In Search of International Flavor

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 1, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 The INTERNATIONALThe International is played on a course elevated a mile high. It employs a scoring system unique to anything else on the PGA Tour. And it is contested the week before a major championship; this year, nearly 2,000 miles away from said major.
 
Yet this years International will have one of its best-ever fields ' even without the top 3 players in the world.
 
Retief Goosen
Retief Goosen finished runner-up in his last International appearance in 2003.
Retief Goosen, Phil Mickelson, David Toms, Davis Love III, Sergio Garcia, Chris DiMarco, Stewart Cink and Stuart Appleby are just a few of the notable names in attendance for this the 20th anniversary of the only tour event to use the modified Stableford scoring system.
 
The system awards 8 points for double eagle, 5 for eagle, 2 for birdie, zero for par, minus-1 for bogey and minus-3 for double bogey or worse.
 
This isnt the ideal tournament to fine tune ones game for next weeks PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., which means these men are in attendance at Castle Rock, Colo., because they share affection for both the tournament and its founder, Jack Vickers.
 
Mickelson is back to pay homage to Vickers and celebrate the events 20th birthday ' and to try and pick up a third career victory.
 
He skipped the event last year for the first time in his professional career in order to get in some extra practice time at Whistling Straits, site of last years PGA Championship.
 
The left-hander won this tournament in 1993 and 1997.
 
Goosen is also back after a brief absence. Goosen was committed to play the tournament a year ago but was forced to withdraw after bruising his hip during a jet-ski accident the week before while on vacation.
 
Similarly, Ernie Els was scheduled to compete this year but was forced to pull out after undergoing surgery on his left knee after injuring it while on a sailing vacation two weeks ago.
 
Unfortunately for Els, who won this event in 2000 with a record-tying 48 points, he will not be able to return to action as soon as Goosen did a year ago. Els is out indefinitely following the surgery, which means he will also be forced to skip the PGA Championship and the Presidents Cup.
 
A healthy Els would have been the favorite for the week. But in his absence ' as well as Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh, that honor goes to his countryman.
 
Five for the Title:
 
Retief Goosen
Goosen is over due for a win this season, having yet to record a first-place finish on either the PGA or European tour. He has put himself in position to do so, but has yet to close the deal. Goosen blew a three-stroke lead in the final round of the U.S. Open by shooting 81. He then shot 74 in the final round of the Open Championship, after starting the day just three off the lead. But he looked great in his most recent showing, when he carried partner Mickelson to victory over Tiger Woods and John Daly in the Battle at The Bridges. Goosen, who tied for second in his last appearance at this event in 2003, is looking to join Woods as the only two men with at least one PGA Tour win in each of the last five seasons.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson is trying to become the first three-time winner of The International.
Phil Mickelson
Mickelson is one of only two players (Davis Love III) to have twice won this tournament. He initially set the 72-hole scoring record with 48 points in 1997, which was matched by Els three years later. He also has three wins on tour this season. Thats the good news. The bad news is: Mickelson has performed increasingly (or decreasingly) worse since his BellSouth victory prior to the Masters. His last five finishes have been worse than the one before. He was also terribly erratic in the made-for-TV Battle, which was contested on his home course at The Bridges. All things considered, hes still a birdie machine, and aggressive play is rewarded in this format. Mickelson ranks second on tour behind Woods in birdie average, with 4.61 birdies per round.

David Toms
Toms doesnt have the length of a Mickelson, but he still manages to make nearly as many birdies, ranking third on tour in birdies per round. He will be making his first start since disqualifying himself after the first round of the Open Championship. Surprisingly, in his 10 previous starts in this event he has only one top-10; however, that was a victory in 1999.
 
