PGA TOUR Regroups in Connecticut

By Sports NetworkJune 18, 2007, 4:00 pm
Travelers ChampionshipCROMWELL, Conn. -- J.J. Henry made this tournament his first win last year when it was called the Buick Championship, shooting a final-round 67 to hold off Hunter Mahan and Ryan Moore by three shots at 14-under 266.
 
Henry's weekend included a 63 on Saturday. After brutal Oakmont chewed up golf's best players at the U.S. Open last week, that score must look like candy to the players entered in this week's field.
 
Phil Mickelson is no longer among them, his nagging wrist injury forcing him to withdraw. He played Oakmont wearing a brace and missed the cut by a shot.
 
Mickelson had won this event twice when it was still known as the Greater Hartford Open.
 
Vijay Singh, David Toms, Chris DiMarco and Masters champion Zach Johnson are among the players who will be competing this week after also appearing in the U.S. Open. They will be getting a break: TPC River Highlands is 6,820 yards, more than 400 yards shorter than Oakmont.
 
The rough is sure to be less penal, too.
 
GOLF CHANNEL will have three hours of coverage on the first two days beginning at 3 p.m. (ET), and CBS is back this week with the same amount of coverage on the weekend.
 
Next week's event is the Buick Open, where Tiger Woods won his 50th PGA Tour title last year.
 
With GOLFCHANNEL.coms Tour Trade 2 fantasy game underway, here are some of the players who have fared the best in recent years at the Travelers Championship.
 

Kenny Perry
Starts: 18
Wins: 0
Top-10s: 6
Best finish: T4 (2003)
 
TRADE Talk: Perry, who underwent knee surgery in early 2006, went 38 consecutive events without a top-10 finish. That changed in his most recent start, at the Memorial, where he tied for third. Perry has three top-10s in his last five appearances at River Highlands. He also has had two weeks off and didnt wear himself out at Oakmont.
 
Stewart Cink
Starts: 9
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 4
Best finish: Win (1997)
 
TRADE Talk: After a two-year hiatus, Cink returned to Connecticut last year and promptly tied for fifth. This is the site of his first career TOUR title, earned a decade ago. Cink missed the cut last week at the U.S. Open, but has three top-5s over the last month-and-a-half.
 
Woody Austin
Starts: 9
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 3
Best finish: Win (2004)
 
TRADE Talk: Austin didnt have much success the first six times his played this event, missing three cuts and never finishing better than T41. That all changed when he won in 04. He followed that up with a tie for ninth in 05 and a tie for fifth last year. Austin captured the Stanford St. Jude Championship two weeks ago.
 
J.J. Henry
Starts: 8
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 1
Best finish: Win (2006)
 
TRADE Talk: Henry is looking to become just the second man (Phil Mickelson, 2001-02) to successfully defend his title. He won last years edition thanks in large part to a third-round 63. Henry was born in Fairfield, Conn., and made his first TOUR start at TPC at River Highlands as an amateur in 1998. He played admirably well at Oakmont, tying for 26th.
 
Corey Pavin
Starts: 14
Wins: 0
Top-10s: 5
Best finish: T2 (1991)
 
TRADE Talk: Pavin first played this tournament in 1984, when it was hosted by the late Sammy Davis, Jr. From 1991-93, he finished no worse than T4. More recently, though, he tied for sixth in 04 and was solo eighth in 05. Age is actually on Pavins side, too, as three of the last four winners of this event have been at least 40 years old.
 
Four more to keep an eye on this week at TPC at River Highlands:
 
Justin Rose
Rose has only played this tournament three times prior, and is sticking around this week after competing in the U.S. Open. He was in good position to end the European major drought at Oakmont, until a Sunday 76 relegated him to a tie for 10th. Though he missed the cut last year, Rose finished third at the Travelers Championship in 05.
 
Ryan Moore
A year ago, Henry earned his first TOUR win at this event. This year, Moore would like to follow in his footsteps. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open, but was runner-up in his previous start at the Memorial. He was also a co-runner-up here in 06.
 
Hunter Mahan
Just like Henry, Mahan made his first-ever TOUR start at this event, doing so as an amateur in 2000. He would certainly like to do what Henry did last year and make this his first TOUR win as well. Mahan shot 63-67 over the weekend in 06 to tie Moore for silver medal honors.
 
Notah Begay III
This will be Begays first start on the PGA TOUR this season. Begay, who is now spending the majority of his time playing on the European Tour, won this event in 2000. He was granted a sponsors exemption to compete last year and tied for ninth. Hes back in on a sponsors exemption this year.
 

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

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    Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

    “You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

    The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

    “He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

    But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

    And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

    It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

    That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

    “I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

    It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

    McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

    “I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

    It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

    “I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

    A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

    Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.

     

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    Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 1:00 pm

    Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.

    The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.

    Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.

    Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.