HARTFORD, Conn. – With the U.S. Open and British Open becoming the third and fourth men’s major golf championships to be postponed on Monday because of the coronavirus pandemic, can the Travelers Championship be far behind?
The U.S. Open, originally scheduled for June 18-21 at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., has been moved to Sept. 17-20. The Open Championship has been canceled and will be played in 2021 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Kent, England, the venue for this year.
Meanwhile, tournament, club and course personnel for the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, scheduled the week after the original date of the U.S. Open, continue to prepare for a late June date for Connecticut’s biggest sporting event.
“These are unprecedented times, and the health and safety of fans, volunteers, sponsors, media, partners and players is our top priority,” Travelers Championship tournament director Nathan Grube told this reporter. “While there are currently no scheduling changes related to our tournament, we are closely monitoring the situation related to Novel Coronavirus COVID-19. We will continue communicating with the PGA Tour and local health officials, who ultimately would have the final say in any changes to our tournament schedule, to review the available facts and ensure the environment is safe for everyone.
“There are lots of moving pieces in the golf world at the moment, and we are talking to the Tour daily about the environment. This doesn’t fall into ‘normal’ planning for this year, but we have a good team and a great group of volunteers that are all working hard.”
Cancellation of the tournament would be especially disappointing for Grube & Co. as early player commitments are No. 1-ranked Rory McIlroy, No. 4 Justin Thomas, No. T7 Patrick Cantlay, No. T7 Patrick Reed, No. 13 Bryson DeChambeau and Bubba Watson, who will try to tie Hall of Famer Billy Casper for most tournament wins (four). Chez Reavie is defending champion after ending an 11-year victory drought last year with a four-stroke victory over Vermont native Keegan Bradley and Zach Sucher.
TPC River Highlands is open to members only, and general manager David Corrado has been in contact with PGA Tour officials, led by commissioner Jay Monahan, who was born and raised in Belmont, Mass., played golf and hockey at Division III Trinity College in Hartford, worked at IMG Worldwide, where he played an integral role in the development of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass., and served as the tournament’s first director at 32. In June 2008, Monahan joined the PGA Tour as executive director of The Players Championship and then held several key tour positions before succeeding Tim Finchem as commissioner on Jan. 1, 2017.
Corrado said he has talked to tour headquarters, which is trying “to keep things straight all over the country.” He said a mild winter helped the TPC River Highlands course come through the offseason “beautifully” and allowed play to begin March 20, which was earlier than usual.
“We’re planning ahead for the year and tournament as usual, and hopefully everything is able to be done on time,” Corrado said. “It’s a time that none of us ever expected, and golf is a safe experience in the tough times. We’re working hard to get life back to normal, but health and safety are our No. 1 priority.”
There’s no specific starting deadline for construction of structures such as grandstands and corporate and concession tents for the tournament because of flexibility.
“We typically start coordinating the building in the spring, but we can adjust based on a number of factors such as weather, equipment shipping, etc.,” Grube said. “We have great partners in the TPC, our tent vendors, etc., and all are working hard to make sure everyone is ready for the tournament this summer.”