Tournament: The Travelers Championship, August 4-7, 2016
Course: TPC River Highlands, 6,841 yards, par 70, Cromwell, CT
Purse: $6,600,000 (Literally only 2/3 of the purse in last week’s PGA Championship, but the winner still gets over $1.1M.)
Defending Champion: Bubba Watson. He’s won the tournament twice, both times in a playoff. And that includes his first Tour win here in 2010.
Fun Fact: Six players in the field will compete in next week’s Olympic games in Rio. In case you didn’t know, golf is back in the Olympics. Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, and Matt Kuchar will represent the US. Both Bubba and Reed attended UGA.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS).
Former 'Dawgs in the Field (Seven): Erik Compton, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Lee McCoy, Hudson Swafford, Brendon Todd, Bubba Watson.
TPC River Highlands is a course that has roots back to 1928. It hugs the Connecticut River, but is on a high bluff overlooking the water. (Thus the name). However, the course has undergone two extensive redesigns. It is very short against most of today’s courses – Baltusrol played last week at the same par 70, but was almost 600 yards longer. It is still a nice setup and has tree lines that force players to control yardage, angles, and shot shape.
As we’ve mentioned before, this is a very weird summer for golf: the British Open and PGA Championship were two weeks apart, the Olympics is next week, and the Ryder Cup is in a month with the FedEx Cup playoffs surrounding it. That means players have adjusted their schedules depending on what they are qualified for, or want to qualify for. And this tournament has the standard 500 FedEx Cup points, so most players in the field this week are looking for a last desperate move to qualify for the Ryder Cup, or hoping to improve their playoff positioning. Or in the case of world #6 Bubba Watson, you’re the defending champ and you honor your commitments.
Below is who to root for, with their Official World Golf Ranking and FedEx Cup playoff standing in parentheses:
Russell Henley (99,87): Henley did not play this tourney last year, but is coming off a T22 last week at the PGA. He had three rounds under par, one of only a handful to pull off that feat. He’s safe for the first couple of playoff rounds, but would like a high finish to cement his position before the post-season begins.
Erik Compton (464,162): Last year at this tournament, Erik was 120th in the world. So he has fallen far and fast. Out of 22 tournaments this season, he’s missed the cut in 10 and withdrawn in 2 others. He has no top 25s, and only earned $250k (which is miniscule compared to the top 100). He is desperate, as he will likely lose Tour privileges after this season unless he makes a significant move.
Hudson Swafford (235,89): He’s mired in the low world rankings because he’s not eligible for the elite tournaments that move the needle and gain you big rankings. So until he wins his first Tour tournament, he can continue to make a good living ($2.2M career, $800k this season) but won’t have as many opportunities. Good news: he’s set for entry to the first playoff events (top 125) and can still make some noise.
Brian Harman (125,78): Not spectacular results, but Harman is quietly moving back up the rankings. After a slow fall and spring, he’s made 7 of his last 8 cuts and all but one of those are top 35 finishes. 9 of his 18 made cuts are top 25… that is the way to have a steady season. He finished 3rd here last year and played in the final group with Bubba before missing out on the playoff.
Lee McCoy (477, N/A): His rankings are a bit misleading. He’s only entered two tourneys as a professional and missed the cut both times. Heck, he just graduated. But he’s already placed 4th in a PGA Tour event as an amateurand is the current SEC Champion and Player of the Year (and top 20 at the NCAAs). He has little to no chance of making the playoffs, sans a win, but he’s looking for experience and to gain enough points to earn his status for next year (it’s a process).
Brendon Todd (250, 209): At this tourney last year, Todd was ranked 53rd in the world. He had won the previous season and was playing solid. I don’t know the reason, but his game has forsaken him this year. He’s played in 26 events this season, but only made the cut in four of them. Four. Things don’t look good for Todd at the moment. #CaptainObvious. He has tons of talent and has already proven himself with several successful pro seasons. I'm looking forward to the turnaround.
Bubba Watson (6,21): Two-time champion of this event, and one of the favorites to repeat this week. He’s quirky and he’s kooky, mysterious and… okay, he’s unique. He has emotional ties to the course and the tourney, he’s played well this year, and he’s pumped to wear Red, White & Blue next week in Rio.
Fall football practice is underway, and there’s professional football this weekend. Kinda. But aside from watching the Barves, or the Yankees forced to play A-Rod in a prominent role, there isn’t much going on. So tune in to root on your favorite golfing Bulldogs. And as always….