Planet Tryon

By Mike RitzMarch 12, 2001, 5:00 pm
Coral Springs, FL -- As the twosome approached the 18th green the smattering of applause evolved into a sustained ovation, a resounding cheer of appreciation. It was 1:30 Sunday afternoon. Reporters and photographers jockeyed for position. NBC had dispatched two camera-crews to capture the moment.
Mark Rolfing and Jimmy Roberts were there, beaming with broad smiles.
It was a moment no fan of our game would miss.

The final pairing of eventual champion Jesper Parnevik and Mark Calcavecchia had not even started its round. No, the roar at the 72nd hole was aimed neither at the Honda Classic victor nor any other star of the PGA Tour. This outpouring of love, support and respect from 5,000 fans was reserved for the star of the week, 16-year-old high school sophomore Ty Tryon.
There was Tom Lehman, a major championship winner, one of the sport's best, stopping on the fringe to join in on the applause. After playing the Honda's final 18 with young Ty, the 41-year-old Lehman would say, 'I'm so impressed.' Weren't we all?
Honda Classics come and go. But this one will be remembered for a long time. The player who made this event so special is barely old enough to drive one of the title sponsor's products.
Last Monday Tryon battled a howling South Florida wind and some 400 tour `wannabes' who were vying for just four open spots in the Honda field. A two-under par 70 put the kid from Lake Highland Prep in Orlando into a PGA tour event and the spotlight. He handled both beautifully.
As Parnevik built a three-stroke, three-round lead with a 54-hole record at the Honda, one caddie joked 'he's on Planet Jesper.' So from what planet does Ty Tryon hail?
The young man has the kind of poise many of us so-called adults can only hope to possess. When he fielded his first interview of the week Wednesday afternoon at the practice range with yours truly, Ty handled the situation like a seasoned veteran. 'Do I look at you or the camera when I talk?'
Are you kidding me?
His mother Georgia was much more nervous when I approached her. My God, I was more nervous.
In the first round Thursday, Ty fired a five-under par 67. At holes 9 and 18, where the largest crowds congregate, he birdied both. The ensuing roars were tingling. The kid sure has a flair for the dramatic.
On Friday, Ty was back at it. Pretending he was out at the TPC at Heron Bay for just another round of golf. The kid got it to nine-under through 13 holes. He was just two shots off the lead. That's right ladies and gentlemen, two shots off the lead!
The largest crowds of the tournament followed him all around the course. NBC's cameras followed his every shot. A 16-year-old, playing in his first PGA Tour event, with a camera crew standing directly behind him on every shot, knowing he's on national television, plays flawless golf for 31 holes and is TWO SHOTS OFF THE LEAD.

'Oh, I wasn't nervous,' Ty told this bewildered reporter. 'I didn't really notice the cameras.' Talk about focused. Where's that planet again?
Tryon did stumble on his final five holes Friday. He hit an 8-iron about 185 yards over the green on the par-3 5th hole (his 14th) and made double bogey.
Wait a second. Did I get that right? An 8-iron 185. 'It was down-wind.'
By the way, Ty weighs about 135 pounds. Again, this begs the planet question.
Tryon would slip back to four-under for the tournament. Still, that was good enough for the teenager to become the second youngest player to ever make a cut in a PGA Tour event. After signing his historic card, Ty was back on live, national TV. It was time for an interview with Rolfing. Mark was smiling more than the kid. Then it was my turn. 'Is this live, too, or is it just tape?' Ty asked me. I worked in Los Angeles for several years, interviewing scores of Hollywood types. Not half of them had the media-savvy of this young man.
On Saturday, Ty fired a two-under 70. But on a day when most everyone else was going really low, the kid went virtually unnoticed. Ho-hum. He only shot 70. Hey, wait a second here folks. A 16-YEAR-OLD SHOT 70 ON THE PGA TOUR. ON SATURDAY!!! Virtually no one bothered to interview Tryon. I know we media folk are jaded, but this was ridiculous.
For the week, Ty averaged 290 yards off the tee. He made 21 birdies, just one fewer than the champion Parnevik. 'I know I've got to learn to make fewer mistakes.' Planet?
On Sunday, the crowds, reporters and cameras were back. Everyone realized how special this week was. How special this 16-year-old is. Not just for his talent and his game, but also for his wonderful attitude and engaging, unassuming personality. So when Ty fired at an impossible pin on that 18th hole (something only a teenager would do) and his ball bounded toward the adjacent hazard, there was a groan of immense dispair. No, not from Ty, from the thousands of grown-ups who were watching.
The kid hit a brilliant pitch from the mud to about 12 feet from the hole. Of course, he drained the putt. 16-years old, ten-under par. Not a bad week off from school.
Next year at the Honda, there will be no Monday qualifying for Ty Tryon. The folks who run this event know a good thing when they see it. They have granted Ty a sponsor's exemption into the tournament.
Centuries ago, when Ponce de Leon came to Florida looking for the Fountain of Youth, he should have stopped at Heron Bay.
What do you think of 16 year-old Ty Tryon's Honda Classic performance?
Share your thoughts!
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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.”