Travelers Championship has become launch point for PGA TOUR careers
June 18, 2014
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Patrick Rodgers signed with Nike (sound familiar?) before his pro debut this week. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
CROMWELL, Conn. -- Patrick Rodgers had his own "hello, world" moment Tuesday at TPC River Highlands.
The world's top-ranked amateur is making his first start as a professional at this week’s Travelers Championship and has signed an endorsement deal with Nike.
If it all sounds very familiar, it should. It seems appropriate, too, since the Stanford junior tied Tiger Woods’ school record of 11 college victories before taking his talents to the big stage.
The only difference of course is the venue. Woods turned pro in 1996 in Milwaukee. Rodgers is doing it here, a stone’s throw from the Connecticut state capital and at a tournament that in recent years has been somewhat of a hotbed for the game’s rising young stars.
In 2011, Patrick Cantlay, still an amateur from UCLA at the time, shot a course-record 60 in the second round for what was also the lowest score ever recorded by an amateur on the PGA TOUR.
Before Patrick Reed won three times in a 14-month span, he played the Travelers Championship, too. He is also in this year’s field.
In Rodgers’ case, he has actually played here before, missing the cut in 2012 after rounds of 72-73.
“The reason I'm turning professional is because I truly believe I have a great chance this week,” Rodgers said. “I have a lot of confidence that I can compete with the best players in the world. That's why I'm a professional this week. That's why I decided to leave Stanford. I feel like I'm ready.”
His resume would certainly seem to indicate as much. Rodgers was a two-time All-American at Stanford and winner of the Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus awards, given to the NCAA’s best player.
TPC River Highlands is a good place to make a pro debut. It’s birdie friendly and comes on the heels of the pressure-cooker that is the U.S. Open. Golf fans here are knowledgeable and friendly and the atmosphere is laid back.
“We've been treated so well,” Rodgers said. “They've just gone above and beyond to make me a spoiled player this week and make me feel like I'm just a regular out here on the PGA TOUR.”
He’s not alone, either.
Patrick Rodgers comments before Travelers
Rodgers’ Stanford teammate Cameron Wilson, who grew up an hour south in Rowayton, is also turning pro this week.
All he did for the Cardinal was become just the team’s third player and first since Woods to win the individual NCAA title.
“It's the first place I watched a TOUR event when I was seven or eight,” Wilson said. “I can remember Notah Begay winning that year.”
Speaking of NCAA titles, Bobby Wyatt helped Alabama to the national championship this season.
Guess where he’s playing this week?
“They do a wonderful job of being nice to young players coming out and making their professional debuts,” Wyatt said of the Travelers Championship. “I think everyone wants to play in the Travelers Championship and debut here.”
Especially this year.
Oliver Goss, who finished second to Matt Fitzpatrick at the U.S. Amateur and was the only amateur to make the cut at the Masters this year, is also making his debut here after a short stint at the University of Tennessee.
“I'm just looking to get my feet wet a little bit, just get a taste of what it's like out here,” Goss said. “I'm quite optimistic. I'm not going to put any kind of score in my head; I don't want to do that being my first event. But I really would like to do well in my debut.”
There’s a chance he just might, too. But he has company. A lot of it.
Oliver Goss comments before Travelers