Preview and Predictions for the 2015 Travelers Championship
After that thrilling finish to the 115th U.S. Open, the humble golf fan just wants to take a breather and relish what Jordan Spieth did and what Dustin Johnson failed to do. But that’s not how this game works.
The tee pierces in the sod, and save for Spieth, most of these golfers want to get back on the course and redeem themselves. If they played at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington, they want to get as far away from the torturous course as possible.
So the tour heads to Connecticut for the Travelers Championship, a tournament Kevin Streelman won a year ago. He soared on the wings of seven birdies to close out the event and take home his second title.
Beyond him, 37 players from the U.S. Open plan on playing in the Travelers, including world No. 5 Bubba Watson.
Let’s get it on with a set of storylines for the Travelers Championship.
Where to Watch and Tournament Info
Defending Champion: Kevin Streelman
TPC River Highland, Cromwell, Connecticut
6,841 yards, Par 70
Total Purse: $6,400,000
Winning Share: $1,152,000
FedEx Points to Winner: 500
3:30-6:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
1-2:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel; 3-6 p.m. ET, CBS
Will Kevin Streelman "streel" the show again?
Kevin Streelman gets filed in the more esoteric category of golfer. Given the way he played this tournament a year ago, maybe he should be on your brain’s frontal cortex for easy access.
He birdied the last seven holes in the final round of the 2014 Travelers Championship to win in convincing fashion over Sergio Garcia and K.J. Choi. That final round included 10 one-putts in a row.
"It's probably my favorite nine holes on the PGA Tour," Streelman said in an Associated Press story (h/t Golf.com). "But you can't plan for something like that to happen. It just kind of falls into place."
He gets as few as two and as many as four cracks at those nine holes again, which makes him a threat to take down several of the big names swimming in this deep pool.
Several Chambers Bay survivors are in the field
With the late scratch of Jason Day, 38 U.S. Open entrants stumble from University Place, Washington, to New England. The memory of watching their putts skip across Chambers Bay’s greens as if they were asphalt is, no doubt, still fresh in their minds.
The headliner of this contingent is Bubba Watson, who won this tournament back in 2010. He missed the cut at the 2015 U.S. Open, a tournament he hasn’t done particularly well at since turning pro. Putting that showing far in the rearview mirror shouldn't be much of an issue for the two-time Masters champ.
Now Watson, along with Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Louis Oosthuizen, just to name a few, plan on forgetting the U.S. Open altogether or, in the case of Oosthuizen, using their performances at Chambers Bay to springboard them to a new trophy.
When Patrick Reed was on the fringe of contending at the U.S. Open, he played major-caliber golf. Through 36 holes, he was tied with Jordan Spieth and in the final Saturday pairing. Then the heat of that light cooked his game.
After a frustrating three-putt on No. 18 on his Friday round, he said in Doug Ferguson’s Associated Press story (h/t San Jose Mercury News), "I hit the ball in the middle of the green on 18 and have no chance to putt a normal putt and stop near the hole, and have to play Mickey Mouse golf to try to make par. Unfortunately, a bad way to end the day."
His play worsened over the weekend, while Spieth took flight. Reed, for all the ire and acrimony he draws, is a four-time winner on the PGA Tour and a favorite in this tournament. The spotlight won’t be quite as bright this time around.
Bubba Watson has had a terrible run of late. Since finishing third at the Cadillac Championship, he has shot just one round under 70, that being a 69 in the third round at the Players.
He left Augusta National Golf Club in a tie for 38th. In the Match Play he couldn’t fare better than a tie for 17th, and the U.S. Open cut him after Friday’s round.
So where does Watson’s optimism lie? Of course, that’s his bombs off the tee, which tend to put a short iron in his hands for his approaches.
That’s ultimately his problem: Watson can’t hit greens. He ranks 109th on tour in greens in regulation. He putts well, ranking fifth on tour in putts per hole at 1.550, but failing to hit greens doesn't put him in a position to score.
He’s a previous winner of this tournament and has had two extra days away from Chambers Bay. Expect him to shoot low this week.
Honorable mentions: Billy Horschel, Brandt Snedeker
The Dark Horses
Louis Oosthuizen was on rails on the back nine at Chambers Bay. He shot a 29 to reach four under par. For a time, before Jordan Spieth putted on No. 18, Oosthuizen, who was already in the clubhouse awaiting the final groups, was tied for the lead.
It was almost like he didn’t care anymore and started drilling his putts in that final round. That aggression rewarded him with five straight birdies and six on the back nine.
Alex Brzezinski wrote on SportingNews.com, “It's possible Oosthuizen will be exhausted after his 66-66-67 finish last week, but he's just as likely to continue his stellar form and win this week. He looked like he might sneak into a playoff after Spieth double-bogeyed the 17th hole, but missed out by one shot.”
Maybe there will be a bit of a hangover from that strong push on Sunday. That’s why he’s not a favorite but a contender riding the dark horse.
The defending champion has had a quietly solid season to date. He’s not rattling anyone’s cage, but he hasn’t been a stranger to the upper echelons of the leaderboard.
He was the runner-up during the 2014-15 wrap season at the Shriners Hospital for Children Open and finished in a tie for 12th at the Masters. Three tournaments later he left the Wells Fargo Championship in a tie for ninth. At the Memorial he took a tie for 18th. These are tournaments with very deep fields.
Streelman, who is one of the best ball-strikers on tour, can’t be overlooked at this tournament as he tries to become the first player to win it in back-to-back years since Phil Mickelson did it in 2001 and 2002.
Sergio Garcia didn’t make any waves at the U.S. Open and drew little attention. That was a good thing for the Spaniard, who played steady golf to finish in a tie for 18th after a final-round 68.
He, along with K.J. Choi, earned second-place honors at this tournament a year ago and could do nothing but stand and watch as Streelman played Wii golf all over TPC River Highlands.
If he’s not still heated about the conditions at Chambers Bay, Garcia may be in position to redeem himself at the Travelers Championship.
He was a runner-up at the Players and remains one of the best at strokes gained from tee to green. That could set up well at a course that will be far more consistent and more to his liking.
Winner: Patrick Reed
This is a competitive field with champions and soon-to-be champions up and down the roster. There’s no shortage of players coming in off the U.S. Open who are all looking to cleanse their palettes of fescue, Puget Sound and possibly Joe Buck.
That leaves a hungry Patrick Reed as the likely winner. He plays with fire and grit and is as abrasive as asphalt. He had his chances at Chambers Bay to hang with Jordan Spieth and couldn’t do it. In his defense, he wasn't alone.
He has the talent, and he’ll come out blazing, looking for some form of redemption after shooting a forgettable 76 in the third round of the U.S. Open playing beside Spieth Mode.
If he gets out front on the strength of his Thursday putting, he could be tough to catch.