McIlroy, G-Mac say no bad blood, but may not partner

By Jason SobelSeptember 23, 2014, 5:55 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – If we are to believe the insistences coming from Camp Europe, then we should understand that Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell still like each other. They still like each other enough to overcome the former pursuing a lawsuit against the latter’s current management company and that company pursuing a countersuit. They still like each other enough to coexist in the same team room all week. They still like each other, we must imagine, to hug and sing and dance and spray champagne on each other should the opportunity present itself come Sunday evening.

They just might not like each other quite enough to play together again.

Or maybe they do and the entire account is just wildly off-base speculation.

These are the types of stories which materialize in the early hours of a Ryder Cup week, ones which might have a semblance of timeliness and relevance to them, but may just as well have little bearing on the impending proceedings.

There is some juiciness to this one, though.

During his formative years as a young professional, McIlroy often looked toward his fellow Northern Irishman for mentorship and consultation. That relationship sparked a partnership. They played three matches together in 2010, finishing with a 1-1-1 record, and three more in 2012, going 1-2-0.


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But now, it could have an effect on whether they’ll tee it up together once the four team sessions begin Friday morning, despite persistent claims from all involved parties that there is no lingering palpable tension.

“There’s no doubt our personal issues have been well documented the last couple of years,” McDowell admitted. “And I believe that we’ve both come out of the other end of that probably better friends than we were going into it. Our personal issues are not a problem this weekend, so that’s a fact.”

Here’s the CliffsNotes version of the impending legal matters: When McIlroy left Horizon Sports Management to form his own management agency, his lawyers sued in part for claims that McDowell received preferential treatment. Not long after, Horizon countersued for breach of contract. Add in the gossipy tidbit that McDowell is a shareholder in the company, which means that in essence the two teammates are trying to get into each other’s pockets, and the entire process leaves a juicy subplot entering a week during which the European team has been renowned for its camaraderie.

Even so, everybody in the team room has been whistling the same happy tune.

“It's not an issue and it's not been an issue for me in terms of Ryder Cup captaincy over the last year – certainly since these court proceedings started,” team captain Paul McGinley stated. “Both of them have assured me all along that there's no issues, and that's the way I've always seen it.”

For anybody reading those words and waiting for the “but…” it came in reference to them once again being paired.

“Whether they come together or not is another story. Three or four months ago, I had a very strong view that they would have been, but the more I look at their statistics and the more I look at the different value I have with them, I'm thinking there may be a value in not doing it. But if I don't do it, it certainly won't be because of any issues. As both of them have said, there are no issues between them and both of them will be happy to play together. But it will be my decision ultimately.”

Among the massive sections of agate in this week’s Ryder Cup media guide is, unfortunately, no statistic showing how players have fared when paired together while embroiled in legal proceedings against each other. This would undoubtedly be a first in this 40th edition of the competition, but stranger things have happened over those years.

Even if it doesn’t, McDowell insists that we shouldn’t read anything more into it than an overflow of wealth on the European side, with so many players capable of teaming up with so many others.

“I would really embrace the opportunity to play perhaps foursomes with Rory at some point this weekend,” he said. “We are both up for it. Like Paul says, though, he feels like I could be best used somewhere else … and Rory certainly can play with anyone. So we might be best served apart. Who knows?”

Three days before the first meaningful shot of the week is struck, with the Gleneagles course ready to play host and so many pairings materializing so quickly, these are the types of stories which seem important right now.

Once it all begins, though, we’ll likely hear little about it. Heck, even two guys trying to get into each other’s pockets might still team up to get into those of their American counterparts.

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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.”