Players Set for Season Finale

By Marty HenwoodAugust 24, 2004, 4:00 pm
Canadian Tour-LargeBRIMLEY, Mich. -- David Hearns victory at the Nationwide Tours Alberta Classic on Sunday pretty much guaranteed a Canadian will not win the money title this season, as Jon Mills did in 2003. Heading into this weeks season-ending Bay Mills Open Players Championship, that is about the only thing that has been determined.
Hearn holds down fourth spot on the Canadian Tour money list but his triumph in Calgary, and the subsequent exemption onto the PGA Tours premier feeder circuit, has opened the door for another player to sneak in and grab one of the coveted top two spots on the Order of Merit and, more importantly, gain an exemption into the second stage of PGA Tour qualifying school.
With this weeks $225,000 event closing out the 2004 schedule, Hearn, with $58,461 in Canadian Tour earnings this season, was one of just three players in a position to overtake Miamis Erik Compton, who has pocketed $85,876 to date.
One year ago, Jon Mills of Oshawa, Ontario became the first Canadian to win the money crown since some guy by the name of Mike Weir did it six years prior. Mills, who is close friends with Hearn, would advance to the final stage of PGA Q-School later that fall and nail down a Nationwide card for this year. On Sunday afternoon in Calgary, Mills placed eighth.
Compton finished 16th in Calgary and has decided to roll the dice this week and pass on the Bay Mills Open Players Championship to tee it up as the Nationwide Tour rolls into Utah. Once the dust settles Sunday afternoon in Michigan, we will see if the decision was a wise one.
The law of averages would seem to be on Comptons side. With two wins under his belt this season, Compton leads fellow countryman Stephen Woodard by just over $6,000. Only Woodard ($79,420), Sutterfield ($63, 951) and Hearn ($58,461) can combine to knock Compton to third spot, and with the latter now taking his swings on the Nationwide, that number has been reduced by one.
Woodard is coming off back-to-back wins in Edmonton and Montreal, the first player in four years to do that, and will go for the three-peat this week. A win here and the 31-year-old North Carolina native would become the first player in Tour history with three straight triumphs. A Woodard or Sutterfield triumph in Michigan, along with the $36,000 winners check, would mean an Order of Merit championship. Should Sutterfield finish second, the $21,600 payday would leave him $300 short of catching Compton.
With Compton just over $22,000 away from Eduardo Ferrara, last years 70th place finisher on the Nationwide money list, a target which would get him full-time status on the circuit, Compton admits his decision was not an easy one.
It was really a tough decision for me, said Compton. I played in Bay Mills last year, and it was a fantastic tournament and an excellent course. Ive told everyone the past few weeks how great this Tour is, and Davids win (Sunday) just proves that point. Our top players can compete with the best. The Canadian Tour has been awesome to me, and I know Im taking a chance this week. Anything can happen. Right now, I am in position on the Nationwide Tour to take it to the next level, and Ive got to give it a shot.
But the top two spots on the Canadian Tour money list are certainly not the only perks on the line this week. Once checks are dished out Sunday afternoon, the top six off the Order of Merit will be exempted into the Bell Canadian Open, to be staged Sept. 9-12 at Glen Abbey.
The next 20 will gain a berth in the final qualifying phase for the BCO, which this year marks its 100th anniversary as Canadas national championship.
Also up for grabs this week is the Srixon Stroke Average Award, handed out to the player with the lowest scoring average for the year. It should not come as any surprise that Compton also leads in that category with a 69.36 average. The former U.S. Walker and Palmer Cup team member is the only player with a sub-70 ranking for the season, followed by Woodard (70.02), Hearn (70.06) and Sutterfield (70.17).
The Most Improved Canadian and International Player award is given to the player with the greatest improvement in earnings and scoring average combined from the previous season. Woodard would seem to be a lock for the International honor after making $79,420 this season, $61,628 more than he did in 2003, and shaving more than a full stroke off his average.
On the Canadian side, Hearn has taken home just over $39,000 more than last season, but his average (70.06) is pretty much identical to 2003, when his 70.08 score was second to American Michael Harris. Craig Taylor of Hunter River, P.E.I, (+$26,701, avg. dropped from 71.60 to 71.38) will also be in the hunt for the Canadian award should he fare well this week.
Dan Swanson of Vancouver, B.C., with $19,691 in earnings, would seem to be in the drivers seat to win Canadian Rookie of the Year, while Will Moore of Dallas, Tex. ($23,568) is the player to catch for International Rookie kudos.
Opening round action gets underway Thursday at the scenic 7,101-yard, par-72 Wild Bluff GC in Northern Michigan, just a stones throw away from the Canadian border.
The Golf Channel will once again broadcast all four rounds of the Bay Mills Open Players Championship live (TGC - Live Thursday 1 p.m. ET).
Another player to keep an eye on this week will be Mario Tiziani of Chanhassen, Minn., who seems to be at his best when playing at opposite ends of the International Bridge spanning Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. and Michigan. During the Tours first visit to Wild Bluff in 2002, Tiziani placed second to Jeff Quinney. Last season, Tiziani won his intital Tour crown at the Northern Ontario Open in the Soo and followed that up with a fifth-place result at the season-ender in Brimley.
Rodney Butcher of Tampa, Fla. made four strolls through Wild Bluff last summer and came out with a 10-under 278 total to win his first Tour event by five shots. Mills came in second, good enough to give him the money title
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Just like last year, Spieth in desperate need of a spark

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 8:38 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Jordan Spieth has arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a turnaround. Again.

