CROMWELL, Conn – A year ago, Rory McIlroy gave the Travelers Championship an early boost when he committed to play in January, five months before the tournament at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.
This week Brooks Koepka gave the biggest sporting event in Connecticut a similar major boost when he became the first player to commit to the $7.2 million tournament June 20-23.
Koepka is the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year and second in the Official World Golf Ranking after repeating as U.S. Open champion a week before the Travelers Championship and then adding a second major title in 2018 and third overall in the PGA Championship in August.
“Getting a commitment from Brooks to play this year’s Travelers Championship is tremendous news,” tournament director Nathan Grube said. “Brooks had an incredible season last year and is representative of the caliber of players fans can expect to see here in June. We’re thrilled he’s coming back.”
Koepka, who will be making his fourth Travelers Championship appearance, became the first player since 1983 Greater Hartford Open winner Curtis Strange to win back-to-back U.S. Open titles (1988-89). He reached No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time by winning The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges earlier this season and is now second to Justin Rose.
“We are happy to make an announcement of this magnitude so early in the year, and we hope that the fans are just as excited as we are to hear that Brooks is coming back to Connecticut,” said Andy Bessette, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at Travelers. “This announcement sets the tone for this year’s event. We’re going to have a great field, there will be more for the fans and most importantly, we hope to generate more money for charity than we ever have before.”
Koepka has five wins on the PGA Tour after starting his professional career overseas on the Challenge Tour (four victories) and European Tour (one). He tied for 19th in the 2018 Travelers Championship at 9-under-par 271, eight strokes behind Bubba Watson, who captured his third tournament title, second all-time to the four of World Golf Hall of Fame member Billy Casper. Watson donated $200,000 of his $1,260,000 winnings to give the tournament a record $2 million for charity in a single year.
Watson beat the best field since Travelers became title sponsor in 2007 that included Koepka, McIlroy, defending champion Jordan Spieth, Masters champion Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Casey, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, former Travelers titlists Stewart Cink, Marc Leishman, Kevin Streelman and Fairfield native J.J. Henry, the only Connecticut player to win the event; and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk, who shot a PGA Tour-record, 12-under-par 58 in the final round in 2016.
A few days after the tournament ended, construction began on a new $17-plus million state-of-the-art clubhouse that will be 40,000 square feet, four times the size of the original clubhouse. The latest major improvement follows a new practice facility and course enhancements in the past decade that also were financed by Travelers and the PGA Tour.
“It’s definitely a partnership,” TPC River Highlands David Corrado said.
Tournament and Travelers officials again appreciate the arrangement that benefits so many.
“It’s exciting to see the progress that has been made since the end of the 2018 Travelers Championship,” Grube said. “It really will be a game-changer for us, allowing the tournament to offer fans and players a new and different experience. I think anyone who has come to the Travelers Championship and knows what was in that spot before is going to be really impressed with what will be there now.”
Bessette said, “We want every aspect of the Travelers Championship to be world-class, and this new clubhouse will elevate the tournament even more. From hosting events during tournament week to making merchandise available to fans in the pro shop to giving the PGA Tour players a big locker room with lots of amenities, it will certainly be a multi-purpose venue that everyone will enjoy. We can’t wait to see the finished product.”
This year’s Travelers Championship will follow the U.S. Open at famed Pebble Beach Golf Links in California. That might cost the tournament some of the game’s marquee players, but everyone again will have the opportunity to take a chartered flight from the national championship to Connecticut provided by Travelers.