Planet Golf — 24 June 2013 by GW staff and news services
Travelers: Duke, 44, wins first title

CROMWELL, Conn. — Ken Duke needed 187 starts on the PGA Tour to get his first win, securing it at a tournament that is building a reputation for such breakthroughs.

The 44-year-old made a 2-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole Sunday to beat Chris Stroud at the Travelers Championship.

Duke earned 500 FedExCup points for the win and moved to 20th in the standings.

Stroud, who also was looking for his first title, had chipped in from 51 feet on the 18th hole, to get to 12 under par and force the playoff.

But Duke made the better approach shot on the second extra hole, bouncing his ball in front of the flag and rolling it close.

“Yeah, it’s been a long time,” said Duke, who turned pro in 1994.” I’ve been on the Canadian Tour, the mini tours, Asian Tour, South American Tour, all of them; Web.com, and it’s just great to be a part of this big family on the PGA Tour.”

Duke, who came in ranked 144th in the world, is the sixth golfer in eight years to get his first PGA Tour win here, joining J.J. Henry (2006), Hunter Mahan (2007), Bubba Watson (2010), Fredrik Jacobsen (2011) and Marc Leishman last year.

Canadian Graham DeLaet finished a stroke back in third place with a 269. Watson finished fourth, two shots behind, after making a 6 on the par-3 16th hole.

“You gotta believe in yourself in everything you do,” Duke said. “That’s why those guys at the top are winning week in, week out because they believe they can do it. It’s kind of one of those things once you finally do it it might come easier the next time. That’s kind of the way I feel.”

Duke wouldn’t have been in position to win at all had luck not intervened on the 10th hole, when his ball ricocheted off a tree and onto the green to about 5 feet from the pin, allowing him to make birdie.

After a 17-foot birdie putt on the next hole, he made a 45-footer on the 13th hole, a shot that looked as though it might go past the hole to the right, before falling in.

He battled Watson for the lead down the back nine, until the former Masters champion found trouble on the 16th.

Duke looked as though he had the tournament sewn up after saving par on 18, despite a tee shot that went well right and onto a hill, and a second shot that went just over the green. He used a putter to put the ball within 2 feet, then sank the putt as the crowd roared for what they thought was a winning shot.

It looked even more secure when Stroud’s second shot hit near the stick, but then rolled well off the green. That just set up the dramatic chip shot.

Stroud hit his tee shot over the cart path and was 94 yards from the hole on the first playoff hole, while Duke’s first shot jumped out of a fairway bunker and into the rough.

Duke bounced his second shot onto the green. Stroud’s went into a greenside bunker.

Stroud chipped to 8 feet but had to watch as Duke almost sank a long putt that would have ended it.

The two both struck the ball well on the second playoff hole, but Stroud missed a 25-foot birdie putt, and Duke made his short putt.

“I had three shots from 94 yards on 18, the exact same yardage, and I could not figure out a way to stop that ball,” Stroud said. “Regulation, luckily, I chipped it in.”

Watson, Charley Hoffman and DeLaet began the day tied for the lead, but 21 other players were within five strokes.

Webb Simpson shot a 65 to finish at 271, then headed home immediately after his round despite being just a stroke behind the leaders at the time. He said he knew the score wouldn’t be good enough to win.

“I’m itching to get to my family, so I’m going to head to the airport,” he said.

Justin Rose followed his U.S. Open win by shooting 6 under for this tournament. He was in contention, with two birdies on his first seven holes, but didn’t get another until the final hole and made three bogeys. He said fatigue was a factor.

“I’m still able to put one foot in front of the other,” he said. “I still feel OK, but my guess is there’s just a little bit of sharpness that I might be lacking.”

No player has gone back-to-back after capturing the U.S. Open since 1997, when Ernie Els won the Buick Classic at the Westchester Country Club in New York.

Rose plans to play next week in the AT&T National at Congressional before taking two weeks off to prepare for the British Open.

