CROMWELL, Conn. – Five more young golfers have committed to playing in this year's Travelers Championship, which is gaining a reputation as a good tournament for new talent to break through on the PGA Tour.
Masters champion Bubba Watson (2010), Hunter Mahan (2007) and J.J. Henry (2006) are among the golfers who have earned their first Tour win at the Connecticut tournament.
Travelers announced Tuesday that the two top amateurs in the world, Patrick Cantlay and Patrick Rodgers, have been granted exemptions to play in the June tournament, along with Ryo Ishikawa, Kelly Kraft and Bryden Macpherson.
"We try to be strategic with our exemptions," tournament director Nathan Grube said. "We try to think, Where is the next Bubba Watson? Where is the next Phil Mickelson, the next Tiger Woods? They're out there. They are looking for starts, and building a relationship with them is something we take very, very seriously."
The tournament will be played June 21-24, the week after the U.S. Open.
Fredrik Jacboson earned his first Tour victory at Travelers last year. He said he doesn't know why it has been such a good tournament for producing first-time champions, but he thinks it might have something to do with its spot on the schedule.
"With the big scene that it is on a major and all the attention ... you're used to all the media and the hype," he said. "So it almost feels a little bit relaxing to go back to a regular PGA Tour event. So you come back from an extreme to normal, which makes normal feel even less. I think maybe that takes a little bit of pressure off."
Grube said the tournament's strategy of courting up-and-coming golfers has paid off as those golfers' careers have progressed and they have remained loyal to The Travelers.
Watson, Mahan, Henry and Jacobson already have committed to returning this year.
"These past champions, the fans take them very personal here," Grube said. "They remember, and these are their champions. This is our champion. So, when you have your champion go on and do something as special as Bubba did, people took that personal here. People were very excited, and he's excited about coming here. This is a special place for him."
Many top golfers traditionally take a break the week after a major, which also makes building relationships important for Grube.
He also has early commitments this year from other top names such as Anthony Kim, Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington and Webb Simpson.
But Grube said he knows many people will come to the tournament hoping to find tomorrow's stars, such as Cantlay, who set an amateur record by shooting a 60 during the first round of last year's Travelers.
"Patrick Rodgers, he's a freshman at Stanford, and the No. 2 amateur in the world, and he's got a great track record," Grube said. "He's a guy who could come out and do it. Ishikawa's the only player to shoot a 58 in a professional event, and he could do it.
"There's lots of great storylines with our exemptions that we are excited about."