Slow and Steady Wins the Race

By Sports NetworkJuly 24, 2005, 4:00 pm
US Bank Championship in MilwaukeeMILWAUKEE -- Ben Crane used a chip-in eagle on Sunday to shoot a 1-under 69 and cruise to victory at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee. He finished at 20-under-par 260 and won by four shots at Brown Deer Park Golf Course.
This was his second PGA Tour win after titling at the 2003 BellSouth Classic. Crane became the second wire-to-wire champion in tournament history, joining Ed Snead who turned the trick in 1974. Crane also matched Loren Roberts' 2000 tournament record with his 260 total.
'I felt like my game was coming around and I'm excited, but I didn't think I was going to come here and play like this wire-to-wire,' said Crane, who pocketed $684,000 for the win.
Nobody made a move at Crane all day Sunday, but Scott Verplank finished alone in second place. He shot a final-round, 1-over 71 and came in at 16-under-par 264.
Chad Campbell birdied five of his last six holes on Sunday to fire a 5-under 65. He took third place at minus-15, one shot better than Jeff Sluman, who carded a 2-under 68.
Crane began the final round with a two-shot lead over Verplank, but extended it quickly with a 5-foot birdie putt at the second. He dropped a shot at the fourth when his drive landed in the left rough, but a hole-out eagle from the side of the green at the par-5 sixth gave him a comfortable cushion.
He bogeyed the seventh, then parred his next five holes. At the 13th, Crane's drive landed in the left rough and his approach ran through the green. He chipped to 12 feet and missed the par putt, but no one in the field capitalized.
Verplank parred his final six holes and Campbell, who trailed by nine at the start of Sunday's last round, had too much ground to make up on Crane.
Crane made a couple of spectacular par saves late on his back nine. At the par-3 14th, Crane went through the green with his tee ball, but flopped his second to a foot. At the par-5 15th, he went for the green with his second shot and came to rest right of the green in trees. Crane missed the putting surface with his third, but chipped to 2 feet and converted the par putt.
Crane rolled in a 15-footer for birdie at the 17th to all but assure victory. He had a good look at birdie at the last, but it did not fall. No matter, as he finished first in the tournament in putting on the way to hoisting the trophy.
'I got the practice green on Thursday and all of a sudden, my alignment clicks,' said Crane. 'The ball started tumbling down the line and I went with it. It hung with me all week and I'm thankful for that. It was fun.'
Crane can now be more noted for winning on the PGA Tour instead of something else. He is known as one of the slowest players on tour, and at the Booz Allen Classic, his playing partner Rory Sabbatini teed off without him on the 18th hole Sunday.
This Sunday, Crane came in almost 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
'We got on the clock and I decided I needed to play the rest of the round like I was on the clock,' admitted Crane. 'I tried to keep my pace up because that's what's most fair to my playing partners. I wish I could flip a switch, but it's going to take a little bit of time.'
Steve Elkington posted a 2-under 68 and tied for fifth place with Chris Smith, who carded a 1-over 71 on Sunday. The duo came in at 13-under-par 267.
Two-time U.S. Open winner Lee Janzen fired a 5-under 65 and shared seventh with Mark Calcavecchia, who posted a 69 in the final round. They were knotted at minus-12.
Kenny Perry struggled to a 3-over 73 on Sunday and shared ninth with Brad Faxon (68), Dean Wilson (68), Glen Day (66) and John Huston (69). The group was tied at 11-under-par 269.
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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.”