Tiger in good position with 68 on Day 1 at Torrey Pines

By Randall MellJanuary 25, 2013, 12:58 am

SAN DIEGO – Between a wobbly start and a wobbly finish, Tiger Woods looked awfully sturdy Thursday in the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open.

Through the middle of the round, he looked like a guy poised to reclaim Torrey Pines as his sovereign land.

Yes, there was rust to be worked off in his 4-under-par 68 on the South Course, but there were plenty of signs he still might own this place.

Despite a double bogey at the fourth hole, and bogeys at two of his final four holes, Woods moved into a tie for 20th, three strokes off the lead, in his bid to win his eighth professional title at Torrey Pines. He has the easier North Course to contend with Friday.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, videos and photos

Woods’ 68 was good for a tie for fifth among those playing the more beastly South Course.

“I’m happy with it,” Woods said. “I made a few mistakes out there, but I made some nice plays as well.”

With defending champ Brandt Snedeker off to a fast start with a 65 on the North Course, with Woods not having worked any magic here in nearly five years, nobody’s looking over his shoulder yet to see where Woods is lurking.

“He has won here more times than I’ve won on Tour,” Snedeker said. “So, I think he knows this place pretty well, and I think he’s very similar to me. He loves putting on these greens. The greens, once you have a feel for them and you get rolling on them, you can make a lot of putts. He’s got that feel for them, but we’ve got three more days to go. There are 155 guys I’m still worried about besides him. So, we have a lot more guys to worry about.”

Woods won twice at Torrey Pines in 2008, claiming this event and the U.S. Open, but he hasn’t made another mark here since. He missed this tournament in ’09 recovering from injury. He missed in ’10 rebounding from his personal troubles. He struggled to a tie for 44th in ’11 and skipped the event last year to play Abu Dhabi.

In Thursday’s round, Woods looked comfortable, blistering some monster tee shots with a driver he looked awfully confident hitting. He consistently bombed drives past playing partners Nick Watney and Rickie Fowler. He hit five consecutive fairways in the middle of his round. Though he hit only seven of 14 fairways overall, there were no big misses with the driver. He hit 13 greens in regulation.

Woods looked good with the driver, and he also looked like he was determined to settle a score with the sand, at least sand he could see. A week after missing the cut in his 2013 debut at Abu Dhabi because of a penalty for unknowingly taking an improper drop from a sandy area, Woods was a perfect 4 for 4 getting up and down from the sand at Torrey Pines. He holed a 40-foot bunker shot at the sixth for eagle. He got up and down from a greenside bunker at the ninth for birdie.

In yet another encouraging sign for Woods, he devoured the par 5s. He played them in 4 under with that eagle and two birdies. Woods didn’t dominate par 5s last year the way he traditionally does.

There were rough edges, too.

Woods made a mess of the fourth hole, pulling his drive left, where he got a short iron tangled in gnarly rough and sprayed a wild shot into the gallery way right of the green. He thwacked a spectator between the shoulder blades there. A flop shot and three putts later, Woods walked away steaming after a double bogey.

The mistakes there seemed to spark something in him. Woods thrashed a 341-yard drive down the middle at the fifth, then holed a 12-foot birdie. He holed that bunker shot for eagle at the sixth. He played the five holes after his double bogey in 5 under.

With a 16-foot birdie chance to take a share of the lead at the 14th, Woods couldn’t take advantage. He stumbled home bogeying the 15th after pulling his approach way left. He bogeyed the 17th failing to get up and down from just short of the green.

You could see what you wanted to see in Woods’ round, but there were plenty of signs he’s feeling comfortable at Torrey Pines.

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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.”