Crouching Tiger Woods Two Back of Rookies

By Sports NetworkJanuary 27, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 Buick InvitationalSAN DIEGO -- Tiger Woods came within one shot of playing in the final threesome with a pair of rookies at the Buick Invitational.
Not that the youngsters would have minded.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is looking for his fifth career win at the Buick Invitational.
Nationwide Tour grads Brandt Snedeker and Andrew Buckle are the surprise leaders heading into the final round at Torrey Pines, where the only star near the top of the leaderboard just happens to be the world's best player.
Snedeker, who has led since his first-round 61 tied the North Course record, sputtered to a 2-over 74 playing with the rest of the field at the tougher South Course on Saturday.
Buckle fired a 4-under 68 to join Snedeker at 11-under-par 205.
The only thing keeping Woods out of the final group was a 3-foot birdie putt by Kevin Sutherland at No. 18, which gave Sutherland a 70 and moved him within a shot of the leaders.
Snedeker and Buckle, apparently unaware that Sutherland -- not Woods -- would be joining them, gave giddy interviews behind the 18th green.
'I don't think there will be many people watching us,' Buckle joked.
Later Snedeker added: 'I'm just going to enjoy every minute of it.'
For his part, Woods missed a lot of fairways and greens, but still managed a 3-under 69. He is two shots back, tied for fourth place with three others at 9-under 207.
'Things have gotten better each day and I've put myself in contention,' Woods said.
Woods is playing for his third straight Buick Invitational win and fifth overall. He has won six straight PGA TOUR starts dating back to last year's British Open.
Saturday, all three of his birdies came on the front nine at Nos. 4, 6 and 7. His real work came on the back, though, as he scrambled from bunkers to save par at 11, 15 and 16 to remain in the hunt.
If not for a pair of near misses -- a long birdie try at 13 hung on the edge and a 6-footer at 18 drifted left -- Woods would be right there with the rookies.
As it is, he's still only two shots off the lead.
'I had a couple opportunities to make a few more coming in, but I didn't do that,' Woods conceded. 'But I did make some good pars.'
Woods was joined at 9 under by Troy Matteson (69), Charles Howell III (73) and Bill Haas (72).
The top seven players on the leaderboard share 57 PGA TOUR wins: Woods has 54 of them; Sutherland, Howell and Matteson own one apiece. Howell and Matteson will play with Woods in the second-to-last threesome.
'It's like everyone imagines. If you can get in the group with Tiger, that's great because you know you're doing well,' Matteson said. 'But it will be different than the final rounds of other tournaments that I've been in. It will definitely be a different atmosphere.'
Snedeker, 26, made the PGA TOUR by finishing ninth on the Nationwide Tour money list last season despite missing five starts with a broken collarbone suffered when he tripped over a tree root.
He continued to lead without the luxury of playing from the fairways, which he missed 57 percent of the time Saturday. Snedeker hit just a quarter of Torrey Pines' fairways through the first two rounds.
'I tried to avoid all trees,' he joked, 'but I did seem to hit a few wayward drives.'
Snedeker made four bogeys and just two birdies over his first eight holes and watched a three-shot lead dwindle to a tie with Howell, who joined him in the lead when Snedeker missed an eight-foot par putt at No. 8.
At No. 9, Snedeker bounced back into the lead with a long birdie putt. But it would be a dog fight the rest of the way: three more bogeys and a round-saving 17-foot birdie putt at the 17th.
Buckle was steadier, posting seven birdies and three bogeys. He was alone in the lead following consecutive birdies at 12 and 13, but let it slip away with bogeys at 14 and 16.
He made a 14-foot putt at the 18th to get himself into the final group.
'When I got to 14 I couldn't find the green and I got anxious a few times, but it was nice to get that one on the last,' said Buckle, who was 13th on the Nationwide Tour money list last year.
Not out of the picture are former major winners Mark Calcavecchia (68) and Rich Beem (73), who are tied with five others at 8-under 208 -- just three shots back.
Phil Mickelson remained a non-factor, tied for 40th place at 213 following a 73. Vijay Singh (74) is two shots further back.
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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.”