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Travelers Championship continues to grow as one of PGA Tour's most popular stops

POSTED June 20, 2013
BY John Nestor
Twitter: @nestorjdn

Travelers Championship continues to grow as one of PGA Tour's most popular stops

CROMWELL - The field continues to boast some of the top names in golf, the practice facilty has been upgraded to rank among one of the best on tour and the crowds fill up TPC River Highlands year after year making the Travelers Championship one of the more popular stops on the PGA Tour.

The golf world turns its attention to Connecticut this week as the $6.1 million Travelers Championship returns to the 6,841-yard, par-70 layout at TPC River Highlands. The winner pockets just over one million bucks ($1.098) and will join a list of winners here that includes Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman, Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan.

The tournament has gained such a good reputation over the past few years that even the U.S. Open winner has shown up the last two years. If anyone would deserve a week off after the grind of the U.S. Open it would be the winner but Webb Simpson made the trip to Connecticut from San Francisco last year and Justin Rose has headed north from Philadelphia to take part in this year's event.

"It's a tournament I really enjoy," Rose said. "It's got a lot of history to it and I feel like there is a really nice vibe here. really loyal fans that come out and watch and I always have had a really, really good time here."

The Travelers took over the event in 2007 and things have really started to take off from there. The event had a hay-day in the past when Mickelson and Norman were regulars but schedule changes and a rotating door of sponsors left the event in limbo until the Travelers stepped in. Now the tournament is one of the premiere events on the Connecticut sports calender.

"It's a fun, great tournament and has had a renewal since the Travelers took over," said Mahan, who won the inaugural Travelers Championship in 2007. "It's been fun and exciting to see it grow and be a part of that."

The great field, this year Rickie Fowler, Mahan, Rose, Lee Westwood, Watson, Keegan Bradley are all here, has been a big part in the tournament's evolution, but so to has the Travelers' effort to make the event one that the entire family can enjoy. The Fan Zone has a little bit of everything from swing analysis to mini-golf and a climbing wall for the kids and post round concerts have been enormously popular.

The celebrity pro-am has also been a big draw as some of the top players on the PGA Tour get a round in with some stars both local and national.  Connecticut native and winner of NBC's The Voice Javier Colon, celebrity chef Ming Tsai, UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, ESPN anchor Chris Berman and Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Doug Flutie were among those who took part in Wednesday's event.

It all adds up to a more laid back atmosphere and a good time for players and fans alike, especially coming off the grind, both mentally and physically, of the U.S. Open.

"This is a great event and I like the course," Fowler said. "I've played well here and it's nice to come off one of our toughest majors and come to a place where you can possibly get back into the swing of things and play a course where there are some more birdies to be made than bogeys."

The tournament starts Thursday and ends Sunday at TPC River Highlands. Marc Leishman is the defending champion as the Aussie fired a final-round 62 and then waited from nearly two hours for the rest of the field to finish to pick up his first PGA Tour victory. The event has been known recently as a launching pad for players as Watson and Mahan also earned their first PGA Tour titles here and Watson went on to win The Masters in 2012.

"The win definitely gave me confidence to know I was good enough to win and to play good under the pump," Leishman said. "My swing held up under pressure here and that definitely gives you a boost in confidence."

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