Venue: TPC River Highlands - Cromwell, Connecticut
Date: June 23rd – 26th
Purse: $8.3 million
Winner: Xander Schauffele
The 2022 Travelers Championship is in the books, as Xander Schauffele led for 54-holes to claim the victory. That seems pretty cut and dry, but the week was filled with storylines, and the win for Schauffele was anything but a walk in the park.
Let's start with the play on Friday, where Schauffele and Rory McIlroy were both cruising along as they made the turn to a tricky back nine at the TPC River Highlands. Schauffele was playing the group in front of McIlroy, and both were 13-under as McIlroy birdied the par-3 11th. That's when the wheels came off for McIlroys, and Schauffele suddenly was up four shots heading to the tee box on the 14th. Now, I've played the TPC River Highlands many times, so when McIlroy pulled a driver on the 12th, I literally said, "don't do it!" I know his thought process must have been he could reach the green with a driver and put the heat on Schauffele, but instead, he looked like me playing the 12th hole as he sailed his first shot left over the railroad tracks into the Connecticut River. Unfortunately, it didn't get better from there, as his next shot went right onto the hill, and he went on to record a quadruple-bogey dropping him to 9-under.
He bogeyed the reachable par-4 15th and was no longer a factor the rest of the weekend.
While McIlroy's wheels were coming off, another storyline was developing. Amateur Michael Thorbjornsen was starting to appear on leader boards. I remember seeing his name flash up late on Friday and thinking, who is that? When I found out he was an amateur, I figured that would be the only time I'd see his name for the rest of the weekend. Thorbjornsen had other plans, and he not only stayed around all weekend, he almost created one of the best underdog stories in golf in the last two decades. Thornbjornsen was on fire on Sunday and was actually only one shot off the lead after making birdie on the par-3 11th, capping off a five-hole stretch in which he was 5-under. The tricky back nine at the TPC River Highlands ended up getting him as he posted a couple of double-bogeys, but he ultimately finished fourth at 15-under, which leads me to believe we have not seen the last of Michael Thorbjornsen.
Schauffele, on the other hand, was the model of consistency and was the only golfer not to record a bogey through the first three rounds. Schauffelle kicked off his Travelers Championship with back-to-back bogey-free rounds of 7-under 63, which gave him a five-stroke margin, which ties Scottie Scheffler's Masters performance for the largest 36-hole lead of 2022 heading into the weekend, where he was paired with his best friend, Patrick Cantlay. Cantlay was brilliant on Saturday, where he closed the gap to one stroke heading into Sunday. Unfortunately for Cantlay, Sunday was not as kind to him, as he struggled early and often in the final round. Carding five bogeys, three birdies, and a par on his outward nine, the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year were unable to collect himself at the turn as he saw his deficit to Schauffele grow to four. Adding one bizarre mistake after another, Cantlay's final-round score eventually added up to a 6-over 76.
In the final round, I thought the pressure might be getting to Schauffele as he was 4-over through his first twelve holes, which left the door open to the potential Rookie of the Year, Sahith Theegala who just seemed to stick around the top of the leader board all week. In fact, Theegala jumped into the solo lead after a birdie on the par-4 17th, which I couldn't believe when the leader board changed because he looked out of sorts all round. The pressure may have been too much on the 18th as he made a poor decision leading to a double-bogey; otherwise, we would probably be talking about the brilliance of Theegala as the 2022 Travelers Champion and that poor Xander Schauffele missed another opportunity for his sixth win on the PGA Tour. The experience of Schauffele was the difference, as he was rock solid coming home, which allowed him to finish as the 2022 wire-to-wire Travelers Champion.