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Bubba back at cherished event after Open missed cut

(Reuters) - Masters champion Bubba Watson returns to one of his most treasured tournaments and venues for this week's Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut after missing the cut at the U.S. Open in Pinehurst five days ago.

Watson won the first of his six PGA Tour titles in a playoff for the 2010 Travelers Championship and has played in the event every year at the TPC River Highlands since tying for sixth in 2008.

"This is a week I always look forward to," the American world number three told reporters while preparing for Thursday's opening round. "I think I was the first one this year to signed up for the tournament.

"It was a dream come true to win here in 2010. My dad was about to pass away, so my dad got to see me win for the first time.

"At the time it could have been the only time (he won on the PGA Tour), but I happened to back it up a couple years later."

Watson's father, Gerry, had been battling lung cancer and died in October 2010, three months before his son landed a second PGA Tour victory at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Last week's U.S. Open was played in challenging, fast-running conditions on Pinehurst's No. 2 Course and Watson was delighted to be back at a venue where he has recorded four top-six finishes in the past six years.

"It's always fun coming back here," said the 35-year-old, who has landed the Masters title twice in the last three seasons. "Last week was very difficult for me. I took away that I need to be tougher. I need to be tougher mentally.

"I played good the second day, as good as I could play, and I still shot I think it was even, and there was other guys shooting under par every day. For me it was a tough week."

COMPTON ATTENTION

Watson and American world number five Matt Kuchar head the field this week at the TPC River Highlands but their compatriot, Erik Compton, will probably capture just as much attention after tying for second at the U.S. Open three days ago.

Compton, a double heart-transplant recipient, was competing in only his second major championship at Pinehurst and delivered a magical "feel-good" story as he closed with rounds of 67 and 72 to complete his highest finish on the PGA Tour.

"It doesn't feel like last week, it feels like it was a few hours ago," said the 34-year-old journeyman professional, who was diagnosed with an enlarged heart as a child and had his first transplant aged 12.

"It was a very exciting, solid four days of golf. It still hasn't been able to really hit me. I'm trying to get back to a lot of friends and family and a lot of congratulations, people who have supported me really around the globe.

"I'm right back here trying to play this week, and I don't know if I'm going to be as well prepared as I was last week for the Open, but I'm going to try my best. I look forward to the challenge."

In 2007, Compton suffered a heart attack and drove himself to hospital. Seven months later, he had his second transplant before going on to play his rookie season on the PGA Tour in 2012.

Ken Duke defends the Travelers Championship title he won last year at the TPC River Highlands when he edged out fellow American Chris Stroud on the second extra hole.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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