First held in 1952, this tournament has been known by various names but has been titled the Travelers Championship since 2007. This is played at the TPC River Highlands course, which has been its host since 1984. River Highlands is located in a town called Cromwell in Connecticut in the north east of the United States. This is just 15 miles south of state capital Hartford, a major base of the the title sponsor, the Travelers Insurance company.
The Travelers Championship has occupied numerous spots on the PGA Tour schedule though since 2017 has been played the week following the US Open. In 2020 however the Major Championship was moved to September.
The most successful player in the history of the event is American Billy Casper, who had four victories between 1963 and 1973. More recently Bubba Watson has been the man to watch, with wins in 2010, 2015 and 2018. Whilst players from the US dominate the list of Champions, this was won by Scotsman Russell Knox in 2016 though many will remember that tournament for Jim Furyk shooting 58 on his final round, the first player ever to card that score on the PGA Tour.
|TPC River Highlands||Cromwell, Connecticut||6,841 Yards||$7,400,000|
Travelers Championship Recent Winners
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2020||Dustin Johnson||-19||1 Stroke|
|2019||Chez Reavie||-17||4 Strokes|
|2018||Bubba Watson||-17||3 Strokes|
|2016||Russell Knox||-14||1 Stroke|
|2014||Kevin Streelman||-15||1 Stroke|
|2012||Marc Leishman||-14||1 Stroke|
|2011||Fredrik Jacobson||-20||1 Stroke|
TPC River Highlands
With tree-lined fairways, strategically placed bunkers many of which were moved in 2015 and greens that are a mixture of Poa Annua and Bentgrass, this is a fairly typical upstate course. Bombers and plodders alike can shoot good scores here but only if they hit high class approach shots into the tricky greens.
The 6,841 yard, par 70 layout in Connecticut is traditionally one of the least taxing venues used on the PGA Tour and regularly yields a scoring average under par. Unlike Colonial and Harbour Town, TPC River Highlands is hosting top level professionals in its usual time slot so the PGA Tour will know what they need to do to keep a lid on scoring even if their options are somewhat limited in Cromwell.
Much to the delight of the tour's big hitters, this is a course which tends to reward those who are longest off the tee. Driving accuracy is also fairly important given the thick rough so those who have the best week in terms of total driving will have an advantage, providing they can follow their play off the tee by hitting plenty of greens in regulation.
The greens themselves offer perhaps the biggest defence of par, especially to those players who lack confidence with their putters as the Poa annua grass demands a certain amount of aggression with the flat stick. In terms of the sort of player needed to win here there are some similarities with the US Masters, that combination of distance and handling tricky greens likely to prove key.
About the Travelers Championship
The Travelers Championship is an annual tournament played on the PGA Tour. The first edition, which was called the Insurance City Open, was won by American Ted Kroll, a local player, way back in 1952, a victory that was worth a cool $2,400! Since then the prize money has grown considerably and there have been a number of changes to the event and some truly amazing golf. Here we take a closer look at both of those elements of the tournament, as well as what is required to win the Travelers.
The first thing to note is that the tournament has had several different names over the years. Originally just the Insurance City Open, the event has been called the Insurance City Open Invitational, Greater Hartford Open Invitational, Greater Hartford Open and the Buick Championship, being sponsored by Canon for many years too.
From 2007, it has been known as the Travelers Championship. Hartford, where the tournament is held, is somewhat unglamorously, known as the insurance capital of the world (!), so it is none too surprising that the Travelers of the name is a large insurance company with an office in town!
Since 1984, the event has been played at TPC River Highlands, a club located in Cromwell, Connecticut, a suburb south of Hartford. That course itself has been known by different names over the years but is now the permanent home for this tournament. It had long been held at Wethersfield Country Club in Hartford County.
The Travelers is well respected by players and fans alike, earning the Players Choice Award for two years running. In terms of attendance it is second only to the (in)famous Phoenix Open, with crowds of well over 50,000 a day not uncommon. In fact, in 2002 around 400,000 spectators passed through the gates over the course of the week and the atmosphere is always superb.
