HARTFORD, Conn. – New England golf enthusiasts/fanatics will be in nirvana for the next few weeks.
An unusual, once-in-a-lifetime bonanza begins Thursday June 16 with the start of the 122nd U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., which will hosting a 17th U.S. Golf Association event, including a fourth national championship.
Amateur Francis Ouimet, who lived across from the 17th hole on Clyde Street, notched arguably the most significant victory in American golf history when he defeated British legends Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in an 18-hole playoff in 1913. Fifty years later, Fairfield native Julius Boros, the greatest player in Connecticut golf history, won one of his three major championships when he defeated Arnold Palmer and Jackie Cupid in a playoff. Curtis Strange completed the U.S. Open playoff trifecta at The Country Club in 1988, defeating Nick Faldo for his first of two consecutive national titles.
Brooks Koepka, 19th in the Official World Golf Rankings, was the last back-to-back champion in 2017-18, and Jon Rahm, the latest of several Spanish stars, will try to duplicate the daily double feat after he birdied the last two holes last year to win at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, Calif. Rahm’s major challengers are considered to be No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, the Masters champion; No. 3 Rory McIlroy, who won the RBC Canadian Open on Sunday and was second in the Masters; No. 4 Patrick Cantlay, the reigning FedExCup and PGA Tour Player of the Year; No. 5 Justin Thomas, who captured the PGA Championship in a three-hole aggregate playoff with No. 14 Will Zalatoris and finished third on Sunday; No. 6 Cameron Smith, winner of The Players Championship; No. 7 Collin Morikawa; No. 8 Viktor Hovland; No. 9 Sam Burns, a three-time winner this season; No. 10 Jordan Spieth, the 2015 champion and winner of the 2017 Travelers Championship; No. 12 Xander Schauffele, the Olympic gold medalist; No. 15 Tony Finau, who finished second on Sunday; and No. 16 Dustin Johnson, the 2020 Travelers Championship winner and one of 20 players in the field who were suspended indefinitely by the PGA Tour last week after defecting to the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series that began in suburban London last week.
Spieth, a three-winner major champion, became a question mark when he left the practice range on Wednesday because he wasn’t feeling well. He told Sirius XM’s Colt Knost that he was “not good” and wasn’t sure if he’d be able to play on Thursday.
Fittingly, Boston-area natives will be the first players to tee off today at 6:45 a.m. Michael Thorbjornsen, the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur and 2021 Massachusetts Amateur and Western Amateur champion, will have the honor of hitting the first ball on the first tee. PGA Tour Champions player Fran Quinn, the oldest player in the field at 57 after surviving an eight-player playoff in the sectional qualifier in Purchase, N.Y., will hit the first ball off the 10th tee.
Players will have to be especially strategic and creative on a relatively short but quirky course with a wide variety of holes, especially the par-4s, with several blind shots and quick, undulating greens. Their work likely will be made more difficult with 15-20 mph winds out of different directions forecast for each day.
Many players in the U.S. Open will leave Brookline on Sunday and head for the Travelers Championship, the biggest sporting event in Connecticut that will be played June 23-26 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. Entry deadline for the tournament is Friday, and commitments have already come from Scheffler, McIlroy, Thomas, Cantlay, Zalatoris, Hovland, Burns, Schauffele, Finau, Koepka, No. 19 Joaquin Niemann, 2012 champion Marc Leishman and No. 28 Harris English, who missed most of the year following hip surgery on Feb. 14 and will try to join Phil Mickelson (2001-02) as the only repeat winners of the tournament began in 1952 as the Insurance City Open at Wethersfield Country Club.
Travelers week begins Monday with the inductions of the newest members of the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame, Andy Bessette and the late Bruce Edwards. Bessette is the Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at Travelers who was a hammer thrower on the 1980 U.S. Olympic team and has been instrumental in helping recruit players. Edwards, a Wethersfield native, caddied on the PGA Tour for 30 years, mostly for Hall of Famers Tom Watson and 1995 Greater Hartford Open champion Greg Norman, until he died of ASL in 2004 at the age of 49.
If that’s not enough top-flight pro golf for New England fans, the fourth event in the LIV Golf Invitational Series will be played Sept. 2-4 at The Oaks Golf Course at The International in Bolton, Mass. Mickelson, Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, who won the inaugural event on Saturday, are the headliners in an eight-event series with shotgun starts and individual and team competitions. The total purse is $25 million with $ 4 million to the winner. Since each tournament will be made up for a different field, teams will be decided via a draft the week of each event. Each team will have a LIV-appointed team captain, who will select their three open team positions via a snake draft format.
The USGA is not prohibiting players from competing in the U.S. Open due to their affiliation with LIV Golf. But the organization that governors golf in the United States and Mexico and which administers the U.S. Open left open possibility of that it could do so in the future. It will also be interesting to see what Masters, PGA of America (PGA Championship) and Royal & Ancient (Open Championship) officials will do.