Phil Mickelson, fresh off a record-setting PGA Championship win, commits to third straight Travelers

·2 min read

Phil Mickelson is returning to the Travelers Championship for a third straight year and this time he made it easy on the tournament.

Nathan Grube, the tournament director, and Andy Bessette, Travelers’ executive vice president, were at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte a month ago, doing what they spend much of their time doing: recruiting players.

A crucial part of their jobs is to visit other PGA Tour events, establishi relationships with players and pitch them on playing in Cromwell. Only this time Mickelson, a two-time Travelers champ, flipped the script on the recruiters.

“He started, ‘I love the tournament, I love Connecticut, I love the fans,’” Bessette said. “He said, ‘I’m going to find a way to get there this year.’ I turned to Nathan and said, ‘Wow, this is incredible.’”

Two weeks later, Mickelson, 50, won the PGA Championship and became golf’s oldest major winner.

“I’m like, ‘Forget it, this is over, he’s not coming this year,’” Bessette said, figuring the unexpected major title might complicate Mickelson’s schedule.

But Bessette received a call from Mickelson’s agent, Steve Loy, on Monday; the six-time major champ was still interested in playing at TPC River Highlands. By Tuesday, Mickelson had committed, and the tournament made it official on Thursday. The event will be played June 24-27 in front of roughly 10,000 fans per day.

“I think he firmly believes he can win here again,” Grube said. “And hey, who knows?”

Mickelson, who turns 51 next week, has won 45 times on tour, including back-to-back tournaments in Cromwell in 2001 and ‘02, when the event was called the Canon Greater Hartford Open. Mickelson will play the U.S. Open — the only major he’s yet to win — the week prior to Travelers at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

Grube remembers how excited Mickelson was in 2019 when he returned to Cromwell for the first time since 2003, even though he battled poor weather and missed the cut. He finished tied for 24th at the 2020 tournament, and was leading after two rounds.

“Andy and I saw him in the parking lot after he missed the cut [in 2019],” Grube said. “The look on his face, he literally said to us, ‘I am so sorry. I love this place, and I cannot believe I missed the cut.’ He was apologizing to us for how he played ... I can’t speak for him, but he said to us, even when he wasn’t coming, ‘Look, I love that golf course.’ There was always that endearment that he has for the place.”

Mickelson joins a field which includes Dustin Johnson, defending champ and top-ranked player in the world, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Marc Leishman, Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Tony Finau.

For ticket information and other tournament updates, visit TravelersChampionship.com.

Shawn McFarland can be reached at smcfarland@courant.com.

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