First and foremost, lets all take a collective deep breath. All together now: Inhale. Hold. Exhale.
Okay, the U.S. Open, is now officially behind us.
I know a lot of you are still worked up over a variety of things; be it Phil Mickelson, the USGA, Mike Davis, Shinnecock, mother nature, etc, etc. Essentially, if you were looking to be upset, you had plenty of reasons to be.
Personally, I asked for carnage and that’s exactly what I saw. So, it would be hypocritical of me to lash out at the USGA for setting up the golf course the way they did. In fact, if anything, I wish it would have played harder on Sunday. But, I digress. Another major is in the books, and we’re back to reality.
This weeks event is the Travelers Championship. Played in Connecticut at TPC River Highlands, it serves as the perfect event to ease back into the calendar after a US Open. TPC River Highlands is not only one of the shortest courses on Tour at just 6841 yards, but also one of the more enjoyable. Remember Jordan Spieth holing out from a bunker to win last year, and then chest bumping his caddie? That was here.
So, without further ado, five reasons to tune in are:
#5 — CELEBRITY PRO-AM
Although this aspect of the event isn’t televised (it’s on Wednesday), I’m sure there will be multiple clips buzzing around social media. Some of the names slated to tee it up include: Ray Allen, Chris Berman, Nick Bonino, Jim Calhoun, Boomer Esiason, George Lopez, and Tim Wakefield. It’s always cool to see how those from other walks of life fare inside the ropes of a professional golf event. And just imagine the combination of quirky one-liners and sweat-soaked shirts that watching Chris Berman will impart on some lucky Hartford-area fans.
#4 — COURSE SETUP
When looking up “shortest courses on the PGA Tour,” I was actually quite surprised when I saw Pebble Beach measures up to just 6818 yards (or, at least, it did for this year’s PGA Tour event in February). I wouldn’t be surprised to see it play longer for next years US Open, but my point is, TPC River Highlands, where the pros tee it up this week, measures out to just 6841 yards. When you see how that breaks down, it must look pretty appetizing after last week’s gauntlet of a track. Bottom line: expect some birdies. The winning score the last five years has been an average of 14-under-par, and TPC River Highlands is home to both the only 58 ever recorded on the PGA Tour (Jim Furyk), and the only 60 ever shot by an amateur (Patrick Cantlay).
Course configuration — Twelve Par-4’s, Four Par-3’s, Two Par-5’s
Shortest — 158-yard 11th hole
Longest — 223-yard 5th hole
Shortest — 296-yard 15th hole
Longest — 481-yard 4th hole
Shortest — 523-yard 13th hole
Longest — 574-yard 6th hole
#3 — BOUNCE-BACK OPPORTUNITIES
50 players that teed it up last week at Shinnecock Hills will be looking for redemption come Thursday. Those who missed the cut are coming in especially hungry. That would include Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, and Jason Day.
Spieth and McIlroy, according to the Hartford Courant, have been grinding hard on the range in preparation for a much needed turnaround week.
“It’s good vibes,” Spieth told The Courant. “Anywhere you kind of go somewhere you’ve won before you obviously have been there and done it so you believe that you can do it again … I was in a better place with my game last year coming in. I had been striking the ball better. This year I’m just trying to gain some momentum to get a little bit better each week.”
#2 — THE FINAL STRETCH
It may not be ranked as the toughest finishing stretch in golf, but it’s certainly one of the more entertaining. From the short par-4 15th, to the tough par-4 18th, this closing quartet wraps around a four-acre lake and tests both the physical and mental sides of a golfer’s skill set. Here they are, in all their glory:
#15 — 296 yards, Par-4
#16 — 171 yards, Par-3
#17 — 420 yards, Par-4
#18 — 444 yards, Par-4
Get it? got it? Good.
#1 — THE FIELD
Considering it’s the week after a major, this is as good or better than anyone can expect in terms of a field (cough, *Canadian Open*, cough).
Jordan Spieth is on-site to defend his title after one of the more exhilarating wins of his young career last year. Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day are here too. And some guy that’s won back-to-back US Opens, Brooks Koopka, count him in. Throw in Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Jim Furyk, Adam Hadwin, Luke List, Ryan Moore, Webb Simpson, and Bubba Watson into the mix, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a field, on one hell of an exciting course. All in all, 13 of the world’s top 30 are ready to go at TPC River Highlands. Giddy up.
Enjoy the week! I’ll have my picks article and weekly podcast up tomorrow.
Feel free to reach out @RJMcCullough on Twitter