Singh Four Others Tied in Hawaii

By Sports NetworkJanuary 4, 2007, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Vijay Singh, K.J. Choi, Will MacKenzie, Players Championship winner Stephen Ames and American Ryder Cupper Brett Wetterich all posted rounds of 4-under-par 69 on Thursday to share the first-round lead of the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship.
This event is reserved for winners from last year's official PGA TOUR schedule with 34 players teeing it up at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort. Only two players who hoisted trophies last year did not play this week - major winners Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Thursday's opening round also marked the first round of the inaugural season-long FedExCup, which culminates with a $10 million first-place prize later this season at the TOUR Championship.
Jim Furyk
Kapalua resident and world No. 2 Jim Furyk opened two shots off the lead.
During Thursday's first round, winds gusted close to 30 miles per hour and altered several shots. There were periodic bouts of rain, but the wind is what the players were talking about after the round.
'It's hard when you hit a 9-iron from 200 yards and turn around and hit 9-iron from 100 yards,' said Davis Love III, who is alone in sixth place at 3-under-par 70.
Singh, whose only win last year came at the Barclays Classic, flew out of the gate on Thursday with a pair of birdies at one and two. He narrowly missed an eagle chance at the fifth, but tapped in for birdie to reach 3-under par.
The former world No. 1 dropped a shot at the seventh and made pars around the turn. Singh hit a 408-yard drive at 12 and reached the green, but two-putted for a birdie.
Singh bogeyed 13, but took advantage of his length again at the 14th and kicked in a short birdie putt. He joined the group at 4-under par with a 4-foot birdie putt at the 15th.
Singh found a few bunkers on the way into the clubhouse and never gave himself a great look at birdie. He settled for a share of the first-round lead.
'I know the golf course pretty well, but this wind was something else,' said Singh. 'I just went out there with a very positive vibe and said I've got to hit solid shots, and that was my objective today.'
Choi, who got into the field thanks to a win last year at the Chrysler Championship, got off on the wrong foot with a bogey at the third when his approach sailed over the green.
That would be Choi's last mistake of the front nine as he went on a birdie run. He two-putted for birdie at the par-5, then rolled in a 10-footer for birdie at seven. Choi knocked his tee ball to tap-in range for birdie at eight and polished off three in a row with a 2-footer at nine.
Choi appeared headed to a fourth birdie in a row at the 10th, but his birdie putt from 10 feet flew 4 feet past thanks to the wind. He missed the comeback putt, but atoned for the error with a 3-foot birdie putt at the driveable, par-4 12th.
Choi closed his round at 18 with a birdie when he missed the green with his second at the par-5 hole, but chipped to 3 feet with his third.
'As far as my swing, everything was feeling good, stroke was good, windy conditions were definitely prevailing,' said Choi. 'However, it's a very important day for the FedExCup in 2007 and I'm glad I finished the first round real well.'
MacKenzie, last year's winner in Reno, tallied two birdies in his first five holes, but bogeyed No. 8. At the par-five ninth, MacKenzie hit his third shot right of the hole, then watched the ball spin into the cup for an eagle.
He three-putted from 42 feet for a bogey at the 13th, but back-to-back birdies from the 15th got him into a share for the lead.
'I hit the ball really well out there for the most part, and I putted well, as well, so it was a good combination,' said MacKenzie.
Ames, in one of Thursday's later groups, played the first 13 holes in one- under par, thanks to a pair of birdies a one bogey. He birdied No. 14 to get to minus-two, then it was his strong finish that moved him up the leaderboard.
At the difficult, par-4 17th, Ames drained a 20-foot birdie putt to get within one of the lead. One hole later, his 24-foot birdie try found the bottom of the cup and suddenly the Players Champion found himself tied atop the leaderboard.
'Today was a tough day,' acknowledged Ames, who also won The Skins Game in the offseason. 'Coming out here, after time off, I'm quite pleased.'
Wetterich notched an eagle, two birdies and three bogeys to reach the 11th tee one-under par. He birdied 14 and 15, then nearly holed a 40-foot eagle try at the last before settling for birdie.
'I can't remember the last time I played in wind like this,' admitted Wetterich. 'It was really tough. I'm going to keep playing hard and see what happens.'
Jim Furyk, the 2001 winner, Chris Couch, Rory Sabbatini and 2006 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year Trevor Immelman are knotted in seventh place at 2-under-par 71.
Three-time defending champion Stuart Appleby is tied for 13th place at even-par 73.

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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.”