Better Than Most - COPIED

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the GOLFCHANNEL.com editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.
 

THE PLAYER: Sergio Garcia knocked down a clutch par putt on the 72nd hole that enabled him to get into a playoff with Paul Goydos at THE PLAYERS Championship. He then won the event on the first extra hole, after Goydos knocked his tee shot into the drink on the par-3 17th, for the biggest win of his now-not-so-young career.
 
Backspin A deep breath and where do we start? For Sergio, who had started to become curiously irrelevant in the last half year - despite a runner-up finish in both the 2007 PLAYERS and the 2007 British Open - he completely blew the doors off his critics in this huge victory. With an almost non-stop barrage of putting questions in his interviews, Garcia was able to drain enough important ones on Sunday to come away with an incredibly hard-fought win. Granted this wasn't an actual major, but remember: Phil didn't win his first major until the age of 32 and his first PLAYERS until last year. Sergio is just 28. Kudos to Sergio for making golf A LOT more interesting.
 

GOY- D'OH!: Paul Goydos came into THE PLAYERS Championship as the 164th player in the world and a virtual unknown amongst most of the general golfing public. Yet he leaves as a fan favorite and a media darling, due mainly to his many forthright comments to the press over the course of the week ' and his impressive play.
 
Backspin Here's a small sampling of Goydos-speak: In a sense, I got to feel what it was like to be Tiger Woods. Thats from a crowd standpoint, not a talent standpoint. - You cant kneecap him (Garcia). You just have to accept the guy beat you and move on. - I may have made some mistakes, but the day I dont make mistakes is the day Im dead - 'I had already hit it in the water on Thursday, so I already had a good yardage feel for the drop area.' - ''The key is to have the lead with no holes to go.'' Good stuff from a new fan favorite.
 

THE SUPERMODEL: It has been billed as golf's 'fifth major,' and for good reason. But even with so much adulation as one of the best overall events in the world, the unquestioned supermodel of this event is Pete Dye's short par-3 17th - the famous/infamous island green.
 
Backspin Wow, what a week for this beauty! Ian Poulter was the first to play this gem on Thursday - and made birdie! The first player to dump one in the water? Goydos. The last to dump one in the water? Again, agonizingly, Goydos. And then to top it all off? She was the first hole in the playoff. And for all of you scoring at home, the final tally: 64 balls in the water. The beautiful ones always break your heart. Ask Mr. Goydos.
 

NO-BRAINER: Jack Nicklaus received the PGA TOURs lifetime achievement award Wednesday, honored for his extended contributions on and off the golf course and for serving as an ambassador of the game.
 
Backspin This was about as tough a decision for the PGA TOUR to make as the one Tiger faces when deciding what color shirt to wear on Sundays. An easy tap-in for Finchem to honor Nicklaus, whose records and accomplishments we quite frankly dont have the space, or manpower, to list in this space. But to just name a few: 73 TOUR wins, a record 18 professional majors, and a mind-boggling 19 runner-ups in majors.
 

TAPPING ON A SHOULDER: Annika Sorenstam won the Michelob Ultra Open in a runaway with a tournament-record 19 under, as former world No. 1 beat four others by a record-tying seven strokes. The victory is the second straight for the former No. 1 ranked player in the world and her third overall in 2008 ' but her first with Ochoa in the field.
 
Backspin Not only did Annika win this tournament going away, but she ran over Lorena Ochoa in the process, beating her by twelve shots. Sorenstam's thrashing of the competition harkened back to the days when she was the world's best, something not lost on the Swede saying afterwards, Thats the way I used to play.' Lorena, the ball is now in your court.
 

CLASS DISMISSED: The PGA TOUR held its annual players meeting at Ponte Vedra Beach and stressed the importance of keeping a professional appearance even when not competing in an event. Slow play was also a hot topic ' once again.
 
Backspin Just a hunch, but Finchem probably had a shirtless, shoeless John Daly in mind when he urged players to represent the TOUR professionally outside of tournaments. As for the action on the course, players complain and moan all the time about slow play and the TOUR does little or nothing about it. Expect them to slow play the slow play issue once again.
 

YES, I CAN ACTUALLY PLAY: Unable to qualify for THE PLAYERS Championship for the second straight year, John Daly continued his European Tour at the Italian Open. Daly, who missed the cut last week at the Spanish Open, had a solid week of play, finishing in a tie for 23rd.
 
Backspin Daly not only made the cut, but he did make Commissioner Finchem proud. He wore a shirt and shoes at all times (on the course), managed to complete at least two full rounds, and there were no reports of unsightly behavior on Dalys part. Maybe the European Tour is the perfect place for Daly to get back on track. One question though? Are there 'Hooters' restaurants in Europe? Let's hope not. And by the way, Hennie Otto won the tournament (in case you were interested).
 

WIE BIT RUSTY: Michelle Wie made her first start since February at this past weeks Michelob Ultra Open, missing the cut by four strokes. The Stanford freshman opened with a 4-over 75 in the first round and never recovered, failing to make it to the weekend.
 
Backspin Chalk up another MC for Wie, who was in a tough situation this week in Virginia. Even Tiger Woods would be rusty after not playing competitive golf for over two months, and Wie is far from Tiger Woods. But with school letting out for the summer, expect to see Wie more in the coming months, and expect to see some much better finishes as well.
 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Famed golf architect Pete Dye was selected for the Hall of Fame; Caddie Greg Rita, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor a year ago, stopped by TPC Sawgrass to visit some familiar faces; Colt Knost shot 5-under 65 Sunday to win the Nationwide Tours Fort Smith Classic.
 
Backspin Dye, who was selected on a Lifetime Achievement category, has designed more than 120 courses, including TPC Sawgrass and the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island; Rita was a welcomed site to players and caddies who hadnt seen him since he underwent Chemotherapy and radiation; Knost can now answer questions about his first professional victory instead of why he turned pro instead of competing in this years Masters, U.S. Open and British Open as an amateur.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - THE PLAYERS Championship
  • Full Coverage - Michelob Ultra Open
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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.”