The PGA Tour heads north this week for the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut. The course will play as a par 70, measuring 6,841 yards, and the putting will take place on poa annua greens.
Editor’s Note: the following golfers have withdrawn from the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship:
- Cameron Champ
- Graeme McDowell
- Brooks Koepka
- Webb Simpson
- Chase Koepka
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The tournament will again host a solid field with the top five golfers making their way to Cromwell, and along with them comes another sizable field of over 150 golfers. The young stars like Sungjae Im, Viktor Hovland, Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa will also be in attendance, all making their second start here. Patrick Cantlay will play in his first tournament post-shutdown, making Adam Scott, Tommy Fleetwood, and of course Tiger Woods the only players inside the top-15 who haven’t played on TOUR since March. Past winners like Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman and defending champion Chez Reavie will all compete on another Pete Dye design for a second week in a row.
TPC River Highlands is another short ball-striking course and was the second shortest in total distance to only Pebble Beach in 2019. There are seven par 4s measuring between 400 to 450 yards, a par 4 under 300 yards and long par 3s with two (no. 5 and no. 8) that pace off at over 200 yards. Last season, the course yielded the 14th most birdies but also the 10th most bogeys on TOUR, fitting in line with the risk/reward dynamic synonymous with Pete Dye. TPC River Highlands will have bigger greens than last week, which should translate into a little less chipping and a few more putts from longer distances. The average greens hit in regulation here is 67 percent, higher than the TOUR average. Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green should be the primary focus again, but not by as large of a margin over the other strokes gained categories like the last two weeks. Players who do well in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, with a slight lean towards accuracy, should also be a key statistic to consider when choosing golfers this week.
This course has recorded thick rough since 2012, which may be a reason why we see driving accuracy rate out higher here (66.7 percent) over the TOUR average (60.7). The players have historically chosen accuracy over distance, especially here with it being a shorter course. Still, the longer hitters won’t shy away from using their power as an advantage, which has proven to be the case with the two-time winner Bubba Watson, Bryson DeChambeau and Jason Day, who all rank inside the top 22 in driving distance over the last 50 rounds and inside the top-10 in Strokes Gained: Total here since 2015.
Other than Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green and Off-the-Tee, we should also be focusing on golfers who rate out well in par 4s efficiency between 400 to 450 yards as well as those who’ve historically done well on poa annua greens.
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Jon Rahm ($10,200)
The Dye designs around the greens may be getting to Rahm a little more than he’s used to, as he ranks 84th in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green over his last two tournaments. We know about his emotional volatility when shots don’t go his way, and maybe he played right into the diabolical nature of Dye’s design last week. Still, Rahm’s game off the tee has been stellar, ranking third in the field over his previous eight rounds. He was arguably one of the best golfers before the shutdown, and he looks to be rounding into form, gaining just under three strokes Tee-to-Green last week after missing the cut at the Charles Schwab Challenge. He’s played well at similar courses like the Genesis Invitational (Riviera CC) and the Waste Management Phoenix Open (TPC Scottsdale), along with finishing inside the top-12 in Strokes Gained: Putting on poa greens over his last 50 rounds.
Xander Schauffele ($9,600)
Xander’s weekend at Harbour Town was quite eventful, carding a four-over par 75 on Saturday when there were only nine rounds over par and 55 rounds under 70 at the end of round 3. Xander followed it up with a 66 on Sunday, and even though last week was his worst tournament with the approach since last July, Xander still managed to rattle off eight birdies while gaining 1.7 strokes with his irons on Sunday, proving he had an off day/week. Poa greens suit Schauffele’s eyes and he should get back to how he played at the Charles Schwab Challenge, where he finished third gaining eight strokes Tee-to-Green.
Dustin Johnson ($9,400)
Johnson still feels underpriced even though he’s now fallen outside the top 5 in world golf ranking for the first time since 2016. Johnson is someone who could easily be in contention here with how well he strikes the ball on any given week. A mediocre Sunday resulted in a 17th, which was oddly his first top-20 since The Genesis Invitational. He’s historically played well on Dye courses, ranks second in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and prefers poa over the other putting surfaces, ranking inside the top 40 over his last 50 rounds.
Corey Conners ($7,500)
Conners is already getting some pre-tournament hype, and rightfully so. He’s been tremendous over his last three tournaments, ranking 24th in fairways gained and second in greens-in-regulation gained. It’s no wonder he’s finished inside the top-21 over the last couple of weeks, but if he wants to crack the top-15 or the winner’s circle, he’ll need to keep the putting around even and definitely not lose strokes on the greens as he has in six of his last seven tournaments. It doesn’t look like his stellar Tee-to-Green game is going anywhere and should be a solid play in this price range despite potentially high ownership come Thursday.
Brendan Steele ($6,600)
He’s missed four of his last five cuts, so this is more of a punt/tournament play if you’re planning on rostering two golfers in the $10,000-plus range. Steele is one of the longer hitters on TOUR and has played well on Dye courses, ranking 39th in Strokes Gained: tee-to-Green and eighth in fairways gained over his last dozen or so tournaments. Steele lost three strokes Tee-to-Green at the Charles Schwab Challenge and skipped last week, hopefully taking some time off to work out the kinks and get back to the golf he was playing when he finished fourth at the Honda Classic in March.
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