Following The Champion

Featured groups at Travelers a spectacle

Cromwell, CT- Opening day of a golf tournament is a curious event. Spectators only have the results of the prior weeks and fame resulting from the player’s name. Jordan Spieth gave fans at the 2017 Travelers Championship an unforgettable moment with his tournament winner from the greenside bunker and subsequent celebratory chest-bump with caddy Michael Greller. When the Dallas, Texas, native took his 12:50 tee time, the stands were filled and the gallery following him was the largest group; rivaled by only the following threesome of PGA stars Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, and Justin Thomas.

Spieth had already built a crowd for himself while doing putting drills at the practice facility. He ran through his slate of exercises, then snapped pictures and signed autographs with every fan looking for a word. He even met a couple who introduced their three week old baby, a son named Jordan. That crowed followed and Spieth put on a show.

While only looking average in his first two holes with pars, he turned on the jets with a birdie on the par three third hole. He then birdied the par three fifth hole. Then on the par five sixth hole, Spieth reminded everyone of the moment from one year ago. He landed in the hole’s left front greenside bunker. He and Greller lined up a shot and the reigning champion set off the loudest crowd reaction of the day with a 31′ sand eagle.

The gallery kept hoping for more magical moments and sure enough, Spieth provided them. He hit 12 of the 14 fairways and only missed three greens. “I would probably call it the third best (round) of the year, behind the first and last round at Augusta. I had a good one at Houston I remember. But yeah, I played it really smart today.”

As Spieth birdied 11, 13, and 14, a confidence settled on the crowd. But the most inviting, exciting, and dangerous hole on the course provided a potential stumbling block. On the 296 yard par four 15th hole, Spieth landed in the pond left of the plateau green, notching a one stroke penalty and bogeying the hole. He did rebound, though. He drove the green on the par-three 16th hole across a pond and left a 20′-10″ shot for birdie, which he drilled.

“I thought that was a really good example of where I may have made a mistake any other time of the year. Michael (Greller) did a great job of saying ‘Hey, 20 feet long is fantastic right now.’ We just stuck to the game plan and not tried to get the stroke back that we lost on 15.”

A par on 18 concluded a -7 round for Spieth, tying Zach Johnson for the lead after one round of play in Cromwell. Following a champion golfer for a day is a worthwhile time. They can demonstrate their talents, especially on a course they know well and the crowds show approval. Spieth noticed the approval for his strong play. “The golf course allows for a lot of amphitheater settings as you get to greens and that’s somewhat unusual. But really, really cool for us to see people just kind of having a good time sitting up on the hill. I felt great support here all the time.”

The Travelers Championship has three more days of play. Spieth should have plenty of fans to entertain if he keeps up his performance from Day one.

Chris is a proud Boston University Terrier ('16). While at BU, he studied political science, hosted a radio show, and covered the school's basketball team. Since graduation, he's attended the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, covered College Hockey's biggest events, and joined the Sports Talk Florida crew to cover notable northeastern sports happenings. You can find his fedora on press row at various hockey rinks or wandering PGA Courses