HARTFORD, Conn. – The PGA Tour has made an annual stop in Connecticut since the inaugural Insurance City Open in 1952, but the tournament could have something never seen in these parts in next week’s Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.
All four reigning major championship winners – defending Travelers champion Jordan Spieth (British Open), Patrick Reed (Masters), Brooks Koepka (U.S. Open) and Justin Thomas (PGA Championship) – will be among 156 starters vying for a tournament-record $7 million on Thursday through June 24.
Thomas (No. 2), Spieth (No. 4), Rory McIlroy (No. 6), Jason Day (No. 8) and Koepka (No. 9) are players ranked in the Top 10 who are in the field. Spieth, McIlroy and Day should be well rested after missing the cut Friday in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Course in Southampton, N.Y. Failing to play on the weekend was especially disheartening for Spieth, the 2015 U.S. Open winner who bogeyed the last two holes after becoming the first player in tournament history to birdie Nos. 13-16 in the same round.
The field also includes nine players who have won at TPC River Highlands: Spieth (2017), Russell Knox (2016), No. 19 Bubba Watson (2010, 2015), Kevin Streelman (2014), Ken Duke (2013), No. 14 Marc Leishman (2012), Stewart Cink (1997, 2008), Hunter Mahan (2007) and Fairfield native J.J. Henry (2015), the only Connecticut player to capture the biggest sporting event in the state.
Other notable entries include No. 11 Paul Casey, who lost a playoff to Watson in 2015, No. 21 Webb Simpson, No. 22 Bryson DeChambeau, No. 28 Brian Harman and No. 36 Charley Hoffman; major championship winners Zach Johnson, Keegan Bradley, Graeme McDowell, Geoff Oglivy, Louis Oosthuizen, Retief Goosen, Padraiig Harrington and 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk, who shot a PGA Tour-record, 12-under-par 58 in the final round in 2016; and Ryan Moore, Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker, J.B. Holmes, Nick Watney, Brendan Steele, Daniel Berger, who lost a playoff to Spieth last year and No. 29 Patrick Cantlay, whose 60 in the second round in 2011 was the course record at the time and is still the lowest score for an amateur in a PGA Tour event. He turned pro for the Travelers a year later after foregoing his final two years at UCLA, where he was the world’s top-ranked amateur.
“We’re really excited about the field this year,” tournament director Nathan Grube said. “I think our fans are going to enjoy seeing the best players in the world compete here. We are fortunate to have such a good golf course that the players enjoy and an engaged title sponsor who listens to the players to make this event as good as it can be.
“The field we are seeing this year is representative of the hard work that Travelers has put in to make this event something special.”
Other local entries include Tour player Bret Stegmaier of Madison, Cameron Wilson of Rowayton and Adam D’Amario, the assistant pro at Indian Hill Country Club in Newington who won the Connecticut Section PGA’s automatic spot in the Spring Stroke Play Championship. D’Amario parred the second playoff hole to beat Jantzen Vargas of Lake of Isles Golf Club in North Stonington to earn his first trip to Cromwell.
The final four spots will be filled in the Open qualifier Monday at Ellington Ridge Country Club, where 69 pros and three amateurs will be competing. They include current or former PGA Tour players Ricky Barnes, Ben Crane, Brian Davis, Ben Crane and Taft School-Watertown grad James Driscoll, leading state players Kyle Bilodeau, Zach Zaback and brothers Peter and Michael Ballo and amateurs Evan Grenus and Max Theodorakis.
The tournament has a tough act to follow after Spieth won last year by holing a 61-foot bunker shot on the first playoff hole, No. 18, to beat close friend Daniel Berger. It’s the only time in PGA Tour history that a player won by holing a bunker shot in a playoff. Bob Tway (1986 PGA Championship) and 1994 Greater Hartford Open champion David Frost (1990 USF&G Classic) are the only players to accomplish the feat on the last hole of regulation, with World Golf Hall of Famer and 1995 GHO winner Greg Norman the victim each time.
Spieth’s historic shot helped the Travelers win four major awards from the PGA Tour, including 2017 Tournament of the Year. The event proudly supports the Tour’s Tradition of Giving Back by donating 100 percent of net proceeds to charities, with the chief beneficiary being the Hole In The Wall Gang Camp in Ashford founded by the late actor Paul Newman.
Travelers, a leading provider of property and casualty insurance for home, auto and business, is the Official Property Casualty Insurance Provider of the PGA Tour. The company has been doing business in the Hartford community for more than 160 years and has been a corporate sponsor of the event since its inception, becoming title sponsor in 2007. Since then, the tournament has donated more than $38 million to local charities.
For more information on the tournament and ticket prices, visit www.travelerschampionship.com.