Rory McIlroy, world's top-ranked golfer, commits to Travelers Championship

Photo of Joe Morelli

The world's No. 1 ranked golfer became the first player to commit to play the Travelers Championship.

Rory McIlroy will be returning to play in the elevated PGA Tour event at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell June 22-25, the tournament announced Wednesday morning. This will be the fifth time McIlroy has appeared at the Travelers.

“We know we’re going to get a deep, star-studded player field, so hearing that Rory has committed is a great start and wonderful news for our tournament and our fans,” said Travelers Championship Tournament Director Nathan Grube in a statement. “Rory has enjoyed coming to Connecticut and he’s played well at TPC River Highlands. Late June might seem far off, but the excitement for this year’s tournament is already building.”

Andy Bessette, the executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Travelers, said he spoke with McIlroy at an October PGA Tour meeting in West Palm Beach, Florida. That’s where “we started dialogue. At that point, he wasn’t sure.”

Then Bessette said he got word in early January from McIlroy and his agent that he would be coming.

McIlroy is coming off a victory at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic last weekend. He has won on the PGA Tour 23 times and has four major championships to his credit. He has also been named the PGA Tour Player of the Year three times.

McIlroy's best finish at the Travelers Championship is a tie for 11th place in 2020. McIlroy has finished in the top 20 in all four of his previous appearances, including a tie for 19th last year.

A year ago to the day, McIlroy committed to the 2022 Travelers Championship. He has made a habit of committing early to the PGA Tour event, normally doing so during the winter months.

But for the 2020 tournament, McIlroy’s commitment was announced Aug. 28, 2019 — a full 10 months before the Travelers was scheduled to be played and three days after winning the FedExCup championship.

“Rory is one of those guys who is very aware of his schedule multiple years in advance. It’s amazing how much he pays attention to it,” Grube told Hearst Connecticut Media at the time of that commitment.

The Travelers Championship became an elevated, or designated, PGA Tour event for this season. The tour made that decision last October.

There are 17 designated events on the PGA Tour, including all four major championships, the Players Championship, the three FedEx Cup playoff events and next week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open among others. The purses are expected to be at least $20 million in all of the elevated or designated events.

Latst year, Travelers’ total purse was $8.3 million.

The tour has funded The Player Impact Program (PIP), which has bonus pool money to reward the top 20 players who get mentioned the most often through google searches, in articles, on TV telecasts and how the golfers interact on their respective social media platforms. It is the players on that list that are going to be the headliners at the designated events.

McIlory finished second in the PIP last year. Finishing No. 1 for the second straight year was Tiger Woods, who has never played the Travelers Championship and hardly played last year  —  but Woods still moves the needle on social media like no other golfer.

Woods was also at that October meeting and Bessette said he spoke with the 15-time major champion, who is still recuperating from his car accident in February of 2021, to the point where he played just in three of the four majors last year and just the PNC championship with son Charlie since the Open Championship last July.

"He said someting to the affect of, with his injuries and body, he can't play that many tournaments," Bessette said. "We've already seen it. He is playing less events than he ever. ... He was very complimentary of our tournament.”

The rest of the top 10 in the PIP, in order, were: Jordan Spieth, the 2017 Travelers winner, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, reigning Masters winner Scottie Scheffler, defending Travelers champion Xander Schauffele, reigning U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, Will Zalatoris and Tony Finau.

Bessette and Grube are going to fly out to California to spend a couple of days at the Genesis Invitational, to catch up with all of the golfers and see if the Travelers will fit into their schedules. Chances are, with $3.6 million going to the winner, many will be there in late June.

"Anyone who qualifies for our tournament probably will be here. I think it's very much akin to a world golf championship (WGC) event or a major. Everyone will want to win the fir]st prize,” Bessette said. “Nathan and I have always dreamed about being a bigger tournament where all of the players want to come.”

Said Grube: "It's going to be special this year and the future can potentially stay special."

Grube said for the first time during his tenure as tournament director — he is now in his 19th year — the corporate boxes that surround the 17th green and the boxes near the 15th green/18th tee area are already sold out for the week of the tournament. He also noted that new corporate boxes being added along the 18th fairway are close to being sold out as well.

General admission tournament tickets go on sale in April.; @nhrJoeMorelli