After a U.S. Open that delivered thrilling shots down the stretch and crowned yet another first-time major winner in Matthew Fitzpatrick, the PGA TOUR heads to TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. for the Travelers Championship. The course will play as a short 6,841-yard par 70, where the greens will be a mix of bentgrass and poa annua. This is a full-field event, so there will be around 156 golfers teeing it up, with the top 65 and ties making the weekend.
Last year, the event was won by Harris English, who was coming off his best career finish in a major championship when he posted a solo third-place finish at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. English used that momentum to grab his second win of the season but had to outlast Kramer Hickok first — in a playoff that stretched eight holes. The tougher conditions were a bit of anomaly, as the 13-under par score was the highest a winner has posted at this event since 2017 (Jordan Spieth 2012). If the weather stays nice, don't be shocked if the course yields a few more lower scores in 2022.
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 so have big hitters, like Marc Leishman, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. 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 drivable 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 late in the event. From a statistical perspective, TPC River Highlands has some of the easiest to hit fairways on the PGA TOUR, with driving accuracy numbers hitting close to 70% for the field, which is about five to 10% higher than the normal PGA TOUR average. Things get a little tougher as players approach the green, but the greens aren’t typically that difficult to hit either.
Four of the past five winners gained 5.0 strokes or more on approach in the year of their victory. However, we have seen recent winners, like Watson (2018) and Spieth (2017), get hot around the greens, too — both gained over 3.0 strokes ATG in the year of their win. With smaller green structures and lots of scoring chances, targeting short-to-mid iron proximity stats and recent form around the greens is likely a good way to get started in research.
Finally, for daily fantasy golf purposes, it’s also worth noting this event has given us a few decent longshot winners. Johnson won in 2020 while going off around +2500 to +3000 in the betting odds, but Russell Knox (2016) and Chez Reavie (2019) both went off in the +5000 to +7000 range for the week of their wins. The venue has also tended to favor those with solid course history, as seven of the last eight winners had previously posted a finish of T31 (or better) finish at TPC River Highlands.
Patrick Cantlay ($10,200)
Cantlay had one of the most low-key top-15 finishes ever in a major last week. He started slowly and made the cut on the number but was able to grind his way up to a T14 finish with two rounds of par or better on the weekend. Cantlay has played TPC River Highlands seven times and famously shot a 60 in his debut at this event in 2021. He’s come to TPC River Highlands every year since 2018 and never finished worse than T15.
While surely disheartened by not being able to get in contention last week, Cantlay looks like a prime bounce-back candidate at what has been one of his best venues on the PGA TOUR. He ranks 23rd or better in all major strokes gained stats over the last 50 rounds and is the ideal type of all-around talent we want to target this week.
Aaron Wise ($8,800)
While he fell off on Sunday, Wise was up near the lead at the U.S. Open for the first 50 holes. The 2018 winner of the Byron Nelson has had a banner spring/early summer, as he also posted a runner-up finish at the Memorial and comes into this week’s event having made six cuts in a row — he has finished T27 or better in five of those six finishes.
This will be Wise’s third appearance at the Travelers, and while he’s never finished better than T46, his game has looked far more well-rounded in 2022 than it has in past seasons. He ranks seventh in SG: Approach stats over the last 50 rounds and was second last week in strokes gained around the greens (second only to eventual winner Matt Fitzpatrick). With top-five finishes at other shorter courses on the PGA TOUR, like El Chameleon (Mayakoba Classic) and the Port Royal Golf Course (Butterfield Bermuda Championship). Wise looks like a solid target once again for daily fantasy golf.
Cameron Davis ($7,500)
It was around this time last year that Davis broke through for his first career PGA TOUR win at the Detroit Rocket Mortgage Classic. He has struggled at times since then, but over his last four or five starts, he has shown far more consistency. He ranks 17th in SG: Approach stats over the last 24 rounds and has posted top-10 finishes in two of his last five starts.
Interestingly enough, Davis is one of the bigger hitters on the PGA TOUR but has grabbed his best results at shorter setups. He’s landed top-10 finishes at Waialae Country Club, Hilton Head and Colonial, all courses that correlate nicely in some fashion with the shorter TPC River Highlands. At just $7.5K in price, he makes for a solid value target this week and a good upside play to use with your higher priced studs.
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