CROMWELL, August 2 – Five men who will miss Friday’s Opening Ceremonies in Rio, Brazil at the Olympic Summer Games are playing here in the 2016 Travelers Championship at the TPC-River Highlands.
Three are from the United States – Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed, who played together as a trio and had fans chanting “USA, USA” as they approached the 18th tee. Reed was playing with the red, white and blue golf bag that he will use in the Olympics.
“All three of us are very excited,” Watson, the defending tournament champion. “We’re eager to get over there. It’s funny, you hear all the USA chants, but at the same time you want to play well here. They’re like, Good luck next week. I’m like, Good luck this week, not next week.”
Watson shot a three-under 67 as 93 players shot par or better Thursday in Cromwell. Kuchar shot a one-under 69 while Reed shot a 70.
“So it’s very fun, us three hanging out. We’re good friends. We had a blast out there,” Watson said. “Having a pairing like that, no matter if we were going to Rio or not, it’s a fun pairing.”
The other Olympians in the field are Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen and Germany’s Alex Cejka, who each shot 68, and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, who shot a 70. The Olympic men’s golf tournament is August 11-14 in Rio– its first appearance in the Olympics since 1904.
The leader at the Travelers Championship after the first day is former University of Hartford star Jerry Kelly, one of three players with a with a six-under 64. Vaugh Taylor and Jerry Loupe also shot a 64 on opening day of the Travelers. Taylor had five straight birdies at one point.
Kelly, 49, said, “I hit a lot of good shots. I putted well also. I hit a couple good shots that would roll off the greens, and then I would have very tough up and downs.”
Watson is ranked sixth in the world and has won this tournament twice. He has plenty of fans in the gallery. He is hearing support as an Olympian and a two-time tournament champion. “It’s very nice,” he said. “You know, they’ve kind of documented me here as a local. It’s been amazing. The support, the energy I get from them, what Travelers has done for this local community, it’s just amazing.”
“When I am comfortable at a place, I can perform because I’m not in my shadow of hiding from people,” Watson said. “When I get comfortable I can perform to the best of my abilities.”