No. 1 Best Seller

By John FeinsteinJuly 26, 2011, 7:38 pm

Steve Williams wants to write a book. I have news for him: The line forms to the right.

If I had a dollar for every athlete, coach, father, mother, fan or media member who has called me in the last 25 years to either ask for advice on how to write a book or to offer me the chance to co-author their book, I wouldn’t be as wealthy as Tiger Woods but I’d probably be as wealthy as Williams.

Everyone who has ever spent 15 minutes in sports thinks his or her life is worthy of a book. One of my favorites was an email I received from someone with the subject line, “Opportunity For You.” The opportunity was to write his book on the building of a sprint football team (that’s 150 pounds and under) at a Division III school. It wasn’t that there was any particular story line to it he just thought the school having a team was worthy of a book.

That wasn’t even close to the worst idea I’ve ever heard. It was just the most arrogant approach I can remember.

Almost every college basketball coach who has ever won more than 10 games in a season is convinced his life is book. Years ago a coach who had been fired from a major school in the midst of a scandal called me. He’d had a decent career pre-scandal, nothing you’d write a book about, but a reasonably good career. There was reason to believe if he bided his time for a couple of years he might get another job. Most cheaters who have won in the past get another chance.

“I’m ready to do my book,” he said. “I want you to write it.”

I wasn’t going to write the book but there were enough big names involved in the scandal and he probably knew enough stories that if he wanted to turn whistleblower someone might publish the book.

“Hang on a second,” I said. “You might get someone to publish the book but you need to think before you leap here. If you write about what happened in detail and what you’ve seen other coaches do, chances are good you’ll never coach again.”

He was stunned that I had missed his point and said, “You don’t understand. I’m not going to write about any of THAT. I’m only going to write the positive things: my big wins and my relationships with the student-athletes.”

The guy had won two NCAA Tournament games in his life. I politely suggested he lay low for a while and try to find another coaching job.

Which brings me back to Steve Williams. He says his autobiography would contain, “an interesting chapter on Tiger Woods.”

Really? What will all the other chapters be about? Your racing career in New Zealand? Your days not winning major titles with Greg Norman? Tales of Life with Finchie? (Ian Baker-Finch, a nice guy who won his major without Williams on his bag).

There’s only one reason anyone knows Steve Williams: he spent almost 13 years of his life working closely with Woods. People aren’t going to be all that interested in what Stevie whispered to Tiger before he made the putt at Torrey Pines back in ’08. (“You can do it mate,” sounds about right).

No. The only reason any publisher is going to pay Williams more than the price of lunch for his book is if he dishes on Tiger’s private life. I know that sounds cynical and, honestly, I still wouldn’t read the book but a lot of people probably would.

A year ago, after his split with Woods, Hank Haney began talking to writers about doing a book. Everyone asked him what he'd be able to tell the reader about what was going on in Woods’ personal life prior to Nov. 27, 2009. Haney had nothing, but was willing to dish on a lot of stories about what a bad guy Tiger can be.

You mean stories about him cursing? Not signing autographs? Blowing off the media? Making mean cracks behind people’s backs?

Gee Hank, thanks.

Williams has already categorically denied knowing anything about Woods’ personal life. It may take a leap of faith to believe him but he’d already start out with Strike 1 against him if he started telling people he had details. As in, “Oh, when you were still working for the guy you didn’t know anything; he fires you and you’ve got names, dates, places and times.” People already aren’t terribly sympathetic about Williams’ firing because he was such a lout during his years working for Woods. Turning on a man who made him millions isn’t going to make him more popular in most places.

That doesn’t mean someone wouldn’t pay for the book. Someone would. And the same people who make TMZ successful and buy books on The Life and Times of Paris Hilton would probably turn it into a best seller of some kind. The more Williams can prove what was going on the more he will get paid.

My bet is Stevie will try to sell a book about his role in the 13 majors Tiger won with him on the bag. Look, no one respects caddies more than I do, a good one can make a big difference for a player. But the Woods who won those 13 majors was so good he probably would have won with Gary Williams the basketball coach, or Gary Williams the Golf Channel broadcaster, on the bag.

When I think of Stevie in those days I think back to Jack Nicklaus at the 1981 U.S. Open when his son Jack Jr. caddied for him for the first time in a major. After his first round, someone asked Nicklaus if having Jack Jr. caddie for him had helped him in any way.

“He was a huge help,” Nicklaus said.

“Really?” the excited questioner said. “How exactly did he help?”

Nicklaus smiled. “Well,” he said. “Someone had to carry the bag.”

Maybe that could be the title for Stevie’s book: “Someone Had To Carry The Bag.”

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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.”