Reed ends winless streak, secures Ryder Cup spot

By Will GrayAugust 29, 2016, 12:11 am

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – As the close calls and near-misses continued to pile up, Patrick Reed started to wonder.

The wins that came so quickly – the quartet of trophies that stamped his name as one of the rising stars of American golf – had begun to collect dust. The wait for trophy No. 5, a gentle foot-tapping that stretched back to January 2015, had become more and more frustrating.

“It’s like, all right, what do I need to do to get over this hump?” Reed said.

The answer, it turned out, was patience.

Through the sea of runner-ups and ties for 10th, Reed stayed the course and remained committed to a game plan that had proven so successful in the past. That patience was rewarded Sunday at The Barclays, where Reed rallied for a one-shot victory that turned a solid year into something much more palatable.

Reed had plenty to play for entering the first postseason event. There was the trophy, sure, as well as a bounty of FedEx Cup points up for grabs. But he was also teetering on the edge of a Ryder Cup spot, a position he felt was a testament to close calls that often don’t add up.

“At the end of the day, a bunch of top-10s, it’s great. But it’s going to make you be on that bubble, as you saw,” Reed said. “I’ve had, it feels like 100 top-10s this year, and I’ve just stayed on that (No.) 6, 7, 8, 9 stretch on that Ryder Cup.”

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Reed had also been hampered in recent months by missing one piece from the proverbial puzzle. He’d string together three strong rounds, but his other score would often leave him too far adrift to be able to make a Sunday charge.

This time around, Reed felt he had gotten his bad round out of the way with a third-round 71 that turned a two-shot lead into a one-shot deficit. It kept him within range of Fowler, and he re-gained the lead when Fowler bogeyed the 11th hole.

Reed wouldn’t relinquish that advantage again, as Fowler stumbled down the stretch to a final-round 74 that cost him his second 54-hole lead of the year.

“You can’t play from the rough out here, especially on the weekend in the afternoon,” Fowler said. “These things were getting crusty and fast and firm. Needed to be on the fairway, and when I was on the fairway, I was great. But I wasn’t there enough.”

Reed put the tournament on ice on the penultimate hole, where he clung to a two-shot lead but left a lengthy birdie attempt 8 feet short. The subsequent par putt found the target and allowed him to cruise to victory despite a bogey on the last.

It’s the type of putt that Reed holed with regularity during his memorable Ryder Cup debut two years ago at Gleneagles, and a test he’ll surely face again next month at Hazeltine.

“It was huge,” Reed said.

Reed’s camp is a close-knit one; his wife, Justine, used to caddie for him and still walks with him every round. Her brother, Kessler Karain, has looped for Reed since Justine left the bag when she became pregnant with the couple’s first child in 2013.

Coming down the stretch Sunday, with the full-throated crowds at Bethpage rooting on a duel between the orange-clad Fowler and Reed decked out in red and black, Reed leaned heavily on Karain to help him stay committed to the plan. Remain patient.

“I tried to get away from it a couple times today, and Kessler, I told him at the start of the day, ‘I don’t care what’s going on, do not allow me to go away from this,’” Reed said. “Every time I tried to, he’s like, ‘No. This is what we’re going to do, this is our game plan.’ Just by sticking with it, it paid off.”

Soothed is the sting from losses earlier this year in Maui and San Antonio. Erased is the perception that Reed didn’t belong in the discussion of golf’s elite simply because he hadn’t lifted a trophy in 19 months.

“Top-10ing is great for making a living. But at the end of the day, every time we play golf tournaments, we don’t settle for top 10s,” Reed said. “We’re going to go out there to try to get a W, and try to get hardware and try to get a trophy.”

Never short on confidence, Reed picked an opportune time to close out a victory drought he felt had lingered far too long, and he booked his ticket to Hazeltine in the process.

A consistent season, one that had been filled with plenty of settling, now has its highlight.

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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.”