Superstar Jordan Spieth will be back to defend his title won in dramatic fashion last year at The Travelers Championship June 18-24.
Spieth won a one-hole playoff against Daniel Berger when he holed out from a greenside bunker on 18 last year. Spieth set himself up with a blistering 63 in the opening round and shot 70 on Sunday. Berger fired a 67 in the final round to tie Spieth at 12-under after regulation.
Beyond the defending champ this year’s field looks strong, with luminaries such as four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy, Major winners Jason Day and Justin Thomas, Masters champ Patrick Reed, and two-time Travelers and Masters winner Bubba Watson among those slated to tee it up.
“At the Travelers Championship, we try to set the stage for the best players in the world to do what they do,” said Nathan Grube, Tournament Director. “The reason we get the fields that we get is because of the relationships we’ve been able to build over the years. The man driving that to help make it happen is executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Travelers, Andy Bessette.”
Bessette, reflecting on negotiations to have Travelers be the title sponsor for the event, said, “The tournament was dead. It was off the Tour schedule…off. It had no date. They were thinking of making it an LPGA Tour event, they were thinking of making it a Champions Tour event, and it came back to life in 2006 and that was a really special time for all of us. It wasn’t going to become what happened to the (Hartford) Whalers. We stepped up to be the title sponsor, and we now think the Travelers Championship is one of the best on the PGA Tour.”
He continued, “Last year we were awarded the Tournament of the Year by the PGA, which is great. The one that really got us excited was the Players’ Choice Award. That’s voted on by the players. To have the players tell us we are doing something right and good is really important. It has always been a goal to make this the best event in the world with the best players in the world.”
Spieth, who many consider the heir apparent to Tiger Woods, spoke about last year’s tournament, especially his winning bunker shot on 18 in the playoff.
“I’ve watched the shot I don’t know how many times, a thousand times, especially the next week or so, and then it kind of pops up here or there and brings some amazing memories. I get chills every time I see it. I remember looking down. I remember looking at the shot. I remember right after I struck it hopping up just in time to see it go in and then I don’t remember anything. I just totally blacked out. The coolest part about it was the wedge throw that coincided with Michael’s (caddie Michael Greller) rake throw that was perfectly timed. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a moment like that again in my golfing career. It was really in a span of 15 seconds, it was as cool as anything I’ve experienced.”
He spoke of The Travelers Championship and what it means to him and other players.
“It’s on a different level than most of the PGA Tour events in the sense that the fans are just absolutely incredible. Obviously, we’re treated like kings with the golf course being as pristine as it is, with the food that we have. It’s just amazing. The difference-maker is the people that come out. The golf course is tailor-made for a fun back nine that can also be challenging.”
He added, “Fans have a lot of vantage points. You have a lot of amphitheater-type settings around the greens, especially on the last four holes, where you can gather so many people that are able to kind of be in the shot with you. Instead of it being four or five deep, it’s four or five up. Everyone is kind of on top of you and you feel like you’re putting in a stadium. It’s just unique in that sense. You don’t have that many, if any, such places. That’s what allows for the exciting roars and that’s what gives the extra energy guys play with, where you can take a 62 and turn it into a 58. You have this sense of really wanting it in front of a stadium crowd.”
The Travelers Championship is one of the longest running tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule. The tourney was founded in 1952 as the Insurance City Open and in 1967 it was renamed the Greater Hartford Open, a title that was retained through 2003. From 1973 to 1988, the GHO also bore the name of the late entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., who would often play in the pro-ams and bring in some of his big-name friends, such as Bob Hope and Flip Wilson. Canon, the camera giant, was a title sponsor from 1985 to 2002, the car company Buick was title sponsor from 2004 to 2006, and The Travelers Companies, a Connecticut-based insurance provider, took over sponsorship in 2007.
The tournament was played for its first three decades at cozy Wethersfield Country Club. In 1984, after the PGA Tour bought and redesigned Edgewood Country Club, the event moved to the new TPC of Connecticut in Cromwell. In 1991, the course was redesigned with a completely new back nine holes and renamed the TPC at River Highlands.
The Cromwell facility was the third PGA Tour-owned/managed golf course in what would grow to a network of over 30 TPC clubs. The purse for the first tournament, won by Ted Kroll, was $15,000. In 2006 tournament, under Buick’s sponsorship, the purse grew to $4.4 million, with $792,000 going to the winner. From 2007 to 2010, the purse under Travelers’ sponsorship was $6 million, with $1,080,000 going to the champion. It is up slightly this year to $7 million, with $1.26 million going to the winner, along with 500 FedEx Cup points.
The tournament has seen a who’s who of professional golf claim the title over the years, from Arnold Palmer and Billy Casper to Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson and Spieth. Its position on the calendar has varied. Part of the FedEx Cup, the Travelers Championship is now played in June, the week after the U.S. Open. The Travelers is one of the most attended events on the PGA Tour and the tournament set a record attendance in 2002 with nearly 400,000 fans for the week.
The Insurance City Open was founded by the Greater Hartford Jaycees as a means to raise funds to support their philanthropic causes. The Jaycees are an international leadership development organization for men and women ages 21 to 40. In 1971, The Greater Hartford Jaycees Foundation, Inc. was established as a grant-giving entity by the Greater Hartford Jaycees, Inc. with the help of PGA pro Bob Murphy, who donated part of his winnings as 1970 Greater Hartford Open champion. The event raises more than $1 million dollars a year for local charities.
2018 Travelers Championship Fast Facts
Where: TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Ct.
When: June. 18-24.
Purse: $7 million.
Winner’s Share: $1.26 million.
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the winner.
Defending Champion: Jordan Spieth.
Recent Champions: Russell Knox (2016), Bubba Watson (2015, 2010), Kevin Streelman (2014), Ken Duke (2013), Marc Leishman (2012), Freddie Jacobson (2011), Kenny Perry (2009),Stewart Cink (2008, 1997), Hunter Mahan (2007), J.J. Henry (2006), Brad Faxon (2005), Woody Austin (2004), Peter Jacobsen (2003), Phil Mickelson (2001, 2002).
The Skinny: Spieth won a one-hole playoff against Daniel Berger in dramatic fashion when he holed out from a greenside bunker on 18 last year….Spieth set himself up with a blistering 63 in the opening round and shot 70 on Sunday. Berger fired a 67 in the final round to tie Spieth at 12-under after regulation…The Travelers Championship participates in the PGA Tour tradition of giving back. Since its inception in 1952, Connecticut’s PGA Tour event has donated more than $38 million to charities in the surrounding community.….The popular Stanley Black & Decker Fan Zone, located in the center of the course on the grounds of the club’s former practice range, will be back this year. The Fan Zone includes concessions, merchandise, a Kids Zone, expo displays, and concert series Friday and Saturday nights….TPC River Highlands, a par-70, 6,841-yard course is a well-balanced golf test with a mixture of long and short holes. The most notable stretch is numbers 15 through 17 that play around a four-acre lake. When you include the home hole, the four-hole collection is, according to Stewart Cink, “four of the most exciting finishing holes in a group anywhere in the world”….A celebrity pro-am will be played the Wednesday of tournament week.