After Further Review: Phoenix Open should end on Saturday

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. In this edition of After Further Review, our writers weigh in on the Phoenix Open's Sunday hangover, the winning Americans, the LPGA's amazing debut and Rory's win in Dubai.

The LPGA had a terrific idea this week. Knowing the Super Bowl would take precedence in the sporting world on Sunday, the tour opened its season with an event that ended on Saturday instead.

Now it’s time for the PGA Tour to follow suit.

Saturday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open is the biggest keg party in golf. By comparison, Sunday is its morning after, with lifeless bodies doing their walks of shame around TPC Scottsdale, just passing the time until the NFL’s big game gets started.

It’s not just the fans, either. Other than the handful of players in contention, most are annually more interested in the impending Super Bowl than their own performances.

All of which leads to one bright idea: The event should end on its biggest day, the proceedings reaching a crescendo late on Saturday afternoon, giving everyone involved a Sunday pass to watch the game. Hey, it worked for the LPGA this week. There’s no reason it wouldn’t work for the PGA Tour, as well. – Jason Sobel


The Presidents Cup is still more than eight months away, but there appears to be reason for optimism for the team in red, white and blue. The PGA Tour has conducted four events in 2015, and all four have been won by Americans expected to factor on the U.S. squad in South Korea: Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Bill Haas and now Brooks Koepka.

Koepka joins the ranks of Reed, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth among rising Americans who could participate in team events for years to come, as he will rise to No. 19 in the world rankings when they are published on Monday. While extrapolating off a small sample size can be dicey, the U.S. squad certainly seems like it will be a significant favorite come October – and that doesn’t even factor in potential veteran presence from the likes of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. – Will Gray


The LPGA delivered yet again in its season opener.

The Coates Golf Championship at Golden Ocala proved a rousing success as the LPGA’s new season opener. The galleries were stunning. Somebody joked that The Villages, the giant retirement community nearby, must have emptied out Saturday for the final round. Stacy Lewis said she was “shocked” at the crowds bunched along the ropes at the first tee for the first round.

Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club was a fortuitous find, too. It’s the course the Coates folks wanted, and the LPGA couldn’t have been luckier they did. The course features eight “tribute holes,” replicas of famous holes, including Augusta National’s 12th, 13th and 16th, Royal Troon’s postage stamp hole and St. Andrews’ road hole. In truth, they’re all oddly fitted to the overall design. Naturally, as you would expect, they seriously disrupt the flow of Ron Garl’s design. They proved wonderful disruptions, though. There’s fun in the familiarity for fans, even if they don’t play exactly the same way for players.

What mattered was the way that course heightened the drama on the back nine of the third and final rounds. There were loads of birdies, but there was trouble, too. Just ask Lydia Ko. It made for electric finishes to the final two rounds. The movement on the leaderboard was stirring. You wish every course so ably hosted dramatic theater.

If you wondered how the LPGA could possibly match last year’s magical storylines, you got to be thinking they’re off to an awfully good start. – Randall Mell


During a radio interview this week an earnest host asked when Rory McIlroy would be able to play his way out the slump he was currently enduring.

After a few awkward moments he reminded the host that the world No. 1 finished runner-up at his season opener in Abu Dhabi and the Northern Irishman followed that with a victory on Sunday in Dubai.

Comparing Tiger Woods at his best (say, circa 2006) to anyone, including Woods, is a recipe for misplaced expectations, just as ignoring McIlroy’s own brand of greatness (he hasn’t finished outside the top 15 since August) is just as misplaced. –Rex Hoggard

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Twice winner Kizzire on missing U.S. Open: 'Fuel to my fire'

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:59 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Based on recent form, there likely wasn’t a more decorated player watching last week’s U.S. Open from home than Patton Kizzire.

Kizzire is in the midst of a breakthrough season that has already included two wins: a maiden victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November, and a marathon playoff triumph over James Hahn at the Sony Open in January. While those titles got him into the Masters and the PGA Championship, they didn’t mean an exemption to Shinnecock Hills.

Kizzire got as high as 51st in the world rankings after his win in Honolulu, but his game started to turn shortly thereafter. A T-12 finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship is his lone top-25 finish in 12 starts since his Sony victory, and he missed four straight cuts from the Masters to The Players Championship.


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


The U.S. Open grants exemptions to the top 60 in the world at two different cutoff points close to the tournament. But in the midst of a cold streak, Kizzire was 63rd and 65th at each of those deadlines. He attempted to earn a spot at sectional qualifying in Columbus, only to find that his score of 5 under was one shot too many.

“I guess just adding a little fuel to my fire, adding insult to injury,” Kizzire said. “Just to have narrowly missed several different ways of qualification was disappointing. But I just tried to spin it as a positive. I got two weeks off, and I did watch those guys struggle a little bit. I wasn’t struggling at home, we’ll just say that.”

Kizzire hopes to put the disappointment behind him this week at the Travelers Championship, where he finished T-53 a year ago. And while his pair of trophies didn’t get him a tee time last week – or guarantee him a berth in The Open next month – they put him in prime position to make the season-ending Tour Championship, which would mean spots in the first three majors of 2019.

The combination of two recent wins and a ranking outside the top 60 isn’t one that comes up often on Tour, but Kizzire maintains a balanced perspective as he looks to get back to playing the kind of golf that will ensure he doesn’t miss any more majors in the near future.

“If I would have played better in between the U.S. Open and my last win, I would have gotten in. So my play was the reason I wasn’t in,” Kizzire said. “You certainly could look at it and say, ‘This guy’s got two wins, he should be in.’ But I’m not making too much of it.”

