No. 15 at TPC River Highlands teases players

CROMWELL, Conn. – Before there was a push to have par 4s that tempted players to take out driver, there was the 15th at TPC River Highlands. It’s been teasing players for more than 25 years.

Set up at about 297 yards, the 15th offers an elevated tee to a green guarded by water on the left and a big hill of knee-high grass on the right. At the top of that hill are homes, so out-of-bounds stakes are put down.

Whereas players in past years tended to lay up and try to cozy wedge shots close, this is the age of power and even more power. Rare is the guy who doesn’t take on the challenge, since most guys can cover 300 yards with driver or 3-wood.

All of which makes it an easy hole?

Well, it did yield a field average of 3.660 in Thursday’s opening round of the Travelers Championship. That ranked easiest, with Greg Owen making eagle (12-foot putt) and 69 others making birdie.

But for all those positives, the infrequent hiccups still make the hole a fun one to watch. That is, if you enjoy seeing good players struggle.

Thursday, Rich Barcelo sprayed two out-of-bounds right and made quintuple-bogey. That easily was the worst score, though 13 others did make bogey. One was Jerod Turner, whose drive came to rest halfway up the hill in thick vegetation.

It led to quite a search party that prompted perhaps the funniest line of the day: “Is it a Top Flite XL?”

Ah, no. That’s not a ball of choice for these Tour guys, so the diligent marshal was free to pocket the ball.

The adventures continued early in Round 2 when Hunter Mahan pushed it wide right. When he found his ball, he declared it unplayable. By the time he took his drop, Mahan was virtually in someone’s kitchen.

He made a bogey, but on the bright side, Mahan was in position to order a muffin to go.

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