HARTFORD, Conn. – Travelers Championship officials had to be delighted when Paul Casey rallied to win the European Open on Sunday at Green Eagle Golf Course in Hamburg, Germany.
It was the first European Tour victory in five years for the Englishman, who has been a frequent challenger at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell and has often been outwardly complimentary to Connecticut’s biggest sporting event. In his Travelers debut in 2015, Casey shot 64-65 on the weekend but lost a playoff to three-time winner Bubba Watson. He tied for fifth in 2017 and then took a four-stroke into the final round last year but shot 72 and was passed by Watson’s 63 and tied for second. In June, he again tied for second, four strokes behind winner Chez Reavie.
“The course fits my eye,” Casey said in June when asked why he has fared so well at TPC River Highlands. “Great championship. The support by all the crowd we get out there, this is just a joy to play this golf event. Travelers does such a great job. It’s a golf course I play well, and it’s not any easy course. It’s not that easy. It’s a very good golf course that rewards good play.”
On Sunday, Casey closed with a bogey-free, 6-under-par 66 for a 72-hole total of 14-under 274, one better than Bernd Ritthammer, Mattias Schwab and rookie Robert MacIntyre. It was Casey’s 14th European title but the first since the KLM Open in 2014.
“It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?” Casey said. “I get emotional every victory, but this year has been so fantastic. I’m slightly chuckling, slightly gutted that (caddie) Johnny Long Socks, John McLaren, isn’t here with me. But this is an incredibly prestigious trophy, it’s got a lot of history to it on the European Tour, so I’m over the moon.”
Casey, 42, who won the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship in March, moved back into the Top 15 in the Official World Golf Ranking after becoming the first player to win a tournament on both tours in the same year for the first time in a decade. He is now 14th in the rankings after moving ahead of Adam Scott and is barely behind countryman Tommy Fleetwood.
Brooks Koepka remained No. 1 for the 17th consecutive week, followed by Tour Championship winner the FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Tiger Woods, Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau. Two weeks ago, McIlroy became the first player to commit to the 2020 Travelers Championship on June 25-28, the week after the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
SOLHEIM CUP FEVER BUILDS
Stacy Lewis had to withdraw from the Solheim Cup in Gleneagles, Scotland, on Tuesday because of a back injury that flared up last week.
“I’m extremely disappointed not to be able to play,” Lewis, a four-time Solheim Cup player, said in a statement. “I’m a competitor and I want to play. … I’ve done everything I could possibly do over the last week to be ready to play. For my health and what I feel is in the best interest of the team, I decided to take myself out. I will take a different role with the team and will do whatever I can to help Team USA bring the cup home.”
Lewis was one of two captain’s picks by Juli Inkster but now will serve as a cheerleader on the sidelines after being replaced by first alternate Ally McDonald.
“I didn’t want to make the team this way, but when Juli told me what was going on with Stacy, I was ready to step into either role, if that was being here and being part of the experience or being ready to tee it up,” McDonald said. “It was just mentally preparing for either scenario. I’m obviously very excited to play. This was a goal of mine to play on this team.”
McDonald, a fourth-year LPGA pro, will be making her Solheim Cup debut, though the Mississippi State product did represent the U.S. at the 2014 Curtis Cup. That week, she partnered with Annie Park, also a member of this year’s Solheim Cup team, and beat Charlotte Thomas and current European Solheim Cupper Bronte Law in fourballs.
But McDonald has big shoes to fill. Lewis, 34, has a 5-10-1 career record in the matches, though she is 3-1 in fourballs and brings with her a wealth of experience.
“Stacy is one of the fiercest competitors I have ever met,” Inkster said. “I know this was an incredibly tough decision for her, but she also has the team’s best interests at heart. Stacy will stay with Team USA over the next week and will still be an incredible asset to our crew. But when I had to choose an alternate, I knew Ally would be able to step up for the challenge. She’s got a cool head but a fiery spirit. I know she’ll bring her best to Team USA.”
The other members of the U.S. team are Lexi Thompson, Danielle Kang, Lizette Salas, Marina Alex, Megan Khang, Brittany Alomare, Angel Yin, the Korda sisters, Jessica and Nelly, and Morgan Pressel, Inkster’s other captain’s pick.