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Masters, Players and U.S. Open champs grouped at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:50 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Fresh off a second straight U.S. Open victory, Brooks Koepka is getting right back to work at the Travelers Championship.

Koepka has stood by his commitment to tee it up at TPC River Highlands, becoming the first U.S. Open champ to play the following week on the PGA Tour since Justin Rose played the Travelers after his 2013 win at Merion. Koepka will play the first two rounds alongside Masters champ Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, who captured The Players Championship last month.

Here’s a look at some of the other marquee, early-round groupings for a star-studded field outside Hartford (all times ET):

7:50 a.m. Thursday, 12:50 p.m. Friday: Jason Day, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger

Day is making his second straight Travelers appearance, having missed the cut both last year in Cromwell and last week at Shinnecock Hills. He’ll be joined by reigning Rookie of the Year Schauffele and Berger, who took home ROY honors in 2015 and last year was on the losing end of Jordan Spieth’s playoff dramatics at this event.


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


8 a.m. Thursday, 1 p.m. Friday: Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson

Koepka is making his third tournament appearance overall, but his first since a T-9 finish in 2016, before he had either of his two U.S. Open trophies. Reed has become a regular at this event and enters off a fourth-place showing on Long Island, while Simpson cruised to victory last month at TPC Sawgrass and tied for 10th last week.


12:50 p.m. Thursday, 7:50 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Russell Knox

This was the tournament that turned things around last year for Spieth, who took home the title in his debut thanks to one of the most dramatic shots of the year in a playoff against Berger. He’ll start his title defense alongside a pair of past champs, as Leishman won here for his first Tour title back in 2012 and Knox was a winner two years ago when the tournament was played in August.


1 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. Friday: Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

This group should get plenty of attention in the early rounds, with Thomas entering as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 and joined a pair of players who will launch drives all across TPC River Highlands. Watson has feasted on this layout, winning in both 2010 and 2015 among five top-10 finishes, while McIlroy tied for 17th last year in his tournament debut but missed the cut last week at Shinnecock.

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Travelers Championship: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2018, 5:30 pm

There will be plenty of star power this week in Hartford as the PGA Tour moves north for the Travelers Championship. Here is the key info for this week's event.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


Purse: $7 million

Course: TPC River Highlands (par 70, 6,841 yards)

Defending champion: Jordan Spieth. Defeated Daniel Berger with a birdie on the first playoff hole.


Notables in the field

Jordan Spieth

• Missed last two cuts (the Memorial, U.S. Open) entering this week

• 188th on PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting (4th in strokes gained: tee to green)

• Only player to win Travelers Championship back-to-back: Phil Mickelson (2001-02)


Brooks Koepka

• Making third career start in Travelers Championship (last start: T-9 in 2016)

• First player to play Travelers week after U.S. Open win since 2013 (Justin Rose)

• First player to win U.S. Open back-to-back since 1988-89 (Curtis Strange)


Justin Thomas

• Fifth career start in this event (MC, T-3, MC last three years)

• Second on PGA Tour this season in strokes gained: tee to green (+1.49)


Rory McIlroy

• Second career start in Travelers Championship (T-17 last year)

• Missed cut last week at U.S. Open (shot 80 in opening round)


Jason Day

• Fourth career start in Travelers Championship (best finish: T-18 in 2014)

• Leads PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting this season


Patrick Reed

• Earned second-most world ranking points of any player in 2018

• Finished fourth at U.S. Open last week (three shots behind Koepka)

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Day 'disappointed' in USGA's handling of course, Phil

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:16 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Jason Day had the weekend off following a missed cut at the U.S. Open, but that didn’t prevent the Aussie from keeping an eye on all the drama that unfolded at Shinnecock Hills.

The former world No. 1 found it “disappointing,” – with “it” being both the deterioration of a major championship setup and the fallout from Phil Mickelson’s putter slap during the third round.

Day is hoping to bounce back from an early exit at this week’s Travelers Championship, but before turning his attention to TPC River Highlands he shared that the brunt of his disappointment stemmed from the USGA’s inability to keep Shinnecock playable during the third round and their subsequent decision to water it down for the tournament’s conclusion.

“It’s more the course, about how they set it up. Because Saturday was a total, it was like two different golf courses, practically, on the greens Saturday versus Sunday,” Day said. “I just wish they would leave it alone and just let it go. Not saying to let the greens go and let them dry out and make it unfair, I’m just saying plan accordingly and hopefully whatever the score finishes, it finishes, whether it’s under par or over par.”


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


But Day’s frustration also tied back to Mickelson’s head-turning decision to hit a moving ball on the 13th green during the third round, and the USGA’s subsequent ruling that the actions merited a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.

“It’s obviously disappointing to see what Phil did,” he said. “I think a lot of people have mixed reviews about what he did.”

USGA officials explained over the weekend that Mickelson’s actions explicitly fell under Rule 14-5, which called for a two-shot addition and turned his score of 8 into a 10, rather than Rule 1-2 or Rule 33-7 that could have resulted in disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules.

Day felt it was unfortunate that all of Saturday’s drama deflected attention from a world-class performance from Brooks Koepka en route to a successful title defense, but when it comes to the handling of the Mickelson controversy he believes the USGA could have made good use of a mulligan.

“It’s just unfortunate that it happened at the USGA’s tournament, where they enforce the rules, like the R&A. And I think they may have, they probably should have enforced a different outcome for Phil,” Day said. “But it is what it is. It’s done. It’s just disappointing that that is overshadowing the winner of the whole week. I think if they had it back again, they may have chosen a different outcome.”