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By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Moscow, Idaho, isn’t known as a place that’s produced plenty of PGA TOUR players, but the small town was the perfect setting for Chris Williams to develop his game. Williams, the world’s No. 1 amateur, is making his pro debut at this week’s Travelers Championship.
He grew up playing the University of Idaho Golf Course, and virtually had free reign of the place when the students departed for the summer. “We really didn't have a driving range,” said Williams, the rare elite player who uses a 10-finger grip. “So for me to practice, I had to go out and practice on the course, and it was great because no one was there. The town is 20,000, and that's with 10,000 students. So nobody plays the golf course. … It's like a ghost town in the summer, so I was able to play and practice on the course as much as I wanted.”
Williams compiled an impressive amateur resume at the University of Washington. He won the 2012 Western Amateur, arguably the second-strongest amateur event in the country, and was a quarterfinalist at the U.S. Amateur. He also won the 2011 Sahalee Players Championship and 2011 Pacific Coast Amateur. Williams represented the United States at the 2011 Walker Cup and 2012 World Amateur Team Championship, where he teamed with Justin Thomas and Steven Fox for the victory. Thomas is playing the Travelers Championship as an amateur.
Williams will be represented by Excel Sports Management and has signed with Nike. This is the second consecutive year that the world’s No. 1 amateur will make his pro debut at the Travelers Championship. Patrick Cantlay did so last year. He missed the cut and is playing this season on the Web.com Tour, where he won the Colombia Championship.
Williams also has received sponsor exemptions to the AT&T National, Reno-Tahoe Open and Wyndham Championship. PGA TOUR non-members can receive as many as seven sponsor exemptions per season.
Williams was exempt into last week’s U.S. Open by virtue of winning the Mark H. McCormack Medal as the world’s No. 1 amateur. He missed the cut by a shot.
“I missed the cut, but I had this to look forward to right around the corner,” he said. “It was a good week, but I was ready to move on and start my professional career, and it was nice to be able to hop on that 45-minute charter and come right up here.”
Nicolas Colsaerts has maintained a heavy U.S.-based schedule in 2013. (Redington/Getty Images)
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Nicolas Colsaerts is in his first season as a PGA TOUR member. This week’s Travelers Championship is one of the new stops on his schedule. He arrives at an unfamiliar venue after doing something that’s becoming a more regular occurrence: contending at a major.
Colsaerts finished 10th at the U.S. Open. He also was seventh at last year’s Open Championship and was in fourth place, three shots off the lead, through three rounds at last year’s U.S. Open before fading to 29th.
“Funny enough, like the more difficult the tournament is and the course is the more you're going to get the most out of your game,” Colsaerts said. “The further we were going into the week, the tougher the course was getting, and that really played to my advantage knowing that I was going to be in control of my ball and give myself the off chance here and there.
"Mentally‑wise, it's such a fight that you dig deep and one or two shots can be so important. It's always easy at the end of the week to look back and think I could have been a bit closer. I made a double-bogey and a triple-bogey on Saturday and that got me just a little bit too far to be really threatening over Sunday. But I thought I did really well to fight until the end and get a top-10 in a major tournament again.”
Colsaerts, who moved to No. 109 in the FedExCup, felt like last week’s success could translate to a good showing in his debut at TPC River Highlands.
“It's obviously a little wider than last week, so whoever played last week is going to feel pretty confident with the driver on the holes here,” Colsaerts, 30, said. “But, I think, if one of these courses were guys like me that keep it in play or hit driver most of the time, they'll probably have those shorter irons that turn into a bit of an advantage.”
The U.S. Open was Colsaerts’ third top-10 in 12 starts this season. He also tied for ninth at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship and finished eighth at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Check out the 10 best driveable par-4 holes (excluding majors) regularly played on the PGA TOUR, featuring some of the most exciting risk/reward challenges in golf.
One of those holes, the par-4 15th at TPC River Highlands, will be featured extensively again on our exclusive LIVE@ coverage.
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
The cheers have become more personalized. The attention has increased. Those are some of the benefits that have come from Marc Leishman's first PGA TOUR victory. He’s defending that first title at the Travelers Championship.