Chris DiMarco
DiMarco looked ready to runaway with this tournament a year ago, when he scored 31 points after the first two days and built a 9-point lead. But he lost 7 points over his final two rounds and settled for a tie for sixth. DiMarco is a streaky player. He started the season strongly, with four top-5s in his first nine starts; however, he has since cooled with no top-10s in his last seven events. He tied for 12th at last week's Buick Open, which means he's getting better, and he could be set for another run. This could be the place; he has three top-6 finishes in his last four starts at Castle Pines.
 
Davis Love III
Love missed the cut in his last start at the Open Championship, but prior to that he had three top-10s in four-tournament stretch. Love is trying to avoid his second consecutive winless season. He won this tournament in 1990 and again in 2003.
 
Playing Out the Font Nine
 
Four more to keep an eye on
 
*Sergio Garcia, who is returning after a one-year absence. Garcia was among the notables to skip this tournament a year ago. In five previous starts, his best finish is a tie for 11th in 2001.
 
*Greg Norman, who has played well recently on the elder circuit. He missed out by a stroke on a playoff in his Champions Tour debut at the Senior British Open. He then finished fourth at last weeks U.S. Senior Open. Norman won this tournament in 1989.
 
*Rod Pampling, who is the defending champion. Pampling, who has four top-10 finishes this season, will be trying to become the first repeat winner in the tournaments history.
 
*David Duval, who will be playing near his residential home in Denver. Duval finished runner-up to Toms in 1999. He will be trying to make his first cut in 13 starts this season.
 
Related Links:
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    Lopez fires flawless 63 for lead in Arkansas

    By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 12:41 am

    ROGERS, Ark. – Since its first year on the LPGA Tour in 2007, the crowds at the NW Arkansas Championship have belonged to Stacy Lewis.

    Another former University of Arkansas star staked her claim as the hometown favorite Friday when Gaby Lopez shot a career-low 8-under 63 to take the first-round lead at Pinnacle Country Club.

    Like Lewis, the two-time winner of the tournament, Lopez starred as a three-time All-American for the Razorbacks before joining the LPGA Tour in 2016. Despite flashes of potential, Lopez had yet to join Lewis among the ranks of the world's best - missing the cut in her last two tournaments and entering this week ranked 136th in the world.

    For a day, at least, the Mexican standout felt right at home atop the leaderboard in her adopted home state.

    ''I feel like home,'' Lopez said. ''I feel so, so comfortable out here, because I feel that everyone and every single person out here is just rooting for us.''


    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


    Moriya Jutanugarn was a stroke back along with Minjee Lee, Catriona Matthew, Nasa Hataoka, Lizette Salas, Mirim Lee and Aditi Ashok. Six others finished at 6 under on a day when only 26 of the 144 players finished over par, thanks to some mid-week rain that softened the greens and calm skies throughout the day.

    Jutanugarn finished second at the tournament last year and is trying to win for the second time on the LPGA Tour this year. Her younger sister, Ariya, is already a two-time winner this year and shot an opening-round 66.

    Lewis, the former world No. 1 who won the event in 2007 in 2014, finished with a 66. She's expecting her first child in early November

    Defending champion So Yeon Ryu, coming off a victory Sunday in Michigan, shot a 67.

    Friday was Lopez's long-awaited day to standout, though, much to the delight of the pro-Arkansas crowd.

    After missing the cut her last two times out, Lopez took some time off and returned home to Mexico City to rest her mind and work on her game. The work paid off with two straight birdies to open her round and a 6-under 30 on her front nine.

    Lopez needed only 25 putts and finished two shots off the course record of 61, and she overcame a poor drive on the par-5 18th to finish with a par and keep her place at the top of the leaderboard. Her previous low score was a 64 last year, and she matched her career best by finishing at 8 under.

    ''(Rest) is a key that no one really truly understands until you're out here,'' Lopez said. ''... Sometimes resting is actually the part you've got to work on.''

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    Harman rides hot putter to Travelers lead

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:28 am

    CROMWELL, Conn. – There are plenty of big names gathered for the Travelers Championship, and through two rounds they’re all chasing Brian Harman.

