Bunker Shots Tiger Woods and the Big Easy

By Randall MellSeptember 1, 2009, 12:00 pm
The FedEx Cup playoffs move to the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston, where the Francis Ouimet Museum is located. Ouimet, of course, ignited the popularity of golf in the United States with his upset of British champions Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. We set the storylines for the week ahead with the help of Ouimet and friends.
 
Tiger aims to improve his mood
 
“The difficult thing about golf is reaching the peak and then trying to stay there.” – Ouimet from his book, “A Game of Golf.'
 
If you adhered to one of Jack Nicklaus’ theories, you might have crossed Tiger Woods off your list of first-round FedEx Cup playoff contenders.
 
Watching Woods’ body language at The Barclays, you couldn’t help wondering if his attitude made a difference in the outcome.
 
Nicklaus used to say that when he heard players complaining about a golf course, he would eliminate them in his mind as potential challengers. Woods never complained publicly about Liberty National, and Nicklaus is far too smart to have ever crossed a player like Woods off a list of possible winners, but the principle Nicklaus believed in might have been in play last weekend.
 
Woods’ dislike for Liberty National came through comments relayed to media by a pro-am partner, who said Woods speculated that Tom Kite must have designed the course before he got his eyes fixed. It was a clever line, but maybe too clever. Woods’ discomfort on the course also came through in his edgy demeanor. Woods managed to nearly win the event anyway, but you still wonder if his disdain for the course proved to be a one-stroke handicap, the margin of his defeat.
 
Woods will be back in his comfort zone at the Deutsche Bank Championship. He may still be simmering over what happened at The Barclays, but simmering comfortably at TPC Boston.
 
Woods is back on a course that promises to improve his mood as much as his putting stroke. In five starts at TPC Boston, Woods has one victory and two ties for second. He won in ’06, finished second to Vijay Singh in ’04 and second to Phil Mickelson in ’07.
 
Wood’s scoring average is 68.15 in 20 rounds at TPC Boston.
 
Woods isn’t the only big name in a comfort zone in Boston. Vijay Singh didn’t get off to a very good start in defense of his FedEx Cup title, shooting a pair of 75s and missing the cut at The Barclays, but he’s even more at ease at TPC Boston than Woods is. Singh won there last year and also won there in ’04. His scoring average is better than Woods there at 67.75 over 20 rounds.
 
Mickelson has played just two events at TPC Boston, outdueling Woods in ’07 and tying for 73rd last year. His scoring average at TPC Boston is 68.42.
 
Els, Harrington find their form
 
“Do not reflect on the possibility of defeat; you become too anxious and lose your freedom of style.” – From Vardon’s “The Complete Golfer,” a book Ouimet committed to memory.
 
An Ernie Els rebound makes these FedEx Cup playoffs better. So does a Padraig Harrington bounce back.
 
Now if Els can keep his final rounds as clean as his bogey-free 66 Sunday at The Barclays, and Harrington can continue to avoid skulling chip shots into water hazards the way he did at the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship, this could be an entertaining playoff run.
 
Els jumped 36 spots to 11th in FedEx Cup points and Harrington 52 spots to 14th. In his last six starts, Els has finished T-8 or better four times.
 
Harrington’s given himself a chance to win on Sunday in his last three PGA Tour starts, tying for second in two of them.
 
The Playoffs’ Bubble Boys
 
“Great golfers frequently disagree on certain principles, and that is perhaps one of the main reasons we keep everlastingly at it, grasping each new thought with the hope that perhaps we can solve the mystery.” – Ouimet in his book “A Game of Golf.”
 
Adam Scott was the biggest name knocked out of the FedEx Cup playoffs last week. Sergio Garcia is looking at a similar fate if he doesn’t perform at the Deutsche Bank Championship this week.
 
The field for the FedEx Cup playoffs was trimmed from 125 at The Barclays to 100 this week. It will be cut to 70 for the BMW Championship outside Chicago next week.
 
Garcia is 71st in FedEx Cup points.
 
Garcia isn’t the only big name outside the top 70 in points. A year after winning the FedEx Cup, Singh is danger of not advancing to the final two playoff events. He’s 78th in points. Bubba Watson is 72nd and Justin Rose 80th.
 
Daniel Chopra and Briny Baird are bubble boys.
 
Chopra started The Barclays 100th on the FedEx Cup points list and advanced by holding onto that 100th spot.
 
Briny Baird opens the week 70th in points.
 
Presidents Cup captains poised to pick
 
“To think, when we ought to play, is madness.” – Ted Ray, who liked to play fast, from the book “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”
 
Presidents Cup captains Greg Norman and Fred Couples will each make their two discretionary picks to fill out their rosters the day after the Deutsche Bank Championship.
 
Couples’ picks aren’t hard to figure on the American side, but Norman’s are anybody’s guess with some of his top choices struggling.
 
Norman sounds like he wants to pick Rory Sabbatini, who got bounced out of an automatic selection when Y.E. Yang won the PGA Championship. Sabbatini didn’t inspire Norman by missing the cut at The Barclays last weekend, but Sabbatini wasn’t alone with Stephen Ames and K.J. Choi also missing the cut there. Matthew Goggin, another potential pick, withdrew from The Barclays with back problems. Shingo Katayama didn’t help himself missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
 
Adam Scott and Trevor Immelman are the biggest names available, but Scott’s game is in a dreadful way and Immelman’s struggling to recover from a nagging wrist injury.
 
Jeev Milkha Singh’s case looks stronger than ever after his tie for 17th at the Wyndham Championship. He’ll be trying to make a last impression at the Omega European Masters this week.
 
Also in the mix is Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa, who has won twice this year on the Japan Golf Tour and was not unimpressive tying for 56th at the PGA Championship.
 
None of these picks is as certain as Couples’ choices.
 
Couples already guaranteed GolfChannel.com that he would select Hunter Mahan with one of his picks and that U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover was the favorite for the other.
 
Mahan hasn’t done anything to blow that since Couples made the pronouncement at the PGA Championship. Mahan tied for 16th at the PGA Championship and tied for 20th at The Barclays.
 
Though Glover missed the cut at The Barclays, he looks secure. He finished fifth at the PGA Championship and tied for 24th at the Wyndham Championship.
 
The only other players with glimmers of hope are Brian Gay and David Toms. Gay missed the cut at the PGA Championship, skipped the Wyndham Championship with a sore back and tied for 12th at The Barclays. Toms hasn’t finished among the top 20 in his last three starts.
 
LPGA looking for an umbrella
 
“Within a decade of [Ouimet’s] victory, the number of American [golf] participants grew from 350,000 to more than 2,000,000. The number of courses tripled, and with municipal courses being built, people of all economic levels began playing.” – From the afterword in Ouimet’s “A Game of Golf.”
 
The LPGA moves to the CN Canadian Women’s Open this week with news that the tour is shopping for an umbrella sponsor.
 
According to the Sports Business Journal, the tour is shopping naming rights for the “highest profile and most exclusive sponsorship platform ever offered on the LPGA Tour.” The sponsorship would cover “ownership of the entire LPGA season” or a smaller number of events through a season-long competition that either awards a bonus prize or ends with a championship tournament sponsored by the same company. The magazine reported the tournament would be modeled after the event formerly known as the ADT Championship, which featured a season-long playoff race ending with a championship featuring the biggest payday in women’s golf, a $1 million first-place check. The LPGA wants the new event to be played at the start of the season.
 
The LPGA is seeking a three-year contract worth $3.5 million annually with a two-year option for the umbrella deal with sponsorship of the accompanying championship costing another $3.5 million a year for five years. Related Links:
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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.”