Ordinary Joe Extraordinary Performance

By George WhiteMarch 4, 2001, 5:00 pm
Hal Sutton was the first to fall, suffering a couple of front-nine bogeys and dropping by the wayside early. Mike Weir did likewise, though he stuck around until the back nine, still riding the wave of a first-round 62.
Durant comments on his Genuity Championship win.
Rushing up alongside was Joe Durant, who eagled the first, birdied the second, dropped a clutch 12-footer for par on the third, then made birdie on the fourth. That told everyone he was in the game with the big boys. Then he slammed it into overdrive, firing a remarkable 65 on a windy day more suited for sea gulls than golfers. That was more than enough to win the Genuity Championship Sunday.
Durant did this somewhat backwards. On Thursday and Friday, when golfers were carving up Doral like so much Swiss cheese, Durant shot a quiet 68 and 70. On the weekend, though, when Doral?s infamous winds began swirling, Durant acted like he had found his niche. He shot 12-under-par for the weekend, his 67-65 earning him a two-shot win over Weir. While everyone else had fits trying to decipher the two- to three-club gusts, Durant found he was right at home.
'It's a dream come true for me,' said Durant. 'I have always wanted to play the Tour since I was seven years old. To have played this well this year is beyond anything I would have imagined, to be quite honest.
'I felt like I was good enough to win out here, but until you do it, you never know. But the last couple of weeks have been just unbelievable for me.'
Durant became the first multiple winner of the year with the victory at Doral. It followed by two weeks his win at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Since he didn't play at the Nissan Open last week, it was the second win in succession for Durant, who lives in Molino, Fl., near Pensacola.
The first hole should have been a tipoff that Durant was up to something. He eagled the par-5 hole with a driver, 6-iron and a 15-foot putt. He birdied No. 2 with another 15-footer and dropped a 30-foot bomb on the field on No. 4.
Durant was still two shots behind Weir after both birdied the par-5 8th, but Durant slowly tightened the noose on the par-3 9th when the Canadian bogeyed. And Durant was absolutely relentless on the back, tying for the lead when Weir followed No. 9 with a bogey on the par-5 10th. Durant finally grabbed the lead with a birdie at the par-5 12th and amassed a three-stroke advantage until he finally bogeyed the final hole with a three-putt bogey, his first slip the final 36 holes.

Obviously, Joe played a phenomenal round of golf today in those conditions, said a disappointed Weir. Sixty-five is a hell of a score. My hat is off to him. He played a great round of golf.
Durant sees just one difference in his game putting. He's hitting the same shots the same length in approximately the same place. But the ball is going into the cup now.
My stats probably aren't that much different these weeks from other weeks, but the putts have gone in versus rimming out or three-putting or not getting up-and-down, he said.
Seems the last two tournaments, the times I needed to get up-and-down to keep a round going, I have been able to do that. I have made a lot of eight- to 20-footers, whereas that is the distance I usually struggle with. I usually am a good short putter, but that range of putt I don't tend to make that many of. I have just made a bunch of them the last two weeks.
The win vaults Durant over Davis Love III into first place in the PGA Tour money standings. He also had to finish first or second this week to get into the Masters, and his win does that for him, too.
The Masters, he admits, was the furthest thing from his mind three weeks ago before his win at the Bob Hope. He didn't have a flicker of hope before then. 'Absolutely not,' said Durant. 'I was trying to get into the top 70 and Bay Hill. I am serious. I was. That is what I was shooting for on the West Coast. That's just strange how things can happen.'
News, Notes and Numbers
*With his victory, Joe Durant moves to 11th on the 2001 Ryder Cup points list.
*Stephen Ames withdrew from the event early in the fourth round Sunday. Ames was handling a duffle bag Saturday night when he pulled a rib muscle. He tried to play, but withdrew after six holes.
Click here for Joe Durant's interview transript!
Mike Weir comments on his runner-up finish.
See Full-Field scores from the Genuity Championship here.
More Information on the Florida Swing.
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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.”