Fortunes Come True for Sorenstam

By Martha BrendleMarch 11, 2001, 5:00 pm
The rest of the field had virtually no shot of catching Annika Sorenstam during the final round of the Welch's/Circle K Championship.
Sorenstam hit the pavement running making birdies on two of her first three holes of the day. By the time she made the turn she had bested the rest of the field by a comfortable five stroke lead at 20-under-par, after shooting a 31 on the front side.
That wasn't enough for the tenacious Swede. She burned up the course on the backside as well. By the 16th she had reached 23-under-par, broken the course record that she and Pat Hurst set last year of 19-under-par, and it looked as if her goal was to break all time 72-hole record.
Sorenstam comments on her Welch's/Circle K win.

On the 18th, Sorenstam left her approach shot short of the green. Undaunted, the former University of Arizona teammate made her way up to her ball waiving her Wildcat head cover in the air. She got the ball up and down with a solid chip that left her with a 12-foot putt.
At 23-under and 12-feet away from the hole, Annika was tied with four others for posting the second all time lowest 72-hole score. Karrie Webb recorded the lowest score of 26-under-par 262 at the 1999 Australian Ladies Masters.
Sorenstam was denied a birdie after her putt lipped out of the hole. She settled for par on the last, 7-under-par 65 for the final round and her first win since last July.
I'll tell you an interesting story,' Annika said. 'I went to dinner Tuesday night and opened a fortune cookie and the fortune read `Your goals will come true this week.' Then the next night I went to a different restaurant, and believe it or not, my fortune cookie read the exact same fortune.'
She is now the proud owner of two, solid copper mesquite tree trophies. Asked if Sorenstam would use her trophies as book ends the champion quipped 'Yeah, now I'll just have to get some books.'
Six shots off the lead, Se Ri Pak was unable to put any pressure on Annika today. 'It was pretty hard to catch Annika because she was on fire today,' Pak said after her round.
Pak could have held sole possession of second but for a missed birdie putt on the 18th. She finish tied for second at 17-under-par 271. 'I don't know what happened,' Pak said of her missed putt. 'It looked like it was OK but then it just didn't go in.'
Jen Hanna had a tough day today. Paired with Dottie Pepper, Hanna shot a disappointing 4-over-par to finish the tournament in the middle of the pack at 9-under-par 279.
Pepper finished tied for second at 17-under par 271 after sinking a spectacular 50-foot putt. Just moment's prior, the fiery Pepper showed physical disgust with the results of her bunker shot. Undeterred by her bad lie, she got the ball up and down leaving her with the long putt that she ultimately made.
Donning flamingo pink pants, Michelle McGann had fun with the gallery as she made her way around the course shooting 8-under-par 64 in the process and finishing the tournament tied with four others in second place at 17-under-par 271.
Amateur Lorena Ochoa of Guatemala, Mexico shot 7-under-par 65 during the final round to record her first top ten finish. She carded a bogey free round to finish the tournament tied with Nancy Scranton and Julie Inkster at 12-under-par 276.
Ochoa, a freshman at the University of Arizona, received a sponsor's exemption into the Tucson event and chose to play in it over the Mexican Amateur Championship. 'It was a hard decision in the beginning, but it was the best decision for me,' she said. ' I decided it is time to move forward. I stand by my decision, and I am happy with it.'
This is only the second professional event the young amateur has played in. The first was the 2000 U.S. Women's Open where she shot 75-78 153 to miss the cut. 'It has been an incredible week. I really enjoyed playing,' said the 19-year-old. Everything was working for me today.'
Ochoa is playing in this year's U.S. Women's Open on a sponsors' exemption. 'It is one of the majors and I am honored to be one of the amateur's playing in it.'

News & Notes
*Pearl Sinn aced the 189 yard par-3 11th using her 7-wood.
*Sorenstam was winless for the last 11 tournaments she competed in yet managed to record 9 top tens.
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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.”