The things that make a good golf tournament for a player are different from those that make a good tournament for a fan. Fortunately, the Travelers Championship has plenty for both players and fans.
The event, which takes place in Cromwell, Connecticut, has been voted the players’ favourite via the Players Choice Award on multiple occasions while it has a way of producing thrilling finishes to keep the fans coming back through the gates and switching on to watch.
2022: Xander Schauffele
Xander Schauffele has long been seen as one of the very best golfers on the PGA Tour. He is the current Olympic champion, finds himself in contention more often than not in the major championships and came into the Travelers Championship having won his fifth PGA Tour event earlier in the season. And yet there were questions about his ability to win events before he saw off the challenge of J. T. Poston and Sahith Theegala to win the Travelers Championship.
The argument goes that Schauffele just doesn’t win as often as a player of his ability should. The nature of his win at TPC River Highlands is unlikely to settle that argument. Yes, Schauffele had to hold firm and dig in to secure a two-shot win but there is no doubt he was helped out at times by his opponents.
Theegala, who is well in the running to be PGA Tour rookie of the year, hauled himself into the lead on his 71st hole. The 24-year-old made a mess of his drive on the 72nd hole though and had an absolute nightmare getting out of the bunker that he found off the tee. After initially leaving the ball in the bunker, Theegala then played safe but a bogey putt that somehow missed opened the door for Schauffele who gleefully stepped through.
2021: Harris English
Harris English became the first player to win two PGA Tour events in 2021 but it felt as though his win would carry on into 2022 at one point. English had to come through an eight-hole playoff against Kramer Hickok to win the Travelers Championship, the second longest sudden death playoff in PGA Tour history.
If it all sounds like a bit of a slog, it didn’t feel that way to the fans gathered around the 18th hole at TPC River Highlands. English and Hickock are incredible competitors and their sheer will to stay in the fight provided incredible drama that just built with every putt that dropped.
In total, the playoff went on for more than two hours. In that time both players had chances to win and both looked down and out before holing putts that verged on the outrageous. Their lengthy battle was all the more impressive as they had both played so well in their final round on Sunday. English had to come back from two shots off the lead to make the playoff and somehow managed to maintain that momentum all the way to a win. Victory took English on the verge of the top 10, a testament to his hard work of recent years given he was outside the world’s top 350 less than two years earlier. His is not a name to familiar to all European fans but if he continues this sort of form it soon will be.
2020: Dustin Johnson
By the time Dustin Johnson’s career is over he will go down as one of the best players of his generation and arguably one of the best of all time. Among a plethora of impressive stats for Johnson’s career perhaps the one that stands out most is the incredible streak of consecutive PGA Tour seasons in which he has secured at least one win. Johnson’s one-shot win in the 2020 Travelers Championship was his first for 15 months but made it 13 seasons in a row in which he had won a PGA Tour event.
Johnson is a famously laid back character who is credited with being able to keep a clear head during the heat of battle but he knew exactly what was on the line. Speaking after pipping Kevin Streelman to the title, Johnson said, “I’m definitely proud of myself for continuing the streak,” before adding, “hopefully it won’t be that long for the next [win].”
While this win marked the end of a frustrating period for Johnson, it was a case of what could have been for Streelman. He had plenty of time to plot the final stages of his round after the horn blew for a weather delay when he was on the 17th fairway. However, he couldn’t fashion the two birdies he needed to put himself into a playoff with a chance to win the Travelers Championship for a second time.
2019: Chez Reavie
For the second year in a row, a score of -17 was enough for a wide margin of victory at the Travelers Championship. Chez Reavie was the man to reach that number but unlike Bubba Watson the year before, Reavie did not need a barnstorming final round to secure his win. His power scoring was done in the first three days of play with rounds of 65, 66 and 63 so a closing round of 69 was enough to secure the win.
The lack of any final round fireworks was just how Reavie wanted it. He had not won a PGA Tour event for over 11 years so a sleepless night having held the 54 hole lead was to be expected. Reavie did very well to maintain his concentration, not make any ruinous mistakes and play the sort of steady golf that he needed to make his return to the winner’s circle.
A delighted Reavie said of the win, “it means everything.” His understated celebration summed up the mood perfectly. He had prepared for Keegan Bradley and Zack Sucher, his nearest competitors, to make a late charge and had confidence that he could repel it having finished third in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach just a week earlier. In the end, that charge never materialised but Reavie did not allow himself to relax until the job was done.
2018: Bubba Watson
They say that things come in threes and that was certainly true of Bubba Watson’s win in the 2018 Travelers Championship. This was his third tournament win following victories in 2010 and 2015 and his third win of the season after the Genesis Open and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Watson’s margin of victory ended up as a comfortable looking three shots over four players joint in second place – Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, JB Holmes and Beau Hossler. That by no means tells the story of a phenomenal final day of the Travelers Championship.
Watson absolutely loves playing at TPC at River Highlands, saying that the Cromwell, Connecticut venue feels like a second home to him. His love for the course gave him the confidence to pull off an upset win on Sunday despite starting the day six shots behind Casey. The Englishman clearly didn’t sleep well on the lead as he struggled from the off and could only shoot a +2 round of 72. The fact that Watson was going great guns made things all the more difficult for Casey. Watson never let up and his second 63 of the week was good enough to turn a long shot into a reality.
2017: Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth doesn’t do things by halves. At the age of just 24, Spieth arrived for his debut appearance at the Travelers Championship as a three-time major champion. He left TPC at River Highlands having completed a wire to wire win in extraordinary fashion after a dramatic final playoff victory over Daniel Berger.
Spieth stamped his authority on this tournament with a stunning opening round of 63. Scoring was good on Thursday though so that was good for just a one-shot lead. As the early pace setters faded away in more challenging conditions, Spieth kept moving forwards with rounds of 69 and 66 on Friday and Saturday. That was enough for a one-shot lead on Sunday but Spieth finally slowed down relative to the competition and he was finally caught by Daniel Berger whose 67 was enough to take him into a playoff.
That playoff only lasted one hole after Spieth holed out from a greenside bunker, forcing Berger to make a birdie putt which he subsequently missed. That bunker shot was reminiscent of Spieth’s first PGA Tour win in 2013 when he hit a strikingly similar shot at the John Deere Classic and the celebration with caddie, Michael Greller, was equally as passionate at the Travelers Championship.