DeLaet a native of, Weyburn, Saskatchewan, said his thoughts this week have been with the people of Alberta, where widespread flooding is blamed for at least three deaths and forced thousands to evacuate.

He had the words “For Alberta” written on his cap Sunday.

The 2009 PGA Tour Canada player of the year pledged to donate $1,000 for every birdie he made to help the relief efforts.

PGA Tour Canada, a bank and a Canadian businessman all agreed to match the donation. He finished with three birdies on Sunday and nine for the weekend.

“Hopefully it puts a small dent in what they need,” he said. “But our hearts are still with them.”

Leaderboard: Ken Duke 69-68-65-66—268 (-12); Chris Stroud  66-69-66-67—268 (-12); Graham DeLaet 65-70-65-69—269 (-11); Bubba Watson  63-67-70-70—270 (-10)

Ken Duke

— Duke moves to No. 20 in the FedExCup standings with 842 points. Only 10 events remain before the FedExCup Playoffs. Duke’s best career finish in the FedExCup was No. 22 in 2008 when he made his only appearance in the Tour Championship.

— Duke’s 1st PGA Tour victory comes in his 187th Tour start at the age of 44 years, 4 months and 25 days.

— Duke wins in his fifth start at the Travelers Championship: 2013/Win, 2012/T47, 2009/MC, 2008/T27 and 2004/T49.

— Six of the last eight winners of the Travelers Championship have been first-time Tour champions — J.J. Henry (2006), Hunter Mahan (2007), Bubba Watson (2010), Fredrik Jacobson (2011), Marc Leishman (2012) and Ken Duke (2013).

— There have been 17 players who have picked up their first Tour win at the Travelers Championship: Ken Duke (2013), Marc Leishman (2012), Fredrik Jacobson (2011), Bubba Watson (2010), Hunter Mahan (2007), J.J. Henry (2006), Brent Geiberger (1999), Olin Browne (1998), Stewart Cink (1997), Billy Ray Brown (1991), Mark Brooks (1988), Mac O’Grady (1986), Phil Blackmar (1985), Tim Norris (1982), Don Bies (1975), Charles Sifford (1967) and Bob Toski (1953).

— Duke recently returned to using Bob Toski as his swing coach. Toski won the Travelers Championship in 1953. Toski was the first first-time winner in Hartford.

— Duke (44 years, 4 months, 25 days) is the oldest first-time Tour winner since Ed Dougherty won the 1995 Sanderson Farms Championship, at age 47 years, 8 months, 19 days.

— Duke is the 10th first time winner on Tour this season. Last year there were nine first time winners on Tour and 14 in 2011.

— On the PGA Tour in 2013, the third-round leader/co-leader has won 11 times in 24 stroke-play events, most recently Matt Kuchar at the Memorial Tournament.

Chris Stroud

— Stroud make a 50-foot chip on No. 18 for birdie-3 to force a playoff with Ken Duke. Stroud was one shot off the lead entering the final round and recorded a bogey-free 67 to make his first playoff.

— Stroud’s previous best finish on Tour was fourth at the 2011 OHL Classic at Mayakoba.

— Stroud records his first top 10 in his seventh career start at the Travelers Championship. He was a WD in his first start in Hartford after a R1 76 in 2007, but has made the cut in each of his other six starts.

Bubba Watson

— The 2010 Travelers Championship winner notches his second top-10 finish (in stroke-play events) this season. In the season’s first event, he finished T4 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

— Watson made his seventh Travelers Championship start this week. In addition to his 2010 win, other top-10 finishes at TPC River Highlands came in 2013 (4th), 2012 (T2) and 2008 (T6).

— Watson has now held the lead/co-lead after 54 holes six times. The only one he converted for victory was the 2011 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Graham DeLaet

— DeLaet (3rd) matches his best career finish on Tour (T3/2010 Shell Houston Open).

