GolfChannel.com Senior Writer Jason Sobel is in Cromwell, Connecticut this week for the Travelers Championship. There is currently a streak of 9 straight first-time Major Champions and when he looks ahead to the Open Championship, he said that the first name that comes to mind to continue the streak is Lee Westwood. Westwood has played well in the Open Championship for many years and if he were to win, he would also become the 16th different Major Champion in the last 16 Majors.
Webb Simpson has come to Connecticut right after winning the U.S. Open on Sunday and Sobel found out from Simpson’s caddie Paul Tesori on Sunday that Simpson was still planning to compete in the Travelers Championship. Sobel expects Simpson to play well in large part because he has been so consistent in performance over the last year and a half and he is pleased that the Travelers Championship has Simpson as well as a number of other Major Champions.
John Peterson’s grandmother passed away last week when Peterson was playing in the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Peterson struggled on the weekend at TPC Southwind as he admitted that he had a hard time staying focused after hearing that news. That bad news actually made the success that Peterson had at the U.S. Open much sweeter because Peterson ended up finishing T4 on Father’s Day and both his mom and dad were at The Olympic Club to see it in person. After entering the week with no status on any tour in 2012, he is now invited to the 2013 Masters and U.S. Open and his prospects look much brighter.
There is a very relaxed vibe at the Travelers Championship and it is similar to how the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head feels the week after The Masters. A number of players from The Olympic Club took a shuttle flight from San Francisco to Hartford and while the field is strong this week, this is also a chance for many young and unheralded players to earn their first wins on the PGA TOUR.
In his second visit to Tuesday’s Morning Drive, Sobel began by talking about the challenges that the Travelers Championship faced with the U.S. Open being played in California. The tournament arranged a charter flight for players from San Francisco to Connecticut and Bubba Watson was among the players to take advantage of the offer. The tournament made it as easy as possible for players to compete in the U.S. Open in California and then come to Connecticut to play this week.
For many years, the Travelers Championship has offered exemptions to many young players in an effort to try to ensure their future presence at TPC River Highlands. Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson are just two examples of players who were given exemptions and it is a big deal that Simpson is honoring his commitment to this event even after winning the U.S. Open. This year, Patrick Rodgers, Kelly Kraft, and Bryden Macpherson are the young guns who have received exemptions into the field.
Bubba Watson threw out the first pitch at the New York Mets game on Monday night and he is the third PGA TOUR player in the past week to be out on the pitcher’s mound. When comparing the pitches, Sobel said that Bubba had the best one as he threw one over the plate and unlike the other players, Bubba stayed for the whole game with his wife and some friends.
While he does not have absolute confirmation of this, he would not be surprised if the PGA TOUR grouped the last three Major Champions of Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson, and Webb Simpson together for the first three rounds. He is hoping that he is correct in this prediction.