At the 2018 Travelers Championship, which played out after the U.S. Open held at Shinnecock Hills, media and players both wondered how the 2019 Travelers would fare following a U.S. Open held in California. Would it take a huge hit in marquee names who might not find it desirable to travel across country to Hartford? It was a simple jog to leave Long Island and head to Cromwell. But to go from Pebble Beach to The Travelers? Well, most thought the tournament would suffer with a weak field.
Now with the 2019 Travelers in the books, guess what? The field was pretty damn good, with Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari, Patrick Reed, Patrick Cantlay and Jason Day leading the way. But they wouldn’t lead the tournament at the end. That was meant for Chez Reavie. Yes, the Chez Reavie who, at age 37, was a factor in the Pebble Beach U.S. Open with a tie for third and who only had one tour victory, that coming 11 years ago with the Canadian Open.
That one of the relative unknowns in the field would come out on top is always a chance at a tour event. Reavie made it a near certainty by taking a six-shot lead into Sunday, the result of a seven-under-par 63 in Round 3 Saturday at TPC River Highlands. Reavie didn’t intend to make it close on Sunday but when you haven’t won in 11 years and 250 events, there’s a reason for it. He hung around par all day on his round, allowing Keegan Bradley to get within one shot on the back nine, but a misfire on 17 helped Reavie play a relaxed 18th hole and win with a 69 for a final 17-under 263 and four-shot win over Bradley and Zack Sucher.
Bradley’s main move came on the back nine. He birdied 10, 11, 13, and 15 to get within a stroke of the lead; he just barely missed birdie putts on 12 and 14. But the clincher was the par-4 No. 17, with water down the right side. Reavie made a 14-foot birdie putt and Bradley three-putted for a double-bogey 6. Bradley, a New England native, was the people’s choice during his charge. “The crowd was just so behind me and so loud…it felt like a Ryder Cup to me,” he said. “I’ve dreamt of this ever since [I came] here at 10 years old. It lived up to the hype—it was awesome.”
But not as awesome as Reavie’s ultimate feeling after holing out on 18 and clinching his fist in victory.
“Yeah, it means everything,” he said. “I knew Keegan was going to come out firing today and ready to go. I’ve played a lot of golf with him. He’s a fantastic player. I just was fortunate enough to stay patient and make that big putt on 17 to give myself a little cushion on 18.”
Reavie said his mind was playing with his emotions as he had to wait out the long delay until his 2 p.m. tee time. “I think I was more nervous this morning when I was just sitting in the hotel room and the mind was wandering kind of going through the round, the different possibilities and stuff,” he said. “Once I got out here and started warming up on the range I was very comfortable. I was still nervous but not as nervous. Once we got playing, yeah, they kind of went away and it was just time to play golf.”
Reavie’s experience in the heat of battle at Pebble Beach carried over to this weekend to give him added support. “Being in the second-to-the-last group at the U.S. Open last week…definitely gave me a lot of confidence coming into this week, and in particular into today,” he said. “I played really well on Sunday at the U.S. Open, and I tried to treat this the same as I did then.”
The long haul to a second victory didn’t surprise him. “Golf is tough, right?” he responded. “There are a lot of great players on the PGA Tour. To win out here is an honor and something that shouldn’t be overlooked or under-appreciated.”
It was all the sweeter when Reavie, the obvious No. 2 crowd choice versus Bradley, had to deal with loudmouths in the crowd, but that seems to be the norm, unfortunately. Reavie dealt with idiots on 10. When Tommy Fleetwood and Kevin Tway played the par-3 11th, the same guy in the crowd yelled out phrases he intended to show how clever he was right after the shot. It was “I’m feeling Fleetwood fever,” and “Get in the hole you beautiful ball.” They were shouted right after the shot was struck. If only the lout knew how stupid it sounded.
Reavie said about 10: “Yeah, they were screaming at me. You know, that happens. You get it every week. It’s not just this week. People are just having fun. I don’t think they necessarily understand how important it is to us. Keegan was great. He told them to stop it and back down when I was trying to putt. It wasn’t malicious by any means. It was Sunday and just another test I had to go through today.
“I’ve always loved the layout since the first time I came here. Just the way the holes are shaped you can shape shots and think around the greens. It’s a great challenge and something I really enjoy. The people, except for the one or two knuckleheads today, have been great. Everyone at [The] Travelers, I mean, they just make it such a fun, special week for the players and their families. It’s a company that I like to support, and I feel privileged to come here and play in their tournament.”
That’s Chez Reavie, a tour winner once more, not a huge known quantity, but he made for a great story and proved that you don’t have to be a world top 10 to make a memorable moment and do something special.