Viewing times: June 25, 26 Golf Channel 3-6 p.m.; June 27, 28 Golf Channel 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m.; CBS 3-6 p.m. (all times Eastern)
The Course: TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut
Principal Architects: (current version) Pete Dye/Bobby Weed, 1982/1989
Defending Champion: Kevin Streelman, United States
How he did it: There’s never been a closing charge like Streelman’s in PGA Tour history. Streelman reeled off an all-time record seven consecutive birdies to finish with a 6-under-par 64. He slipped by Sergio Garcia and K.J. Choi to win by one, posting a 15-under-par 265 total. Streelman one-putted the final 10 holes to claim his second Tour victory.
Key holes to watch: Holes 15, 16 and 17 edge a four-acre lake and provide big-time drama. Year after year, these holes inevitably determine who wins this tournament. The 296-yard, par-4 15th is drivable for most in the field. Water and a nest of bunkers await a pulled shot, while a hill covered in deep rough greets the overly faded drive. Big bashers such as Bubba Watson require less than a driver to reach the putting surface, yet it’s every bit as daunting to attack the green with a fairway wood or hybrid, thanks to the rumpled ground right in front of the green. As Webb Simpson stated to pgatour.com in 2013, “It’s a hole where you can make a 5, but you can make a 2 as well. It’s one of the better drivable par-4s on tour, for sure.” The 171-yard par-3 16th demands an all-or-nothing carry to find the green, while the 420-yard 17th asks for a scary tee shot alongside the lake and an approach that must carry it.
Who to look for: Despite post-U.S. Open fatigue, the Travelers draws quality fields, who compete before some of the biggest galleries on the PGA Tour. Bubba Watson, the 2010 Travelers champion, is a favorite, as is another World Top 10 player, Sergio Garcia, who came so close to winning in 2014. Thirteen major champions are teeing it up. We like Louis Oosthuizen, who nearly grabbed the U.S. Open. Other hot golfers to look for are Brandt Snedeker, who finished eighth at Chambers Bay, and Billy Horschel, who was “hot” for other reasons last week.
Tournament lore: Dating to 1952, the tournament was known for many years as the Greater Hartford Open (my late father-in-law, Don Ryan, was one of the founding fathers). Hartford never achieved anything resembling quasi-major status, even after pairing with entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. from 1973 to 1988, but its longevity speaks for itself and the list of champions is admirable. Arnold Palmer captured playoffs in 1956 and 1960, Sam Snead won in 1955 and Billy Casper won four titles between 1963 and 1973. Since the event’s move to the TPC, winners include Phil Mickelson in 2001-2002, Paul Azinger in 1987 and 1989, Lanny Wadkins (1992), Nick Price (1993) and Greg Norman in 1995. One of the most crowd-pleasing champs in recent years was Peter Jacobsen, who at age 49 followed up his 1984 win with a victory 19 years later.