By Brian Wacker
Winning on the PGA Tour often begets more winning. When Chez Reavie captured the RBC Canadian Open as a rookie in 2008, it would not have been a stretch to figure that his next victory was not far behind.
More than a decade later, Reavie was still waiting, with a slew of injuries and missed opportunities have gotten in the way.
Until Sunday at the Travelers Championship.
Reavie, who started the final round with a sizeable six-stroke lead, saw it whittled to one deep into the back nine at TPC River Highlands, then cruised to a four-stroke victory over Zack Sucher and Keegan Bradley for the second win of his career and first in nearly 11 years.
To put Reavie’s drought in perspective, he went 250 tournaments and 3,983 days without winning, the latter being the 11th-longest span between a maiden victory on tour and an encore. Consider that when he won in Canada he beat, among others, Billy Mayfair, Steve Marino, Anthony Kim and Glen Day—none of whom are still on tour.
“Had long years there in the middle,” Reavie said following his final-round one-over 69. “It was great because it gave me good perseverance and a good perspective of what life is and what golf is.”
He needed it. Or at least some patience, and a little good fortune.
In January 2014, the former U.S. Amateur Public Links champion underwent season-ending surgery on his left wrist to repair a torn sheath that holds the tendons in place. He was put in a long-arm cast for nearly four months, a short cast for another two and, despite being told by doctors that the procedure went great, was also informed there was only a 50-50 chance it was actually going to work.
Reavie returned to play in two events that fall but suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee that also required surgery.
“Those were probably the darkest days,” Reavie said of the wrist surgery. “Just the unknown and sitting at home, not being able to do anything and your mind wandering. OK, if it didn’t work, if I can’t play golf, what am I going to do?”
What he eventually did was play again, though success was a slow burn.
In 2015, Reavie missed the cut in 11 of 19 PGA Tour starts, including 10 of 11 starts early in the year, before he started to find any sort of consistency.
Then in September 2015, he won on the Web.com Tour to help catapult him back to the PGA Tour for the 2015-’16 season. Eventually, he began to show the talent he flashed his rookie year, too, racking up 13 top-10s over the next four seasons, changing his swing along the way to relieve the pressure he’d put on his wrist that led to his original surgery.
Among his best showings was a runner-up at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where Reavie, after leading most of the final round, birdied the final two holes of regulation to force a sudden-death playoff. He went on to lose to Gary Woodland following a poor chip shot and missed par putt on the first extra hole, but at the time it was his best finish on tour since 2011. The following week, he was a runner-up again, at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, finishing three strokes behind winner Ted Potter Jr.
This year, Reavie opened with a tie for third at the Sony Open in Hawaii and played well again in Phoenix, tying for fourth. He also played steadily at the Wells Fargo Championship and at the PGA Championship, finishing in the top 20 in both. Then at last week’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, he tied for third. It was his first career top-10 finish in a major.
“Being in the second-to-the-last group at the U.S. Open last week, that definitely gave me a lot of confidence coming into this week, and in particular today,” Reavie said Sunday from TPC River Highlands. “I played really well on Sunday at the U.S. Open, and I tried to treat this the same as I did then.”
At the Travelers, though, his best golf of the week came on Saturday. Trailing by six halfway through the third round, Reavie scorched the back nine at TPC River Highlands with a tournament-record-tying seven-under 28 en route to a sizzling 63. The dazzling finish, along with playing partner Zack Sucher’s implosion, gave Reavie his huge cushion.
He ended up needing it.
Halfway through Sunday’s final round, with Reavie having made just one birdie and one bogey over his first nine holes, Bradley closed in with four birdies over his first six holes on the back nine, trimming the deficit to one as they stood on the 16th tee. Fans were also vocal in their support for Bradley, a native New Englander, yelling for Reavie to three-putt, among other ill wishes.
Things turned on the par-4 17th, however, when Bradley drove into a fairway bunker and overcooked his approach shot. He tried to play a flop shot with his third, but with water long, he fluffed the shot and left himself 17 feet for a par. Three putts later, he walked off with a double bogey. Reavie, meanwhile, found the fairway off the tee and stuck his approach to 12 feet to set up one last birdie, and regain a four-stroke lead.
“Yeah, they were screaming at me,” Reavie said. “You get it every week. It’s not just this week.
“It was Sunday and just another test I had to go through today.”
One that was a long time in the making, just like that elusive second career victory.
As for what would Reavie have done had the surgery not worked out?
“Good question,” he said. “Haven’t figured that out yet.”
Won’t have to, either.