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Day's familiar smile back on display at Conway

By Will GraySeptember 15, 2017, 10:02 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Even now, with his game once again clicking and a smile back on his face, Jason Day sometimes shakes his head in disbelief when recalling the performance he authored at Conway Farms Golf Club two years ago.

To hear him talk of his wire-to-wire victory at the 2015 BMW Championship that took him to No. 1 in the world is to listen to someone describing an out-of-body experience. His confidence was at an all-time high, and the shots he regularly pulled off – like taking driver on the narrow third hole – now seem unfathomable, even to him.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever get back there,” Day said. “Even if I did hit an errant shot, it didn’t matter. I’d go in there with a good attitude. [It] always seemed like I had a better lie and better bounces. And when you have kind of this year, my attitude hasn’t been as great as it should have been on the golf course.”

Ask any pro, or even your typical weekend hacker, and you’ll hear a familiar refrain: when the game is clicking, it feels like the birdies will never stop. But when it turns cold, the notion of a turnaround borders on impossible.

It’s certainly been a lean year for Day, one that started with him as the world’s top-ranked golfer and saw him show up to this week’s event without a spot in the Tour Championship assured. It’s been a humbling journey that included time off as his mother battled cancer, and more recently included the decision to part ways with longtime caddie Col Swatton.

The various ups and downs, both on and off the course, have taken their toll.

“I lost a little confidence in myself and my game, and the ability to go out and get the win,” Day said.

But Friday under sunny skies at Conway Farms, the toothy grin returned after a hole-in-one on No. 17, and Day’s easygoing nature was back in full swing. He carded a 6-under 65 that vaulted him into a tie for second place behind Marc Leishman.


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While the change at caddie this week offers an easy explanation for his sudden resurgence, Day believes the root cause is an internal one.

“At the start of the year, I felt like I was kind of fighting an uphill battle with myself, trying to force things too much,” he said. “I feel like I’m just kind of relaxed out there right now. Even after the hole-in-one, I wasn’t even amped. I felt like my heart would be pounding more, but I kind of went about my business. That tells me my mind is in the right spot.”

Day lost a playoff to Billy Horschel at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, and that proved to be a rare highlight in an otherwise underwhelming campaign. After holding the top seed to begin the 2016 playoffs, the Aussie entered this week No. 28, in danger of missing East Lake for the first time since 2012.

But Day need only look back to last year for a source of inspiration, as Rory McIlroy flipped a mediocre season on its head with a pair of postseason wins that netted the FedExCup title. It’s a goal that’s not especially far-fetched for Day after two more rounds of dominance at Conway Farms, where he tied for fourth in 2013 and bent the course to his will two years ago.

Sixteen months removed from his most recent worldwide win at the 2016 Players Championship, Day appreciates how much a single victory can alter the perception of an entire season.

“I think at the least you need to win at least once to have a successful year,” Day said. “If you won, that means you’ve done something good to keep things going. I mean, it’s not weighing heavy on my mind. I just know that I kind of need to focus on what I have done. I know that I can do it.”

Day has always been a player who leans heavily on mental prep and visualization, but this week he has found success in taking his foot off the gas. It’s an ebb and flow for players at the top level, all of whom vacillate throughout the year while trying to find the sparse middle ground that yields both ample focus and a sufficiently loose approach.

“You definitely can’t play this game I would say for a long period of time stressed out, or not being relaxed, just because of how much we do play, how much pressure there can be,” said Rickie Fowler, who sits alongside Day at 13 under through two rounds. “The more you can be mentally relaxed or rested, it takes a lot of stress and kind of pressure off of your game.”

The heights of 2015 may continue to prove elusive for Day. But with the birdies once again falling at Conway Farms, they still serve as a reminder of just how much talent he possesses – and how quickly the smile can return once the game starts trending in the right direction.

Relaxed and imbued with an extra jolt of confidence, Day has adjusted his goals from simply making the 30-man field at East Lake to leaving this week with a trophy that could put a much-needed positive spin on an otherwise trying season.

“Priorities change as the years go on,” Day said. “Seeing the last two days, I know I still have it in myself to be able to hit the correct shots and go out there and try and win.”

