The short par-4 15th sees everything from eagles to big numbers during the Travelers. (Rogash/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
At just 296 yards, the 15th hole at TPC River Highlands beckons the bold among Travelers Championship participants with visions of eagles.
Beware, though. The shortest par-4 among the PGA TOUR’s annual stops dishes out penalty as easily as it does reward.
“Even though it’s a short hole and it looks easy on TV and everything, it's still tough yardage for me,” said Bubba Watson, whose breakthrough PGA TOUR victory came at the 2010 Travelers.
Consider that in that victory and two subsequent visits to River Highlands, Watson has notched eight birdies in 12 passes. Only one, though, came in last year’s edition – when he finished a stroke behind Marc Leishman.
Nine eagles were recorded at No.15 last year, trailing only only No. 7 at Olympic Club (U.S. Open) and No. 15 at TPC Summerlin (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open). There were also 151 birdies – along with 65 bogeys, 15 double bogeys and four triples.
“It’s a hole where you can make a 5, but you can make a 2 as well,” Webb Simpson said. “It’s one of the better drivable par 4s on TOUR, for sure.”
One doesn’t even necessarily need a driver to reach the multi-leveled putting surface. If the hole is playing downwind, a 3-wood or even hybrid can be plenty for long hitters. Do so at your own peril, though.
A large pond awaits drives that fall short or too far left, and four bunkers also lie in wait.
“My driver's too much,” Watson said. “I’ve hit it in the water a few times because I bailed out on my 4‑wood. So for me, I'm just trying to get it over the bunkers and just short of the green and somehow get up‑and‑down for birdie.”
Golfers do have the option of laying up with an iron, but the wedge shot into the green isn’t exactly a sure thing, either.
“I don't really feel like it's that easy of a layup,” said 2011 champion Freddie Jacobson. “The way the green is with the little tiers, it’s a very tough wedge shot.”
Tiger Woods won the 2012 AT&T National by two shots over Bo Van Pelt. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods will be unable to defend his title at next week’s AT&T National and will be out until the British Open due to a left elbow strain.
"I was examined after I returned home from the U.S. Open, and the doctors determined I have a left elbow strain," Woods said on his website.
Woods injured the elbow en route to winning THE PLAYERS Championship, his first victory at TPC Sawgrass since 2001 and his fifth of the season. Though Woods wasn't specific about when he injured the elbow, it's possible he could have in the final round there when hitting from the rough on the 14th hole, where he took a drop after hitting into the water off the tee.
In his next start, he had his worst career finish in the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance, tying for 65th. He shot 79 in the third round at Muirfield, also his highest career score in the event.
"I have been advised to take a few weeks off, rest and undergo treatment,” Woods said. “I'll be ready to go for the British Open, and I'm looking forward to playing at Muirfield.
“I would like to extend my regrets to AT&T, our sponsors and the fans in the Washington, D.C., area.The AT&T National means a lot to me and my foundation. It's especially difficult not defending at my own tournament. It's going to be a great event, and I look forward to being there to provide my support."
Woods aggravated the injury when hitting out of the rough in the opening round at last week’s U.S. Open at Merion, where he finished at 13-over 293 for his highest score in 16 professional starts in the tournament.
Hunter Mahan has had tremendous success at the Travelers Championship. (Condon/PGA TOUR)
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider
Once upon a time, Hunter Mahan was your lock for the Travelers Championship. From 2006-2009, he won once, finished second twice and added a T4. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that he's the all-time money leader of the event with over $2.4 million.
If he's dropped on your short list at TPC River Highlands, it's with good reason since he has failed to add a top 10 since. However, he capped a T11 last year with a career-low 61. He's also coming off a share of fourth place at the U.S. Open. That's good for his best finish in a stroke-play event all year. That's also good enough for me. Mahan is my play.
This is also a fine site for 2010 champ Bubba Watson. He's third on the tournament's money list with five cuts made. His record includes a T6 in 2008 and a co-runner-up last year. If Mahan weren't available to me, I'd burn the lefty right now.
Stewart Cink (fourth in all-time money) and Ryan Moore (fifth) are solid complements in two-man formats. Moore will rise into focus again later.
If you wanted to swing for the fences, pencil in John Rollins, who sits sixth in my Power Rankings. He's in tip-top form and has a pair of top fives at the Travelers Championship the last two years.
Last week: Lee Westwood; T15; $132,453.00
Overall Record: 23-for-25
Top 5s: 6
Top 10s: 11
Top 25s: 16
Missed Cuts: 2
TPC River Highlands is prepped to test players' shotmaking skills. (Rogash/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor
Positioned as his event is following the U.S. Open, Tom DeGrandi is bound to hear the question from at least a few casual fans strolling his course.
“Why can’t you guys do that every week?”
Translation: Why isn’t every PGA TOUR stop set up to be the ultimate test of the world’s best golfers?
Given the orders, DeGrandi certainly has the ability to narrow the fairways for the Travelers Championship and put greens on the edge of the speed limit. He has plenty of lush rough to work with this year.
But in the end, that’s not the challenge the TPC River Highlands was meant to produce.
“We’re not the U.S. Open,” said DeGrandi, now in his 20th year as director of golf course maintenance at the layout that overlooks the Connecticut River.
River Highlands, rather, was meant to showcase players’ shotmaking ability as opposed to their survival skills. All but one of the past 15 editions have produced a winning score of at least 14-under par, which happens to be Marc Leishman’s winning score last year.
“This will be like a finely mowed lawn compared to what they saw at Merion,” said DeGrandi.
Until the remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea dropped buckets of rain all along the East Coast two weekends ago, preparations were fairly stress-free for DeGrandi and his staff. The course took nearly 9 1/4 inches of rain in an eight-day span that ended last Thursday.
Though damage from all the rain was minimal, the soft ground forced workers to cool their heels for a few days.
“After that much rain, it’s sort of ‘Do No Harm,’ ” DeGrandi said. “You could say, ‘Let’s cut’ and now you’ve got tire marks in your turf. There’s a lot more downside than upside, when you could just wait a day and have a much better outcome.”
Crews got caught up just in time for players’ arrival on Monday. And though the bentgrass greens might not be quite as fast to start as officials would like, the tradeoff is that the 4-inch rough will be U.S. Open quality.
“Get that moisture in there with the fertilizer, and the rough gets crazy thick,” DeGrandi said.
River Highlands also will feature a new look at the par-4 seventh hole, which had been fairly nondescript in past years. Eleven new trees were planted along the fairway’s left side, with new mounding also boosting the challenge.
“I think it’s going to toughen up that hole by maybe a half-shot,” DeGrandi said.
Even so, it isn’t meant to be compared to the U.S. Open. DeGrandi suggested it wasn’t much different than what anyone might want at their own place of work.
“If you take the most stressful week in your job and have that be every week,” he said, “you’d hate your job. Those weeks mentally wear them out. It’s exciting to watch, but you can’t do that every week.”
The PGA TOUR travels to Cromwell, Conn. this week for the Travelers Championship. Our panel of experts has made its selections and now it's time for you to make yours. Leave your picks in the comments section below and don't forget to sign up to play PGATOUR.COM's fantasy golf to compete with our panel in the PGATOUR.COM EXPERTS league.