On the back of a major championship, the field in the subsequent events are usually left wanting. After the Masters in April, only one member of the world’s top 10, Dustin Johnson, entered the RBC Heritage in the successive week.
But this week the Travelers Championship has made a strong effort to attract the world’s best following last week’s US Open. Five of the world’s top 10 are in action at TPC River Highlands this week: Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and recently crowned winner of back-to-back US Open titles Brooks Koepka.
Spieth will be gunning for back-to-back Travelers titles having taken a win here last year after a play-off with Daniel Berger, whilst Koepka will be hoping to use his back-to-back success as momentum in a quest for a fourth PGA Tour title.
It’s seldom a major-following event is this strong in quality; it’s not another US Open this week but the field softens the blow of the fall back to Tour reality.
Those five world-top-tenners are joined further by four more from the top 20 – Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Marc Leishman and Bubba Watson – in a strong PGA Tour field.
In all there are 50 of the US Open’s field back on the tee this week including high finishers Berger (tied sixth), Xander Schauffele (tied sixth), Webb Simpson (tied 10th), Zach Johnson (tied 12th), Russell Knox (tied 12th), Louis Oosthuizen (tied 16th), amateur Dylan Meyer (tied 20th) and Charley Hoffman (tied 20th).
Doug Ghim has made a fantastic run as an amateur including a runner-up finish at last year’s US Amateur and finishing as low amateur at the Masters (he was the only amateur to make the cut). He will make his first start since turning pro this week.
The full field can be found here.
Founded in 1952, this tournament is one of the oldest on the PGA Tour. In that time it has had nine names, three host courses and 57 different winners. These days it is the Travelers Championship, held at TPC River Highlands and Spieth is defending champion.
It was Spieth’s first ever Travelers Championship appearance last year. As Berger closed Spieth down with a final-round 67, the two went to play-off and Spieth ensured he won that in emphatic fashion.
— The Caddy’s Review (@TheCaddysReview) June 25, 2017
And from there, Spieth went on to win The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in his next start. A good omen, to say the least.
Alongside Spieth, Knox (2016), Watson (2010 & 2015), Kevin Streelman (2014), Ken Duke (2013), Leishman (2012), Stewart Cink (1997 & 2008), Hunter Mahan (2007) and J. J. Henry (2006) are all past winners at TPC River Highlands who will go again this week.
And River Highlands has been host since 1991 and in that time has proved a varying challenge for the players. Kenny Perry’s 2009 win was at 22-under-par yet Spieth and Berger only made it to 12-under in last year’s outing.
But yet, the 18-hole course record here is also the PGA Tour’s 18-hole record. A 10-birdie, one-eagle 58 from Jim Furyk in 2016 became the lowest score ever shot in a professional event; unsurprisingly, he hit all 18 greens in regulation.
What this course does usually forge is a close competition. The past seven outings have been settled by a single shot or play-off.
It’s actually a very accessible 6841-yard par 70, as alluded to by Furyk’s 58 and the previous record 60 set by Patrick Cantlay aged just 19 in 2011. There aren’t many shorter courses on Tour but holes 15 through 17 do pose grave danger with water in-play throughout.
Given the short nature of the course, driver is infrequently the best choice off the tee. Over 50% of drives fall under 280 yards at this place; distance is not necessary round this track. The main challenge facing the players is tricky pin positions and punishing rough around the green. Hitting greens in regulation is almost a must if you want a good score. Hit all 18 and 58 is possible.
The prize-fund has risen $0.2m every year since 2014 and that is the case again this year. Up from $6.8m, the tournament has broke the $7m mark for the first time just six years after it sat at only $6m. $1.26m of that is for the winner to accompany the champion’s standard 500 FedExCup points.
The first round tees off on Thursday morning in Cromwell, Connecticut.