PGA Tour Preview: Countdown to the Open Championship

Last Week

It was a tough week for the USGA and some of the top players in the game who missed the cut at the 118th U.S. Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. Some of the best players in the world that made the cut didn't fare much better, particularly Phil Mickelson, who flirted with a disqualification after begin subjected to a 2-stroke penalty that resulted in a 10 on the par 4 13th hole on Saturday and Jordan Spieth, who bogeyed his last two holes on Friday to miss the cut by a shot.

Phil decided to chase after his fifth shot and hit his ball as it appeared to be rolling down to the front of the green. After finally making an 8, the USGA informed him of the penalty and he went onto the next hole. In a post-round interview with FOX Sports' Curtis Strange, Mickelson explained that his move was intentional to keep from having to putt from the front of the green.

The USGA chose not to disqualify the five-time major champion, who lacks only the U.S. Open to achieve the career grand slam, even though later reports indicated he offered to withdraw during a conversation with USGA CEO Mike Davis. Mickelson ultimately finished in a tie for 48th after a closing one under par 69.

The real story of the week was about chasing history. No player had ever won the U.S. Open after getting a victory the prior week, but Dustin Johnson led by 4 shots at the midpoint in the championship. No one had ever shot better than a 63 in any round, but Tommy Fleetwood stood over a six-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole for a record-breaking 62.

It had been since Curtis Strange in 1989 that someone had captured consecutive U.S. Opens, but defending champion Brooks Koepka entered the final round in a tie for the lead. In the end, Johnson stumbled out of the blocks on Saturday and lost by 2 shots. Fleetwood's putt slid by on the low side to finish with a 63 and a second-place finish.

Koepka, with a putting display reminiscent of Retief Goosen at the same course in 2004, defended the title he won at Erin Hills in 2017 and picked up his third career win by a shot over the hard-charging Fleetwood.

For the second time in a row at an Open held at Shinnecock, the USGA again struggled with the course setup. They followed up a brutal array of pin placements and grass lengths on Saturday with a more benign setup on Sunday, sparking criticism from the golfing community. The U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock in 2026 and hopefully the USGA can figure something out in the ensuing eight years.

This Week

Travelers Championship
Cromwell, Connecticut
TPC River Highlands - Par 70
Defending Champion: Jordan Spieth - 12-under par 268


The tournament has been held for 66 years in Connecticut at, beginning at the Wethersfield Country Club in 1952 and then moving to its current location in 1984. From 1973 to 1988, during the era of celebrity endorsement, Sammy Davis, Jr.'s name was associated with the event. It's unusual for a player to run away and hide, with only two of the last 14 tournaments decided by more than a stroke and seven resulting in playoffs.

Multiple winners include Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Paul Azinger, Peter Jacobsen, Stewart Cink, and Bubba Watson. They are all major championship winners with the exception of Peter Jacobsen, who picked up the last of his seven PGA Tour wins at the age of 49. Last year, Jordan Spieth defeated red-hot Daniel Berger in a playoff less than a month before winning The Open Championship.

Although the tournament isn't necessarily a birdie-fest, the winning scores are generally around 15 under par. Historically, this is the second most attended tournament on the PGA Tour behind the Waste Management in Phoenix. It was my parents' favorite event and they frequently made the trip from Virginia Beach to attend.

2018 Field

* Twenty-one of the top 25 finishers from last year's tournament

* Seven of the top 10, 14 of the top 20, and 30 of the top 50 in FedEx Cup points.

* Five of the top 10, nine of the top 20, 22 of the top 50, and 43 of the top 100 in the World Golf ranking.

* Nineteen countries represented

* Eighteen colleges have three or more former players represented: Alabama (3), Arizona (3), Arizona State (4), Arkansas (4), Auburn (4), Clemson (4), Florida (3), Florida State (5), Georgia (5). Georgia Tech (5), Oklahoma State (3), South Carolina-Aiken (3), Texas (4), Texas A&M (4), UNLV (3), Vanderbilt (3), Virginia (3), Washington (3)

* Oldest player: Bob Estes (52)

* Youngest Player: Zecheng Dou (21)

* Major Champions (16): Rory McIlroy (4), Jordan Spieth (3), Padraig Harrington (3), Retief Goosen (2), Brooks Koepka (2), Bubba Watson (2), Zach Johnson (2), Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Graeme McDowell, Geoff Ogilvy, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink

* Total Tour Victories: 292 (Jim Furyk, 17)

* Total Major Victories: 17 (Rory McIlroy, 4)

What to Look For

For the week after a major championship, the Travelers boasts a very strong field, including U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka. He's joined by defending champion Jordan Spieth and No. 2 in the world Justin Thomas. Along with Spieth, Bubba Watson, Jason Day, and Rory McIlroy will be looking to bounce back from ugly missed cuts at Shinnecock.

A variety of styles can win at the Travelers, with big bombers and more finesse players all having past success. While we always look to the top of the FedEx Cup and Official World Golf Rankings, it's getting late in the season, with only 12 events left to earn FedEx Cup points. Twenty-five players of the 29 ranked between 111th and 139th in FedEx Cup points are in the field this week, showing the sense of urgency among those players to either pick up positions or at least hold onto their spot in the rankings to finish in the top 125 and get into the playoffs.

In addition, the top five players in the top 20 in FedEx Cup points not already exempt for the 2018 Open Championship following the Travelers will qualify for the tournament, so there is a tournament within a tournament. Beginning with next week's National, players will have additional chances to qualify for the Open Championship through the event's Qualifying series.

Kevin Krest is the author of the entertaining PK Frazier series of sports suspense novels and the co-host of the weekly "The Cold Hard Truth: On Sports" broadcast. His books can be found on

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