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Tour investigating DeChambeau's use of compass

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 10:09 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Bryson DeChambeau’s reliance on science to craft his play on the course is well known, but he took things to a new level this week at the Travelers Championship when television cameras caught him wielding a compass while looking at his yardage book during the third round.

According to DeChambeau, it’s old news. He’s been using a compass regularly to aid in his preparation for nearly two years, dating back to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in October 2016.

“I’m figuring out the true pin locations,” DeChambeau said. “The pin locations are just a little bit off every once in a while, and so I’m making sure they’re in the exact right spot. And that’s it.”


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But social media took notice this weekend, as did PGA Tour officials. DeChambeau explained that he was approached on the range Saturday and informed that the Tour plans to launch an investigation into whether or not the device is allowable in competition, with a decision expected in the next week.

It’s not the first time the 24-year-old has gone head-to-head with Tour brass, having also had a brief run with side-saddled putting earlier in his career.

“They said, ‘Hey, we just want to let you know that we’re investigating the device and seeing if it’s allowable,’” DeChambeau said. “I understand. It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened.”

DeChambeau won earlier this month at the Memorial Tournament, and the Tour’s ruling would not have any retroactive impact on his results earlier this year. Playing alongside tournament winner Bubba Watson in the final round at TPC River Highlands, DeChambeau shot a final-round 68 to finish in a tie for ninth.

“It’s a compass. It’s been used for a long, long time. Sailors use it,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just funny that people take notice when I start putting and playing well.”

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Bubba fires 63 to win his third Travelers title

By Nick MentaJune 24, 2018, 9:52 pm

Bubba Watson fired a final-round 63 to storm from six back and steal the Travelers Championship. Here’s how Bubba came from behind once again at TPC River Highlands.

Leaderboard: Bubba Watson (-17), Stewart Cink (-14), Beau Hossler (-14), J.B. Holmes (-14), Paul Casey (-14)

What it means: This is Watson’s 12th PGA Tour win, his third of the season, and his third Travelers title. Watson picked up his first Tour victory at this event in 2010 – when he also came from six back – and won again in 2015 in a playoff victory over – guess who – Casey. Thinking he might need a round of 60 to scare the leader, Watson made eight birdies, the last of which came on the 72nd hole, giving him the outright lead by one. A short while later, Casey would bogey the 16th and 17th to end the drama and allow Bubba to breathe easy. With the win, Watson becomes the only Tour player to win three times this season. He moves to third in the FedExCup points race, behind two-time winners Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson.

Round of the day: Cink’s round was a stroke better, but Bubba earns this title for winning the title. The left-hander made the turn in 2-under 33 and then ripped off five birdies on his back nine to take the clubhouse lead, which he wouldn’t relinquish.

Best of the rest: Cink looked as though he was going to record the second sub-60 round at the Travelers in the last three years. The 2009 champion golfer of the year played his first 10 holes in 7 under par on the par-70 layout. Cink added three more birdies but also added two bogeys to settle for 8-under 62, tying the round of the week. The 45-year-old has finished T-4 and T-2 in his last two starts.

Biggest disappointment: Casey (2-over 72) began the day up four and couldn’t close. Even par on his round through 15 holes, he missed a 4-footer for par on 16 and found the water off the tee at 17, ending his chances. The Englishman, who ended a nine-year Tour winless drought earlier this season at the Valspar, is now 1 for 4 with a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour.

Shot of the day: Watson’s wedge from 77 yards at the 72nd hole, setting up his eighth and final birdie of the day.

Quote of the day: “That’s the best shot you ever hit.” – caddie Ted Scott to Bubba Watson on his approach at 18

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McCarron (64) edges Kelly in Madison event

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 9:37 pm

MADISON, Wis. – Scott McCarron won the American Family Insurance Championship on Sunday, closing with an 8-under 64 for a one-stroke victory over hometown player Jerry Kelly.

The 52-year-old McCarron birdied Nos. 14-16 and parred the final two to hold on for his first victory of the season and seventh in three years on the PGA Tour Champions. He finished at 15-under 201 at University Ridge.

