Bunker Shots The Final Countdown

By Randall MellNovember 30, 2010, 10:32 pm
Blasting into the week ahead, from Tiger’s last chance to win in 2010 to Q-School pressure and an LPGA free-for-all ...


PGA Tour (75x100)Chevron World Challenge

Seven of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking are in the limited field at Sherwood Country Club.

No. 1 Lee Westwood, No. 3 Martin Kaymer and No. 4 Phil Mickelson are the only top-10 players who won’t be teeing it up in the field of 18. Kaymer was a late withdrawal, opening the door for Nick Watney to compete as an alternate.

Though an official victory and official money can't be won this week, world ranking points can be won.

Bunker shot: Tiger Woods can avoid going for “0 for 2010” with a victory this week. It wouldn’t count as an official victory, but winning would be a meaningful boost to Woods anyway. A victory would be his first in 54 weeks. It would be meaningful in aiming attention at what may lie ahead next season while shifting focus away from what miserably lies behind him this past season.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Paul Casey. Contender – Tiger Woods. Dark horse – Anthony Kim.

  • Course: Sherwood Country Club, Thousand Oaks, Calif. (Par 72, 7,027 yards).
  • Purse: $5 million (winner’s share, $1.2 million).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 4-7 p.m. (ET); Saturday-Sunday, NBC, 3-6 p.m. (ET).
  • Last year: Jim Furyk defeated Graeme McDowell by a shot.
    PGA Tour (75x100)PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament’s final stage

A field of more than 160 players will endure six days of hell (a.k.a. Q-School) at Orange County National.

The top 25 and ties win fully exempt status on the PGA Tour next year, with the next number of finishers closest to 50 earning fully exempt Nationwide Tour status. Everyone else takes home conditional status on the Nationwide Tour.

Of the 25 players who won Tour cards at Q-School last year, 11 retained their status this year. Rickie Fowler was the highest ranking Q-School grad on this year’s PGA Tour money list, finishing 22nd in money. In case you’re wondering, just eight of the 25 Nationwide Tour grads retained their status. Michael Sim led the Nationwide Tour grads, finishing 65th on the PGA Tour money list.

Bunker shot: Troy Merritt won last year’s PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. He needed every bit of momentum and confidence that gave him to hold onto his PGA Tour card this year. He finished 125th on the money list. There are no guarantees for the Q-School medalist. Three of the last 10 winners failed to keep their cards the following seasons (Steve Allan, 2000; Mathias Gronberg, ’03; Frank Lickliter, ’07). By PGA Tour standards, a victory this week doesn’t even come with much of a prize. The winner takes home $50,000. The guy who finishes dead last at the Chevron World Challenge this weekend will earn $100,000 more than that. But Q-School champions have used their momentum to win bigger events. J.B. Holmes followed up his Q-School title in ’05 by winning the FBR Open in ’06. George McNeill followed up his Q-School title in ’06 by winning the Frys.com Open in ’07. You don’t get rich winning Q-School, but you get the chance to win riches. That’s what this week is all about. The chance.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Will MacKenzie. Contender – Pablo Martin. Dark horse – Jeff Klauk.

  • Course: Orange County National’s Crooked Cat (Par 72, 7,277 yards) and Panther Lake (Par 71, 7,152 yards) courses, Winter Garden, Fla.
  • Purse: $1,057,500 (winner’s share, $50,000).
  • TV times: Golf Channel – Saturday-Sunday, 1-4 p.m.. (ET); Monday, 12:30-4 p.m. (ET).
  • Last year: Troy Merritt was medalist at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., finishing at 22 under, a shot ahead of Jeff Maggert.


LPGA Tour _newLPGA Tour Championship

LPGA fans could be treated to the most head-spinning finish in tour history.

The No. 1 world ranking, Rolex Player of the Year, the LPGA money title and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average could all be up for grabs Sunday in the final round of the LPGA Tour Championship at Grand Cypress.

The top five players in the Rolex world rankings have a chance to end the season atop those rankings: No. 1 Jiyai Shin, No. 2 Suzann Pettersen, No. 3 Cristie Kerr, No. 4 Yani Tseng and No. 5 Na Yeon Choi.

Five players have a chance to be the Rolex Player of the Year. A victory is worth 30 points this week, with 12 points for second and nine for third. There are points for everyone who finishes in the top 10. Here are the point leaders: 1. Tseng, 188; 2. Miyazato, 179; 3. Choi, 174; 4. Kerr, 173; 5. Shin, 170.

Two players have a chance to win the money title: Choi leads the money list with $1,814,588 in earnings. Shin trails by $34,790. The first-place check this week is $225,000.

Choi is locked in a tight battle for the Vare Trophy. Her 69.77 scoring average is just .09 points better than Kerr’s.

Bunker shot: Choi could go from a pro flying too much under the radar to an LPGA superstar overnight this week. Choi is the only player in the field who has a shot to win all four of the tour’s big prizes: the No. 1 world ranking, Rolex Player of the Year, the LPGA money title and the Vare Trophy.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Jiyai Shin. Contender – Na Yeon Choi. Dark horse – Christina Kim.

  • Course: Grand Cypress Golf Club, Orlando, Fla.
  • Purse: $1.5 million (winner’s share, $225,000).
  • TV times: Golf Channel – Thursday-Friday, 1:30-3:30 p.m. (ET); Saturday-Sunday, 7:30-9:30 p.m. (ET).
  • Last year: Rookie Anna Nordqvist swept the LPGA’s flagship events, adding to her LPGA Championship title by winning the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship.
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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.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“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.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

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.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

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.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

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.”