By Andrew Tursky
The carnage of missed 8-footers for par at the U.S. Open last week will be replaced by red numbers this week at the Travelers Championship.
With the dust settling in San Francisco at The Olympic Club, the PGA Tour moves 3,060 miles away to Cromwell, Conn., to play the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands. The 6,841-yard, par 70 layout this week will yield more sub-par rounds in the first day than we saw all last week at the U.S. Open.
Webb Simpson, now the No.5-ranked golfer in the world, is in the field for the Travelers Championship despite winning his first major just three days ago. He was able to endure the rigors of a U.S. Open and emerge victorious with a 1-over par 281-stroke total last week. This week, however, will be more about low numbers than mental endurance. Birdies will be a must.
Last year’s winner at the Travelers Championship, Fredrik Jacobson, made 21 birdies and only one bogey to finish at 20-under par for the event. Jacobson’s four-day total fell two shots shy of tournament record 258 strokes (22-under) set in 2009 by Kenny Perry. Jacobson will be back in the field this year to defend his title after finishing T-15th at the U.S. Open.
The players won’t be complaining about a course that’s too firm, too fast or and too hard — this is not The Olympic Club. The course is short in length and forgiving around the greens, allowing players to attack the flagstick.
Rounds in the low 60’s are not uncommon, even for the amateurs in the field.
Patrick Cantlay made headlines last year at the Travelers Championship, firing a 60 (10-under par) in Friday’s second round at TPC River Highlands, the lowest round ever on the PGA Tour by an amateur.
Cantlay is in the headlines again this year at the Travelers, announcing on Tuesday his decision to turn professional for this week’s event. The long-awaited move by the world’s top ranked amateur comes after completing his sophomore year at UCLA. It’s time for the Bruin to start cashing in on his success and earning full-time status on the PGA Tour. Had he turned pro at the beginning of the 2012 season, Cantlay would have earned $61, 376 in two events.
Past champions Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan will also be in the field this week, looking to redeem themselves after under-performing at the U.S. Open.
Watson, the 2010 Travelers champion, will look to regain his focus after missing the cut last week at the U.S .Open. He was vocal about his displeasure of the set-up at The Olympic Club. The more forgiving layout of TPC River Highlands should better suit his liking.
Mahan, the 2007 Travelers Champion, will be looking to win his third PGA Tour event of the season. He was on the highlight reel last week more for his chunked chip shots than his stellar play, finishing T-38.
Matt Kuchar will be in the Travelers Championship field for the first time since 2008, when he finished T-52. Kuchar returns as the No. 7-ranked golfer in the world and playing consistently well. He holds the longest active streak of made-cuts on tour with 20, and has made the cut in all of his 13 events played this year. He will look to continue his steady play of 2012, which included a win at The PLAYERS Championship in May.
The players will fly cross-country, through a couple different time zones in search of birdies at TPC River Highlands. The massacre of last week has concluded. Now let the birdie barrage begin.