Chez Reavie shined as he clinched a long-sought victory at TPC at River Highlands in Connecticut.
Waiting at the threshold of the winner’s circle late on Sunday at the Travelers Championship, Paul Casey might have been viewed as one with a sense of destiny. He had, after all, been second twice and fifth in four previous starts at TPC River Highlands, so you could suggest he knew the way.
It would have been surreal had it been true. Only it wasn’t. Casey did have another strong finish, tying for fifth, but what prompted him to stand where he did is what put a bow on the latest edition of this brilliant small-town tournament with a big-time feel.
Casey was there to embrace the victor, Chez Reavie. His game and his career may be unheralded, Casey conceded, but the man’s character is not. “He’s brilliant,” said Casey. “He’s tough as nails.”
That shined through during a weekend performance when both Reavie’s rejuvenated ball-striking prowess (in 2018-19 he ranked a career-best 35th in birdie average) and mental toughness were center stage.
Having started Saturday’s third round just two off the lead, the 37-year-old Reavie seized control in a dominating fashion that runs contrary to his 5-foot-9, 160-pound stature. That is, he put a crushing headlock on it with eight birdies over his final 11 holes and with a 28 on the homeward nine, shot 7-under 63 to open a six-stroke lead over Keegan Bradley and Zack Sucher.
Now dominating just would never be used to describe Reavie. After all, it had been 258 tournaments and 11 years since his only PGA TOUR win, the RBC Canadian Open way back in his rookie campaign of 2008.
But dogged would be used, a point Casey—who was Reavie’s college teammate at Arizona State for one season—emphasized. “He’s always nipping at your heels, like a Jack Russell [terrier].”
For proof, turn to the key moment in Sunday’s final round. With Bradley having closed within one on the strength of four birdies early on the back nine, Reavie felt the pressure at the watery, par-4 17th. Which was okay with long-time caddie Justin York “because Chez is as mentally tough as anyone out here.”
Reavie was center-cut with his tee ball, then made birdie against Bradley’s double-bogey to seal his second PGA TOUR win and earn his playing competitor’s respect. “That’s the way he plays,” said Bradley. “He’s tough.”
This article first appeared in the PGA TOUR June-November 2019 issue, which can be read here.