It’s a mere 50 miles from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands, so it should be an easy commute for PGA Tour players this week. Presumably, the golf will be easier, too.
TPC River Highlands, the home of the Travelers Championship, has often been a scorer’s golf course, a place where it’s possible to go low — a fact never more in evidence than two years ago, when Jim Furyk posted a PGA Tour record with a Sunday round of 58.
More Sunday fireworks followed last year, when Jordan Spieth holed out a bunker shot in a playoff with Daniel Berger to set off a wild celebration. (Berger narrowly missed a 50-foot birdie putt that could have forced a second playoff hole.)
So, if you need a rule of thumb for this week, it might just be that you should at least consider tuning in for the Sunday finish.
A talented roster of players, led by now two-time defending U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka, is another reason to consider watching. Spieth and Berger are also back, and will be joined by Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Patrick Reed.
The Travelers’ field includes six of the current top 11 players in the Official World Golf Rankings, as well as all four of the current major-title holders: Koepka, 2017 British Open champ Spieth, 2017 PGA champ Thomas and 2018 Masters winner Reed.
Who has the desire and wherewithal to keep winning? Of the 31 players who have been winners during the official 2017-18 PGA season (including two two-man events), 20 of them will be playing this week in Cromwell, Conn.
It’s the heart of the summer schedule, and every one of those 20 players knows that any victory now could play a huge role in their positioning in the FedExCup race and the path to contending for this year’s Player of the Year award.
Here are more details to help you enjoy the 2018 edition of the Travelers Championship.
Tournament: Travelers Championship
Dates: June 21-24, 2018
Where: Cromwell, Conn.
Course: TPC River Highlands
Distance: Par 70, 6,841 yards
Architect: Pete Dye
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $1,260,000
Defending Champion: Jordan Spieth
Marquee Players: Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Patrick Reed, Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey, Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, Marc Leishman, Daniel Berger, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Cantlay
TV AND ONLINE
Round 1: Thu 3:30-6:30 pm (GOLF)
Round 2: Fri 3:30-6:30 pm (GOLF)
Round 3: Sat 1-2:45 pm (GOLF), 3-6:00 pm (CBS)
Round 4: Sun 1-2:45 pm (GOLF), 3-6:00 pm (CBS)
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Running continuously since 1952, The Travelers Championship was originally called the Insurance City Open, a reference to nearby Hartford, Conn., which is colloquially known as the Insurance Capital of the World.
While that tournament name was dropped in 1967, its current name is something of a throwback to those days, as Travelers Property Casual Group is the third-largest insurance company in Connecticut.
From 1967-2003, the tournament was known as The Greater Hartford Open, with Sammy Davis Jr.’s name (he played in the event’s pro-am for a long time) even in the title for 16 years, along with corporate sponsor Canon.
While Travelers now owns the naming rights, locals still refer to it as the Greater Hartford Open. TPC River Highlands has been the tournament host since 1991.
The inaugural 1952 tournament was a four-stroke victory for Ted Kroll, a relative historical unknown who had eight career PGA Tour victories.
Notable winners of the Travelers include Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino, Curtis Strange, Nick Price, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth. Casper holds the tournament win record with four victories, two ahead of a group of six that most recently was joined by Bubba Watson, who won in 2010 and 2015.
The Greater Hartford Open might be most well-known for when current PGA of America President Suzy Whaley qualified for the tournament (via local qualifying) in 2003, making her the first woman to make a PGA tournament field in nearly 60 years. Whaley missed the cut by 12 strokes, but it was still an historically notable event.
