After Further Review: WGC-Cadillac Championship

By Randall Mell, Ryan LavnerMarch 10, 2014, 1:00 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. In this edition of After Further Review, our writers weigh in on the WGC-Caillac Championship at Trump National Doral, specifically winner Patrick Reed's claim that he is one of the top five players in the world, and the uncertain state of Tiger Woods' game and health..

Did you hear that?

No, I'm not talking about Patrick Reed’s bravado with his comments in the wake of his winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship on Sunday at Trump National Doral. I’m talking about the thumping on golf’s door.

Reed said he believes he’s one of the top five players in the world. He pretty much said that what he has accomplished at 23 sets him apart from everyone but Tiger Woods and the legends of the game.

As bravado goes, the nature of that symbolic chest-thumping barely registers in any sport but golf and, maybe, badminton. Still, Reed ruffled golf’s genteel sensibilities with his unrestrained confidence. It’s one thing to believe you’re good, but in this game it’s quite another to say it. Failing to be humble is deemed bad form in golf, more reprehensible than failing to repair a divot.

So, about that sound, that thumping at golf’s door. That’s the real world of sport at large trying to barge its way into golf. Reed is 23. Yes, he has grown up in golf with its honorable traditions, but he has also grown up in a sports culture where chest-thumping is ritual in the NBA, the NFL and Major League Baseball. So, isn't it just a matter of time until it makes its way into golf? Reed said exactly what he believes, what he ought to believe after winning for the third time in a little more than six months. He probably didn't mean for it to spill out quite like that in his excitement, but it was refreshing to hear what a player really thinks. At the same time, it also makes you wonder if we’ll actually see some young player literally thumping his chest and howling after a win in golf’s not too distant future. Now, that wouldn't be so refreshing. - Randall Mell

The fine line between confident and cocky can so easily become blurred when recorders and cameras go to work. It is easy to consider some of Patrick Reed’s comments both before and after his victory on Sunday at the WGC-Cadillac Championship a tad over the top, but in professional golf a lack of confidence is career kryptonite. Perhaps Reed’s assessment that he considers himself among the top five players in the game is a little too boastful for some, but in this statistics don’t lie. His World Golf Championship victory was his third PGA Tour triumph in his last 14 starts and moved him into the top 20 the Official World Golf Ranking. Maybe the 23-year-old’s take was too honest for some, but to think otherwise would be much worse. – Rex Hoggard

I know we’re supposed to write something here about what we’ve learned this week, but after watching Tiger Woods for four days at Trump National Doral, I think I know less about him than ever before. He’s somewhere in between the best player in the world and a guy who can’t find a fairway or make a 5-foot putt. He’s somewhere in between the road to injury recovery and needing a gurney to follow him on the course. He’s somewhere in between next month’s Masters favorite and a likely trunk-slammer. What I do know is that he remains the game’s most fascinating player. While that was once true because of his dominance, it’s now the case because we have no idea what each new day will bring. He might resemble vintage Tiger, as he did on Saturday when he shot 66; he might look older than his 38 years, as he did on Sunday when he shot 78. I learned long ago to never write the guy off and we’ve all long known that the year’s first three months are simply the appetizer before he reaches the main course. This could become a season for the ages if he puts it all together in the major championships. It could just as easily be another lost year in his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record. I didn’t learn the answer to that this week – and anyone who claims they did is only guessing. – Jason Sobel

Yes, only Tiger Woods knows how he truly feels. But it seems unlikely that in two weeks the world No. 1 will be much improved from the guy we saw Sunday at Doral – grimacing, aching, barely able to pluck the ball out of the cup. A ninth victory at Arnie’s Place won’t mean that he’s Masters-ready. Most critical to his major chances is getting close to 100-percent health. Tiger needs to shut it down, rest his back and prepare for Augusta on his own terms. Grinding out another 72 holes, right now, will only do more harm than good. – Ryan Lavner

Patrick Reed, meet Joe Flacco. On Sunday after winning at Doral, Reed said he believes he’s one of the top five players in the world. In 2012, Flacco’s agent said the Baltimore Ravens quarterback was one of the five best in the NFL. Then Flacco went his agent one better, opining that he was the best NFL QB.

There’s plenty of evidence to dispute both athletes’ claims, but that’s not the point. Good for them for believing in themselves. You can argue whether it was smart for Reed to paint a target on himself for fans and fellow competitors to shoot at, but he’s the one who’ll have to take the heat. Maybe it’s how he motivates himself. Either it will work, and he’ll further back up his claim, or it won’t. He has nothing to lose. Look at it this way – he managed to steal some of the spotlight from Tiger Woods. Not many players can say they’ve done that. As Flacco put it, “What do you expect me to say?” – Al Tays

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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.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“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.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

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.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

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.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

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.”