Sluman Opens Chrysler with 62

By Sports NetworkOctober 28, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 Chrysler ChampionshipPALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Jeff Sluman fired a course-record, 9-under-par 62 on Thursday to take the first-round lead at the Chrysler Championship.
 
'It was one of those days that because you're playing so well, it just seems easy and you kind of wonder to yourself why in the world you can't do that more often because it seems so easy,' said Sluman.
 
Jonathan Kaye, Kirk Triplett and Kent Jones shared second place at 7-under-par 64. PGA Tour money leader Vijay Singh was next at 6-under-par 65 along with Justin Rose.
 
With many players battling on opposite sides of the spectrum this week, fighting for a spot in next week's season-ending Tour Championship or simply grasping for enough money to secure their playing cards for next year, the only thing on Sluman's mind it seemed was making birdies.
 
'I'm not coming in here goal-oriented,' said Sluman, who is currently ranked 79th on the money list. 'I think if I just go out and just keep playing solid golf, maybe something good will happen.'
 
Sluman got things going on the first hole of the Copperhead Course at Westin Innisbrook Resort and chipped his third shot 3 feet at the par-5 for an early birdie. Sluman then played his approach to 20 feet for a birdie at the par-4 third and converted another short birdie putt at the par-5 fifth.
 
The 47-year-old knocked his second shot inside 12 feet for a birdie at the par-4 seventh and added a birdie at the ninth to make the turn at 5 under. At the par-4 10th, Sluman dropped a 9-iron within a couple feet of the hole and tapped in for another birdie.
 
Sluman was cruising on the back side with birdies at the 14th and 16th before his tee shot found a fairway bunker at the par-4 18th. Sluman played a 7-iron out of the sand and the ball stopped within a foot of the hole.
 
'If the pin was anywhere else on 18, but what it was, I would have had a very difficult time getting it close,' said Sluman. 'Those are the kind of things that are intangibles that you can never pinpoint why it happens some days and why it doesn't other days.'
 
He tapped in for birdie to complete a brilliant opening round.
 
'I played very solid all year, I just haven't put any great tournaments together,' said Sluman, a six-time winner on the PGA Tour. 'Maybe this is the last one that can be a great one for me.'
 
Kaye collected a pair of birdies on the front nine and picked up a birdie at the par-5 11th to keep inching up the leaderboard. He added a birdie at the 14th and tallied an ace at the par-3 17th to move to 6 under.
 
Kaye then birdied the closing hole for his share of second.
 
'I hit a good shot there on 17, a perfect 3-iron for me if I just kept it down,' said Kaye, who is just outside the top-30 on the money list. 'Fortunately it was one of the ones I hit the way I really wanted to today, and it ended up just perfect.'
 
Singh needs to win this week and next to get to 10 titles on the season, but the top-ranked player in the world will most certainly surpass the $10 million mark in single season earnings. Singh had six birdies to go along with no bogeys on Thursday to finish three shots off the pace.
 
'I'm focused on the game,' said Singh. 'If you hit decent shots and make some putts, you're going to play well, and that's what I'm doing right now.'
 
Jonathan Byrd posted a 5-under-par 66 to finish alone in seventh place. Jay Haas, Lee Janzen, Jose Maria Olazabal and Stephen Leaney were one shot further back at 4-under-par 67.
 
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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.”