Spieth’s playoff victory last year over Daniel Berger, complete with a bunker hole-out and raucous celebration, went down as one of the most electrifying moments of 2017. It also propelled Spieth to some more major glory, as he won The Open in his very next start.

So it’s easy to forget the state of Spieth’s game when he first stepped foot on the grounds of TPC River Highlands a year ago. Things were, quite plainly, not going well.

He was struggling on the greens, even going so far as to switch putters at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He then failed to contend at Erin Hills, only netting a T-35 finish thanks to a final-round 69 that came hours before the leaders teed off.

So here we are again, with Spieth in search of a spark after a series of underwhelming performances that included last week’s effort at Shinnecock Hills, where he bogeyed the last two holes of his second round to miss the cut by a shot. Except this time, the climb back to the top may be even steeper than it was a year ago.

“I’m not sure where the state of my game is right now,” Spieth said. “If I strike the ball the way I have been this year, then the results are coming. But the last couple weeks I’ve played Muirfield and then the (U.S.) Open, and I hit the ball really poorly and didn’t give myself that many opportunities to let the putter do the work.”

While many big names play sporadically in the time between the Masters and U.S. Open, Spieth remained as busy as ever thanks to the Tour’s swing through Texas. So even after failing to contend much in the spring outside of a memorable finale in Augusta, and even after struggling for much of his week at TPC Sawgrass, Spieth looked out at his schedule and saw a myriad of possible turning points.

There was the AT&T Byron Nelson, played in his hometown and at a venue on which he was one of only a handful with any experience (T-21). Then a trip across town to Colonial, where he had beaten all but two players in a three-year stretch (T-32).

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Throw in the missed cuts at Muirfield Village and Shinnecock Hills, and Spieth has made it to the last leg of a six-event stretch that has included only one off week and, to date, zero chances to contend come Sunday.

“I think here this week, the key for me is just to get out in the first round and try not to do too much,” Spieth said. “I mean, 90-plus percent of the tournaments the last two years I’ve thrown out my chances to win a golf tournament on Thursday. I’ve had too much to do from here on.”

That was certainly the case last week on Long Island, where Spieth’s hopes for a fourth major title evaporated well before course conditions became a focal point over the weekend. He was 4 over through his first two holes and spent much of the next 34 stuck in a fit of frustration. He gave himself a glimmer of hope with four late birdies Friday followed by a pair of bogeys that snuffed it out with equal speed.

Spieth has continued to preach patience throughout the year, but there’s no getting around some eye-popping stats; he's 188th on Tour this year in strokes gained: putting and 93rd in fairways hit. It can foster a pressure to find a cure-all in any given week, especially given how quickly he got a middling summer back on track last year.

“It’s something that you fight, sure,” Spieth said. “It’s been that way just about every tournament except Muirfield, because then you go to the U.S. Open and think you don’t even have to shoot under par to win this golf tournament. So as much as that kind of comes into your head, it’s not bothering me this time. I’m going to try and have fun, and make progress.”

After this week, Spieth will have some down time with family before making the trip overseas to Carnoustie. He plans to have a few private dinners accompanied by the claret jug, one last toast to last year’s success before turning the trophy back over to the R&A.

But even Spieth admitted that as it pertains to his chances to follow in Brooks Koepka’s footsteps by successfully defending a major title, he’ll be greatly aided by working his way into the mix this weekend. It represents the last chance in this early-summer swing to get his name back on the leaderboard, an opportunity to light fire to a pedestrian campaign like he did a year ago.

No pressure.

“It’s your basic stuff that sometimes gets off, that the harder you try to get them back on sometimes, the worse it gets,” Spieth said. “It can be frustrating, or you can just kind of wait for it to come to you. I think I’m OK with where things are, whether it’s the rest of this year or next year. I feel like there are good scores coming.”

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Twice winner Kizzire on missing U.S. Open: 'Fuel to my fire'

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:59 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Based on recent form, there likely wasn’t a more decorated player watching last week’s U.S. Open from home than Patton Kizzire.

Kizzire is in the midst of a breakthrough season that has already included two wins: a maiden victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November, and a marathon playoff triumph over James Hahn at the Sony Open in January. While those titles got him into the Masters and the PGA Championship, they didn’t mean an exemption to Shinnecock Hills.

