Another major comes and goes and what a major it was. Plenty of drama, lots of near misses, and a fitting winner in John Rahm, who picked up his first major and his first-ever win on the PGA Tour. The major blues always hang around for a few days after one of the big tournaments, but there’s plenty to look forward to this week as the PGA Tour rolls onto Connecticut for the 2021 renewal of the Travelers Championship.
Before we get into the Travelers, let’s quickly recap last week’s picks at The Open.
Rahm went in as a must-have and did not disappoint. He played steady all week before coming home in fine style, rolling in for birdie at both 17 and 18, repaying fantasy players in the process. Rory McIlroy, who was selected as the other must-have pick, also found his feet at Torrey Pines, playing some superb golf and finishing in a tie for seventh. Viktor Hovland withdrew through injury, while it wasn’t to be for Tony Finau, who missed the cut.
Every week, except for a few home run weeks, is about the wins and losses. We do our best to give you aggregate wins, so be careful about simply taking but one pick of our several. That greatly increases the risk, naturally.
The Field for the Travelers Championship
There will be no shortage of big names in the field at the Travelers this week. That field will be headed by reigning champion Dustin Johnson, who returns to Connecticut to defend his crown.
Other players currently inside the world’s top ten who’ll feature at TPC River Highlands are Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Reed, and Bryson DeChambeau. Be sure to look out for youngster John Pak, who’ll tee it up after being crowned America’s college player of the year, as well as David Thompson, who once spent time as the world's highest-ranked amateur.
Brooks Koepka will be looking to improve on what was a pleasing display at Torrey Pines and he’ll do so in the same field as his brother Chase Koepka, who competes in a PGA Tour event for just the tenth time.
The Course at TPC River Highlands
TPC River Highlands
TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut hosts the Travelers Championship every year and has done so since the competition was renamed in 2007. Re-designed by golf course architecture royalty Pete Dye in 1984, the course was redone again in 1989 by Bobby Weed and renamed TPC River Highlands.
Unlike last week, where distance off the tee was paramount, TPC River Highlands, being one of the shortest on the PGA Tour schedule, allows those players who aren’t renowned bombers off the tee to get amongst the thick of the action. The course is generally regarded as one the easiest on tour in terms of hitting fairways and finding greens in regulation.
The course features a signature stretch of holes from the 15th to the 17th, a stretch that is sometimes referred to as the “Golden Triangle”, which contains a very attackable Par 4, which some could easily hit from the tee with the right drive.
Recent Winners (+runners up/ties for runner up)
2020 – Dustin Johnson (Kevin Streelman)
2019 –Chez Reavie (Keegan Bradley, Zach Sucher)
2018 – Bubba Watson (Paul Casey, Beau Hossler, Stewart Cink, J.B. Holmes)
2017 – Jordan Spieth (Daniel Berger)
2016 – Russel Knox (Jerry Kelly)
Key Stats for TPC River Highlands
Last week it was all about distance and accuracy off the tee. Those who weren’t bombing it straight were always going to struggle, but that shouldn’t be the case this week.
When Dustin Johnson won here last year, he was quite inaccurate off the tee, losing 0.043 strokes in fact, ranking 83rd for the week in terms of strokes gained: off-the-tee, but he ranked highly when it came to strokes gained: tee-to-green, thanks to some terrific iron play, strokes gained: approach and strokes gained: putting.
These areas proved to be far more important than both distance and accuracy off the tee. Of course, those players who consistently go all over the place off the tee might not thrive but hitting nine out of ten fairways and finding the perfect position isn’t as important as it is elsewhere, like on the South Course and Torrey Pines last week for example.
If we look at the last four renewals of this tournament, it becomes clear that strokes gained: tee-to-green is massive. None of the last four winners finished lower than seventh in that category come to the end of the week.
Below are two other key stats, followed by the top ten in those categories at TPC River Highlands in the last five seasons. Note: only players who’ve played at least four rounds at the venue are included.
Strokes gained: tee-to-green: Doc Redman, Si Woo Kim, Dustin Johnson, Paul Casey, Will Gordon, Patrick Cantlay, Russell Henley, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Kevin Tway.
Strokes gained: approach: Andrew Putnam, Dustin Johnson, Doc Redman, Russell Henley, Max Homa, Cameron Percy, Si Woo Kim, Brendon Todd, Daniel Berger, Chez Reavie.
