by Rob Joyce
The finish more than lived up to the anticipated hype. Arguably the most star-studded field in the 65-year history of PGA golf in Connecticut featured one of those big names hitting the shot of the year so far to win the event.
From the shot itself, to the celebration, to who did it, Jordan Spieth’s bunker shot on the first playoff hole to win the Travelers was a spectacular moment for the tournament. Long known for its hospitality and big crowds, coming a week after the U.S. Open normally hurts its playing field. After last weekend, though, things are taking a turn for the better for an even that nearly ceased to exist ten years ago.
In the social media age, where video of the ending will live forever, Spieth’s shot is the most exciting finish in Insurance City Open/GHO/Buick/Travelers history, joining these six other classic, down-to-the-wire moments:
2014 Travelers Championship:
Kevin Streelman didn’t seem to be in contention on Sunday, even after posting a 64 on Saturday. He began the final round four strokes off the lead and finished the front nine at one-over, chasing the likes of Sergio Garcia, KJ Choi and Aaron Baddeley. He ended it as the winner, after finishing his round with seven consecutive birdies, breaking a nearly-60-year-old PGA Tour record, to finish at 15-under, a stroke better than Choi and Garcia.
2007 Travelers Championship:
The first year with Travelers as a title sponsor had a back-and-forth battle for the ages on the 18th hole – twice. Jay Williamson led Hunter Mahan by a stroke heading to the 72nd hole and stuck his approach within 15 feet. Mahan responded with a shot to within eight feet and sank the ensuing birdie putt to force a playoff. Again playing the 18th, Williamson again stuck his approach to within 10 feet, only Mahan nearly holed out, needing only a tap-in birdie putt to secure his first PGA Tour win.
1998 Canon Greater Hartford Open:
You can claim that Spieth pulled off his best Olin Browne impression on Sunday. Browne and Larry Mize went to a playoff after both finished 22-under in regulation. Never having won on Tour in his 15 years since turning pro, he got the monkey off his back in thrilling fashion, chipping in from 40 yards out for the win.
1989 Canon Greater Hartford Open:
In 1987 Paul Azinger held off Wayne Levi and Dan Forsman by a stroke to win the GHO. Fast forward two years, and again Azinger found himself in a neck-and-neck battle with Levi. Facing a 45-foot chip on the 72nd hole on Sunday, the future major winner drained the shot, threw his hat in celebration and won his second GHO in three years.
1980 Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open:
Since Howard Twitty outlasted Jim Simons at Wethersfield Country Club, a dozen tournaments have been decided in a playoff. None of those 12 boasted the duel in which Twitty and Simons engaged. Deadlocked after five playoff holes, Twitty finally broke the stalemate with a birdie on the sixth hole for the victory.
1961 & 1962 Insurance City Opens:
Two phenomenal battles in consecutive years. First in ’61, Billy Maxwell held off Ted Kroll in a seven-hole playoff to collect the $4300 winner’s share. The next year, Bob Goalby and Art Wall, Jr. repeated history, again engaging in a seven-hole playoff, one where Goalby came out on top in the early years of the tournament.