Kizzire got as high as 51st in the world rankings after his win in Honolulu, but his game started to turn shortly thereafter. A T-12 finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship is his lone top-25 finish in 12 starts since his Sony victory, and he missed four straight cuts from the Masters to The Players Championship.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The U.S. Open grants exemptions to the top 60 in the world at two different cutoff points close to the tournament. But in the midst of a cold streak, Kizzire was 63rd and 65th at each of those deadlines. He attempted to earn a spot at sectional qualifying in Columbus, only to find that his score of 5 under was one shot too many.

“I guess just adding a little fuel to my fire, adding insult to injury,” Kizzire said. “Just to have narrowly missed several different ways of qualification was disappointing. But I just tried to spin it as a positive. I got two weeks off, and I did watch those guys struggle a little bit. I wasn’t struggling at home, we’ll just say that.”

Kizzire hopes to put the disappointment behind him this week at the Travelers Championship, where he finished T-53 a year ago. And while his pair of trophies didn’t get him a tee time last week – or guarantee him a berth in The Open next month – they put him in prime position to make the season-ending Tour Championship, which would mean spots in the first three majors of 2019.

The combination of two recent wins and a ranking outside the top 60 isn’t one that comes up often on Tour, but Kizzire maintains a balanced perspective as he looks to get back to playing the kind of golf that will ensure he doesn’t miss any more majors in the near future.

“If I would have played better in between the U.S. Open and my last win, I would have gotten in. So my play was the reason I wasn’t in,” Kizzire said. “You certainly could look at it and say, ‘This guy’s got two wins, he should be in.’ But I’m not making too much of it.”

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Masters, Players and U.S. Open champs grouped at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:50 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Fresh off a second straight U.S. Open victory, Brooks Koepka is getting right back to work at the Travelers Championship.

Koepka has stood by his commitment to tee it up at TPC River Highlands, becoming the first U.S. Open champ to play the following week on the PGA Tour since Justin Rose played the Travelers after his 2013 win at Merion. Koepka will play the first two rounds alongside Masters champ Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, who captured The Players Championship last month.

Here’s a look at some of the other marquee, early-round groupings for a star-studded field outside Hartford (all times ET):

7:50 a.m. Thursday, 12:50 p.m. Friday: Jason Day, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger

Day is making his second straight Travelers appearance, having missed the cut both last year in Cromwell and last week at Shinnecock Hills. He’ll be joined by reigning Rookie of the Year Schauffele and Berger, who took home ROY honors in 2015 and last year was on the losing end of Jordan Spieth’s playoff dramatics at this event.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

8 a.m. Thursday, 1 p.m. Friday: Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson

Koepka is making his third tournament appearance overall, but his first since a T-9 finish in 2016, before he had either of his two U.S. Open trophies. Reed has become a regular at this event and enters off a fourth-place showing on Long Island, while Simpson cruised to victory last month at TPC Sawgrass and tied for 10th last week.

12:50 p.m. Thursday, 7:50 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Russell Knox

This was the tournament that turned things around last year for Spieth, who took home the title in his debut thanks to one of the most dramatic shots of the year in a playoff against Berger. He’ll start his title defense alongside a pair of past champs, as Leishman won here for his first Tour title back in 2012 and Knox was a winner two years ago when the tournament was played in August.

1 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. Friday: Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

This group should get plenty of attention in the early rounds, with Thomas entering as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 and joined a pair of players who will launch drives all across TPC River Highlands. Watson has feasted on this layout, winning in both 2010 and 2015 among five top-10 finishes, while McIlroy tied for 17th last year in his tournament debut but missed the cut last week at Shinnecock.

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Travelers Championship: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2018, 5:30 pm

There will be plenty of star power this week in Hartford as the PGA Tour moves north for the Travelers Championship. Here is the key info for this week's event.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $7 million

Course: TPC River Highlands (par 70, 6,841 yards)

Defending champion: Jordan Spieth. Defeated Daniel Berger with a birdie on the first playoff hole.

Notables in the field

Jordan Spieth

• Missed last two cuts (the Memorial, U.S. Open) entering this week

• 188th on PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting (4th in strokes gained: tee to green)

• Only player to win Travelers Championship back-to-back: Phil Mickelson (2001-02)

Brooks Koepka

• Making third career start in Travelers Championship (last start: T-9 in 2016)

• First player to play Travelers week after U.S. Open win since 2013 (Justin Rose)

• First player to win U.S. Open back-to-back since 1988-89 (Curtis Strange)

Justin Thomas

• Fifth career start in this event (MC, T-3, MC last three years)

• Second on PGA Tour this season in strokes gained: tee to green (+1.49)

Rory McIlroy

• Second career start in Travelers Championship (T-17 last year)

• Missed cut last week at U.S. Open (shot 80 in opening round)

Jason Day

• Fourth career start in Travelers Championship (best finish: T-18 in 2014)

• Leads PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting this season

Patrick Reed

• Earned second-most world ranking points of any player in 2018

• Finished fourth at U.S. Open last week (three shots behind Koepka)