I don’t usually do previews of the smaller tournaments on tour. To this point, I have reserved myself to cover only tournaments that Tiger participated in, and that were of major or near-major status. I will make an exception, though for the big red umbrella. Since this tournament takes place in my backyard, and I used Traveler’s employee’s passes to get into the Pro Am on Wednesday, I will do a preview.
First off, I have to say that they actually have a really talented field. Despite the fact that the biggest name in the game isn’t present, Travelers managed to draw most of the other big guns to the dreary old Hartford area. Partly because the US Open was very nearby and partly because Travelers and The TPC have done a great job developing the course’s practice facilities in the last few years.
But much to the players delight, this is not Bethpage. For much of the day Wednesday, the weather was Bethpage-esque, though. As heavy rain fell throughout the 6,800 yd layout to the point where when Sergio got to the 17th tee, he joked to the surrounding audience, “It’s sunny in Spain today.” Yes, I said 6,800 yds. This is not a monster. It is a straightforward layout with a few holes down the stretch that could make for an exciting finish, but you do not have to be Alvaro Quiros or Bubba Watson(they hit the ball 8 miles each) to take down the Travelers.
With that in mind, here are my contenders:
My Four Horsemen:
Though I feel bad for his caddie for having to take the constant snickering from the crowd as they walk by and see the back of his smock, I don’t feel bad because he’s making ten percent. Thats about $274 grand this year. Not too shabby. But honestly, Brian Gay is playing remarkably well this season even though he is sixth to last in driving distance on tour. His length was evident in missing the cut at the 7,426 yd US Open course last week, but The River Highlands does not present the same obstacles. Look for him to be close to the top.
I pick Zach in almost every tournament, but in the same regard as Gay, Johnson is accurate and purposeful with each shot. He also missed the cut last week, and played pretty poorly at Muirfield as well, but look for him to bounce back in Cromwell.
This guy can hit it long, but he also won the Travelers in 2007. The 27yr old Californian has been in the mix a lot this year with three top 10’s including two in majors and one last week. He was robbed on Sunday at Bethpage when he hit the pin on the par-4 16th, and his ball ended up off the green. The ball would have ended up close, and a birdie would have put Mahan at 3 under. Instead he bogeyed, and was put out of contention.
He hits greens at a stellar rate, and the greens at the Travelers are a bit on the small side. Mahan should be a factor by week’s end.
If the Ryder Cup Captain is gonna win anywhere this year, it is here. He is last on the tour in driving distance, and is hitting greens less than half the time, but I’m rooting for him because he looks sort of like Billy Bob Thornton. One year off the senior circuit, it would be nice to see Corey beat up on some young guns.
It would also be nice to see: Anthony Kim win a tournament. Kim has struggled a bit this year, but showed signs of life last week at the Open. He seemed to be in good spirits at the Pro Am, and has apparently lost 4 inches off his waist (if you see the guy in person, you realize, him losing 4 inches off his waist means he’s now shopping for slacks at Gap Kids.), but he would outdrive me by thirty yards so I will shut up.
With the course’s proximity to two of the largest casinos in the world, though, I think Kim’s chances are slim. If I see him out I will buy him a beer. If I see Sergio out I will gloat about the terrible US soccer team beating his Spaniards in a hideous game (yesterday’s news, sorry.)
My Final Thought:
This is hard for me to say, but at the Pro Am today the players were accessible as ever. It was a Wednesday in rainy Cromwell, CT so needless to say, few were at the 17th tee to see Sergio tee off at 9:30am, but he treated everyone well, signed autographs until all were pleased, and he didn’t bitch once in the few minutes I was within earshot of him. Though, I still will never root for the guy, maybe he’s not as big a douchebag as I thought, but he probably is.
My Bold Prediction:
Justin Rose will win it because he was the only golfer I didn’t have to say, “Hey man, nice drive” to, for him to say hello. Other than Boo’s caddie, who chewed more tabacco than Lenny Dykstra in a hitting slump.
I do have a good feeling about Ryuji Imada as well.