CROMWELL, Conn. — If you take a stroll around TPC River Highlands, you will notice that there is a distinct section of the course where most fans migrate — Nos. 15, 16 and 17.
This intimate part of the property houses a drivable par 4, a dangerous par 3 that requires a shot over water and a par 4 where water is in play on both the tee shot and approach.
It’s not an easy stretch of golf.
Ask Bubba Watson, who looked poised to win his fourth Travelers Championship title here last season before playing his last five holes 6 over. The two-time Masters champion played the 15th, 16th and 17th in 4 over.
A good tee shot on 15 can set the tone for the rest of the stretch, but pulling the right stick can be tricky.
“The front pins, I’ve always wanted to miss short. The back flags, actually long isn’t bad,” Charles Howell III said after his first round Thursday. “It’s also a bit of a function of the wind and how firm it gets in the front. We’ve seen a lot of balls end up hitting short and just springboard right over the back.”
During the first round, the cup was in the front and the hole measured just 278 yards. On Friday, it was even shorter, coming in at 271 yards, but the pin was tucked just four steps from the left edge of the green, bringing the water more into play.
Although it yielded 66 birdies Thursday, it also produced 16 bogeys and two double-bogeys. By 12:15 p.m. on Friday, with the hole on the left in the second round, 16 bogeys had already been made, along with four double-bogeys.
Front-left pin position on the 15th green at TPC River Highlands. (Photo by Riley Hamel/Golfweek)
Unlike Howell, Xander Schauffele plays the hole the same regardless of where the pin is.
“You pretty much try and hit to the front right portion in that little shaded area every time and play from there,” he said. “If you don’t hit it there then you have to figure it out.”
Coming down the stretch this weekend, No. 15 could either propel someone to a win or ruin their chances of hoisting a trophy.