There ain’t no rest for the wicked on the PGA Tour. With The Open Championship at Royal Portrush less than a month away, a lot of solid players are flying across the country for the Travelers Championship in Connecticut at TPC at River Highlands. We’ve got mountains of course form data here, since this course has hosted this event every year since 1984. Back in 2016, the event was in August during the Summer Olympics, but when it is between majors, it is usually played by a solid field.
We’ve got lots to consider this week once again. Odds are on the right-hand side for desktop viewers and down below the comment box for mobile viewers for this weekend’s festivities.
(for our good friend Brian Blessing’s thoughts, check out the YouTube video above)
Long Flight, Short Ball Flight
For those making the long trip from Pebble Beach to Cromwell, Connecticut, it is quite a travel itinerary. As far as the course itself, this is one of the shortest that the players will see this year. This track comes in under 6,850 yards, depending on pin placements, and is a par 70. It is a par 35 coming in and going out, but the lack of length does not mean that this is an easy track.
The average winning score here since 2012 has been 14-under. Bubba Watson rolled over the field by three shots last year to be the first multi-shot winner since 2009 when Kenny Perry set the aggregate record score of 258 and won at 22-under. We usually get some fun here because the finishing holes 15 through 18 are played around a big lake and present a lot of challenges.
Both 17 and 18 played above par last year and all four holes force the players into some tough decisions because a lot of shots fall in between clubs and fairway metals are preferred on the three par 4s. The par 4 15th is drivable at under 300 yards, but anything not hit down the middle has a great chance of finding a hazard.
A Fun Field
Even though this is the week after a major, a lot of top players are still on hand. Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Rickie Fowler are not, but let’s focus on those that will be in attendance. Brooks Koepka fell just short of a third straight US Open and he’s the clear favorite here. Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, and Paul Casey are lined from +1000 to +1800. Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood, and Bryson DeChambeau are all +2800 early in the week.
Three-time champ Bubba Watson isn’t in the best form, but he’s +3300 with three other golfers, including Tony Finau and Louis Oosthuizen. There are some intriguing mid-range shots in the 60/1 and 70/1 range, but all the focus this week will be on the shorter prices in the field as those guys look to smooth out the rough edges heading to Royal Portrush.
This is a full field event as well, unlike the majors and the recent Invitational tournaments. This is also a really popular event, as it stands as the second-most-attended event most years, trailing the Waste(d) Management Phoenix Open.
Some of the big names in this field have had a lot of success at TPC at River Highlands. Watson tops the list with his three wins. He won in 2010, 2015, and last year. He also has three other top-six finishes dating back to 2008. Brian Harman was sixth here last year and third in 2015. There does seem to be an advantage for left-handed players here. Mickelson was a two-time winner in back-to-back years in 2001 and 2002 and will play here for the first time in over a decade. Watson has a low price at +3300, but Harman, who has not been in good form at all this season, is +10000. He’ll be on my card this week.
This is a course for guys that manipulate the ball off the tee. Casey comes to mind. He’s finished second, fifth, 17th, and second in his last four starts in Connecticut. He’s going off at +1800, which is not a good price at all, but he has the right shot shape for this event. Kenny Perry was also notorious for hitting a draw and has the best all-time 72-hole score here. This is a short course, so bending around doglegs and obstructions can go a long way.
Ryan Moore hasn’t had much success here of late, but he does have four top-10 finishes since 2009. This is only the third time he’s played in five years with a 17th and a MC. Charley Hoffman has three top-10 finishes here since 2012 and was 15th last year. Hoffman and Moore are both +6600. Anirban Lahiri is +17500 with a ninth and a 17th the last two years.
As far as other course form guys, Russell Henley has been sixth and 11th here. Daniel Berger was 67th last year, but second and fifth the two years prior. He’s +7000, with Henley at +10000.
Story of the Stats
We’ve got some good course form cats, but let’s look at the numbers. If you have to Bend It Like Bubba to win here, it would sure seem to suggest that control off the tee matters. Casey in eighth in SG: Off The Tee, so there’s more ammo in his corner. Fleetwood is ninth. Maybe this is the week for him. Cantlay is 13th and Day is 14th. If you want a longer shot, 2014 winner Kevin Streelman is 24th in SG: OTT. Everything else is what has needed work.
Beau Hossler did a great job on the putting surface here last year and he’s sitting there at 110/1. He’s 15th in SG: Putting this season.
There are a lot of ways to go this week. As far as the low prices, they can all win anywhere, as we know, but Casey gets the nod at +1800. It isn’t the greatest of prices, but he’s been so good here and has been in good recent form, so the price is depressed a bit.
You’d have to be crazy not to take Bubba at +3300 here, even though he’s finished outside the top 30 in each of his last four events, including two missed cuts. Youngsters Viktor Hovland and Sungjae Im don’t have any course form data here, but after watching Hovland attack Pebble Beach and the start to Im’s career, those are two guys worthy of a look at 66/1 and 70/1, respectively. Finally, Brian Harman at 100/1 just has the shot shape and the handedness to play well here. He’s not in great form, but he’s made three straight cuts and has to feel confident coming back here.
Have some fun with this one, as the bombers are at something of a disadvantage, so some bigger prices are likely to be in contention.