Lots at stake in Wyndham finale

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2016, 11:58 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The final round of the Wyndham Championship is B.Y.O.A. As in, Bring Your Own Abacus.

The PGA Tour’s annual number-crunch nears its conclusion, as players of varying abilities scramble in the summer heat to make it inside whatever particular cutoff point most applies to them.

For some, Sunday’s final round will determine where they play their golf for the next 10 months. For others, it’s a tantalizing opportunity to nudge toward a more patriotic incentive.

The bubble is always the place to watch at the Wyndham, and this year is no exception – largely because Si Woo Kim has taken command of the actual tournament over the past two days.

The Korean prospect notably earned his PGA Tour card at age 17 back in 2012, becoming the youngest ever to do so. Now a seasoned veteran at 21, he has made a habit of feasting on the Tour’s cozier confines. Kim contended at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, then finished fourth at the Sony Open. He added top-25 finishes at both the RBC Heritage and Travelers Championship, sandwiched around a playoff loss to Aaron Baddeley at the Barbasol Championship.

Kim used the disappointing loss last month as an opportunity to reach out to countryman K.J. Choi, who offered notes of encouragement that Kim quickly put to use.

“He talked to me after Barbasol, [said] that’s all right, next time you have a chance, you have a lot of chances because, you know, you can do it,” Kim said. “I said yes.”

It turns out, Kim’s next chance arrived this week in the form of Sedgefield Country Club, an old-school Donald Ross layout that the Korean has turned into his personal playground. After a 10-under 60 that set the tournament scoring record, Kim shook off the pressure of Saturday’s final pairing to post a 64 that grew his lead over Rafael Cabrera-Bello to four shots.

“I never play like this this week, almost first time for me,” he said. “I missed a lot of iron shots before but I keep trying last week, keep trying short iron, mid-irons, lot of practice. This week very much better.”

While the drama may be lacking near the top of the leaderboard, there is still plenty to monitor further down the list. Kyle Stanley appears to have played his way into The Barclays with his scores this week (apologies, Whee Kim), while Shawn Stefani enters the final round squarely on the bubble.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Stefani made a move up the leaderboard thanks in large part to a hole-in-one during the third round, and after starting the week at No. 133 he is now projected to knock Matt Jones out of the 125th and final spot by a single point. It’s an improvement, sure, but Stefani knows there’s work yet to be done.

“Obviously we all know I’ve got to play good. That’s all it boils down to,” Stefani said. “Obviously there’s stress and pressure out there. I try not to focus on that. I’m trying to hit the shot, each shot the best I can every time and just be patient.”

Then, of course, there’s the cutoff that still looms a week away.

The eight automatic qualifiers for the U.S. Ryder Cup team won’t be determined until after The Barclays, but Sunday’s results at Sedgefield could go a long way toward shuffling the order. J.B. Holmes entered the week at No. 7 but missed the cut, and now could be passed in the standings by both Patrick Reed and Brandt Snedeker.

Reed birdied his final three holes Friday to make the cut on the number and followed with a 64, while Snedeker is T-6 after a third-round 65 on a course where he annually contends.

“I’m going to need a perfect round tomorrow,” said Snedeker, who trails by six shots. “My putting is there, the rest of the game is there. If I can think well for 18 holes, I’ll have a chance.”

The last variable to track during the final round is Jim Furyk, who won’t qualify automatically for Hazeltine but who continues to make a strong case for his inclusion as one of Davis Love III’s four selections. In his first start since breaking the Tour’s all-time scoring mark, Furyk is T-3 and looking to build on his momentum to ensure his truncated season extends beyond Bethpage.

“I’m in next week but need to play well to get to Boston. You know, that’s in the back of my mind, but that’s not a goal, I guess, by any stretch,” Furyk said. “My goal would be to go out and play a good round of golf tomorrow, shoot a good number, hopefully have a chance to win the golf tournament down the stretch.”

