After a thrilling U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship is next up on the PGA TOUR docket. The players will travel across the country from San Diego to TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. The course will play as a short 6,841-yard par 70 and the greens will be a mix of bentgrass and poa annua. This is a full-field event and so there will be around 156 golfers teeing it up, with the top 65 and ties making the weekend. Last year, the event was one of the first in a handful of events that occurred after the COVID restart and was won by Dustin Johnson, who finished at 19-under, one shot ahead of Kevin Streelman.
The Travelers is a fun event with a course that caters to scoring and doesn’t play favorites with any one type of style or player. We’ve seen players who knock the ball well under 300 yards off the tee do well here — Jim Furyk shot a 58 at this event in 2016 — but have also had big hitters like Marc Leishman, Bubba Watson and the aforementioned Johnson find success here as well. TPC River Highlands is technically a Pete Dye venue, although it’s more of a Dye redesign as he helped restructure the course back in 1982. Still, the shorter par 70 plays like many of his classic venues in that things typically get harder as you approach the pin.
The course is set in a classic parkland setting but does have some man-made water hazards that come into play on five of the holes. Water is also prominent down the stretch, mainly on the driveable par 4 No. 15 and the shorter par 3 No. 16. Despite those holes being shorter and offering birdie chances, they have also been the site of numerous blowups down the stretch. From a statistical perspective, TPC River Highlands has some of the easiest to hit fairways on Tour, with driving accuracy numbers here hitting close to 70% for the field, which is about 5-10% higher than the normal Tour average. Things get a little tougher as players approach the green, but the greens here aren’t typically that difficult to hit either.
Where TPC River Highlands does offer some difficulty is around the greens as scrambling here does tend to be tougher than usual, with scrambling percentages typically being 2-4% below Tour average. Still, players don’t necessarily need to be expert scramblers to win here as they won’t typically be missing a ton of greens if their irons are firing. Four of the past five winners gained 5.0 strokes or more on approach in the year of their victory. We have seen recent winners like Bubba Watson (2018) and Jordan Spieth (2017) get hot around the greens here too — both gained over 3.0 strokes ATG in the year of their win — so if you’re not targeting a player with top of the line Approach stats, make sure they can at least scramble a bit or have some kind of solid Dye course history to fall back on.
Johnson won here last season while going off around +2500 to +3000 in the betting odds, and this event has gifted us a few big winners over time with Russell Knox (2016) and Chez Reavie (2019) going off in the +5000 to +7000 range for betting odds. Still, this event has typically catered to players with great course history, so don’t be afraid to target the big names who have some experience playing the venue.
Bryson DeChambeau (+1200 to Win, $11,100 on DraftKings)
Despite this course catering less to bombers than Torrey Pines, Bryson has shown some real affinity for TPC River Highlands. The 2020 U.S. Open winner has finished inside the top 10 at this venue in each of the past three seasons and has gained 3.0 strokes or more putting in each of those appearances. Bryson’s best weapon is obviously his driver, but he’s started to figure out how to be more consistent around these shorter venues recently and came close to grabbing his first win at THE PLAYERS just a couple of months ago on the claustrophobic TPC Sawgrass — another Pete Dye venue. Bryson ranks eighth in Strokes Gained: Putting on Poa/Bentgrass over the past 50 rounds and should certainly be motivated for a big week after falling apart on the back nine at Torrey Pines on Sunday after being in contention for his second straight U.S. Open trophy. His odds to win here are actually quite fair considering his win rate (three wins in 22 PGA TOUR starts) since the COVID-19 restart occurred.
Paul Casey (+1200 to Win, $9,900 on DraftKings)
Casey sets up as a great course history play. The Englishman has played in this event in each of the past five seasons and leads the field in Strokes Gained: Total over that span. He lost in a playoff here to Bubba Watson in 2015 and also finished T2 here (again to Bubba Watson) in 2018. Casey clearly loves the layout and sightlines here as he’s gained over 5.0 strokes ball striking at TPC River Highlands in five of his six career appearances at this event. His win rate doesn’t stack up as well to the other young players in the game, but he’s been so prolific at this venue that his outright odds don’t seem too out of line. His recent form is also fantastic as his last two PGA TOUR starts have both yielded top-10 finishes at majors, including a T7 last week at Torrey Pines where he shot seven-under on the weekend and ranked 15th in putts per GIR.
Russell Henley (+6000 to Win, $8,300 on DraftKings)
Henley is coming off an exciting U.S. Open which saw him enter Sunday tied for the lead and in the second-to-last grouping. The American was firing with his irons in that event and ended the week T8 in Greens in Regulation percentage. He also has one of the more underrated course histories at TPC River Highlands having finished T11 (2016) and T6 (2018) here over the past five seasons. In both those finishes, Henley was in contention late down the stretch and his profile definitely fits this course well. He ranks third in SG: Approach stats over the past 50 rounds and while he can be streaky on the greens, Henley’s definitely capable of getting hot enough with the putter to grab a big week here, especially given what he’s capable of with his short irons. His betting number is more than fair given the setup for the week, which has always been one where shorter hitters like Henley have been able to compete.
Aaron Wise (+8000 to Win, $7,400 on DraftKings)
Wise looks discounted in the odds here. The 2018 winner of the Byron Nelson has been having a very solid bounce-back year and comes in with momentum after a solid T9 against a very tough field at The Memorial. He missed out on U.S. Open qualifying but will now have the advantage of a week of rest vs. a lot of the field who are coming over from Torrey Pines. He’s gained 3.0 strokes or more on approach in each of his past two starts and has also been positive in strokes gained on and around the greens of late. Wise only finished T46 at this event last season (2020) but was in horrible form at the time so just the fact he made the cut that week should be looked at as a positive. All his metrics are on the rise at this point and he offers himself up as a great mid-range to higher-odds target in betting and for DFS.
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