It never gets old for Jordan Spieth.
His magical shot out of the bunker on the 18th green at a vocal TPC-River Highlands gave Spieth a victory in a playoff at the 2017 Travelers Championship over Daniel Berger, who had birdies on three of the final six holes of regulation.
Spieth, who was 24 at the time, popped his shot out of the right-side bunker. It bounded twice on the green and rolled right into the cup, sparking a big celebration with his caddy, Michael Greller, and a thunderous roar from the crowd surrounding the hole.
Spieth smiled as he recalled that shot during a pre-tournament interview Tuesday as he prepares for Thursday’s first round of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell that will be played without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s nice to go back to places where you have really good memories to draw back on, hit a lot of good shots,” Spieth said. “That was the coolest shot I’ve ever hit in a PGA Tour event, so I played it today. I always just go right back in the bunker and try it every time I’m there.”
In celebration, Spieth tossed his club toward the back of the bunker while Greller dropped the bunker rake. The two met with a chest bump as the cheers from the crowd rained onto the green.
“I mean, it never gets old,” Spieth admitted. “I obviously remember vividly exactly what it was like and how it felt and the drowning know what I’m saying, kind of the blackout moment when it went in.
“I’m not one to really throw clubs. So, I don’t know where that came from, but clearly it was just a rush of emotions, and what an amphitheater setting on that 18th hole. I couldn’t have imagined something like that anywhere else. It was electric to say the least.
“I went over to Daniel (Berger) before he went to his playoff at (two weeks ago at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas at the Colonial) and said, ‘Don’t worry, Berger, it’s not me, you’ll be fine, just as a joke.’ He just kind of laughed and certainly got his own back in that scenario, when he was able to win in a playoff there.”
Berger was scheduled to play in Cromwell but withdrew on Tuesday. Still, the field will be outstanding. Nine of the top 11 players in the world are at the Travelers. No. 1 Rory McIlroy and No. 2 Jon Rahm lead the field with Justin Thomas (No. 3), Brooks Kopeka (No. 4), Webb Simpson (No.5), who is coming off last weekend’s win at the RBC Challenge at Hilton Head, South Carolina.
No. 6 Dustin Johnson, No. 7 Patrick Reed, No. 9 Patrick Cantlay, No 10 Xander Schauffele, No. 11 Bryon DeChambeau and No. 13 Justin Rose will tee it up on Thursday in one of the best fields in tournament history.
It will different this week without the fans. There will be some fans who live on the homes that surround the course on their decks, or a porch and sitting outside their homes in a lawn chair. It will be minimal compared to the crowds in recent years.
“You have just some of the loudest and biggest and best crowds of any tournament that we see on the PGA Tour,” Spieth said. “It’s a bit of a shame, obviously. But the fact that we’re able to play I think is great. I think it’s great to still come back to this area and be able to play this golf course. Travelers has been one of the longest title sponsors of the PGA Tour events going back into the early ’50s, so it’s awesome to be back here and able to help support them. It helps support charities. So even though the fans aren’t here, the rest of it is about as good as it can get.”
Fans will be able to watch the tournament on Thursday and Friday afternoon on The Golf Channel and on CBS on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Additional coverage will be online on the PGA’s website.
Golfers are adjusting to playing without fans crowding onto the course.
“We’re starting to get used to it,” three-time tournament champion Bubba Watson said. “We understand what we’re going through. You know, for me it’s almost like we’re playing practice rounds with high level of competition.”
Spieth is one of several former Travelers champions in the field. Ranked No. 55 in the world, Spieth is looking for his first win since taking The (British) Open in 2017, one week after his big win in Cromwell.
Watson is among several former champions in the field, winning in 2018, 2015 and 2010. Two-time champion Phil Mickelson, 50, who committed to the tournament late last week. Mickelson has 44 career wins on the PGA Tour including back-to-back wins at the Travelers in 2001 and 2002.
Defending champion Chez Reavie and 2012 champion Marc Leishman are also in the field. Reavie had a record-setting week at TPC River Highlands in 2019. He built a tournament-record six-shot lead through three rounds and ended up winning by four shots for his second PGA Tour victory. Leishman overcame a six-shot deficit in the final round of the 2012 Travelers Championship, shooting a 62 for his first PGA Tour victory.
Hunter Mahan won the first Travelers Championship in 2007 on the second hole of a playoff with Jay Williamson while Fairfield native J.J. Henry won the Buick Championship here in Cromwell in 2006.
This story was first posted Tuesday, June 23, 2020