Travelers sets up well for 1st-time wins

Bubba Watson won fir first PGA Tour title last year which also got him the honour of being the third player to break in the Travelers Championship in the past five seasons.

The past winners include Connecticut native J.J. Henry who won in 2006 and three-time PGA Tour winner Hunter Mahan who won for the first time in the 2007 tournament.

Mahan however does not consider the win a coincidence. More inexperienced players are expected to fare well when the tournament starts on Thursday, one week after the U.S. Open.

“This is an opportunity for a lot of young guys to play well, like me and J.J. and Bubba,” he said. “You’re going to make a lot of birdies out here. It’s not like an Augusta-type golf course where you have to learn it over time. You can come out here right off the get-go and play well.”

It does not hurt that many of the top players are at home resting while others are not at the top of their game mentally during when the Travelers come.

“There is such a buildup to (the Open) like no other tournament has, so the week after that you kind of get a bit flat in the middle of the week,” said Geoff Ogilvy, who will be playing the TPC River Highlands for the first time in 10 years. “You really want to be intense, but it’s hard.”

Watson, who missed the Open before he came into Connecticut, acknowledged that it gave him an advantage last year.

“I got here mad that I wasn’t in the Open and then I somehow won,” he said. “So yeah, that might have some effect on it that you’re energized and you’re ready to go and you’re mad that you weren’t in a major, so now you’re ready to go at the Travelers.”

Watson forced a playoff with Scott Verplank and Corey Pavin, winning on the second playoff hole, after overcoming a final round six-stroke deficit.

Watson also won in the January Torrey Pines and in the May New Orleans.  He is number two in the FedEx cup.

“It showed me that I can play the game of golf,” he said. “It showed me that by winning here I can play with the guys. I belonged out here, I guess. It just gave me confidence, going forward the rest of my career, no matter how long or how short.”

Golf’s big names are not in the tournament this year including Tiger Woods who has never played in the event, Mickelson and U.S. Open champion Rory Mcllroy. Among those who are in the field and looking to make a name for themselves are Anthony Kim, Zach Johnson and Padraig Harrington.

“There’s nothing like accomplishing a big goal, and that’s the goal of every PGA Tour player is to win, especially when you’re just coming out of college or the Nationwide Tour,” Mahan said. “There is no better feeling.”