''All week, I drove the ball really well and I was hitting a lot of good iron shots,'' McCarron said. ''I hit a lot of greens. I think I made one bogey all week and that was early on Friday. Just missed a short putt, one of the par 3s and made bogey. Other than that, I really didn't have any other opportunities to make bogeys. I just kept putting myself in play.''

McCarron looked forward to the stretch of three straight major tournaments that begins Thursday with the U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor in Colorado.

''Obviously, my game's pretty good, just won this week, so I'm pretty happy the way I'm hitting it.'' McCarron said. ''I started putting better this week. I've got to work on my wedge game. I've got to wedge it closer. I have a lot of wedges out here.''


Full-field scores from the American Family Insurance Championship


Kelly shot 65, also parring the final two holes.

''I'm disappointed, there's no doubt,'' Kelly said. ''I want those putts back. I want to just go ahead and hit them hard.''

Kelly joked about friend McCarron paying him back for a friendly match with McCarron's wife.

''My caddie, Eric and I, beat Jenny and Scott over at Maple Bluff Country Club earlier this week, beat them out of five bucks,'' Kelly said. ''I should have thrown that match.''

Fellow Madison player Steve Stricker, the tournament host and first-round leader, had a 65 to tie for third with 2017 champion Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie.

''The way it ended up, couldn't have asked for anything more,'' Stricker said. ''Great turnout of people, the players loved it, and we got a great field and some exciting golf down the stretch.''

Couples had a 67, playing alongside McCarron.

''We all said it yesterday, with all those guys there, somebody shoots 7, 8 under will win - and I watched it today,'' Couples said. ''He was phenomenal. He played a stress-free, easy round of golf and I think I lost to him by two, but I was never going to beat him.''

Montgomerie followed a second-round 72 with a 64.

''I didn't play well at all yesterday, at all,'' Montgomerie said. ''So disappointing yesterday ... out here, 72, get trampled on.''

Paul Goydos (67) was 12 under, John Daly (67) topped the group at 11 under, and Bernhard Langer (69) was another stroke back.

University of Illinois coach Mike Small, Stricker's teammate with the Illini, birdied the final hole for a 68 to also tie for 10th at 10 under.

Steve and I have been best friends for 30 years,'' Small said. ''It's great to have him get me in the tournament and validate him helping me get in and getting an exemption. That's huge. I finished top 10 in Iowa at Des Moines two weeks ago. It was my first top 10 in a Champions event. So, to back up with this, and this was a strong field, it feels good to compete.''

Second-round leader Esteban Toledo had a 73 to tie for 24th at 8 under.

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Despite 'flattering' stats, McIlroy has work to do

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 9:13 pm

CROMELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy believes he has work to do on his swing, even if the stats don’t back it up.

McIlroy shot a 3-under 67 in the final round of the Travelers Championship, completing a week in which he shot 11 under and led the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green but was last among the 74 players who made the cut in strokes gained: putting.

While the Ulsterman lamented a number of misses from close range – 17 from inside 10 feet over the course of the week, to be exact – he contended that the strokes gained data may have been “flattering” his performance with the other 13 clubs.

“I don’t feel like I hit it that well tee-to-green,” McIlroy said. “It says that I’m probably No. 1 tee-to-green, but it didn’t feel like it. Yeah, obviously I would have loved to have putted better. But I felt like all parts of my game just needed to be a little bit sharper.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

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McIlroy explained that he hasn’t taken a day off from golf for the last five weeks, and he plans to do that in the coming days as he and wife Erica continue construction on a new house in Florida. He’ll next tee it up at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, which is hosted by his charitable foundation, but that will be his final competitive start before renewing his quest for a second Open title at Carnoustie.

In between, he plans to take in some tennis at Wimbledon and get re-acclimated to playing links golf, although he doesn’t plan to play Carnoustie the weekend prior to tournament week like he did last year at Royal Birkdale.

“I’m not going to go there early. I know the golf course pretty well, I know how it’s going to be,” said McIlroy, who made is Open debut at Carnoustie in 2007. “I’ll do a little bit of practice over that weekend. Play some links golf, go to Royal County Down. And then head over to Carnoustie on the Monday.”