    Harman opened with a 6-under 64, then carded a 66 during Friday’s morning wave to become the only player to finish the first two rounds in double digits under par. The southpaw is currently riding a hot putter, leading the field in strokes gained: putting while rolling in 12 birdies and an eagle through his first 36 holes.

    “Putted great today,” said Harman, who ranks 22nd on Tour this season in putting. “Got out of position a couple of times, but I was able to get myself good looks at it. I started hitting the ball really well coming down the stretch and made a few birdies.”


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Harman, 31, has won twice on the PGA Tour, most recently at last year’s Wells Fargo Championship. While he doesn’t have a win this year, he started his season in the fall by reeling off five straight finishes of T-8 or better to quickly install himself as one of the leaders in the season-long points race.

    Now topping a leaderboard that includes the likes of Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, he realizes that he’ll have his work cut out for him if he’s going to leave Connecticut with trophy No. 3.

    “The putter has been really good so far, but I’ve been in position a lot. I’ve had a lot of good looks at it,” Harman said. “I’m just able to put a little pressure on the course right now, which is nice.”

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    10-second rule costs Zach Johnson a stroke

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:06 am

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Zach Johnson heads into the weekend one shot back at the Travelers Championship, but he was a matter of seconds away from being tied for the lead.

    Johnson had an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 3 at TPC River Highlands, his 12th hole of the day, but left the ball hanging on the lip. As Johnson walked up to tap the ball in, it oscillated on the edge and eventually fell in without being hit.

    Was it a birdie, or a par?

    According to the Rules of Golf, and much to Johnson’s chagrin, the answer was a par. Players are afforded “reasonable” time to walk to the hole, and after that they are allowed to wait for 10 seconds to see if the ball drops of its own accord. After that, it either becomes holed by a player’s stroke, or falls in and leads to a one-shot penalty, resulting in the same score as if the player had hit it.

    According to Mark Russell, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competitions, Johnson’s wait time until the ball fell in was between 16 and 18 seconds.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “Once he putts the ball, he’s got a reasonable amount of time to reach the hole,” Russell said. “Then once he reaches the hole, he’s got 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, the ball is deemed to be at rest.”

    Johnson tried to emphasize the fact that the ball was oscillating as he stood over it, and even asked rules officials if marking his ball on the edge of the hole would have yielded a “bonus 10 seconds.” But after signing for a 2-under 68 that brought him within a shot of leader Brian Harman, the veteran took the ruling in stride.

    “The 10-second rule has always been there. Vague to some degree,” Johnson said. “The bottom line is I went to tap it in after 10 seconds and the ball was moving. At that point, even if the ball is moving, it’s deemed to be at rest because it’s on the lip. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just the way it is.”

    While Johnson brushed off any thoughts of the golf gods conspiring against him on the lip, he was beaming with pride about an unconventional par he made on No. 17 en route to a bogey-free round. Johnson sailed his tee shot well right into the water, but after consulting his options he decided to drop on the far side of the hazard near the 16th tee box.

    His subsequent approach from 234 yards rolled to within 8 feet, and he calmly drained the putt for an unexpected save.

    “I got a great lie. Just opened up a 4-hybrid, and it started over the grandstands and drew in there,” Johnson said. “That’s as good of an up-and-down as I’ve witnessed, or performed.”

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    Travelers becoming marquee event for star players

    By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 11:29 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Get lost in the throngs following the defending champ, or caught up amongst the crowds chasing the back-to-back U.S. Open winner, and it’s easy to forget where this tournament was a little more than a decade ago.

    The Travelers Championship was without a sponsor, without a worthwhile field, without a consistent date and on the verge of being jettisoned to the PGA Tour Champions schedule. The glory days of the old Greater Hartford Open had come and gone, and the PGA Tour’s ever-increasing machine appeared poised to leave little old Cromwell in its wake.