The European team captained by Catriona Matthews includes Suzann Pettersen of Norway, Caroline Masson of Germany, Anne van Dam of The Netherlands, Celine Boutier of France, Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall of Sweden, Carlota Ciganda and Azahara Munoz of Spain and Bronte Law, Georgia Hall, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Charley Hull of England.
There will be foursomes and four-ball matches on Friday and Saturday and 12 singles matches on Sunday.
JOHNSON, THOMAS OFFER HELPING HANDS
When hardship hits, many helping hands are offered. Johnson and Thomas offered such hands in aiding the relief effort for Hurricane Dorian.
Dustin Johnson had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last week and then posted a photo of himself with a cast on his left leg stuffing backpacks with coloring books, Crayons and other resources for children. Johnson, 35, is expected to make a full recovery, according to his agent David Winkle, and return to the PGA Tour later this fall.
“Even surgery won’t stop me from helping our friends in the Bahamas! #helpthebahamas,” Johnson wrote.
On the same day, Justin Thomas posted on Instagram he will donate $1,000 to those affected by the hurricane for every birdie he makes for the remainder of the year. The reigning BMW Championship winner wrote in his statement that he challenged fellow PGA Tour members and all professional golfers to join the “Birdies for the Bahamas” campaign.
“Many of us have special memories from the Bahamas, both personally and professionally,” Thomas wrote in part. “I look forward to helping raise money to give back to the place and people that have given so much over the years.”
Thomas provided the link to the “Birdies for the Bahamas” campaign on his Instagram.
Hurricane Dorian was a Category 5 storm when it hit the Bahamas, devastating the island and then causing more damage as it made its way up the East Coast of the United States.
NEW PGA TOUR SEASON BEGINS
After two dormant weeks following the season-ending Tour Championship, a new wraparound PGA Tour season begins Thursday with A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. Previously played in early July, the tournament moved this year to September and will kick off an 11-month schedule that will end next August at East Lake GC in Atlanta.
Headlining The Greenbrier field is DeChambeau, who at No. 10 is the highest-ranked player in the field and one of only two players inside the top 25. DeChambeau tied for 14th two years ago in his lone prior appearance at The Greenbrier.
Joining DeChambeau at the mountain resort will be No. 24 Marc Leishman, the 2012 Travelers Championship winner who will be making his sixth Greenbrier appearance. The Aussie has played this event nearly every year from 2010-15, starting with his best finish, a tie for 16th. Others entries include Watson, who lives at the Greenbrier, Sungjae Im and Jason Kokrak, both of whom qualified for the Tour Championship for the first time last month, and major champions Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Jason Dufner, John Daly and Vermont native Keegan Bradley, who tied for second in the Travelers Championship.
Kevin Na is the defending champion, having ended a seven-year victory drought with a five-shot victory over Kelly Kraft in July 2018. Na has since added another win at the Colonial, and this week he’ll be joined by former Greenbrier champions Stuart Appleby (2010), Scott Stallings (2011), Ted Potter, Jr. (2012) and Danny Lee (2015).
Former U.S. Amateur champion Viktor Hovland, one of four players to receive a sponsors’ exemption to the Travelers Championship, makes his first start as a PGA Tour member, as several rookies look to get their new seasons off to a strong start. Scottie Scheffler is fully exempt this season after topping the Korn Ferry Tour points list for 2019.
U.S. RALLIES TO WIN WALKER CUP
The United States won 101/2 of a possible 14 points in the closing singles to rally to beat Great Britain and Ireland 151/2-101/2 in the 47th Walker Cup matches at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England. The five-point margin was the most decisive victory for a visiting U.S. team since a 161/2-71/2 romp in 1987 at Sunningdale in England. It also was the first U.S. victory overseas in the biennial series since 2007 at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland, and gave the Americans a 37-9-1 lead in the series.
Brandon Wu, of Scarsdale, N.Y., and Deerfield (Mass.) High School, and Alex Smalley, of Wake Forest, N.C., played in all four sessions and notched three points. John Augenstein, a Vanderbilt senior from Owensboro, Ky., secured the clinching point with a 4-and-3 victory against Thomas Plumb. John Pak, a Florida State junior from Scotch Plains, N.J., went 3-0 to lead the Americans. He provided a key point on the opening day when he won the last two holes to steal a 1-up victory over reigning British Amateur champion James Sugrue and keep the Americans from falling more than two points behind entering the final day.
The U.S. team captain was Nathaniel Crosby, a former U.S. Amateur champion who played on the winning American side in 1983 at Royal Liverpool.