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6 picks to win the Travelers Championship



What a U.S. Open week that was — you know, besides the course and broadcast critiques — and now we are firmly in the second half of the season.

Despite a calendar spot a week after a major, the Travelers Championship always ranks up there among the most well-attended events. A non-elite field generally gathers for the Cromwell, Conn. affair, but the area has long embraced the event, going back to the days it was known as the Greater Hartford Open.

Well, the field is actually more robust than usual this year, with five of the world’s top-20 in attendance.

In a nice parallel, the DraftKings contest for this week offers grander prizes than it usually does for non-majors. The pool is $300,000 and the winner this week will receive $100,000. The top 25,930 players win money.

Enter the $300K contest here!

The investment, though, remains very cheap, with a crisp $3 entry free. And remember, if you beat my main lineup this week and you’re already part of the Beat the Writer Contest, that entry fee will be refunded. If you aren’t in this competition, to join the Beat the Writer Contest read the instructions in this introduction.

Anyway, onto my analysis.

The Course

TPC River Highlands marks the third consecutive par-70 on the PGA Tour calendar, and it is by far the easiest of the set.

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In fact, the Travelers Championship, which has been hosted on this track since 1984, is often touted as a birdie shootout. Eight of the last 10 iterations has produced a 14-under winner or better, with two coming in at or north of 20-under.

Despite the long history, though, there really isn’t that much out there in terms of course knowledge. At 6,841 yards, this is a short course, and a few places denote that TPC River Highlands features wide fairways. On the other hand, we have Matt Kuchar talking about tee accuracy being at a premium because of tight driving holes.

The only other info, from a single source, is that wedge play and putting will prove important. So we honestly don’t have much previous knowledge to verify or debunk here. More than ever then, my usual five-year sample should give us some important answers.

Among the sample, top-third drivers showed up the most, with good approach players a distant second, along with short game. Putting came in last, but not by a large margin. Honestly, putting is almost always least predictive in these samples, with courses designed to test the all around game some of the only layouts that put the flatstick on equal ground with the other aspects.

As for driving distance and length, I stick behind what Kuchar said. The sample showed that accuracy did hold a significant amount of sway in producing high finishes at TPC River Highlands. The potency wasn’t strong enough though to say precise tee balls are paramount to a good showing here.

Bubba Watson’s success might point to a bomber’s paradise but the sample actually said that short hitters have a slight advantage on this layout. This course is shorter, so that isn’t very surprising.


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Six-Man Roster (Last Week: 385 points, 2,838th of 143,125, WON $50!!!)

  • Bubba Watson, $11,800
  • Hunter Mahan, $8,700
  • Russell Knox, $8,400
  • Justin Thomas, $7,900
  • John Merrick, $7,000
  • Daniel Summerhays, $6,000

It appears, then, a Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green maven is someone to look for. Driving accuracy is nice too, while driving distance doesn’t really matter that much.

Watson doesn’t enter this event so hot. He missed his first cut of the season last week at the Open and generally has just cooled off since his hot pre-Masters start to 2014-2015.

But Bubba loves this course. If he’s not finishing in the T30s, still not that bad, he will be right there for the victory, as was the case in 2010, 2012 and 2013. He’s perrenially near the top in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. I said that shorter hitters actually profit a little more at TPC River Highlands, but the right tee box combination of high voltage power and great accuracy can still give the long hitter an edge here. That’s been the case for Watson and it should continue this week, especially as he must be pressing to regain that early season mojo.


Mahan really hasn’t found his groove this season and also enters the Travelers Championship after a weekend-less U.S. Open. At some point, though, one would think Mahan really gets it together this season. It’s tough to guess exactly where (The Barclays wasn’t an obvious candidate last year), but TPC River Highlands might be the place. Mahan’s record here is up-and-down, but he has some great highs here (a win and two other top-5s). His world-class long, accurate driving should bode well too, but this is admittedly a bit of a flyer for this price.

I’m just riding the hot hand with Knox, who hasn’t missed a cut since March and tallied T24-T18-T8 in his past three starts. I feel like this course fits his game too, as he does have a solid record at TPC River Highlands, and his lack of distance and average putting ability won’t be punished deeply on this layout. I’d ride with him now before his hot play ends.

