Wow! What else can you say about last week’s US Open at Merion CC? People wondered if the course could still hold up to US Open standards. People also wondered if US Open scoring records would perish or if the course was too short. All were proven as non-issues with Merion holding up its fair share of the contest, challenging the players all week until Justin Rose prevailed, winning his first major championship. Phil Mickelson has now finished second in six US Opens and his heartbreak with the event continues. There is no rest for the wicked as the tour motors to the TPC River Highlands, overlooking the Connecticut River, for the 2013 edition of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell Connecticut.
Many of the world’s top-25 will be present in this week’s field even after the challenging US Open. Eight of the world’s top-25 will be here including Keegan Bradley and US Open champion, Justin Rose. The Travelers has a history of providing a venue for players to capture their first tour victories. In fact if you look at the last seven years five of the winners have been first timers including Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan and the defending champion, Marc Leishman. Do you remember last year’s event? Here is a recap of what Leishman did to capture his first title on tour.
YouTube Video Courtesy of pgatour
Since the 1920s golf has had a home at the TPC River Highlands but the track has been through three different iterations throughout the last 90 years. Pete Dye put his stamp on the course in 1982 with Roger Maltbie and Howard Twitty leading the final upgrade of the course in 1989. This week the TPC River Highlands will play to 6,841 yards and a par of 70. While this course is not considered the hardest on tour there are a few holes that will test the players and impact the winner come Sunday afternoon.
Coming out of the gate at the Travelers Championship can be fairly benign but when players step in the tee of the par 4, 460 yard fourth hole that all changes. There is often a prevailing wind here that will challenge the players. While a dry hole there are some strategically placed bunkers down the left and right side of the fairway sure to suck in a drive or two throughout the week. If players navigate the tee shot correctly they are faced with an approach to a severely sloping green (back to front) that will make hitting a back pin placement a challenge.
On the heels of the fourth hole is the 223 yard, par 3 third hole. While it will not be as challenging as some of the monster par 3’s at Merion last week it will still require a long straight tee ball with carefully planning. This green also slopes severely from back to front requiring players to keep the ball below the hole at all times. The middle of the round is not too challenging including the drivable par 4 15th hole.
Once players reach the tee at 17 they will be attempting to hold on to any birdies they made throughout the round. 17 will play as a 420 yard par 4 with a lake just waiting to submerge any ball hit right off the tee. Players will avoid the water and could be faced with a challenging fairway bunker shot or a nasty side hill lie down the left side of the fairway. The green complex and lake right will come into play as the professionals attempt to pair accuracy and distance into a challenging putting surface. Par is always a good score on 17.
18 is a worthy finishing hole that can present any score from birdie to double bogey without any guilt. The 18th is a 444 yard par 4 that does not provide a flat stance anywhere. If players stripe a drive they will be forced into an uneven lie made possible by the undulations throughout the finishing hole. If they are slightly off either left or right they run the risk of finding fairway bunkers which could provide the most even stance on the hole. Add in the swale around the green and the greenside bunker and finishing with a par will be a great score.
The 72 hole record at the Travelers is 258 shot by Kenny Perry in 2009. Tommy Bolt 1954 and Patrick Cantlay in 2011 have the low 18 round firing 60 however only Cantlay has down it at TPC River Highlands. Do you remember any great moments from the Travelers? This video shows you some of the memorable moments in the history of the event to jar your memory.
YouTube Video Courtesy of pgatour
While it is fun to reminisce over past moments at the Travelers I think we all want to know who has a shot to take down the title this week. Will Justin rose win back to back or will he be drained after a grueling US Open week? Will it be another first timer that takes a title? Who is the most logical? Let’s take a minute and break down a few of the contenders.
Up Next: The Contenders