After the U.S. Open comes the Travelers Championship, and boy is there a lot for TPC River Highlands to live up to. One of the big dogs, John Rahm, was successful in San Diego last week, claiming his first major, reaching the summit of the world golf rankings in the process.
Rahmbo won’t be in Connecticut this week, but plenty of golf’s big names will tee it up. Will we see another of the world’s top players get their hands on silverware? Or will the return to a standard PGA Tour event spark a less likely winner? All will be revealed in Cromwell in just a few days.
What is the course going to be like?
Last week players had to contend with one of the toughest tests in American golf, a test that favored the longer hitters quite considerably. This week, things will be different. Measuring out at 6,841 yards, TPC River Highlands is one of the shortest courses on tour this season, which bodes well for those players that weren’t suited to the grueling South Course at Torrey Pines last week.
Being long won’t be paramount this time around, nor is being repeatedly straight of the utmost importance. Of course, players can’t be going all over the place of the tee, but greens will be hittable from a variety of locations and thus those whose game isn’t tailored towards superior driving will have plenty of opportunities to get involved.
What’s more, this is a course where the fairways are not particularly tough to find. Strong iron play and dialed-in approach tend to be the skills required to score well in Cromwell.
Which players look like they can do the business at TPC River Highlands? And crucially, who looks like a good bet? A handful of players with appetizing sportsbook prices have been highlighted below.
Paul Casey +1600
As mentioned in the fantasy preview, Casey is a man with plenty in his favor this week. This is a venue that he knows well, he’s played well on several occasions and thus seemingly has all the tools necessary to thrive.
The Englishman hasn’t got his hands on a PGA Tour trophy since getting his nose in front at the Valspar back in March of 2019, but he’s not a man to discount, nor has he failed to knock on the door, finishing inside the top five on seven occasions since that victory, including when finishing in a very respectable tie for fourth at the PGA Championship a few weeks back.
What’s eye-catching about the 43-year-old is that he currently ranks as the third-best player on tour in terms of strokes gained: approach, which is so appealing ahead of the action this week. Each of the recent winners at the Cromwell venue has ranked very highly when it comes to strokes gained: approach, so Casey has that on his side.
Another key area is strokes gained: tee-to-green, an area in which Casey currently ranks as the world number seven. Better yet are his strokes gained numbers at this course. Of those in the field to have played at least four rounds at TPC River Highlands in the last five seasons, Casey ranks as the third-best in terms of strokes gained: overall, while he ranks number four in terms of strokes gained: tee-to-green.
We’re talking about a player who doesn’t win often on the PGA Tour, but this course has often looked like one of the more likely settings for victory. Interestingly, if we discount players who’ve only played at the Travelers once, Casey is the best average scorer in the field. Four top-five finishes here in the last six seasons bode well, and at the current odds, it’s worth betting that this will be the year for a man who plays some serious golf pretty much every time he walks the grass at TPC River Highlands.
Paul Casey. Outright. +1600 at time of publication.
Top 10 Finish
Si Woo Kim +600
Many people, of which I was certainly one, were wrong in thinking that Si Woo Kim would have a big week at Kiawah Island not that long ago, but now is not the time to give up on the South Korean. Since bombing out in the PGA, Kim has played some decent golf, especially when finishing ninth at the Memorial.
Far from a serial top ten finisher, Kim should go well at TPC River Highlands, or at least there’s plenty to suggest that he will.
His 11th place finish here last season was very respectable. Some of his strokes gained numbers are positive, ranking ninth in this field for strokes gained: approach, and crucially, second in strokes gained: tee-to-green. That’s the big one. Recent history suggests that strokes gained: tee-to-green is massive at this event, and Kim has already shown that he can do the business in that area.
With plenty of big names missing, a mere repeat of his efforts from last season could see him right up there, and thus those looking for something other than an outright winner bet should stick a few dollars on Si Woo Kim to go at least one better than last season and crack the top ten in Connecticut.
Top 20 Finish
Brendan Steele +550
Like Casey, Brendan Steele featured in the fantasy preview, and for good reason. No wins since 2017, Steele isn’t someone who’s likely to beat the lot, but he’s certainly no stranger to earning hugely respectable finishes at this event.
Since 2011, the Californian, who is currently ranked 83rd in the world, has finished inside the top 20 on no fewer than six occasions at the Travelers Championship. This is clearly a course he enjoys, as is shown in stroke gained data. Of those in the field who’ve played at least four rounds at TPC River Highlands in the last five seasons, Steele ranks as the eighth-best in terms of strokes gained: overall.
All things considered, there seems to be no reason as to why the 38-year-old cannot perform well again, so bet on him to hit that top 20 at what really are generous odds given his previous efforts in Cromwell.
First Round Leader
Justin Rose +6600
And now for something a bit different.
The first-round leader market isn’t for everybody, but for those who fancy something at juicy odds, Justin Rose really catches the eye at a mouth-watering +6600.
Over the last decade or so, Rose has generally shunned this event, featuring just twice since 2010, so it’s interesting that he’s opted to play. Back in the 2000s the English often did well here, earning three top-ten finishes. What’s more, he tended to go off at a hot pace.
In nine appearances at the Travelers, Rose has finished inside the top five after the round on three occasions, leading once. Furthermore, of all the players in the field, Rose possesses the third-lowest average first-round score, which tells me that he probably should be higher up the pecking order in terms of first-round leader betting odds.
On this basis, a small play on Rose to lead the pack after day one stands out as a viable option.
What says you about these picks? These are all educated best guesses. What are yours for this tourney?