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Travelers Championship Recap: Historic, Yes. Exciting, No

Len Hochberg

Len Hochberg

Hochberg covers golf for RotoWire. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years, covering the Washington Capitals. He co-authored a book on the history of hockey.

PGA tournaments immediately before and after a major normally suffer the consequences. The leader board of the Travelers Championship was Exhibit A: Brendan Steele led after the first round, Scott Langley after the second and Ryan Moore after the third. Heck, even Jim Nantz took the week off, leaving Ian Baker-Finch alongside Nick Faldo at CBS's 18th tower.

There still are big names in just about any PGA Tour event, just not as many as in the marquee destinations. By the time Sunday rolled around, some of them made their way into the mix. Sergio Garcia and K.J. Choi were the most prominent, and seemed poised to battle for the title.

But then a dark horse came up from the far outside to cross the finish line first. Kevin Streelman birdied the final seven holes at the TPC River Highlands to defeat Garcia and Choi by a stroke for his second career title.

Streelman broke through in the first half of last season, winning in Tampa, but had slumped badly since, missing four cuts in a row coming in. But he played the weekend with twin 64s, including a 28 on the back nine on Sunday. He finished at 15-under - almost half of that in the final seven holes - to beat Garcia and Choi by a stroke.

Stirring stuff, eh? Well, not really. If you're familiar with Streelman, watching him birdie seven holes in a row is about as exciting as watching him not birdie seven holes in a row. He almost makes Jason Dufner look dynamic. As the final groups finished, Streelman hung out nearby with his wife and 6-month-old girl. Even Baby Streelman looked as bored as the rest of us.

The most eye-opening moment for one viewer was hearing Baker-Finch read a promo for that night's "60 Minutes," and how there would be a report on drones. "Drones" does sound kind of nice in an Australian accent.

But we digress.

Even though this is likely a one-shot for Streelman - he had only one top-10 since missing the cut at last year's Travelers - winning any PGA tournament is an accomplishment. And the seven birdies in succession are the most ever for a winner to close a tournament, breaking the mark of Mike Souchak, who had six in a row in the 1956 St. Paul Open. Souchak shot 62 that day to beat Sam Snead by a stroke.

Now that sounds exciting.

MONDAY BACKSWING

Aaron Baddeley

Baddeley's game has never reached its potential, certainly for a golfer as good a putter as he is - he's first in strokes gained-putting on the PGA Tour this season. But for a short-term answer for your team, the Aussie certainly is trending in the right direction. He followed a T51 at Colonial with a T37 at the Memorial, a T23 at the U.S. Open and a solo fourth at the Travelers. That's his best showing since the 2011 Tour Championship.

Carl Pettersson

Two top-10s in a row for the rotund Swede. Pettersson added a T7 to a T3 two weeks ago in Memphis - of course, his poor play all season cost him entry into the tournament in between, the U.S. Open. They weren't exactly the two strongest fields, but you have to start somewhere, and Pettersson is now 70th in the point standings, which, if the regular season ended today, would qualify him for two of the four playoff tournaments.

Nick Watney

Watney has been among the more perplexing fades in recent years. From finishing first in the regular-season point standings in 2011, he fell to 49th in 2012 and 63rd in 2013, salvaged when he came alive in the playoffs to make the Tour Championship. But the slide continued this season, and Watney is now 128th in points - even after his best finish, tying for 11th at the Travelers. As is the case more often than not, one good week does not foreshadow another. Quite the opposite. So we'll wait and see on Watney.

Brandt Snedeker

Here's another guy underperforming, though for Snedeker it's been only this season; he's 88th in the point standings. Unlike Watney, Snedeker put together a second consecutive strong outing, adding a T11 to last week's T9 at the U.S. Open. Maybe the knee and back woes are finally behind him, and the gut feeling surely is more positive for him than Watney.

Bud Cauley

Cauley was a bit of sleeper name back around draft time, the guy you are so proud to pick up - if he does well. After a strong 2012 season, Cauley needed to head to the Web.com Tour to retain his card, which he did. But he started 2013-14 missing six of nine cuts. Since then in his six events, the 24-year-old has finished tied for 11th twice, including at River Highlands. He also has a T21 and, just as importantly, only one missed cut. At 149th in the point standings, Cauley still has some work to do, but he at least is showing signs of a late-season push to gain the top 125.

Patrick Rodgers

The former Stanford star and world's top-ranked amateur had a commendable pro debut, opening with a 66, standing tied for 16th at the midway point and finishing tied for 46th, 11 shots behind Streelman. Rodgers received a sponsor's exemption, as did his former Cardinal teammate, senior Cameron Wilson (73-75); Tennessee sophomore Oliver Goss (70-71); Alabama senior Bobby Wyatt (72-68); and Georgia senior Joey Garber (72-72). Of the five collegiate stars, only Rodgers made the cut.

Steve Marino

Marino appears to have just about reached the end of the line this season. Playing for the eighth time on a major medical extension, Marino opened with a 66 but faded to a tie for 51st. He's made four cuts in the eight starts, and now he has only one tournament left to secure $310,841 to keep his playing status. Short of that, he needs $137,626 just to maintain conditional status. Marino is not in the field for the upcoming Quicken Loans National. But when he does tee it up again, he better pick a course he loves or with a weak field (John Deere?).

Patrick Cantlay

Cantlay missed the cut in his second tournament following a back injury. He tied for 71st in his comeback debut a month ago at the Byron Nelson. Cantlay is in the field for the Quicken Loans, so we should learn at least a couple of things: How his game is progressing, and how his back withstands back-to-back tournaments, albeit covering a maximum of six rounds.

David Duval

The good news is, to shoot 15 strokes worse in the second round than the first, you probably had a pretty good Thursday. And Duval did, opening the Travelers with a 68. But in a Friday round that brought to mind Jose Canseco, Duval shot 41-42-83 to miss the cut by a dozen. Still, he'll be in the Open Championship next month.

Michelle Wie

Is there any women's fantasy golf? Maybe not, but as far as reality goes, it was a sweet, sweet Sunday for Wie, who at 24 has been in the public eye for more than a decade. Wie won the U.S. Women's Open for her first major championship and, in a wonderful display, after she sank a final putt, many of her competitors ran onto the 18th green to congratulate her with champagne.

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