— This week’s ATB Financial Classic presented by TELUS on PGA Tour Canada was canceled due to heavy rains and flooding. Saskatchewan’s Graham DeLaet announced that he will donate $1,000 for each birdie and $2,500 for each eagle he makes this weekend at TPC River Highlands. DeLaet made nine birdies over the weekend which was matched by PGA Tour Canada and ATB Financial for a total of $27,000. DeLaet is a past champion of the ATB Financial Classic.

— DeLaet had never previously held a lead/co-lead after the third round of a PGA Tour event.

— Dave Barr has been the most successful Canadian golfer at the Travelers Championship. Bar finished T2 in 1988 and T3 in 1993. Mike Weir missed the cut in both of his starts at the Travelers Championship. Stephen Ames missed his first three cuts at the Travelers Championship and then missed the 54-hole cut this year.

— Canadian players to win on Tour include: Mike Weir, Stephen Ames (Trinidad-born), George Knudson, Al Balding (first Canadian to win on the PGA TOUR), Stan Leonard, Dave Barr, Dan Halldorson and Richard Zokol.

Webb Simpson

— Last year at the Travelers, Marc Leishman was T20 and six shots off the lead entering the final round. He fired a bogey-free, 8-under 62 in the final round, matching his career-best round in the second-best comeback in tournament history. Leishman finished his round at 3:39 p.m., and the last putt of the tournament fell at 6:01 p.m. This year Webb Simpson entered the final round at T25 and six shots off the lead. He fired a final round 65 and finished his round at 3:18 p.m. At that time he was T2 (-9) and one shot off the lead. J.J. Henry joined Simpson as the clubhouse leaders at 5:15 p.m. They both remained the clubhouse leaders until Ken Duke putted in at 12-under at 5:38 p.m. Henry and Simpson both finished T5.

Tournament Notes:

— Defending champion Marc Leishman finished T30. He was trying to join Phil Mickelson (2001-2002) as the only champion to successfully defend a Travelers Championship title.

— The 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose finished T13 in his bid to become the first player since Ernie Els (1997) to win the week following a win at the U.S. Open.

— Jeff Maggert (T9) records his second top 10 of the season and at the Travelers Championship. His only other was a T2 finish in Hartford in 1997. The last time he recorded two-or-more top-10s in a season on Tour was in 2010.

— Angel Cabrera (T9) recorded his second top 10 of the season (playoff loss at the Masters). He did not record any top 10s last year.

— Stuart Appleby (T9) notched his first top 10  since the 2011 Honda Classic (T10). In 2010, Appleby had three top 10s and recorded a 59 in the final round of the Greenbrier Classic.

— Rookie Morgan Hoffmann (T9) records his second career top 10. His first was earlier this year at the HP Byron Nelson Championship (T5).

— J.J. Henry (T5) posted his first top 10 of the season in his 18th start. His only other top 10 at the Travelers Championship is his win in 2006.

— The Travelers Championship has proved pivotal to the FedExCup Playoffs. Since its 2007 inception, the only champion of this event who didn’t make it through all four Playoffs events the year he won in Hartford was Marc Leishman last year. Leishman qualified for the first three, before finishing outside of the top-30 and missing the Tour Championship.

— The third-round leader has won three of the last eight Travelers Championships (J.J. Henry/2006, Stewart Cink/2008, Fredrik Jacobson/2011).

— The Presidents Cup will be held October 1-6 at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. The top 10 players on both the United States and International team’s points list will qualify after the Deutsche Bank Championship, with two Captain’s picks from each side being made on September 4.

— Six players who finished inside the top 10 at last week’s U.S. Open made a start in this week’s Travelers Championship. Three made the cut: Justin Rose (T13), Hunter Mahan (T24) and Rickie Fowler (T13).

— After The Greenbrier Classic in two weeks, the leading five players that are not already exempt from inside the top 20 in the FedExCup will earn a spot in the British Open. The only other way for a player to earn a spot is to win the John Deere Classic in three weeks. The John Deere Classic features a charter flight for players from Moline, Ill. directly to the British Open.

 

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