Jun
28
2010
Behind the Scenes at The Travelers: Sunday
By Stephanie Wei under Behind the Scenes

Apologies for the tardiness on this post, but I’ve been recovering from two fantastic weeks on the road (and still jetlagged). Thanks to the Travelers Championship for having me last week — the communications team running the tournament was very helpful and hospitable. It’s no wonder why the event is so beloved by the locals and the pros who come every year. And Padraig Harrington, who was only making his second appearance in Hartford, told me (and two others) on Sunday he’d “go out of his way to return.” Ditto.

Anyway, this space is for the random tidbits and quotes I picked up that went previously unused. Sometimes it happens to be some of the most interesting content, too. At least in my humble opinion. Keep reading, if you will.

*More from Paddy. He thought he needed to do “something special” in the last few holes because there were going to be “a number of guys getting it to 15, 16 [under par].” After making four straight birdies, he made a pesky bogey on the 16th, missed a seven-footer on 18 for birdie and ended up posting a six-under 64. Turns out it was good enough for T5.

*Some of you might have been wondering why Paddy played (no offense but it isn’t traditionally on his schedule), I know I was. His answer: “[I wanted] to get competitive practice and I suppose away from events like the US Open, where it is a grind. I wanted to get a bit more relaxed about my game. I’m certainly trying too hard, putting in too many hours and overdoing it a bit at the moment. It’s nice to come to a tournament where you feel very welcome and there are birdies to be made…just let myself enjoy the golf a bit more.”

*Paddy on the past three winners (prior to Bubba Watson, obviously) being English and/or Irish (Justin Rose at The Memorial, Lee Westwood at St. Judes, and Graeme McDowell at the US Open): “It’s very, very impressive. They’re going to be around for a long time — more and more are winning. What happens is when one guy sees another one of his mates win, it makes it a lot easier for him. There are lot of European players who have that belief now. ” And the US also might be screwed in the Ryder Cup this fall.

*Ricky Barnes is tied for the Tour lead in top-tens . After his round on Sunday, I actually asked him about his consistent play this year. He said, “I’m scoring better. I’m getting a lot more out of my game. I’m getting less down on myself out there and it’s showing.”

*And here’s a picture of me looking sweaty and awful speaking with him that was taken by Nick from the communications team (thanks, Nick!).

*TPC River Highlands is a great place for spectators, especially on the finishing four holes. The 15th is a driveable par 4, but there’s a chance of hooking it into the water that guards the green (just ask Justin Rose). The hills bordering the 15th green, 16th green/17th tee and 18th green were fantastic places to camp out, where lots of drama unfolded on Sunday.

*Someone I didn’t expect to see at The Travelers? Golf Digest‘s Jaime Diaz. When he walked in the media room on Sunday afternoon, I said to him with a surprised look, “I didn’t know you were going to be here?” He didn’t either. Another scribe asked him if he took a wrong turn. Always a treat to chat with him.

*Don’t expect Corey Pavin to pick himself to play in the Ryder Cup. “You know, it’s — being captain is pretty tough just to do that and not playing. I think Arnold was the last one to do that, and it was a different era, different time. But I wouldn’t have played. I’ll let the young guys do that.” I think if any 50+ player has a shot, it’d be Tom Watson.

*Bubba Watson was very endearing in his press conference (and lucky me I’ve attended the past two winners pressers, which I could make this week my third). I excerpted some of it in my last post, but it’s worth reading the whole thing. There were a lot of laughs, like here:

Q. Did it surprise you the different players in this playoff, the big hitters, different forms, styles, big hitter yourself?
BUBBA WATSON: You know what, it’s funny that starting the day there’s no way you thought us three — a guy who teed off an hour before me, us three being in the playoffs, you know.

But if you look at Corey, me and Corey are just alike, except he’s won 15 times and he’s Ryder Cup captain. But we’re just alike. He shapes the ball more than anybody, and I shape the ball more than anybody, just I’m younger, so I hit it a little bit farther than he does. That’s it. Love you, Corey.

No, it’s just — and Verplank is more just a steady, putts it really well, gonna get up-and-down, just going to be steady, right down the middle, just going to hit the greens, gonna hit the fairways. And Corey likes to shape the ball. That’s how I like to do it. We just do it at different club head speeds, I guess.

So yeah, it was three different players, but all great players and then me.

*Unlike some players, Bubba was extremely candid. Here’s something that wasn’t included in the transcript — a deleted scene, if you will. When asked how nervous he was when he knew he had a chance to win (I think it was then), he actually said, “You mean like on the 14th hole at the Bob Hope when you all (the media) made fun of me for laying up? I’d still lay up.” And we’d still make fun of you.

*Maybe it’s just me, but David Feherty looks like he’s lost a tremendous amount of weight. I barely recognized him. In this picture, he’s the guy whose back is turned. Doesn’t that guy look, I don’t know, skinny?

*Another reason why the Travelers puts on a great tournament: When we were all writing away, one of the guys from the communications team, who was toting a crate of four-five different kinds of beer, went around the room offering us a cold beverage of our choice. Afterward, they also put this at the front of the room…

*And finally, sorry to disappoint, but I’m not going to AT&T National this week. I didn’t realize it was so soon and didn’t apply for credentials. I’d love to go, but I’d probably have to call in a special favor. I’m not sure sure the people running the event — the Tiger Woods Foundation — would welcome me with open arms. Now I have no idea why…

*Update: Almost forgot. The Travelers gave us gifts every day! Talk about fantastic media appreciation. I missed whatever it was on Friday (and Thursday), but I’m pretty happy with the sweet laptop bag and the Travelers Tumbler full of useful goodies, like sunscreen, chapstick, gum and hand sanitizer.