ' separated for three or four years by an argument over something seemingly trivial that it no longer comes immediately to mind. I think of young Sean OHair and his separation from a father who seemed entirely unreasonable, both in his demands of young Sean and his dictatorial attitude towards the young man.
Tiger Woods and Earl Woods
Tiger Woods shares a light moment with his father Earl.
But for every situation such as this, there are untold thousands who have the type of relationship Tiger Woods and his father have. Or Padraig Harrington and his dad. Theirs is a loving relationship, made even more dear because their fathers are living though serious health problems.
Tigers father suffers from several maladies, but the most critical one is his problem heart. Father Earl saw Tiger though several professional victories, but recently he has been too ill to travel.
It's one of those things where he hasn't been to any of my U.S. Open victories, said Tiger. He's just been at home and watched them.
It's always special to compete on Father's Day and then to have an opportunity to be lucky enough to win one of these and to be able to share it with him. I've gone home with the trophy and we shed a tear together, and it's a very special time.
Pop exposed Tiger to the game as an infant still in the crib. Pop would practice swings in the garage, and Tiger picked up a plastic club and began emulating him.
My dad was the reason why I was introduced to the game of golf, said Tiger, and to share Father's Day with him and I'd call up in the morning and say, Hey, pop, I'm going out there.
He says, Just go out there and take care of business like you always do. What's your game plan? And I tell him what I'm going to do on every hole and we run through it together, just like we always do. That's special, man.
Harringtons father is back home in Ireland battling throat cancer. Harrington answers questions about his father politely but shortly. My dad is comfortable, and I have so many special memories that there would be too many to go through, he said when the conversation drifted to family matters Wednesday.
However, John Hopkins of the London Times got Padraig to open up a little on Tuesday. Padraig drifted into a make-believe scenario for a few moments, a scenario in which he saw himself winning the Open.
Obviously it would mean a lot to me to win on Fathers Day and he would be very happy if I won, said Harrington.
But I am not under pressure at all because of him. I am not playing for him. He never tried to live his life through me. He would be happy if I won but outside of golf, I spend a lot of time thinking.
Does Harrington compulsively call home, perhaps once a day?
You have a different idea of what compulsive is, Padraig replied. Its two or three times a day.
At the Players Championship this year, Harrington spoke about his father when the cancer was first discovered.
I never had a golf lesson until I was 15 years of age, but what I had when I was growing up was my dad was a very competitive, very intelligent player, said Padraig. And he just taught me the idea of getting the ball in the hole, the art of scoring. He would never have once given me this is how you swing the golf club, but he would have encouraged me to score well. And at the end of the day, that's really where my talents lie.
Harrington is in the U.S. while his mind remains in Dublin. He spoke about the difficulties of being a continent away as he attempted to compete at the Players.
I'm trying to not use it as a detrimental factor, or motivational factor. I'm trying to be neutral around the course and do my job. I've traveled a long way to do it. As I said before, I'd rather not be here. But the fact that I'm here means that I'm going to go out there and try to do my job as professionally as I can.
Fathers Day has a profoundly different meaning to just about everyone. But sometimes, a father is a little extra precious when you begin to see their mortality. It certainly is to the men at Pinehurst.
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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.”