HARTFORD, Conn. – HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut’s premier sporting event got a major boost with the addition of golf’s most popular player these days.
World Golf Hall of Fame member Phil Mickelson, the only repeat champion in Travelers Championship history (2001-02) who last month became the oldest player to win a major championship, has committed to the $7.4 million tournament June 24-27 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.
Mickelson, who turns 51 on June 16, the eve of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Club in La Jolla, Calif., near where he and his family live, has 45 PGA Tour victories, which ranks eighth on the all-time list. A victory in the U.S. Open would enable Mickelson to become only the sixth player to complete the career Grand Slam. He has several heartbreaks in the tournament that he most cherishes, finishing second a record six times.
“Phil has cemented his place among the very best to ever play the game of golf, and we are excited to have him join us this year,” tournament director Nathan Grube said in a release. “He’s been a fan favorite around the world for decades, winning every step of the way and thrilling spectators with his play and accomplishments. This is fantastic news for this year’s tournament.”
According to the New Haven Register, Grube and Andy Bessette, the executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Travelers, have made just one trip to a PGA Tour event since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Wells Fargo Championship in early May. It was there that they chatted with Mickelson.
“We talked a bit and then he said, ‘You know, I love Connecticut, the fans treat me so well and I always play well there. I’m going to try and figure this out for this year,’” Bessette said. “Then he goes out and wins the PGA Championship. I told Nathan, ‘I don’t think he is going to (be able to) come with his schedule.’”
Bessette didn’t hear from Mickelson until his agent, Steve Loy, called last week.
It was on that same trip where Rickie Fowler expressed interest in returning to the Travelers Championship for the first time since 2013. Fowler, a fan favorite like Mickelson, committed on Wednesday along with Tony Finau, ranked 14th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“I’m not sure we have ever said to a player, ‘Hey, will you come play us?’” Grube said. “They (the players) know why you are there (at PGA Tour events). … We don’t call it recruiting, we call it relationship-building.”
Mickelson won in Cromwell when the tournament was known as the Greater Hartford Open. After playing in 2003, Mickelson didn’t return to TPC River Highlands until 2019, when he missed the cut. He then shot 064 and 63 to hold the lead at last year’s Travelers, which did not have any spectators in attendance due to the pandemic. Mickelson finished in a tie for 24th place.
The PGA Championship win1 vaulted Mickelson to 31st in the rankings and 45th in the FedExCup standings. He has won the Masters three times (2004, 2006, 2010), the Open Championship in 2013 and the PGA Championship in 2005 and this year. He also has represented the United States in 26 team events and holds the record for the most Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup appearances (12 each) and was a member of the Walker Cup team in 1989 and 1991. Mickelson was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012.
“When a lot of fans think about golf, they think of Phil Mickelson, and I know they’ll be rooting hard for him again at TPC River Highlands,” Bessette said. “Winning the PGA Championship at 50 is a tremendous accomplishment. I know Phil is excited to return to Connecticut and play in front of the fans who have always supported him.”
After no spectators were allowed to attend the tournament/ last year, 10,000 will be permitted on-side this year starting with the pro-am on June 23 and running through the four tournament days. All tickets must be purchased in advance, and there will be no tickets available at the gate.
Mickelson joins a field that already included defending champion and No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 5 and reigning U.S. Open titlist Bryson DeChambeau, No. 7. Patrick Cantlay, who won his second Memorial Tournament title on Sunday, No. 8 Brooks Koepka, No. 9 Patrick Reed, No. 20. Paul Casey, former No. 1 and Olympic champion0 Justin Rose, former No. 1 Jason Day, 2012 winner Marc Leishman and Bubba Watson, who will try to tie Hall of Famer Billy Casper for most tournament wins (four). Players have until next Friday to commit to the tournament.