From the top of the leaderboard all the way down, there are races to watch and bubbles to monitor. Inevitably, some dreams will be dashed while other last-ditch pleas will ring true, as the Tour’s various standings endure one final re-calculation before the books close on another marathon regular season.

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Twice winner Kizzire on missing U.S. Open: 'Fuel to my fire'

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:59 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Based on recent form, there likely wasn’t a more decorated player watching last week’s U.S. Open from home than Patton Kizzire.

Kizzire is in the midst of a breakthrough season that has already included two wins: a maiden victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November, and a marathon playoff triumph over James Hahn at the Sony Open in January. While those titles got him into the Masters and the PGA Championship, they didn’t mean an exemption to Shinnecock Hills.

Kizzire got as high as 51st in the world rankings after his win in Honolulu, but his game started to turn shortly thereafter. A T-12 finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship is his lone top-25 finish in 12 starts since his Sony victory, and he missed four straight cuts from the Masters to The Players Championship.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The U.S. Open grants exemptions to the top 60 in the world at two different cutoff points close to the tournament. But in the midst of a cold streak, Kizzire was 63rd and 65th at each of those deadlines. He attempted to earn a spot at sectional qualifying in Columbus, only to find that his score of 5 under was one shot too many.

“I guess just adding a little fuel to my fire, adding insult to injury,” Kizzire said. “Just to have narrowly missed several different ways of qualification was disappointing. But I just tried to spin it as a positive. I got two weeks off, and I did watch those guys struggle a little bit. I wasn’t struggling at home, we’ll just say that.”

Kizzire hopes to put the disappointment behind him this week at the Travelers Championship, where he finished T-53 a year ago. And while his pair of trophies didn’t get him a tee time last week – or guarantee him a berth in The Open next month – they put him in prime position to make the season-ending Tour Championship, which would mean spots in the first three majors of 2019.

The combination of two recent wins and a ranking outside the top 60 isn’t one that comes up often on Tour, but Kizzire maintains a balanced perspective as he looks to get back to playing the kind of golf that will ensure he doesn’t miss any more majors in the near future.

“If I would have played better in between the U.S. Open and my last win, I would have gotten in. So my play was the reason I wasn’t in,” Kizzire said. “You certainly could look at it and say, ‘This guy’s got two wins, he should be in.’ But I’m not making too much of it.”

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Masters, Players and U.S. Open champs grouped at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:50 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Fresh off a second straight U.S. Open victory, Brooks Koepka is getting right back to work at the Travelers Championship.

Koepka has stood by his commitment to tee it up at TPC River Highlands, becoming the first U.S. Open champ to play the following week on the PGA Tour since Justin Rose played the Travelers after his 2013 win at Merion. Koepka will play the first two rounds alongside Masters champ Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, who captured The Players Championship last month.

Here’s a look at some of the other marquee, early-round groupings for a star-studded field outside Hartford (all times ET):

7:50 a.m. Thursday, 12:50 p.m. Friday: Jason Day, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger

Day is making his second straight Travelers appearance, having missed the cut both last year in Cromwell and last week at Shinnecock Hills. He’ll be joined by reigning Rookie of the Year Schauffele and Berger, who took home ROY honors in 2015 and last year was on the losing end of Jordan Spieth’s playoff dramatics at this event.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

8 a.m. Thursday, 1 p.m. Friday: Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson

Koepka is making his third tournament appearance overall, but his first since a T-9 finish in 2016, before he had either of his two U.S. Open trophies. Reed has become a regular at this event and enters off a fourth-place showing on Long Island, while Simpson cruised to victory last month at TPC Sawgrass and tied for 10th last week.

12:50 p.m. Thursday, 7:50 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Russell Knox

This was the tournament that turned things around last year for Spieth, who took home the title in his debut thanks to one of the most dramatic shots of the year in a playoff against Berger. He’ll start his title defense alongside a pair of past champs, as Leishman won here for his first Tour title back in 2012 and Knox was a winner two years ago when the tournament was played in August.

