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Boisterous crowds have co-starred in the Travelers Championship's signature moments. How will Sunday drama look and feel without them?

Chris Brodeur, The Hartford Courant on

Published in Golf

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Around 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 7, 2016, a historic Sunday at the Travelers Championship started to percolate. Jim Furyk's front-nine score of 27 had mobilized the morning galleries and clogged the entrance to TPC River Highlands with two miles of traffic.

Furyk, who tied the old PGA Tour record with a round of 59 in 2013, was loose as he made the turn. He recalls asking reporters, "Wow, you guys are out here kinda early, aren't you? Getting some fresh air? Is there something going on?"

Perhaps that breezy banter is proof that the pros perform the same in front of an audience of one or 100,000. But the groundswell of support that greeted Furyk's 12-under-par 58 underscores how this year's Travelers, shut off to spectators amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without its pulse.

"It'll be awkward," Furyk said. "I think we'll miss that interaction. The buzz. The excitement. (The Travelers) is an event that gets some big crowds. They're fun. They're boisterous. They make a lot of noise.

"It's exciting coming down the stretch in those events. That whole interaction, that whole electricity -- it'll be awkward not to have it. But any event is better than none."

You'd be forgiven for remembering Furyk as the winner that day; he vaulted 65 spots up the leaderboard to tie for fifth. Hours after the West Chester, Pa., native was received like a champion on the 18th green, Scotland's Russell Knox became the actual champion with a steely par save, drawing another raucous ovation.

 

A year later, Jordan Spieth said he could feel the ground rumbling beneath him after he holed out from a bunker to win in a playoff. It was a watershed moment for a tournament that's been thrilling local golf fans since 1952.

"It's a perfect setting for a Sunday finish, like my putt, (Spieth's) bunker shot -- the world, like, erupts," Knox said.

"The joy that comes from hitting a great shot and getting that roar, it's a fun part of our game," said Kevin Streelman, who set his own tour record with seven straight birdies to close out his win at the 2014 Travelers. "At the same time, there are more important things than the notoriety of sports events. I'm just excited that we can hopefully put a product out that will feed our fans' desire for some quality live golf to watch. ... It's almost extra lonely without sports."

The Action Network's Jason Sobel was among those who scrambled to chronicle Furyk's feat as it unfolded. Of the 18-20 tour events the former ESPN golf writer covers annually, he notes that the Travelers is "one that is buoyed by the crowd" more than others. The fans are "more engaged, more invested, which I think really makes a golf tournament," he said.

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