After grueling U.S. Open, PGA Tour players are eager to enjoy another Travelers Championship birdiefest

CROMWELL, Conn. — Coming off a week when birdies were tougher to find than cheerful Dallas Mavericks fans on Monday night, you would think the best golfers on the PGA Tour would want nothing more than a week off. But even after Rory McIlroy withdrew from this week’s Travelers Championship on Monday, the field at TPC River Highlands is stacked.

This week’s Travelers Championship is the final Signature Event of the season, and the only two players currently ranked in the top 60 on the Official World Golf Ranking who are not here are McIlroy and the man who defeated him in Pinehurst last week, Bryson DeChambeau.

Money talks, and the winner of the PGA Tour’s only Northeast stop will get a $3.6 million check, but this event also earns glowing reviews from players for what it does outside the ropes, too.

On Tuesday, Xander Schauffele, who won this event in 2022 and the PGA Championship last month, said, “Coming to Travelers is awesome. They do such an amazing job for us, but also caddies and our support team.”

Schauffele, who has also earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, noted, “If you look at the range, it’s got the little umbrellas, we have a coffee stand, a lounging area, there’s the green trucks out there with the pizza. So, it’s such a relaxing week coming after the U.S. Open and I think all of us really appreciate that.”

And then there’s the course, which at 6,835-yard is one of the shortest on the PGA Tour. The par-70 layout has earned a reputation as a venue where seriously low scores are shot every year. Consider this: Last season on the PGA Tour, there were 216 rounds of 63 or better, and 19 of them (about 9 percent) were shot here. Last year, en route to winning by three shots, Keegan Bradley won with rounds of 62, 63, 64 and 68.

Some minor changes have been made to the course since Bradley won last year, but he does not anticipate they will significantly elevate scores, and to him, that’s good.

“So often now in golf and in tournaments, they’re making courses so difficult, and every week doesn’t have to be like that,” he said on Wednesday. “That’s what makes Travelers so fun to come play and so fun to watch, I think. Certainly, it’s going to be tougher than last year, I would say, with the rough being up and some of the changes, but I think it’s great to come here and know when you tee it up on the first hole you got to make birdies.”

Collin Morikawa played his third event as a professional at the 2019 Travelers Championship. Last year, he missed the cut after shooting 74-63.

“Even if it doesn’t rain, and it looks like there might be a little bit of rain, but even if it doesn’t rain these greens still act on the softer side,” Morikawa said. “I think when you see soft greens, sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it and that’s when we make a lot of birdies. Guys are able to go at pins a little bit more and get a little bit closer, so it is what it is.”

Scottie Scheffler, who has won two Signature Events this season (the Arnold Palmer Invitational and RBC Heritage), agrees. The world’s No. 1-ranked player also said that having Ted Scott, who caddied for all three of Bubba Watson’s wins here, on his bag could give him an edge.

“I lean pretty heavily on Ted week-to-week, and this is a golf course that he’s had a lot of success on,” Scheffler said. “So if there’s a difference of opinion, I’m probably going to lean towards him a little bit more than myself, just because I haven’t had the success on this golf course specifically.”

The only thing that might slow the circle-writing on players’ scorecards is the heat that has descended upon Connecticut and the rest of the Northeast. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-to-upper-90s on Thursday and Friday at TPC River Highlands, and near 90 over the weekend, but Scheffler doesn’t appear concerned.

“I’m from Texas, so it’s actually cold up here to me,” he said with a smile after finishing his Wednesday practice round when the thermometer was still showing temperatures in the 80s. ” I was a little chilly this morning when I got out there on the course.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek