Young Guns have been known to use Hartford as a stepping stone on the PGA Tour
Michael Thompson loves coming to Cromwell. He made his first PGA Tour appearance at the TPC River Highlands in 2008 on a sponsors exemption for the Travelers Championship. He will no doubt attract a gallery when he tees off in the 61st edition of the local Tour stop, having created some high expectations after his showing at the U.S. Open last week at Olympic. He had the lead after the first round before finishing in a second place tie, behind Webb Simpson. But Thompson isn’t one to dwell on expectations. “The key to playing good professional golf”, he offered before playing a practice round at the TPC yesterday, “Is you can’t think about what everybody else wants to you do or expects you to do and I have trouble in terms of falling into that trap of trying to live up to the expectations I believe others are putting on me.” The biggest galleries of the first two rounds of the Travelers are sure to be reserved for the premier threesome, with Simpson, Masters champ Bubba Watson and PGA Championship champ Keegan Bradley going off the first tee tomorrow afternoon at 12:55, the tenth tee Friday morning at 7:45, but there could be a hidden reward in following a golfer like Thompson, making a name for himself but still looking for his first Tour win. In 1956 such a hidden reward came for those at the fifth Insurance City Open who followed a young golfer named Arnold Palmer, who had yet to win on the U.S. Tour. A youngster named Colt Knost might reward his galleries this week. He has two pro wins, but both have been on the Nationwide Tour. Last week he finished 13th at the Open. Five years ago, on that Open course, he defeated Thompson in the U.S. Amatuer. In 2007 a young golfer named Hunter Mahan, currently ranked 10th in the world, rewarded his galleries at the Travelers with a thrilling sudden death win on a 134 yard approach to within two feet. It was his first Tour win. Rickey Barnes won the 2002 U.S. Amateur and claimed a pro win in the 2010 CVS Charity Classic teamed with J.B. Holmes. In 2009 he finished in a second place tie at the U.S. Open and in 2010 he finished in the top 10 at the Masters. He could be the next golfer to reward his gallery with his first Tour win, just like a youngster named Bubba Watson rewarded TPC galleries with his first Tour win, at the Travelers, two years ago. He’s been on fire ever since. Tommy Gainey is better known for wearing two gloves than for his prowess on Tour so far, but he did finish second at the 2008 Children’s Miracle Network Classic at Disney World before reinventing himself and returning to finish third at last year’s Heritage. Like Frederick Jacobsen a year ago, “Two Glove Tommy” Gainey comes to Cromwell in pursuit of his first Tour win. It just goes to show, on the PGA Tour you never know. There’s a great career just waiting to be jump started in every field. Pick a golfer, any golfer, the potential rewards can be priceless. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.