Couples: Coolest night of my life

By Randall MellMay 7, 2013, 1:28 am

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – So many mountaintops.

So many different paths leading to them.

Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie, Willie Park Jr., Ken Schofield and Ken Venturi carved distinctive careers climbing their way to one of golf’s most majestic peaks Monday as the newest class of inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame at the World Golf Village.

Couples, 53, got to the top of the game with a swing as deceptively powerful as his personality.

With an effortless, silky move that belies the strength that earned him the nickname “Boom Boom,” Couples played his way to 15 PGA Tour titles, including the Masters in 1992 and two Players Championships (1984, ’96). He was the first American to go to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking.


Photos: World Golf Hall of Fame induction

Videos: Couples | Monty | Nantz on Venturi


Couples, though, won hearts even more easily than he won trophies, and he showed why in a clever and emotional speech that was classic “Freddie Speak.”

The induction’s importance to Couples was clear in his final words and on his face as he left the stage.

“Thanks for sending a kid from Seattle to the Hall of Fame,” Couples said. “This is the coolest night of my life.”

That final sentence left him in tears.

With his movie-star looks, his easy, unaffected manner, Couples became one of the most popular players of his generation. His appeal radiated beyond his record. He made his fame winning as the coolest guy in golf.

“Every woman wants to be with Fred Couples, every man wants to be Fred Couples,” Montgomerie said before Monday’s ceremony began.

CBS’ Jim Nantz, who was Couples' teammate at the University of Houston, put the sentiment in other words.

“Fred’s the coolest, most casual, and one of the most gifted players the game has ever known,” Nantz said. “The cool thing? He’s never tried to be cool. It’s always been Fred just trying to be Fred.”

Couples set the table after taking the stage to a standing ovation.

“There’s a big question,” Couples said. “How did I get here?”

Couples proceeded to explain that he was 9 years old growing up in Seattle when he caddied for Steve Dallas, his older brother’s friend. Dallas gave Couples a small set of clubs “from some supermarket” with a plastic driver and set of 5-, 7- and 9-irons and a putter, all in a canvas golf bag. Couples took his game to Jefferson Park and “played every day.”

Before he set out to the course every morning with his bag slung around his shoulder, Couples’ mother would give him $5. It was enough for the $3.50 green fees with $1.50 left for a hamburger and a Coke. He joked the daily allowance miffed his sister, Cindy.

“I got an allowance of 35 bucks a week,” Couples said. “She got, I think, $8 a week. But all mine was spent at Jefferson Park.”

Couples choked up briefly in his speech, saying he was 14 when he was inspired to another level watching a mesmerizing pro give a clinic in Seattle.

“The gentleman’s name is Lee Trevino, who has been a mentor and someone I love,” Couples said.

Montgomerie, 49, started his climb to the top growing up in Scotland.

“I started playing at the grand old age of 5 in Troon, Scotland,” Montgomerie told the Hall of Fame gathering. “Mind you, in Troon, that's about all you do.”

Montgomerie was a force on the European Tour, winning 31 events and eight Order of Merit titles, including seven in a row (1993-99). No British player has won more European Tour titles.

“In many ways, Colin Montgomerie is the European Tour,” European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady said. “He brought drive, passion and commitment to the game, but more than anything, he brought leadership.”

Montgomerie never won a major championship, but he was a Ryder Cup star.

“The Ryder Cup is really Europe’s second major,” Schofield said.

With a stellar 20-9-7 record, Montgomerie helped Europe win five of the eight Ryder Cups in which he played. He was never beaten in singles (6-0-2).

“I hate to lose,” Montgomerie said in his Hall of Fame news conference before the ceremony. “I had a dramatic fear of losing.”

Despite all his success as a player, Montgomerie said his proudest achievement was leading Europe to a Ryder Cup victory as the team captain at Celtic Manor in 2010.

Venturi, 81, won 14 PGA Tour titles with the highlight of his career coming in his victory at the U.S. Open at Congressional in 1964. In 100-degree temperatures, with heat exhaustion plaguing him, Venturi staggered to the win over 36 holes on the final day. He would make another mark on the game as a CBS golf analyst for 35 years.

