by Rob Joyce
The Travelers Championship in Cromwell is normally a victim of timing. Usually the week after the U.S. Open, many of the world’s top golfers take the week off to rest after a major tournament. This year, though, some of the top names in the sport will go back-to-back, taking the trip from Hartford, Wisconsin to the suburbs of Hartford, Connecticut for the 66th year of pro golf in the Nutmeg State.
This year’s field includes three of the world’s top-five players – Rory McIlroy (No. 2), Jason Day (3) and Jordan Spieth (5) – as well as six of the top 20. In all, 13 different major winners will be in the field at TPC River Highlands. It’s perhaps the most loaded field in the modern era of the tournament (though the 2002 field was pretty good, too). With so many notable names, who are the favorites next week?
5) Jim Furyk:
The 47-year-old is struggling mightily – his top-25 finish at the U.S. Open last week was his first made cut in seven events and his first top-30 finish of 2017. Yet he makes the list because the last time he took to the TPC River Highlands, he made history. His final round 58 is the lowest score ever on Tour, and he became the first player with multiple sub-60 rounds in his career. Ranked fourth on the Tour in driving accuracy, he’s primed for more low scores in Cromwell.
4) Paul Casey:
Currently ranked 14th in the world, Casey was the runner-up at the 2015 tournament, losing to Bubba Watson in a playoff after overcoming a three-stroke deficit in the final five holes to tie Watson through the end of the final round. Although his last win came in 2014, he’s been a steady presence in the top-30 of the Official World Golf Rankings and has three top-10 finishes in his last six starts, including a sixth-place tally at the Masters.
3) Justin Thomas:
Thomas has been all over the place results-wise this year: he won the first two events he played in, followed by three missed cuts and three other 35th-or-worse performances. He’s since bounced back with a fourth place finish as the Memorial two weeks ago, and he stole the show at the U.S. Open on Saturday with his record 63. Despite his Sunday stumble that saw him go from the final pairing to a tied-for-9th finish, he’s beginning to heat up and play some of the best golf of his career.
2) Bubba Watson:
Bubba is having a down year, tumbling from 10th down to 37th in the OWGR as he has more missed cuts (five) than top-10 finishes (two), including not making the weekend at Erin Hills. The perfect way to get back into a groove? Return to a place where you’ve won twice. His emotional 2010 win was his first career PGA Tour victory, and he followed that up with the aforementioned win over Paul Casey in 2015. Always a fan favorite, Watson hopefully returns to form.
1) Jason Day:
It’s the first trip to the Travelers for the Aussie, coming off a disappointing missed cut last week at Erin Hills. His putting is superb, to the point that in 2016 he had one of the best statistical seasons on record. At a short course like the TPC (6,841 yards) a lot of fairways and greens in regulation will be hit. The difference could be on the carpet, where Day shines the brightest.