Triumph and Tragedy

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 28, 2008, 5:00 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.
 
TRIUMPH...: Tiger Woods picked up where he left off last season, winning his first event of 2008 in runaway fashion. Woods grabbed sole possession of the lead in the second round and never looked back, ultimately finishing eight strokes in front of runner-up Ryuji Imada for his fourth straight win at the Buick Invitational.
 
Backspin Tiger's seeming ease with which he won this event - for the fourth straight time no less - gets the ball rolling for his 2008 season, a season in which the normally subdued Woods stated the Grand Slam is a real possibility. And, oh by the way, he tied Arnold Palmer for fourth (62) on the all-time PGA TOUR wins list. Next up? The Hawk, Ben Hogan, coming in with a career total of 64.
 

AND TRAGEDY: On the eve of the Buick Invitational, a pall was cast over the tournament when it was reported that Steve Duplantis, a long-time PGA TOUR caddie, had been killed in an accident when he was struck by a taxi while crossing a street in Del Mar, Calif. Duplantis was 35.
 
Backspin One of the more popular caddies on TOUR, Duplantis was regarded as having a confident way in dealing with whomever's bag he was carrying. A 'free spirit' off the course, Duplantis and his nightlife were detailed in a book titled, 'Bud, Sweat and Tees,' a novel that focused on Rich Beem and his time with Duplantis.
 

HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME?: Perhaps lost in the shadow of Tiger's romp at Torrey Pines, world No. 2 Phil Mickelson also made his '08 season debut as well. Lefty tied for sixth at 6 under, 13 shots back of his rival.
 
Backspin Mickelson was almost scratched from the event due to respiratory problems early in the week, but still managed to gut it out through four rounds. It was vintage Phil, thrilling the crowds at one point with six birdies in a seven-hole stretch on Saturday before finishing his last 27 holes with as many bogeys as birdies.
 

GREAT SCOTT!: Adam Scott, ranked eighth in the world before heading to the Qatar Masters, posted a career-best 11-under 61 to blow past the field and win his sixth European Tour title. For the weekend, Scott's scorecard looked flawless - 18 birdies, 18 pars and no bogeys.
 
Backspin In a week that had Australia on center stage due to the playing of the Australian Open, Scott reminded everyone back in his native land that there was more going on than just tennis. The Aussie made quite a statement with his win, serving notice to his critics that he might be a force to reckon with this upcoming major season.
 
ALOHA MEANS GOODBYE: The Champions Tour bid farewell to Hawaii as Jerry Pate was able to overcome harsh, windy conditions to win the Turtle Bay Championship on Oahu. Pate was one of only three players to finish the final day under par for a two-shot win over Fulton Allem and Jim Thorpe.
 
Backspin The story coming into this event was Fred Funk. Not only was he the defending champ, but he was also coming off a win the prior week at the MasterCard Championship on the Big Island. Despite the confidence from his 10th place showing at the Sony Open - on the PGA TOUR, mind you - and his win the week before, Funk was no match for the Hawaiian trade winds. A final round 9 over par left him in a disappointing tie for 32nd.
 

TIGER SPEAKS: Tiger finally spoke with reporters on the Kelly Tilghman issue and once again he tried to put a cap on the controversy, saying, Kelly and I did speak. There was no ill intent. She regrets saying it. In my eyes, it's all said and done.
 
Backspin As much as Tiger ' and so many others ' want this issue to go away, it will linger for quite some time. And unfortunately for Kelly, it will always be a part of her past. But hopefully, while this will not be completely forgotten, we can at least move on and push it out of our peripheral. After all, as Tiger showed this past week there are plenty more exciting things to talk about when discussing the games greatest player.
 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Tournament organizers were offering a 26-foot luxury yacht to any player who managed to make a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th during last week's Qatar Masters; A statue was unveiled at the Tiger Woods Learning Center, depicting Tiger and father Earl arm and arm; John Daly was denied a sponsors exemption into this weeks FBR Open.
 
Backspin Alas, no player was able to come up with an ace on the par-3 prize hole and therefore everyone was forced to drive away from the event instead of sailing away; What a week for the world's No. 1, honoring his late father and then going out and doing what his father taught him best - dismantling the field; The final sponsors exemption in Scottsdale was handed to young Aussie superstar Jason Day. Odds are tournament organizers wont have to worry about him withdrawing.
 

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Buick Invitational
  • Full Coverage - Turtle Bay Championship
  • Full Coverage - Qatar Masters
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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.”