    The civic pride is booming in this neck of the woods. Main Street is lined with one small business after the next, and this time of year there are signs and posters popping up on every corner congratulating a member of the most recent graduating class at Cromwell High School, which sits less than two miles from the first tee at TPC River Highlands.

    Having made it through a harrowing time in the event’s history, the local residents now have plenty of reason to take pride.

    The Tour’s best have found this little New England hamlet, where tournament officials roll out the red carpet in every direction. They embrace the opportunity to decompress after the mind-numbing gauntlet the USGA set out for them last week, and they relish a return to a course where well-struck shots, more often than not, lead to birdies.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Ten years ago, this tournament was also held the week after the U.S. Open. Stewart Cink won, and for his efforts he received a paltry 36 world ranking points. But thanks to a recent influx of star-power, this week’s winner will pocket 58 points – the same amount Rory McIlroy won at Bay Hill, and two more than Justin Rose got at Colonial. Now at the halfway point, the leaderboard backs up the hefty allocation.

    While Brian Harman leads at 10 under, the chase pack is strong enough to strike fear in the heart of even the most seasoned veteran: McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson, they of the combined eight major titles, all sit within three shots of the lead. Former world No. 1 Jason Day is one shot further back, and reigning Player of the Year Justin Thomas will start the third round inside the top 20.

    Paul Casey and Bryson DeChambeau, both likely participants at the Ryder Cup this fall, are right there as well at 8 under. Casey lost a playoff here to Watson in 2015 and has come back every year since, witnessing first-hand the tournament’s growth in scope.

    “It speaks volumes for what Travelers have done and how they treat everybody, and the work that Andy Bessette and his team put in to fly around the country and speak highly of this event,” Casey said. “And do things which matter, to continue to improve the event, not just for players but for spectators.”

    Part of the increased field strength can be attributed to the Tour’s recent rule change, requiring players who play fewer than 25 events in a season to add a new event they haven’t played in the last four years. Another portion can be attributed to the short commute from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands, a three-hour drive and even shorter across the Long Island Sound – an added bonus the event will lose two of the next three years with West Coast U.S. Opens.

    But there’s no denying the widespread appeal of an event named the Tour’s tournament of the year, players’ choice and most fan-friendly in 2017. While Spieth’s return to defend his title was assumed, both Day and McIlroy are back for another crack this year after liking what they saw.

    “Anyone that I talked to could only say good things about the tournament about the golf course, how the guys are treated here, how the fans come out, and how the community always gets behind this event,” McIlroy said. “Obviously I witnessed that for the first time last year, and I really enjoyed it.”

    After starting the week with all four reigning major champs and five of the top 10 players in the latest world rankings, only Masters champ Patrick Reed got sent packing following rounds of 72-67. The remaining top-flight contingent will all hit the ground running in search of more low scores Saturday, with Spieth (-4) still retaining a glimmer of hope to keep his title defense chances alive, perhaps with a 63 like he fired in the opening round.

    The Tour’s schedule represents a zero-sum game. Outside of the majors and WGCs that essentially become must-play events for the game’s best, the rest of the legs of the weekly circus become victim of a 12-month version of tug-of-war. Some players like to play in the spring; others load up in the fall. Many play the week before majors, while a select group block off the week after for some R&R far away from a golf course.

    But in an environment where one tournament’s ebbs can create flows for another, the Travelers has continued a steady climb up the Tour’s hierarchy. Once in jeopardy of relegation, it has found its footing and appears in the process of turning several of the Tour’s one-name stars into regular participants.

    Rory. Jordan. Bubba. JT.

    It’s been a long battle for tournament officials, but the proof is in the pudding. And this weekend, the reward for the people of Cromwell – population 14,000 – looks to be a star-studded show.

    “All the events are incredible,” Thomas said. “But this is kind of one of those underrated ones that I think until people come and play, do they realize how great it is.”