On a serious Orlando golf outing play 36

By November 9, 2010, 9:24 pm


Grand Cypress New Course
Pot bunkers found on the New Course closely resemble those of the Old Course at St. Andrews.

When the Children's Miracle Network Classic returns to central Florida, vacationers should consider the Sunshine State for their next golf destination.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Most golfers who take an Orlando vacation aren't going just for golf. When you consider Disney, Universal, Sea World and all the other attractions Central Florida has to offer, golf can sometimes get squeezed. If you need to cram 36 holes into one day, here are your best options for multi-course facilities that will satisfy your double-looping desire.

Grand Cypress Golf Club

Grand Cypress Golf Club features 45 Jack Nicklaus-designed holes comprised of three 9-hole courses and the 18-hole New Course that pays tribute to the Old Course at St. Andrews.

Situated in an open meadow, you'll appreciate the generous fairways and lack of water at the New Course. The tee shot at No. 1 looks like an airport runway, with out-of-bounds bordering each side of an extremely wide fairway. If you can avoid the narrow burn short of the green, it can be a simple beginning to your 36-hole journey.

The first hole, along with 17 and 18, are meant to be exact copies of the same holes at the Old Course.

The nine-hole courses are named simply North, South and East, with the North-South combination being the original 18-hole course. It's relatively wide open, but sharply ledged fairways and tall mounds place a premium on accuracy. Like a lot of Florida golf courses, just because there aren't a lot of trees doesn't necessarily mean you can hit it anywhere.

The East nine is more wooded but is more forgiving around the greens.

ChampionsGate Golf Club

Located in the southwest Orlando area, ChampionsGate is home to two 18-hole courses, National and International. Both are designed by Greg Norman, and each has a different style and difficulty.

With a mind-numbing course rating of 76.2 from the tips, ChampionsGate's International course is the tougher of the two tracks, but it's not the 7,300 yards that make this links-style course so difficult. The hard, fast conditions mean longer tee shots, but control into the greens is paramount.

The National course is slightly easier – but not much. Built amid a former orange grove, this 18 is more Americanized, evidenced by more trees and distinct sight lines to each hole.

Orange County National

Orange County National is isolated enough that you feel like you're away from the theme park madness, yet close enough that you could make it back in time for dinner with the kids at Downtown Disney.

Like Grand Cypress OCN features 45 holes, lead by the 18-hole Panther Lake and 18-hole Crooked Cat courses, which have similar design characteristics to one another.

Crooked Cat has more of a links feel to it, with wider landing areas and different shot options into each green. The Panther Lake course is where Tiger Woods was told by Frank, his talking headcover, to 'get more forgiving irons – the Nike Pro-Combos' during a Nike commercial. (The driving range at OCN is where Tiger filmed his amazing golf ball juggling commercial, also for Nike Golf.)

If you're visiting in the winter months, be advised that Orange County National is the periodic host of PGA Tour Q-School, and the course shuts down around that time. That being said, you stand a good chance of being paired with an aspiring pro, as the Professional Golfers Career College is also on site.

Palm and Magnolia at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World boasts four 18-hole golf courses and are an easy drive in between, especially given the resort's free taxi service for golfers between resorts and the golf courses. That said, the Palm and Magnolia, the two participating courses in the Children's Miracle Network Classic presented by Wal-Mart, both play at the same original club side-by-side and next to the Magic Kingdom if you're looking for the utmost convenience. Disney's Magnolia course is a long-bombers delight, playing up to nearly 7,500 yards and is filled with long par 4s and 5s, while the Palm course takes a page from south Florida, featuring thousands of palm trees and ponds lining its fairways.

If you've got the kids with you, this facility also features the 9-hole Oak Trail course, a walking-only course that plays a kid-friendly 2,913 yards.

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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.”