Thursday in Cromwell can mean only one thing.
OK, one possibility is out.
's not playing in the 2010 Ryder Cup.
"That won't happen," the 50-year-old captain of the U.S. team said, laughing, after his 5-under-par 65 left him one shot off the lead at the
Everything else is in play. Thursday is the day when anything is possible, everything is plausible. Thursday is the day when somebody nobody picked to win $1,080,000 on Sunday plants himself like a dandelion on the leaderboard rose garden.
Thursday is the day the muni club pro from Vermont, who finished fourth in the Monday qualifier, who walked the last 15 miles to the course after his car broke down, who lost his putter and had to borrow one from Auntie Mabel, whose house burned and is living in a tent, whose wife is pregnant and carrying his bag, who still considers himself the luckiest guy in America because he got to tee off with John Daly, shoots a 64 and talks about his dream to win a
And nobody laughs.
Friday is for reality and, yes, Sunday is for champions. But Thursday? Thursday is for dreamers.
When the thunder silenced and the rains stopped on this Thursday, the first-round leaderboard that popped back up in the late-day sun at TPC River Highlands produced no "Tin Cup" hero.
But it did produce Mathew Goggin of Tasmania and Charlie Wi, born in Seoul and raised in L.A., among the four leaders at 6-under-par 64. And it did produce Bubba Watson and Corey Pavin in a group of seven at 65. After 18 holes, tied for the lead is Padraig Harrington, a three-time major winner, and Justin Rose, a major name, the kind of quality guys that when they win, everybody at the Travelers will nod their heads and go, "Good for us."
Still, dreams come in different forms and Goggin has never won on the PGA Tour. Neither has Wi. Neither has Watson. Pavin has won 15 times, of course, but only once since 1996 and now, befitting his age, he straddles the PGA and Champions tours as he looks to snare one more title on a Cromwell course he openly says he loves. A course where he has shot 62 and where he has finished second, but has never won.
Yes, dreams come in many shapes and lengths. Watson is tied with Dustin Johnson for longest hitter on the PGA Tour this year. Pavin, about 50 yards shorter, is the shortest hitter.
"I'm trying to do like Hunter Mahan," Watson joked. "Start making all the money on this course."
Mahan, who won the Travelers in 2007, has made $2.29 million of his $10.62 million — more than one-fifth of his career earnings — in Cromwell. Yes, there are possibilities.
won for the first time here. So did Charles Sifford, when the tournament was in Wethersfield. And that's where
earned his first victory on American soil.
"You have to give yourself chances," Wi said. "If you knock on the door enough times, I really believe if you believe in yourself, you will break through eventually."
Wi, 38, had a passion for baseball growing up; skiing, too. He loved the winter trips to Wyoming and Colorado. And there he was, on a golf scholarship at the University of Nevada, working as an instructor so he could ski for free. A seven-time winner on the Asian Tour, Wi has three second-place finishes on the PGA Tour but has never won.
He and Googin have each had four first-round leads.
"Of course [winning] is a goal," Wi said. "But it's Thursday and I've been in this position before." The last time he led after one round was in New Orleans last year but finished tied for second behind
. He didn't want to say too much. He didn't want to scream his dreams.
Goggin, 36, grew up in Hobart. His uncle was an Australian rules football player. Goggin loved cricket until his fear of getting hit in the face turned him to something really scary. Golf. He finished tied for second at the 2006 Western Open and the 2008 Memorial. He tied for fifth at the 2009 British Open. He won nearly $2 million in 2008 and has career earnings of nearly $7 million. He also has not won since the Nationwide Tour in 1999. He has missed the cut in 11 of 16 events in 2010.
"I've been playing poorly really until probably five or six weeks ago," Goggin said. "I went to a longer driver at the start of the year and that didn't help."
He went back to a shorter driver. After missing seven of eight cuts, he finished 37th at the St. Jude Classic two weeks ago. He believes he is turning it around, but he knew better than to scream his dreams on Thursday, too.
So maybe the big headline The Courant on Monday reads:
"Heaven for Tasmanian Devil."
Or, "Wi Are The World" or "Move Over
, This Is Wi Golf."
Or, with due respect to Hemingway, maybe "Old Man And The "C" Lands A Big One." As captain of the Ryder Cup, Pavin fields questions everywhere these days. And, yes, he reported Thursday: "I want [
] to be on the team. He's the best player in the world."
Pavin was seventh this year at Colonial, his favorite event. Travelers is his second favorite. He shot a Thursday 62 here in 2004. This time, he found 16 greens in regulation.
"This is a unique year for me," said Pavin, who has split his 14 events equally between the Champions and PGA tours. "If I wasn't Ryder Cup captain, I'd probably only be playing in two or three regular tour events."
This is Pavin's 18th appearance at Cromwell, dating from 1984. In 1991, he gave us big-time memories when he sank a 30-foot putt on the final hole to force a playoff with
"Exciting stuff," Pavin said. "It would have been more exciting if I won the playoff."