HISTORY: TOURNAMENT NAMES
2007-18: Travelers Championship
2004-06: Buick Championship
2003: Greater Hartford Open
1989-2002: Canon Greater Hartford Open
1985-88: Canon Sammy Davis Jr.-Greater Hartford Open
1973-84: Sammy Davis Jr.-Greater Hartford Open
1967-72: Greater Hartford Open Invitational
1957-66: Insurance City Open Invitational
1952-56: Insurance City Open
HISTORY: RECENT WINNERS
2017: Jordan Spieth (-12)
2016: Russell Knox (-14)
2015: Bubba Watson (-16)
2014: Kevin Streelman (-15)
2013: Ken Duke (-12)
2012: Marc Leishman (-14)
2011: Fredrik Jacobson (-20)
258 – Kenny Perry (2009)
-25 – Tim Norris (1982)
4 – Billy Casper (1963, 1965, 1968, 1973)
In what was likely the most thrilling finish of the 2017 season, Jordan Spieth holed an incredible shot out of a greenside bunker to defeat Daniel Berger on the first hole of a playoff to win last year’s Travelers Championship.
There were no 58s out there in 2017. In fact, Spieth and Berger both finished the tournament at -12, the same amount under par that Jim Furyk was in his historically low final round in the 2016 edition of this event. But the excitement was just as palpable after Spieth’s hole-out.
Early on, Spieth looked like he might cruise to career victory No. 10, but surprising putter troubles, plus a Daniel Berger back-nine surge, resulted in an extra hole being needed.
Spieth’s first two shots in the playoff were both terrible: he hit a tree with his drive, but was fortunate to have the ball ricochet back into the fairway, although a long way from the hole, and he then came up well short on his approach shot, landing in the greenside right bunker.
He rebounded, however, by hitting one of the best bunker shots of his life, finding the hole and then exploding into a jubilant celebration with his caddie, Michael Greller – a celebration that will be replayed for years to come.
As Berger eloquently stated afterwards, it was “Jordan doing Jordan things.”
FINAL TOP 10
1 Jordan Spieth -12
2 Daniel Berger -12
3 Charley Hoffman -10
3 Danny Lee -10
5 Patrick Reed -9
5 Boo Weekley -9
5 Paul Casey -9
8 Kevin Streelman -8
8 Webb Simpson -8
8 Keegan Bradley -8
8 David Hearn -8
8 Troy Merritt -8
8 C.T. Pan -8
As mentioned above, this week’s field will be highlighted by six of the current top 11 players in the world. Justin Thomas, the world’s No. 2 player, heads the list and is joined by new No. 4 Brooks Koepka (up four spots from his pre-U.S. Open ranking), No. 5 Jordan Spieth, No. 7 Rory McIlroy, No. 9 Jason Day and No. 11 Patrick Reed.
Right behind them are a tier of players which includes No. 13 Paul Casey, No. 16 Marc Leishman, No. 20 Bubba Watson, No. 21 Webb Simpson, No. 22 Bryson DeChambeau and No. 24 Xander Schauffele. Watson has twice won the Travelers title, in 2010 and 2015, while Leishman was the 2012 champ. Casey lost in a playoff to Watson in that 2015 event.
It should be interesting to watch which way things fall for Daniel Berger. As mentioned, he was the hard-luck loser to Spieth’s bunker bomb last year. He also blew a three-shot 54-hole lead the year before, after posting a final-round 74 to drop to T4. His season this year has been something of a struggle — a fact that only seemed highlighted in Memphis two weeks ago when he was shooting for a three-peat in that event, only to miss the cut — but he somehow found the will to rebound and was tied for the 54-hole lead last week at the U.S. Open before finishing in a tie for sixth.
For that matter, this week could also be big for Spieth. He himself remains ranked among the world’s best players, but is in the midst of a winless season, having especially struggled as of late with five-straight finishes outside the the top 20 – a career first. Spieth’s also coming off his first career missed-cut in a major at last week’s U.S. Open.
Three more players in the field with particularly strong records at the Travelers are the aforementioned Webb Simpson, along with Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore. Simpson has never missed a cut in eight starts on this course, and in the last two months has a win at THE PLAYERS and a tie for 10th last week at the U.S. Open.
Hoffman has placed inside the top 10 three times in his last five trips to the Travelers, while Moore has twice finished in a tie for second in this event, and three other times has placed in the top 10.
FULL FIELD: RANKINGS & ODDS
Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images