Unable to attend the induction ceremony, Venturi is recovering from surgery and an infection in his spine. He is hospitalized in Palm Springs, Calif. Nantz spoke for Venturi.

“I love Ken Venturi as a friend and a mentor, and I'm heartbroken he's not standing here right now,” Nantz said. “I think most people know, Kenny has been ill for some time now. He's been in the hospital out in Palm Springs for two months. However, I'm going to tell you, the prognosis is still good. He can get through this. I really believe it in my heart.”

Venturi’s son, Matt, said his father is eager to accept a World Golf Hall of Fame offer to make his speech next year.

Schofield, 67, one of three Scots inducted Monday, became the European Tour’s executive director in 1975 and reigned until 2004, a time of unprecedented growth for the tour. When Schofield came aboard, the European Tour schedule featured just 17 events. There were 45 on the schedule when he retired. He also oversaw the creation of the European Challenge Tour and the European Senior Tour.

Schofield also steered the European Tour toward global expansion, opening doors that would lead the tour to Africa and Asia. Schofield took the tour off the continent for the first time in 1982 with the start of the Tunisian Open.

Schofield credited rising European stars such as Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ian Woosnam and Montgomerie for helping him build the tour.

“To be nominated through the lifetime achievement category into the Hall is the proudest moment of my professional career,” Schofield said.

Park Jr., a Scot who died in 1925, won the British Open twice. He’s the son of World Golf Hall of Famer Willie Park Sr., who won four British Opens, including the inaugural championship in 1860. A pioneer in club and ball design, Park Jr. made his mark beyond that of a player. He was also an architect and writer.

“Think families, and you think of Davis Love, father and son; the Harmons, Claude and his precocious progeny,” said John Hopkins, The Times of London golf writer who presented Park for the family. “You think of the Allisses, Percy and Peter. Perhaps you think of Old and Young Tom Morris and Willie Park Sr. and Jr., the Montagues and the Capulets of their time, at least as far as their rivalries were concerned.

“The Morrises won more Opens than the Parks, eight to six, but in challenge matches between the two families, it was the Parks who gained the upper hand.”

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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: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; 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)

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Day 'disappointed' in USGA's handling of course, Phil

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:16 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Jason Day had the weekend off following a missed cut at the U.S. Open, but that didn’t prevent the Aussie from keeping an eye on all the drama that unfolded at Shinnecock Hills.

The former world No. 1 found it “disappointing,” – with “it” being both the deterioration of a major championship setup and the fallout from Phil Mickelson’s putter slap during the third round.

Day is hoping to bounce back from an early exit at this week’s Travelers Championship, but before turning his attention to TPC River Highlands he shared that the brunt of his disappointment stemmed from the USGA’s inability to keep Shinnecock playable during the third round and their subsequent decision to water it down for the tournament’s conclusion.

“It’s more the course, about how they set it up. Because Saturday was a total, it was like two different golf courses, practically, on the greens Saturday versus Sunday,” Day said. “I just wish they would leave it alone and just let it go. Not saying to let the greens go and let them dry out and make it unfair, I’m just saying plan accordingly and hopefully whatever the score finishes, it finishes, whether it’s under par or over par.”


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


But Day’s frustration also tied back to Mickelson’s head-turning decision to hit a moving ball on the 13th green during the third round, and the USGA’s subsequent ruling that the actions merited a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.

“It’s obviously disappointing to see what Phil did,” he said. “I think a lot of people have mixed reviews about what he did.”

USGA officials explained over the weekend that Mickelson’s actions explicitly fell under Rule 14-5, which called for a two-shot addition and turned his score of 8 into a 10, rather than Rule 1-2 or Rule 33-7 that could have resulted in disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules.

Day felt it was unfortunate that all of Saturday’s drama deflected attention from a world-class performance from Brooks Koepka en route to a successful title defense, but when it comes to the handling of the Mickelson controversy he believes the USGA could have made good use of a mulligan.

“It’s just unfortunate that it happened at the USGA’s tournament, where they enforce the rules, like the R&A. And I think they may have, they probably should have enforced a different outcome for Phil,” Day said. “But it is what it is. It’s done. It’s just disappointing that that is overshadowing the winner of the whole week. I think if they had it back again, they may have chosen a different outcome.”