Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2021 Travelers Championship Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from TPC River Highlands.
2021 Travelers Championship: Field
156 Players | Top 65 & Ties Make The Cut
First Tee: Thursday, June 24
Defending Champion: Dustin Johnson
The Travelers Championship was the third event out of the COVID restart a year ago, and at the time, all the biggest names were playing every week. The expectation was this year’s incarnation would return to its normal spot on the PGA TOUR schedule, attracting an OK, but underwhelming field. That’s basically the case for the three events between the U.S. and British Opens. Who knew the Hartford suburbs were such a draw?
A post-major slot for any tournament is never good for field strength, usually less so when the following tournament is on the other end of the country. I guess there are just a lot of fans of TPC River Highlands. Defending champ Dustin Johnson is joined by Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Reed, Daniel Berger, Tony Finau, Abraham Ancer, Scottie Scheffler, Paul Casey, Bubba Watson, Matthew Wolff, Harris English, Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Jason Day, Cam Smith, Ian Poulter, Marc Leishman, Max Homa, Charley Hoffman, Garrick Higgo, Russell Henley, Kevin Kisner, Brian Harman, Joaquin Niemann and local kid Keegan Bradley. Rickie Fowler is back in action after his bye week too. Who would have thought The Travelers would become a more desired event than Pebble Beach?
I suppose there is some logic to the field strength. There are only three events until the British Open, so getting in one more American event makes some sense as most of these guys at the top end won’t be seen stateside for at least a month. Plus, instead of going to Detroit or ... Silvis, Iowa (the PGA TOUR equivalent to “Hi, I’m in Delaware”) one of the next two weeks as prep, it’s likely a much better idea to do that prep in one of the two European Tour Rolex Series Events in Ireland or Scotland if the goal is to win the Open Championship. Or just take that time to acclimate yourself with the time zone shift and get over there early. And the flight from New England is about as short as you’re going to find for a PGA TOUR player. Until the Maine Open becomes a regular stop the week before the year’s final major.
Beyond the top end, John Pak and Davis Thompson are back for their second career pro starts, while Austin Eckroat is now a professional himself. Beyond the 2019 U.S. Open, Eckroat missed the cut at Valero a few months back and finished T12 at Mayakoba during the swing season. Chase Koepka earned a sponsor exemption as well, which is likely why Brooks is in the field.
2021 Travelers Championship: Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 4s Gained 400-450 yards
Strokes Gained: Off The Tee
Mayo’s Key Stats powered by FantasyNational.com
2021 Travelers Championship: Course
Course: TPC River Highlands
Greens: Bentgrass (with Poa mix)
2021 Travelers Championship: Past Winners
2020: Dustin Johnson -19
2019: Chez Reavie -17
2018: Bubba Watson -17
2017: Jordan Spieth -12
2016: Russell Knox -16
2021 Travelers Championship: Notes
After Pebble Brach GL, TPC River Highlands is the shortest course in the regular PGA TOUR rotation. Another Pete Dye course, measuring just 6,841 yards, this course boasts eight par 4s measuring between 400-450 yards playing as a par 70. There are another two par 4s coming in below 400 yards too. The most notable being No. 15, a drivable, 296-yard hole that over 90% of the field goes for from the tee box.
With its minuscule length, TPC River Highlands opens the door for almost any style of player. That’s how you get Dustin Johnson and Brendon Todd paired together in a final group. Looking back at the top five finishers over the past six years it’s clear, regardless of driving distance, approach and putting are the two most important factors at the top of the leaderboard. As is the case for most courses that become birdiefests, SG: OTT has been twice as important as SG: ATG, and players hit almost 70% of fairways at TPC River Highlands against a PGA TOUR average of 62%. So, the big hitters don’t even have to dial back with their drivers. Basically, the golfer who can hit their wedges the closest is going to win.
Looking at the plotting on approach distance (thanks, Fantasy National), you’ll see the plurality of irons come from 175 and in. It tends to be the opposite at most courses.
One thing to consider when looking at past events is the change in greens. For years the Bentgrass putting surfaces were some of the slowest on Tour. Four years ago they were reconstructed with Bentgrass (mixed with Poa Annua) putting surfaces and the greens now run on the faster side of things.
While this is a Pete Dye track, there has been a considerable crossover between the top of the leaderboards of the Valspar Championship, Riviera and Phoenix over the years. And it goes beyond Bubba Watson, who has won at Riviera and the TPC River Highlands three times apiece. Paul Casey has experienced success at all three. Kevin Streelman and Jordan Spieth have won the Valspar and the Travelers in their careers. I’m not entirely sure why, maybe it’s a shot-shaping issue, but there are a lot of players in the field this week who have experienced a lot of success at those three courses but very rarely played at the Travelers Championship.
Pete Dye Courses on the PGA TOUR
- TPC Sawgrass (The Players Championship)
- Harbour Town (RBC Heritage)
- TPC River Highlands (Travelers Championship)
- TPC Louisiana (Zurich Classic)
- Austin Country Club (WGC Match Play)
- TPC Stadium Course at La Quinta (Two rounds at The CareerBuilder)
- Crooked Stick (2012/2016 BMW Championship)
- Whistling Straits (2015, 2010, 2005 PGA TOUR Championship)
- Kiawah Island (2021 PGA TOUR Championship)
2021 Travelers Championship Picks
Abraham Ancer ($9,100)
Despite missing the cut at Torrey Pines, thus only playing two rounds, Ancer still came in fifth for the week in Strokes Gained: Approach. It’s just the driving, chipping and putting were a no-show on the West Coast. It happens. Now finally slipping down the board, and out of people’s minds, Ancer is still a player with four straight top 15 finishes prior to the U.S. Open, with consecutive Top 11 finishes at this event.
Charley Hoffman ($8,600)
It was a tough week for Charley with the irons at the U.S. Open. He had gained on the field in nine of his previous 10 starts, however. That’s likely more telling than his performance at the year’s toughest track. Overall, Hoffman’s made the cut here seven of eight times since 2012 with four top 15 finishes, and he’s currently in one of the better stretches of his career.
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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was a finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
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