Like pretty much everyone, Justin Thomas is my guy among this rookie class. After a scorching stretch from mid-April to mid-May, though, his play tapered off. I would chalk that up to fatigue, as he did play 10 times in 13 weeks from the Valspar to the Memorial. With a couple weeks off, he should be right back in the game. His lack of accuracy doesn’t bode well here, but as Thomas displayed earlier this year, the birdie-fest the Travelers likes to offer will be right up his alley.

Merrick and Summerhays aren’t the flashiest names but both prove intriguing this week. Merrick’s game revolves around a short-hitting very accurate approach off the tee, serviceable iron play and a decent short game. That works for this course, as evidenced by a couple of high finishes and five top-35s in his past six starts here. And after a string of missed cuts, his game also has coalesced of late with four top-40s in his past five starts.

With Summerhays, I liked what I saw at the Open. He faded on the weekend but that’s major championship pressure for you. More importantly, he seemed to figure out his woes of late (three missed cuts in four starts) in a 3-under start through two rounds at Chambers Bay. It had to do with shortening his clubs, and that solution should manifest itself even more this week.

Random roster via two non-golf fans (Last Week: 318.5 points, 40,750th of 143,125)

  • Brandt Snedeker, $10,900
  • Louis Oosthuizen, $9,900
  • Kevin Na, $9,500
  • Jerry Kelly, $7,100
  • Vijay Singh, $6,600
  • Alex Cejka, $6,000

After a down week, the duo was pretty close to getting back in the money at the Open. Here is their reasoning for each pick, in order of selection:

Alex Cejka: They had no idea how to pronounce his last name, which for some reason appealed to them.

Jerry Kelly: See two weeks ago. (Hint: Funny-looking profile photo.)

Louis Oosthuizen: One of my friends likes John Deere and King Louis likes John Deere.

Kevin Na: They reasoned that when most people see this name, they say “Na.” So they said “Yea” to his prospects to be contrarian.

Vijay Singh: One of them had a Fiji water the other day. Vijay, being from the country Fiji, sparked a natural connection.

Brandt Snedeker: His first name, BRANDT, sounds like a goose noise. After the Retief Goosen pick for a different goose-related reason two weeks ago, I’m beginning to think they are a little obsessed with these creatures.

Alternate Six-Man Roster (Last Week: 207.5 points, 134,398th of 143,125)

  • Sergio Garcia, $10,400
  • Keegan Bradley, $9,800
  • Zach Johnson, $9,100
  • Matt Jones, $7,400
  • John Peterson, $6,900 
  • Jon Rahm, $6,300

I certainly front-loaded this roster. I would call all three high-floor, high-ceiling picks. All three have a lot of potential this week and are very unlikely to completely implode. Johnson is the epitome of that with his always steady play, which hasn’t changed of late with seven top-20s in his last nine starts. And his win total is robust, too. I’m not really worried about his mediocre Travelers history.


Garcia won comedian of the week for his comments about Chambers Bay’s greens, but he did play well at the Open and previously at the Players. And he should’ve won the Travelers, too, last year.

Bradley’s game really bloomed of late with a T22-T8-T27 slate in his past three starts. He should end his winless drought soon and I feel he could fit the Bubba mold (booming, accurate drives) that this course appreciates.

Jones is just on too much of a roll for me to pass up. I can’t lay off him after his T3 at a TPC Southwind Course where his previous record three missed cuts. Peterson has kind of hit a rut in his past two events, but it seems like a lingering (and worsening) hand injury had to do with that. He took a cortisone shot, and said he has no pain at the moment. His 100 percent health isn’t certain, but I’m trusting his “no pain” statement here. And admittedly, his accuracy and stellar Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green play (48th currently) helps me justify that pick.

Finally, we have Rahm. His name isn’t that known in the states, but it should be. He’s the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world and placed T5 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open back in February. Dude can absolutely bomb it. This is just a really cheap price for an exceptional talent. And he’s already proven he’s not afraid of the big boys. This may be the week Rahm gets his full recognition.

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Kevin's fascination with the game goes back as long as he can remember. He has written about the sport on the junior, college and professional levels and hopes to cover its proceedings in some capacity for as long as possible. His main area of expertise is the PGA Tour, which is his primary focus for GolfWRX. Kevin is currently a student at Northwestern University, but he will be out into the workforce soon enough. You can find his golf tidbits and other sports-related babble on Twitter @KevinCasey19. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: September 2014

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