In the throes of a U.S. Open hangover the Travelers Championship sets out to make its mark this week on the PGA Tour schedule. A chartered 737 from California for the players has helped to enhance the field this week and it should show in how the drama plays out over four rounds.
In the absence of the games very elite the TPC River Highlands still has a fighting chance to be a compelling stage as the players fight for their share of $6 million.
A lot of the talk in 2010 has surrounded the youth movement on tour and you can expect that to continue in Connecticut. In fact, this week could be the perfect opportunity for one of those young, aggressive talents to emerge with a PGA Title, quite possibly for the very first time.
Among that youthful cadre you can include Bill Haas, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, Justin Rose, Graham DeLaet, Adam Scott, Ricky Barnes, and Ryan Moore.
Mahan may have the lead in the group, having won here in 2007, but Haas, Rose, and Scott have already had time at the top of the PGA Tour podium this year during their respective victories.
Fowler will be a huge focus. With five top-tens and two second-place finishes in 2010 he is absolutely ripe for a win. Fowler did miss the cut at the Travelers Championship in 2009 but he says he learned a lot that week that will be extra ammunition for him this time around. Those lessons have shaped the strategy he will employ this week to tackle the tricky TPC course. “It’s a pretty fun course. It’s not very long. You need to definitely hit the fairways and the greens. If you’re not on the fairway, it’s going to be tough to hit a lot of the greens and have a good look at birdie. I’m not going to be trying to bomb it anywhere, just keep it in short grass and hopefully give ourselves some good looks at birdies.”
He’ll need them. With a par 70 golf course that plays to barely 6800 yards players generally take it deep at the Travelers. The course record of 61 is held by a gaggle of players and last year Kenny Perry posted that number in the first round on his way to a 258 total, 22-under par. Perry, in a slimmer form after having lost some 30 pounds, is back this week to defend the 49 year-old hopes to give the kids a run for their money.
More than likely though, with so much young talent in the field, you just might see another 20 something this week on tour.
Personally the TPC River Highlands does not always strike me as memorable but I will be certain to keep an eye on the television when the pros hit the 15th hole. The par 4, playing to 296 yards, is the Kodak Challenge Hole this week and for good reason.
In 2009 the 15th played to a stroke average of 3.664, with players posting 4 eagles, 201 birdies, 196 pars, 45 bogeys, 6 double bogeys and 0 others. If the wind is down expect them to give it a whirl and try to drive the green.
Unlike last week at the U.S. Open, when par was at a premium, expect every player to have their guns a-blazing this week. Conservative play will not be welcome or rewarded.
Which sounds like a lot of fun for both players and spectators alike.
This report provided to GolfWRX.com by Flagstick Golf Magazine (www.flagstick.com)