Since Travelers took over in 2007 the winner has taken home in excess of $1m and in 2019 Chez Reavie scooped almost $1.3m. As with so many sporting events in 2020, the Travelers has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time of writing organisers are hopeful the event can be played on the 25th-28th June, stating “The PGA TOUR has announced that the 2020 Travelers Championship is currently scheduled as a TV-only event. Conducting the tournament without crowds on-site is in the best interest of protecting everyone, including the Connecticut community at large.” Fingers crossed it can be played!
Casper’s Four Victories
11 years after Ted Kroll won the inaugural championship, Billy Casper picked up the first of his four Travelers Championship trophies in 1963. Casper’s first win was a one-stroke success over George Bayer.
‘Buffalo Bill’, who sadly passed away in Utah in 2015, picked up his second win two years later, this time needing a playoff to see off Johnny Pott. Casper’s third win was in 1968, when he became the first man to win three Travelers Championships (as it is now) along the way. Five years later, Billy won his fourth and final Connecticut tournament, clinching a one-stroke victory over Australian Bruce Devlin.
Billy Casper is the only man to have won this event four times, but Bubba Watson’s three victories makes him the second most successful player in Travelers Championship history. Five players have two wins each but Bubba is the one seemingly most likely to match Casper’s feats here.
|1963, 1965, 1968, 1973||Billy Casper|
|2010, 2015, 2018||Bubba Watson|
|1997, 2008||Stewart Cink|
|1984, 2003||Peter Jacobsen|
|2001, 2002||Phil Mickelson|
|1987, 1989||Paul Azinger|
|1956, 1960||Arnold Palmer|
The table above indicates both that this event attracts some classy players and also just what is needed to win here. Scoring is typically very good but not stunningly low, although the tournament record is an impressive -25. That 259 by Tim Norris came in 1982, although Kenny Perry shot 22 under, 258 in 2009, all the more noteworthy as TPC River Highlands, where the tournament had moved is a par 70 track.
Whedon’s Two Holes-in-one
At the 1955 Insurance City Open, which was easily won by the great Sam Snead, amateur Bill Whedon made history. Whedon became the first player to hit two holes-in-one in the same round of a PGA Tour event. He is one of only three people to have accomplished that staggering feat.
Arnie’s First of Many on US Soil
Arnold Palmer was one of the most successful and popular golfers to have ever played the game. ‘The King’ enjoyed a sensational career, turning professional in 1954 and eventually retiring in 2006.
Palmer won a whole host of tournaments, but his first PGA Tour victory on United States soil came at the Insurance City Open in 1956. Arnie went head-to-head with the first winner Ted Kroll, triumphing on the second hole of a playoff. Palmer won again four years later to claim a second crown.
Sifford Makes History in 1967
Charlie Sifford made history in 1967, becoming the first African American to win a PGA Tour event. In what was the first tournament to be named the Greater Hartford Open Invitational, Sifford went on to claim victory by a single shot over Steve Oppermann.
Sifford, who was the first African American to play on the PGA Tour, would go on to win the Los Angeles Open two years later. Those were his only wins on the PGA Tour.
Faxon’s Moment of Magic in ’05
New Jersey-born Brad Faxon, who resides in Rhode Island, had a moment to remember in 2005 when he came from behind to seal a sensational win at the 2005 Buick Championship. Faxon hit 266 to force a playoff, going on to beat Tjaart van der Walt on the first extra hole. That was the last of Faxon’s eight PGA Tour tournament wins.
Connecticut Gets a Home Winner
The loyal Connecticut fans had plenty to cheer about in 2006, as local man J.J Henry won the Buick Championship, as this tournament was called between 2004 and 2006, on home turf. It was an unforgettable moment for Henry, who would not win another PGA Tour event for six long years.
Henry, who used to attend the tournament while a child, finished three strokes clear of fellow Americans Hunter Mahan and Ryan Moore. After his stunning triumph, Henry said, “Every time I’d leave here, I’d go back to the putting green or driving range and pretend I was winning the tournament. I thought how cool that would be someday if I could be one of those guys and play against the best players in the world.” Henry’s dreams certainly came true in July 2006.