The week that almost was

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 4, 2008, 4:00 pm
In Backspin, GolfChannel.com takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf ' with a spin.
 

ANNIKA'S FAREWELL: Annika Sorenstam completed her last major championship with a 10-foot birdie putt for a final round 4-under 68 at the Womens British Open. The 37-year-old Sorenstam tied for 24th at 6-under 282, 12-strokes behind winner Ji-Yai Shin.
 
Backspin The 10-footer for birdie to close out her British Open career wasn't exactly the 6-iron hole-out from the fairway that finished her 2008 U.S. Open, but it was fitting nonetheless. After her round, the 10-time major champion said, To finish with a birdie was special. There didnt seem to be any doubt it was going in.
 

V IS FOR VICTORY, L IS FOR...: Vijay Singh survived a balky putter and closed out his first-ever WGC title with a 3-foot par putt on the 72nd hole to beat Lee Westwood and Stuart Appleby by a stroke at Firestone CC. Phil Mickelson bogeyed three of his last four holes to fall two off the pace.
 
Backspin The victory was huge for Singh ' evident by the beaming smile on his face during a post-round TV interview ' and was his first win on TOUR this year. As for Lefty, it was another sloppy stretch of golf that we have now come to expect. If youre a Phil fan, you learn to take the good with the bad. Although it's tough trying to figure out why there's always so much bad from the No. 2 player in the world.
 

WIE BE GONE: Michelle Wie had yet another go at the PGA TOUR this past week in the Reno-Tahoe Open. After raising hopes following a 1-over 73 in the opening round, Wie crapped out with a second-round 80 to miss the cut.
 
Backspin Wie, whose nickname should now be 'Lightning Rod' instead of the once whimsical 'Big Wiesy,' will again be crucified by the press and fans for yet another missed cut. It should be noted, however, that she is an 18-year-old Stanford sophomore, doesn't run afoul of the law, and is a smart and talented kid. The vast majority of 'haters' have never even dared tried the things Wie has attempted. Here's a sensible and rational vote of confidence that things will straighten themselves out for 'Lightning Rod.' Hopefully sooner, rather than later.
 

NORMAN OUT OF GAS?: Playing in his third major championship in as many weeks, Greg Norman finished in fourth place at the U.S. Senior Open, six shots behind winner Eduardo Romero. Before the tournament started Norman had announced that he would not accept an invitation from the PGA of America to play in this week's PGA Championship.
 
BackspinEven though the Shark had another respectable finish, you cannot blame the man for declining to play in the PGA Championship. The 53-year-old's whirlwind tour around the world of golf was impressive, but Norman has to be running on fumes. Not to mention that with a new wife and a booming business, golf is no longer a top priority for the former world No. 1.
 

WIE'LL ALWAYS HAVE RENO...: Peter McLachlin routed the field at the Reno-Tahoe Open, cruising to a seven-shot victory for his maiden PGA TOUR triumph.
 
Backspin Wie got the headlines; McLachlin got the trophy. He took control of the tournament with a second-round 62, and added a 66 on top of that in Rd. 3. Even a closing 74 couldnt deny him win No. 1.
 

OLD GUY'S OPEN: Argentine's Eduardo Romero won the U.S. Senior Open by four shots over Fred Funk, becoming the second Argentine to win the senior title. He follows fellow countryman Roberto De Vicenzo's win 28 years ago.
 
Backspin If you didnt see the final 18 holes of this one, consider yourself fortunate ' for your game might never have recovered. This was U-G-L-Y ugly. Romero had a stretch of four consecutive bogeys on the back nine. Funk shot 75, complete with a triple-bogey on 13. And John Cook carded a closing 7-bogey, no-birdie 77.
 

ASIAN DOMINATION: The LPGA wrapped up its major season at the Women's British Open at Sunningdale with 20-year-old South Korean Ji-Yai Shin rolling to a three-stroke win over Japan's Yuri Fudoh. American Cristie Kerr was sixth and world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa tied for seventh.
 
Backspin The year started with people thinking that all four majors would belong to Mexico. It ended with Asia winning three of the four majors and perhaps forever changing the landscape of women's golf. Said seven-time major champion Juli Inkster, 'Asians. And its not stopping either. Theyre all coming. It certainly doesn't help U.S. TV ratings, but golf is without a doubt a global game at this point.
 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Ryan Hietala won the Cox Classic in Omaha, topping David Branshaw on the first playoff hole Purdue University researchers report that golfers who play well are more likely to see the hole as larger than those who play poorly A black bear made its way out onto the course at the U.S. Senior Open before wandering back into the wilderness. No spectators were injured.
 
Backspin Hietala earned his first victory since 2005. 'God, what a struggle. What a feeling,' Hietala said With gas prices through the roof and plenty of diseases yet to be cured, we can't help but wonder if the people over at Purdue couldn't have found something more productive, and less obvious, on which to focus their research Since the 'Golden Bear' Jack Nicklaus wasn't playing last week in Colorado, maybe the USGA improvised with the next best thing, a black one.
 
Editor's note: No bears were harmed in the writing of this Backspin.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage -- U.S. Senior Open
  • Full Coverage -- Legend's Reno-Tahoe Open
  • Full Coverage -- WGC-Bridgestone Invitational
  • Full Coverage - Ricoh Women's British Open
  • More Headlines
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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.”


    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.”