Whether you still call it the Greater Hartford Open or acknowledge it by its new name, the Buick Championship, this week's PGA Tour stop will feature the same weak field on the same solid course. Despite a move from late June to late August, this remains a third-tier event, although the TPC at River Highlands is one of the tour's more underrated venues, notable for a strong finish that begins with the drivable, par-4 15th.
There are weeks when karma comes into play when picking a winner, which best explains why I think Hank Kuehne will claim his first pro victory in Cromwell, Conn. At River Highlands, there is plenty of room for Kuehne to bomb his driver, if not always straight. He opened with rounds of 68-65 here last year before fading to a tie for 13th, then added a T-6 the following week in Boston, then went nine months (26 starts) without a top 10 before finishing tied for second at last month's John Deere Classic.
A fourth-place finish at the International suggests Kuehne is in the process of salvaging a poor season; he made just eight cuts in his first 23 starts of 2005. It's also worth noting that Hammerin' Hank's finest hour occurred in late August of 1998, when he won the U.S. Amateur. He seems to play his best golf at this time of the year, although anyone who ranks 202nd in driving accuracy, 186th in greens in regulation and 192nd in overall scoring might want to buy a new calendar.
John Hawkins is a senior writer for Golf World magazine