Strokes gained: putting: Beau Hossler, Ryan Brehm, Dustin Johnson, Harris English, Will Gordon, Brice Garnett, Mackenzie Hughes, Kevin Na, Adam Long, Tyler McCumber.
Draft Picks for the Travelers Championship
|Odds To win +1200|
|Draft Kings $11,400|
|It’s such an obvious one, but Dustin Johnson is simply a man to have onside this week. He costs a hefty price, but DJ is well worth it at a venue where he absolutely thrived last year. Not only did he walk away as the winner, but he posted what is by far the best strokes gained: total figure that the course has seen in the last five years, gaining a total of 3.32. Impressive stuff.|
We’re not talking about a DJ that is in red-hot form, though he’s certainly been coming to the boil of late, finishing inside the top 20 in each of his last two events, while the return to this venue is a big plus. As we can see above, he’s the one player that stands out in each of the three critical strokes gained areas and thus he’s the first must-have ahead of Thursday’s start in Cromwell.
|Odds To win +1600|
|Draft Kings $9,900|
|Unlike Dustin, Paul Casey has never won the Travelers, but the man who currently ranks as the world’s 20th best player has finished second here on two occasions, as well as fifth twice too. He’s only finished outside the top 20 in one of his six visits to TPC River Highlands and has never missed the cut. |
Like the man at the top of the draft picks pile, Casey also ranks highly in important strokes gained areas. In 20 previous rounds at the Travelers, the Englishman, who is currently the seventh-best player on tour in terms of strokes gained: tee-to-green, has gained an average of 2.06 strokes per round. Only two players in this field can better that and one of those is DJ. On this basis, Casey looks like the perfect player to complete the must-have part of the line-up.
|Odds To win +3300|
|Draft Kings $9,400|
|Streelman, who out of those in this field to have played four or more rounds at TPC River Highlands in the last five seasons ranks as the ninth-best in terms of strokes gained: total, is another player who looks to have plenty in his favor this week. He doesn’t feature as prominently in some of the main strokes gained areas as someone like DJ or Casey, but he’s solid in most of them and crucially, has a habit of playing some of his best golf in this event, at this venue. |
Five times his finished in the top ten at the Travelers, winning it in 2014 and finishing second last year. $9,400 might be on the steep side for a player that hasn’t won for seven seasons, but now returning to a place that he clearly loves, the world no. 51 makes my team.
|Odds To win +5500|
|Draft Kings $8,300|
|If there’s such a thing as a must-have value play, then Russell Henley is it. The American held the 54-hole lead at Torrey Pines last week, and even though his effort dried up late in the day, he still played some excellent golf, finishing in a very respectable tie for 13th. Moreover, Henley is a man that has done well here before, finishing 11th in 2016 and sixth in 2018, while of those who’ve played four or more events at TPC River Highlands in this field, he’s the 11th best player in the field in terms of average score around here.|
His rank of 4th on tour when it comes to strokes gained: approach bodes well, as we know that those who’ve won here in recent years have excelled in that area, while it’s also a big plus that he features in the above top ten for strokes gained: tee-to-green. Plenty to like about Henley who should be buoyed by his effort last time out.
|Odds To win +12500|
|Draft Kings $7,200|
|One player who looks to be massively undervalued in terms of draft price is Brendan Steele, who hasn’t exactly had a vintage season but at the same time, has shown that he can compete right at the top on occasions, as ties for fourth at both the Sony Open and the Zurich Classic, alongside a tie for third at the Honda Classic, prove.|
Like the other players in the line-up, Steele has plenty of positive course data. He’s steady across all the much-needed strokes gained areas, ranking inside the top 30 in the field for strokes gained: approach, strokes gained: tee-to-green and strokes gained: putting. Moreover, he’s enjoyed some superb rounds here in the past, especially when finishing sixth last season. If you want a low-priced player who looks capable of getting seriously involved, then Steele, who of the players in this field to have played more than one event at TPC River Highlands is the eighth best in terms of average score, is the man.
I'd love to hear your comments on my analysis of the Travelers, or any of my past forecasting. This is the place to rant, rave, salute, toot your own horn, too somebody else's horn, toot something in the comments below.