HARTFORD, Conn. – Anyone who watched the final round of the rain-delayed RBC Heritage on Sunday saw plenty of players who will be at the Travelers Championship this week.
Fourteen of the top 15 finishers at Harbor Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C., are headed to TPC River Highlands in Cromwell for the third of five TV-only tournaments after the restart of the PGA Tour, halted by the coronavirus pandemic on March 13.
But fittingly, Webb Simpson, the father of five children, emerged from the plethora of challengers to notch his seventh PGA Tour victory on Father’s Day.
Simpson made a 25-foot putt on the 17th hole for his third consecutive birdie and fifth in six holes, then two-putted from 30 feet at No. 18, converting from 36 inches to close with a 7-under-par 64 and a 72-hole total of 22-under 262. Simpson, 34, edged Abraham Ancer by a stroke, breaking the tournament-record 264 shot by Brian Gay in 2009.
Simpson won wearing a yellow shirt, which looked mighty good with the red tartan jacket that goes to the tournament winner. But Simpson wore yellow because it was his late father’s favorite color, and in an unusual quirk of scheduling due to the pandemic, the RBC Heritage, once canceled and later postponed from the week after the Masters in April, concluded on Father’s Day.
“This morning I thought about him, and when I was on the golf course, I thought about him,” Simpson said. “So still feeling my dad all around me from memories. He loved golf. He would have loved watching today.”
Simpson’s previous wins included two major championships, the 2012 U.S. Open on Father’s Day and the 2018 Players Championship on Mother’s Day.
“I’ll never forget calling my dad after on the way to the (U.S. Open) press conference, and when he picked up the phone, he just was laughing,” said Simpson, whose father died in 2017. “That’s kind of what he did when he was happy, he would just laugh. So, I’m going to miss that laugh today for sure.”
In February, Simpson won the Waste Management Phoenix in a playoff with Tony Finau that lifted him into the Top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since 2012. Sunday’s win enabled the man who attended Wake Forest on an Arnold Palmer Scholarship to move to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings for the fourth time but first since the 2012-14 season after starting the week ninth in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“It was a crazy day,” a beaming Simpson said after as many seven players were tied for the lead. “We had a long rain delay (2 hours, 35 minutes), but the Tour did a great job getting us back out there. It was probably a good thing that so many guys were making birdies because it kept me aggressive. I was blown away by the (low) scores, but the putts started going in. It’s amazing to stand here with a victory.”
A week earlier, Simpson missed the cut in the Charles Schwab Challenge, but that seemed unfathomable after he shot a 5-under 30 on the back nine Sunday to emerge from the logjam of challengers. Before the eventual decisive putt on the 17th hole, he made birdies at No. 12, 13, 15 and 16. He overcame putting woes in 2015 and 2016 to become a member of a third victorious United States team in the Presidents Cup in 2019 after being on earlier teams in 2011 and 2013.
Ancer, who was born in Texas but grew up in Mexico, made a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 17 to get within a shot of Simpson but came up 3 feet short on a 40-foot birdie bid at the 18th hole. It ended his bid for his first PGA Tour victory and becoming the fifth consecutive player to earn his first PGA Tour win at the RBC Heritage. Ancer, who hit an astonishing 65 of 72 greens in regulation, also finished second in World Golf Championships-American Express Championship and tied for 14th in the Charles Schwab Challenge.
Daniel Berger, who parred the first playoff hole to beat Collin Morikawa in the Charles Schwab Challenge, holed a 50-foot chip shot at 17th hole for his third consecutive birdie but narrowly missed with 30 feet at No. 18 to shoot 65 and tie for third at 264 with Tyrrell Hatton (66). Berger lost the 2017 Travelers Championship on the first playoff hole when Jordan Spieth holed a 61-foot bunker shot.
Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion, shot 65 to tie for fifth with Joaquin Niemann (65) at 265, one ahead of No. 4 Brooks Koepka (65). Hatton, whose four Top-10 finishes in five starts this season include his first PGA Tour title in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, is the only one of the frontrunners Sunday not playing in the Travelers Championship.
The Travelers field includes the top seven players, nine of the top 10 and 15 of the top 20. Their other leading finishers and their final-round scores Sunday were No. 1 Rory McIlroy (70-273, T42), No. 2 Jon Rahm (68-272, T34), No. 3 Justin Thomas (63-267, T8), No. 5 Dustin Johnson (68-269, T17), No. 6 Patrick Reed (missed cut), No. 10 Xander Schauffele (66-279, T64), No. 12 Bryson DeChambeau (66-267, T8), No. 14 Justin Rose (65-268, T14, No. 16 Tony Finau (70-272, T34), No. 17 and reigning U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland (70-278, T62) and No. 19 and 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (MC). No. 7 Patrick Cantlay and No. 15 Marc Leischman, the 2012 Travelers champion, didn’t play at Hilton Head.
Other past champions in the field include defender Chez Reavie (76-282, T74), Jordan Spieth (69-280, T68), Kevin Streelman (MC), Russell Knox (MC), Bubba Watson (65-275, T52), who will try to tie World Golf Hall of Famer Billy Casper for most tournament wins (four); Fairfield native J.J. Henry, the only Connecticut native to capture title; and World Golf Hall of Fame member Phil Mickelson, the tournament’s only repeat winner (2001, 2002). Henry and Mickelson didn’t play in the RBC Classic.
Other notables who will be in Cromwell include Hall of Famers Davis Love III (MC) and Vijay Singh (MC); 2007 Masters and 2015 British Open winner Zach Johnson (MC); reigning British Open winner Shane Lowry (MC), 2003 U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk (MC), who shot a PGA Tour-record, 12-under-par 58 in the final round of the 2016 Travelers Championship, and Vermont native Keegan Bradley, who tied for second last year but didn’t play this weekend.
The field includes 109 players who have PGA Tour titles, including the 10 who have prevailed at TPC River Highlands. The final two spots in the field will be determined in the Open qualifier Monday at Ellington Ridge Country Club.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no spectators and only limited media will be permitted on-site in Cromwell. Fans can watch play on Golf Channel (3–6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 1–3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday) and on CBS (3–6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday).
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