The Rexys Year-End Awards

By Rex HoggardDecember 17, 2009, 12:22 am
In the name of decorum and expediency neither Kanye West nor John Paramore will be attending this year’s awards ceremony, which means winners will be given 45 seconds between shots, but all swipes will be limited to the self- deprecating variety.

Now, on with the show.

The Rexy
The prestigious Rexy Award
The Buzzkill Award.
The closest of all races this year, with a list of nominees that includes Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink and Y.E. Fleck, eh . . .Yang. Through no real fault of their own the foursome turned the year of “What could have been” into the season of “What just happened?”

Imagine the possibilities: Kenny Perry slipping on a green jacket, Phil Mickelson winning one for Amy at Bethpage Black, Old Tom Watson going Young Tom at Turnberry and Tiger Woods maintaining the status quo at the PGA.

Based on historical possibilities alone, Cink gets the hardware because as golf writing great Dan Jenkins once wrote, a Watson victory would have been “too big to write.”

It’s Not You, It’s Us Award. As breakups go, Carolyn Bivens’ fall from LPGA graces was a long time in the making.

Players and officials tried to maintain the high ground, the parties split the CD collection and tried to keep things civil, but some remarks left little to the imagination. “I think that we should be commending (interim commissioner Marsha Evans) for making a difference in getting some relationships back on track,” said tour veteran Lorie Kane.

Check, please.

Roadkill Award. We almost retired this category after the Stephen Ames-Tiger Woods hit-and-run at the 2006 WGC Match Play Championship – although a severe defeat is now regularly referred to as a “9 and 8” – until Alex Cejka squandered the largest 54-hole lead in Players Championship history.

The Czech-born German played his first six holes in 5 over on Sunday, signed for a 79 and discovered that fleeing communism across the Rhine River is nothing compared to a Sunday lead on a demanding golf course with Woods watching.

Mistaken Identity Award. Mark Twain was almost correct, there are four kinds of lies – lies, damned lies, statistics and PGA Tour administered doping results.

How else could a rational adult look at 40-year-old journeyman Doug Barron and seriously consider him a threat to the competitive integrity of the Tour because of his use of performance-enhancing drugs?

If Barron is the face of doping on Tour, do we really have a problem?

Trick or Tweet Award. The Twitter phenom swept the Tour in ’09, so in 140 characters, or less, the winner is: PGA_JohnDaly demands attention, because he’s JD; ianjamespoulter and geoffogilvy are thoughtful, but stewartcink is the best (booya, 125 characters).

Best example of Cink’s Tweeting prose: “(Picture of a) machine at T’berry locker room can meet ANY need that arises. 2nd to last one is condoms.”

Doppler 2000 Award. Glover won the Endless Open thanks in large part to an army of workers who watched, rinsed and repeated Bethpage Black into soggy shape.

Glover undoubtedly enjoys the real thing, but officials should have swapped the traditional trophy out for a squeegee to celebrate a triumph of muscle over mud.

Told You So Award. Since the 2003 U.S. Women’s Public Links Championship the golf world has waited impatiently for Michelle Wie to find a winner’s circle, any winner’s circle would do.

The sometimes student finally delivered at this year’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational. At this pace Wie, who played her first full year on the LPGA in 2009, will catch Kathy Whitworth on the all-time victory list in 2096.

Cellophane Man Award. Another tight race considering that Sergio Garcia and Vijay Singh dropped out of sight faster than Bobby Ginn, but the nod has to go to the big Fijian.

Although Garcia narrowly made the FedEx Cup playoffs and had just a single top 10 through the PGA Championship, time seems to have finally caught up with Singh, who went from the cover of the PGA Tour Media Guide to his worst finish on the money list (68th) since 1992. Proving once and for all that 46 is the new 46 on Tour, regardless of how much time you spend in the gym or on the practice range.

Bad Timing Award. With just a single nominee, the stopwatch keepsake goes to Paramore who became the first official in golf history to ride a correct ruling straight to infamy.

Not that the likeable European Tour rules official had much of a choice – the stopwatch, apparently much like the Tour’s performance-enhancing drug policy, is blind – but putting Woods and Padraig Harrington on the clock on Sunday at Firestone drew, well, a firestorm directly from the world No. 1.

In a fateful twist, however, Woods is likely wishing Paramore and that watch were around right now to mark time during his current 15 minutes of infamy.

Christmas in September Award. Starting at the Tour Championship, Phil Mickelson gave us a reason to look forward to 2010 and tried on a new title: Mr. September.

The guy who used to shut it down after the PGA Championship and seemed uninspired at each year’s international team bouts (that 0-4-1 record at the 2006 Ryder Cup comes to mind) finished an emotional season on a roll at East Lake, hoisted whatever project Fred Couples had on his shoulders at Harding Park and put a bow on ’09 with a “W” at the vowel-deprived WGC-HSBC Champions.

Flypaper Award. We may as well mold the award into Woods’ likeness, hoist a banner into the rafters of the Isleworth gym and retire the honor because not since David slung that pebble in ancient times has a Goliath fallen so far, so fast, so hard.

For a baker’s dozen Woods has been the Teflon kid, always a step ahead of criticism, to say nothing of scandal. Now the allegations and insinuations come with each news cycle and Woods and his team appear unable to wash them all off.
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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.”