“You (start) playing with guys that have won big tournaments, and generally they're guys that I have grown up watching on TV that have been out here a long time,” Leishman, 29, said. “There is a little bit more attention. People know my name now. Like no one ever knew who I was. I'd get here and the crowd was like who is this bloke here? And now it's like, "Go, Leish" or "Go Marc." So I think that's cool. But I don't think it's anything out of the ordinary that I wouldn't have expected. It's good. Hopefully I can be a multiple winner soon.”
Leishman was six shots behind co-leaders Brian Davis and Roland Thatcher entering the final round of last year’s Travelers Championship. He shot 62 to capture his first PGA TOUR title in 96 starts and join Greg Norman as the only Australians to win at TPC River Highlands. Leishman is still waiting for that second victory, but he’s had a strong campaign in 2013, posting top-10s at both the Masters (T-4) and THE PLAYERS Championship (T-9).
He held the 18-hole lead at Augusta National before finishing four shots behind winner Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera. Leishman, who qualified for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in 2009, is No. 54 in this year’s FedExCup standings. He’s risen to 62nd in the Official World Golf Ranking after starting the year at 87th.
“My swing held up under pressure here, and at The Masters I was in contention all week, and it held up there,” said Leishman, the 2009 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year. “That definitely gave me confidence to know I was good enough to win and to play good under the pump.”
Our PGA TOUR Insiders fired up their weekly Google+ Hangout on Tuesday to recap the exciting U.S. Open finish at Merion Golf Club, including a look at what Justin Rose has been up to since becoming a major champion. They also previewed this week's Travelers Championship, where Rose will tee it up again and the world's top-ranked amateur Chris Williams, competes for the first time as a pro.
You can watch the Hangout here on the TOUR Report or on the PGA TOUR's Google+ page. For more Hangouts with PGA TOUR players, staff and media, click here.
Get ready for exclusive live video of two featured holes, the drivable par-4 15th and par-3 16th, as well as featured groups during the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.
By Michael Curet, Special to PGATOUR.COM
Frank Lickliter, Jay McLuen, David Branshaw and Fran Quinn earned qualifying spots into this week’s Travelers Championship in the Monday qualifier at Connecticut National Golf Club. However, it was two-time PGA TOUR winner Vaughn Taylor (2004 Reno-Tahoe Open; 2005 Reno-Tahoe Open) who grabbed most of the attention with an eagle on the 18th hole for a sizzling 63.
Taylor’s round was the best of the day, but he never needed to sign his scorecard because he learned he was being called up as the first alternate at the Travelers. Taylor promptly withdrew, leaving Lickliter and McLuen to share medalist honors after both shot 3-under 67s.
Lickliter, a two-time winner on the PGA TOUR (2001 Kemper Insurance Open; 2003 Chrysler Classic of Tucson), is making his first start on PGA TOUR in 2013. The 43-year-old Lickliter is making his first PGA TOUR start since the Frys.com Open last year and has not had a top 10 on TOUR since finishing second at the Funai Classic at Walt Disney World Resort in 2006.
McLuen, a 32-year-old native of Harvard, Ill., who now resides in Forsyth, Ga., makes his PGA TOUR debut this week and has yet to make a cut in six tries on the Web.com Tour. He and Branshaw shot 68 in the qualifier.
Branshaw, 42, a New York native now living in Tampa, Fla., missed the cut in his only start on the Web.com Tour in April at the Brasil Classic Presented by HSBC and has not played a PGA TOUR event since finishing 86th in the 2007 Children's Miracle Network Classic presented by Wal-Mart. During that same season when he had his PGA TOUR card, Branshaw tied for fifth place at the Viking Classic. His best PGA TOUR finish came at the B.C. Open (T4) in 2006.
Among the biggest surprises in the Monday qualifier was Quinn, a 48-year-old Worchester, Mass., native who owns four Web.com Tour victories and two International wins on the Asian Tour in a professional career that has spanned over 25 years.
A graduate of Northwestern, Quinn returned to the PGA TOUR for the first time since 1992 a year ago at Greenbrier, where he tied for 64th. He was a member of the PGA TOUR in 1992 and 2010.