CROMWELL – Tyler McCumber had just finished a relaxing trip to Pisgah Forest near Asheville, North Carolina, taking time to himself to camp and bike along the Appalachian Trail. McCumber returned home on Tuesday, not expecting to be needed in Cromwell for the start of the Travelers Championship two days later.
But McCumber’s phone rang on Wednesday afternoon after Webb Simpson backed out of the Travelers due to a family member testing positive for COVID-19. McCumber was suddenly needed in Cromwell to replace the No. 5 golfer in the world.
“Yeah, I found out yesterday afternoon that sort of things working out a certain way would possibly get me in, and I think I got the confirmation about 3:00p.m. on that, and the last flight out of Jacksonville was 5:30, so had to pack in about 25 minutes and head to the airport.”
In a span of 48 hours, McCumber went from the solitude of the Appalachian Trail to the hype of one of the best player fields the Travelers has ever seen.
“I got back Tuesday, thinking that I had no chance of getting into the tournament, and then got the call from the Tour about the option of possibly getting up here,” McCumber said.
McCumber made the most of his sudden trip to TPC River Highlands, showing no sign of jet lag by picking up a birdie on each of his first three holes, including his second shot of the day, which landed just six feet from the cup on the first hole, and finished 5-under par on the day.
“Felt really good,” McCumber said. “My game felt really good. I've been working hard on it and sort of trending. Obviously getting back into some competition and competitive mode after some time off, little adjustments here and there, but it definitely clicked today, and I felt like this round was sort of coming. Getting off to a good start is always good.”
McCumber ran into trouble on 12, finishing the hole with a double bogey, but got right back on track with an eagle on 13, buoyed by a 258-yard approach that landed just two feet from the cup, continuing a surprising performance after touching down in Connecticut less than 24 hours before.
“I'm going to take a good nap this afternoon, that's for sure,” McCumber said. “We got in late last night, and obviously just emotions, sort of an array of high, low, going from not being in to maybe in and then sort of that not knowing and then knowing and then scrambling to get to the airport. Fortunately, at home I have a good support system and a lot of friends and family that were willing to help out and my brother-in-law McCarthy, he drove me to the airport last minute. I called him, I'm like, hey, man, I think I'm going to get into the tournament, can you find me a flight and maybe give me a ride to the airport and help me pack? He was Superman for me.”
McCumber took on the superhero status on Thursday, replacing one of the field’s best golfers at the last minute, and finishing his round as one of the best in the field through round one.