HARTFORD, Conn. – For decades, the Travelers Championship was among the most well-attended golf tournaments in the world. Only the Waste Management Phoenix Open, with its “stadium” par-3 16th hole that holds about 20,000 fans in normal times, regularly outdrew Connecticut’s premier sporting event at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.
But things dramatically changed throughout the golf world last year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. The PGA Tour shut down on March 13 after the first round of The Players Championship and remained inactive until the Charles Schwab Challenge in early June. The Travelers Championship was the third event to be played after the PGA Tour’s three-month sabbatical, but only players, caddies, officials and a limited number of volunteers were allowed on the TPC River Highlands premises. No fans. No corporate tents. No concession stands. Little fun.
Only 38 people were around the 18th green as No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson parred the final hole for a one-stroke victory over 2014 champion Kevin Streelman. It was the first of four victories in five months, capped by the Masters, that led to Johnson being named PGA Tour Player of the Year and winning the FedExCup title for the first time. He also captured two playoff events, THE NORTHERN TRUST at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass., with a stunning 30-under-par 254 total, and the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
But all that will change at TPC River Highlands June 24-27. While there won’t be crowds resembling the 250,000 to 300,000 that have often attended the Travelers Championship during a week, an estimated 10,000 fans a day starting on Wednesday of tournament week, June 23, will again be allowed to add energy to the tournament. The number of fans was determined in line with other PGA Tour events to create a safe environment for everyone, including, players, caddies, PGA Tour officials, volunteers, tournament staff, media, medical personnel and spectators.
“The health and safety of everyone attending the Travelers Championship and in the Greater Hartford community is what matters most,” tournament director Nathan Grube said in a statement. “Things might look slightly different come tournament week, but we can’t wait to have our fans watching and cheering as another world-class player field competes in Connecticut. It’s going to be a lot better than last year, and the players are going to feel the energy from the crowd.”
The tournament also announced tickets will go on sale Tuesday, May 25, and can be purchased at TravelersChampionship.com. Two pricing options will be available that provide single-day access to TPC River Highlands on Wednesday, June 23 through Sunday, June 27. They include a limited number of grounds tickets and upgraded courtyard tickets.
A grounds ticket will cost $50 for June 23, $65 for June 24-25 and $70 for June 26-27. The courtyard ticket, which will include all food and beverage and access to an open-air structure that provides shaded stadium seating overlooking the 17th or 18th hole, will be $150 for June 23, $260 for June 24-25 and $280 for June 26-27.
The tournament is also working with sponsors to offer special ticket programs for military personnel/veterans, health care workers/first responders, and children. Details for those ticket programs will be announced.
On-site protocols include all tournament ticket sales being digital, and spectators of all ages must have a ticket to gain entry to the grounds. Tickets must be purchased in advance as no tickets will be available at the gate.
No cash will be accepted on-site, and all concessions and retail locations will accept cashless forms of payment. Masks must be worn at all times unless actively eating or drinking, and spectators must follow social distancing measures. There may be additional health and safety protocols in place since these guidelines are continuously being updated. Changes will be communicated as needed.
So 2021 will be a bridge year from nothing to hopefully what it was like in the past in 2022. Corporate tents will return, but instead of the typical air-controlled environment, they will be open-air and the popular Fan Zone between the first and 18th holes will be upgraded.
Early player commitments that fans can watch are Johnson, No. 5 and reigning U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, No. 7 Patrick Reed, No. 10 Brooks Koepka, former U.S. Open and Olympic champion Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, who will try to tie Hall of Famer Billy Casper for most tournament wins (four) and 2012 champion Marc Leishman, who combined with fellow Aussie Cameron Smith to capture the Zurich Classic of New Orleans team event on Sunday.
Travelers has been a tournament sponsor since the event began in 1952 as the Insurance City Open at Wethersfield Country Club. The tournament has raised more than $42 million for charity, including more than $21 million for nearly 800 nonprofit organizations since Travelers became title sponsor in 2007. Despite being a TV-only event last year, it raised $1.6 million thanks to Travelers committing its full $12 million and other sponsors continuing to support the tournament.
“We have amazing fan support and an incredible title sponsor that works hard to make our event bigger and better year after year,” Grube said. “We have achieved tremendous success working with Travelers and the PGA Tour, and we couldn’t be more grateful for their partnership. I know the best is yet to come thanks to them, as well as all of our major sponsors and supporters across the state.”
On March 29, the insurance magnate extended its title sponsorship through 2030, creating continued stability for other sponsors, charities, players and the community. The extension will allow officials to do long-term planning with the facility, sponsors and charities, making people more willing to invest and marquee players more liable to compete despite the tournament being the week after the U.S. Open. That has been demonstrated by the event receiving 15 “Best of” awards from the PGA Tour, including Tournament of the Year and Players Choice twice.
With Travelers being the longest-running title sponsor in the event’s history, many significant enhancements have been made at TPC River Highlands, including the addition of a 23-acre practice facility, a multimillion-dollar course improvement project and a 40,000-square-foot clubhouse, which opened before the 2019 tournament. The purse has also increased by $200,000 annually for six consecutive years, reaching $7.4 million in 2021.