The Billion Dollar Man

By Mercer BaggsOctober 5, 2009, 1:01 pm

Tiger Woods

 
DO THEY MAKE MILLION-DOLLAR BILLS?: Forbes reported this past week that, by their estimate, Tiger Woods has surpassed the $1 billion earnings mark. Forbes took into account prize money, appearance fees, endorsements, bonuses and his golf course design business. Woods, if the numbers are correct, would be the first athlete to cross this barrier.
 
Backspin I should be jealous, but I find myself feeling like Ron Burgundy when he discovered his dog ate an entire wheel of cheese. It is amazing that one man can accumulate so much. And don't go thinking this is just a byproduct of his success. This is an achievement for Woods, one he's long wanted to accomplish. Woods loves money more than Burgundy loves scotch.

Greg Norman and Chris Evert

 
SEPARATE LIVES: Just days before the start of the Presidents Cup, Greg Norman and Chris Evert announced their separation. The star couple was married for only 15 months and did not say whether they planned to divorce. Norman is the captain of the International Presidents Cup team.
 
Backspin This will make Norman's Tuesday press conference at Harding Park more interesting. Of course, he'll ask the media to respect his privacy ... but when has that ever worked. Divorce, however, is a serious matter and we'll respect it as such in Backspin. It's one of those things where someone should be allowed to say what they want on the subject and nothing more  – without bother.

Ken Green

 GREEN NOT FEELING BLUE: Ken Green, who had his lower right leg amputated after a vehicle accident in June, said he plans to return to the Champions Tour by April. A tournament was held this past week in Green's hometown of Danbury, Conn., to help raise money for Green's increasing medical and personal expenses.
 
Backspin Fred Funk, Andy Bean, Scott Simpson, Chip Beck, Bob Tway, Phil Blackmar and Brad Bryant were among the pros who took part in last Monday's event. Green has been playing recently, doing so with a special prosthesis that includes an ankle that will pivot. Green not only lost his lower right leg in the recreational vehicle accident; he also lost his brother, girlfriend and dog, who all died in the crash. That he's persevering in life and not wilting away in a dark corner is far more impressive than Tiger Woods' billion-dollar earnings.

Manuel de los Santos

 
SIMPLY AMAZING: For all the stars at the European Tour's Dunhill Links Championship, it was Manuel De Los Santos who was the main attraction. De Los Santos, who lost his left leg in an automobile accident, played the tournament without the use of a prosthesis.
 
Backspin The 25-year-old from the Dominican Republic teamed with professional Richard Bland and missed the 54-hole cut by one shot, finishing at 20 under. 'I didn't make the cut but I am not disappointed, because I have had the most fantastic week,' De Los Santos said. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, we'll just let the above image speak for itself.
Matt Kuchar


 
WELCOME, MATT: Matt Kuchar won his first PGA Tour event since March 2002, defeating Vaughn Taylor on the sixth playoff hole at the Turning Stone Resort Championship. The duo completed two playoff holes Sunday before darkness suspended play and then needed four more holes on a cold and windy Monday morning in New York to determine the winner.
 
Backspin The way most people treat Fall Series events, you'd think everyone was playing for pride and little more. Kuchar, however, nearly doubled his yearly earnings, collecting $1.08 million for the victory. He's now inside the top 30 on the money list, which, if he finishes there, will be good enough for a ticket to the 2010 Masters – something a Fall Series victory doesn't provide.

Lorena Ochoa


 
SUPER STAR: Lorena Ochoa sucessfully defended her title at the Navistar LPGA Classic, defeating Michelle Wie by four shots in Prattville, Ala. The victory was Ochoa's third of the season and first since April. She moved to fifth on the 2009 money list and second in the Rolex Player of the Year standings.
 
Backspin This win was just a natural progression for Ochoa, who had finished, in order, T-10, T-4 and second in her previous three starts. Wie, meanwhile, collected her fifth top-5 of the season, thanks to bookend 66s. On another note, 14-year-old Alexis Thompson, who opened the tournament in 64-69 for a share of the 36-hole lead, closed in 74-74 to tie for 27th, 12 back of Ochoa.

Jay Haas

 
IT'S OVER, IT'S FINALLY OVER: Jay Haas, fresh off his first win of the season a week prior, captured the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship. Haas shot 6-under 64 in the final round to rally past Tom Watson, who was trying to become the oldest winner of a major championship on the Champions Tour. The 60-year-old led by four entering the final round, but shot even-par 70 to finish one back of Haas.
 
Backspin This officially puts an end to the 2009 major season. Surprisingly, it was Watson who provided the most memorable performance of the year across all tours. That it happened on the PGA Tour – and not the Champions – and came in a losing effort makes it all the more amazing.  Watson played in seven combined majors this season and had five top-10 finishes, including that unforgettable playoff loss at Turnberry in the Open Championship.

Rio de Janeiro


 
GAMES, SET, MATCH: Rio de Janeiro was awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics Games. Chicago, considered one the favorites to host the Games in seven years, was the first city voted out Friday in Copehagen, Denmark.
 
Backspin The selection of Rio over Chicago shouldn't affect golf's chances of being included in 2016. That decision will come down this Friday. Chicago, with its multitude of championship courses, certainly would have been a great host site for golf, but if you're fortunate enough to cover the Olympics in seven years' time where would you rather be? I've seen 'Blame it on Rio.' I want to go there.

Arnold Palmer


 
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Arnold Palmer said he plans to return Bay Hill to a par 72 for next year's Arnold Palmer Invitational. ... Kenny Perry's mother died after a long battle with blood cancer. ... GolfChannel.com senior writer Randall Mell reported that Navistar agreed to a one-year extension as sponsor of their Alabama event, with a two-year option. ... Jerod Turner won the Nationwide Tour's Soboba Classic.
 
Backspin The course was a par 70 the last three years, but two of the current par 4s will be changed back to par 5s, including the 16th hole. Fans want to see birdies and Palmer wants to please the fans. ... Perry still plans to play in the Presidents Cup, with his family's wishes. ... More tournaments are agreeing to stick around for one more year to see if they like what they see. We hope they do. ...Even Golf Channel's Jerry Foltz, who knows the most obscure golfers in the world, had never heard of this guy before last week.

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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.”