Pak in Familiar Spot at Jamie Farr

By Sports NetworkJuly 12, 2007, 4:00 pm
2005 Jamie Farr Owens Corning ClassicSYLVANIA, Ohio -- Se Ri Pak isn't sure why she plays so well at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic. Everyone else in the field wonders what her secret is, too.
 
The four-time tournament winner shot an 8-under 63 on Thursday to take the first-round lead. It was the best opening round in the tournament's 23-year history.
 
Alena Sharp was two shots back at 6 under. Only five others were within five shots of the lead, including defending champion Mi Hyun Kim.
 
Pak bogeyed her first hole, after hitting into the rough, then strung together three consecutive birdies. She ran off five birdies on the back nine, making a 25-putt on the 17th hole.
 
She is trying to match Mickey Wright's tour record of five victories in one event and knows the course better than any player in the tournament.
 
'Everyone asks why, I don't know,' she said. 'I always feel comfortable here.'
 
Pak won her first Farr title in 1998 when she was 20 and always seems to be in contention. She also won in 1999, 2001 and 2003.
 
Canada's Alena Sharp had seven birdies and one bogey to shoot 65. Her approach shot on the final hole nearly bounced in for eagle. Sharp is having her best season since turning pro in 2005.
 
'I learned last year how to make the cut,' she said. 'This year I feel I have a good shot at winning a tournament.
 
'I don't want to get ahead of myself. It's only Thursday.'
 
She has a history this year of starting fast before fading. She was within a shot of the lead after one round at the Wegmans LPGA last month only to finish tied for 64th.
 
Pak made a 15-foot putt on No. 11 and a 12-foot putt on the next hole to charge out in front. She then finished her round with a pair of birdies.
 
'I've won so many times and have so many great memories,' she said. 'Maybe that's why my game is a lot more solid on the golf course.'
 
Rookie Jin Young Pak, playing in her first tournament since hurting her back two months ago, finished at 4 under.
 
'I'm just happy I can play,' she said.
 
The Korean with the same last name as the first-round leader said she knew about this tournament before she left home because of Se Ri Pak's success.
 
The dry, fast course provided a slew of low scores in the morning, a sharp contrast from a year ago when heavy rains drowned the fairways and threatened to cancel the tournament.
 
But strong, shifting winds made the course at Highland Meadows Golf Club a challenge later in the day.
 
Kim bogeyed her final hole after the wind pushed her tee shot far right. U.S. Open champion Cristie Kerr, playing in the same group, also bogeyed the blustery hole.
 
'It messed with us,' Kerr said.
 
Kim had five birdies and two bogeys to shoot 68. She won last year's tournament with an 18-foot birdie putt on the third hole of a playoff to beat Natalie Gulbis.
 
Cari Wood, playing in the afternoon, birdied her first four holes and then contended with wind gusts that reached up to 25 mph.
 
'That's just the luck of the draw,' she said.
 
Wood finished at 3-under 68 and was tied for third along with Kim, Aram Cho and Morgan Pressel.
 
'I just hit a few too many shots that got away from me,' Pressel said.
 
Kerr was among 13 players six shots behind the leader at 2 under. Also at 2 under were Brittany Lincicome and Laura Diaz.
 
Absent were the tour's top two money leaders, Lorena Ochoa and Suzann Pettersen, along with 2000 tournament winner Annika Sorenstam.
 
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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.”