1 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. Friday: Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

This group should get plenty of attention in the early rounds, with Thomas entering as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 and joined a pair of players who will launch drives all across TPC River Highlands. Watson has feasted on this layout, winning in both 2010 and 2015 among five top-10 finishes, while McIlroy tied for 17th last year in his tournament debut but missed the cut last week at Shinnecock.

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Travelers Championship: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2018, 5:30 pm

There will be plenty of star power this week in Hartford as the PGA Tour moves north for the Travelers Championship. Here is the key info for this week's event.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $7 million

Course: TPC River Highlands (par 70, 6,841 yards)

Defending champion: Jordan Spieth. Defeated Daniel Berger with a birdie on the first playoff hole.

Notables in the field

Jordan Spieth

• Missed last two cuts (the Memorial, U.S. Open) entering this week

• 188th on PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting (4th in strokes gained: tee to green)

• Only player to win Travelers Championship back-to-back: Phil Mickelson (2001-02)

Brooks Koepka

• Making third career start in Travelers Championship (last start: T-9 in 2016)

• First player to play Travelers week after U.S. Open win since 2013 (Justin Rose)

• First player to win U.S. Open back-to-back since 1988-89 (Curtis Strange)

Justin Thomas

• Fifth career start in this event (MC, T-3, MC last three years)

• Second on PGA Tour this season in strokes gained: tee to green (+1.49)

Rory McIlroy

• Second career start in Travelers Championship (T-17 last year)

• Missed cut last week at U.S. Open (shot 80 in opening round)

Jason Day

• Fourth career start in Travelers Championship (best finish: T-18 in 2014)

• Leads PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting this season

Patrick Reed

• Earned second-most world ranking points of any player in 2018

• Finished fourth at U.S. Open last week (three shots behind Koepka)

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Day 'disappointed' in USGA's handling of course, Phil

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:16 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Jason Day had the weekend off following a missed cut at the U.S. Open, but that didn’t prevent the Aussie from keeping an eye on all the drama that unfolded at Shinnecock Hills.

The former world No. 1 found it “disappointing,” – with “it” being both the deterioration of a major championship setup and the fallout from Phil Mickelson’s putter slap during the third round.

Day is hoping to bounce back from an early exit at this week’s Travelers Championship, but before turning his attention to TPC River Highlands he shared that the brunt of his disappointment stemmed from the USGA’s inability to keep Shinnecock playable during the third round and their subsequent decision to water it down for the tournament’s conclusion.

“It’s more the course, about how they set it up. Because Saturday was a total, it was like two different golf courses, practically, on the greens Saturday versus Sunday,” Day said. “I just wish they would leave it alone and just let it go. Not saying to let the greens go and let them dry out and make it unfair, I’m just saying plan accordingly and hopefully whatever the score finishes, it finishes, whether it’s under par or over par.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

But Day’s frustration also tied back to Mickelson’s head-turning decision to hit a moving ball on the 13th green during the third round, and the USGA’s subsequent ruling that the actions merited a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.

“It’s obviously disappointing to see what Phil did,” he said. “I think a lot of people have mixed reviews about what he did.”

USGA officials explained over the weekend that Mickelson’s actions explicitly fell under Rule 14-5, which called for a two-shot addition and turned his score of 8 into a 10, rather than Rule 1-2 or Rule 33-7 that could have resulted in disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules.

Day felt it was unfortunate that all of Saturday’s drama deflected attention from a world-class performance from Brooks Koepka en route to a successful title defense, but when it comes to the handling of the Mickelson controversy he believes the USGA could have made good use of a mulligan.

“It’s just unfortunate that it happened at the USGA’s tournament, where they enforce the rules, like the R&A. And I think they may have, they probably should have enforced a different outcome for Phil,” Day said. “But it is what it is. It’s done. It’s just disappointing that that is overshadowing the winner of the whole week. I think if they had it back again, they may have chosen a different outcome.”