Woods Haas Share Top Spot

By Sports NetworkNovember 6, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Tour Championship by Coca-ColaATLANTA -- Tiger Woods fired a 5-under 65 on Saturday to join overnight leader Jay Haas in first place after three rounds of the season-ending Tour Championship. Haas, who shot a 68, and Woods are knotted at 9-under-par 201 at East Lake Golf Club.
Reigning U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, who shared the lead until four bogeys in his final six holes, managed a 1-under 69. He is tied for third place with former Masters champion Mike Weir (67) and Stephen Ames (70) at 5-under-par 205.
Woods, the 1998 champion, did not get off to the kind of start he needed on Saturday. He three-putted the first hole for bogey, but reclaimed the lost stroke when his approach nearly landed in the hole at three. Woods tapped in the short birdie putt, then let his putter take him to the top of the leaderboard.
Woods sank back-to-back 10-footers for birdie at the eighth and ninth holes. His third birdie in a row came from close to 30 feet and his fourth consecutive birdie was a 25-footer at the 11th.
At the 13th, Woods drove into the left rough, then came up short with his approach. He chipped 12 feet short of the hole, but drained the par save to keep his share of first.
Woods hit a 7-iron into the green for his second at the par-5 15th. He two-putted from 30 feet for another birdie to reach 9 under par. Woods parred his way in and now has a chance at his 41st PGA Tour victory.
'I played well the last two days and gave myself a good shot at it,' said Woods, who won this year's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. 'It feels real good.'
The 2004 season has not been great for Woods. He lost the top spot in the Official World Golf Rankings, fell to fourth on the money list and third in the rankings, failed to win a major and failed to even collect the stroke-play victory.
But Woods is spectacular with a lead after three rounds. In his career, Woods has held at least a piece of the 54-hole lead 32 times and in 30 of those, he visited the winner's circle. The last time Woods squandered the 54-hole lead was this event in 2000, when Phil Mickelson caught him on Sunday.
'It's going to be a great battle tomorrow,' said Woods. 'I've got a good buddy of mine out there with me.'
Haas is Woods' 'good buddy' as the two play several practice rounds together throughout the year and the two had similar starts on Saturday. Haas dropped shots to par at both the second and third holes, and two-putted from 90 feet to save par at the fourth.
'That was probably the key to my round,' said Haas, referring to his 15-footer for par at four. 'I was looking at 3 over through four, instead I kind of righted the ship. I played well from then on in.'
At the par-5 ninth, Haas came up short of the putting surface with his second shot. He chipped to three feet and converted the birdie try to get to minus-6.
Haas, who at 50 years of age is the oldest player to qualify for this event, birdied the 10th, then added another at No. 12.
When Woods took the lead at the 15th, Haas -- who played in the final group on Saturday -- followed him in with birdie. His 25-foot eagle try stopped turning right at the hole, so Haas settled for a tap-in birdie and a share of the lead at minus-9.
Haas ran home a 6-foot tester for par at 16, and closed with a 3-foot par putt at the last to join Woods in first.
While Woods is going through a slump without any wins since February, Haas' last victory dates back to the 1993 Texas Open. Haas held the 54-hole lead at last year's Players Championship, but fell victim to Davis Love III's amazing final-round 64.
Mark Hensby posted a 1-under 69 and is alone in sixth place at 2-under-par 208. Scott Verplank (68) and Jerry Kelly (71) are tied for seventh at minus-1.
Mickelson (67), Sergio Garcia (69), Darren Clarke (70), Zach Johnson (71) and Rory Sabbatini (71) are knotted in ninth place at even-par 210.
Vijay Singh, the No. 1 ranked player in the world, managed an even-par 70 on Saturday and is part of a group tied for 16th place at 2-over-par 212.
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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.”