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Has Team Europe learned from its mistakes at Hazeltine?

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With just a few days to go until the big event, excitement is building on this side of the pond. TV, any golfing websites you care to visit, and podcasts are previewing the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National.

For the European squad, Captain Bjorn has selected Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, and Garcia to supplement the eight qualifiers; World No. 1 Justin Rose, Open Champion Francesco Molinari, four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, and the five Ryder Cup rookies–Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren, and Thorbjorn Olesen.

Not a bad side for an underdog, but one question still lingers: Has Thomas Bjorn learned from previous European mistakes?

First, congratulations to the eight qualifiers — they’ve done their jobs, took their chances, and played their way onto the team. The fact that five of those are rookies will undoubtedly have played on Bjorn’s mind. The 2016 team were heavily criticized for having too many rookies, with five of the (then nine) qualifiers being debutants. Captain Darren Clarke also selected Thomas Pieters, meaning half the team were new to the unique environment of the Ryder Cup.

The knee-jerk reaction by the European Team following defeat in Hazeltine was to increase the captain’s picks to four, matching that of Team USA, thus effectively giving the captain the opportunity to select experienced players if the same situation arose.

Fast forward two years, and yes, five of the qualifiers are indeed rookies–and they make up a larger proportion of the team than those who qualified last time out. So in some regard, Bjorn’s decision on the experienced four picks seems to be justified. But with the greatest of respect to Chris Wood, Andy Sullivan, and Matt Fitzpatrick, this year’s rookies Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, and Tyrrell Hatton are at a level above and are constantly in and around the top of the world rankings. The other new boys in 2016 included Masters Champion Danny Willett, who had no form coming into the match, Rafa Cabrera Bello, who contributed 2.5 points, and Thomas Pieters, who top scored in the event with four points.

This year, World No. 15 Alex Noren is hardly an unknown quantity–he has played consistently good golf for the past two years on both sides of the Atlantic. The only “anomaly” on the team is Thorbjorn “the Thunderbear” Olesen. Currently World No. 44, he’s already been touted as the weak link in the European side by the U.S. media — a dangerous prediction given his recent form.

But even then, the five qualifiers this year mean that this team is different to that of two years ago. And for that reason, Thomas Bjorn did not need to load the team with experience, something that Darren Clarke got badly wrong last time out. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight it’s easy to point the finger at the out-of-form veterans Westwood and Kaymer–had they come to the fore it would have been seen as a stroke of genius. But they didn’t and were shown to be just that: out-of-form veterans.

So in that regard, it’s very surprising that Bjorn has gone the same way. Particularly given his own comments on Ian Woosnam’s team in the 2006 edition, when Clarke and Lee Westwood were selected.

He criticized Woosnam, stating:

“I haven’t heard a word off him for half a year, and I’ve spoken to several players who are on the team, and have been for a long time, and they haven’t either. What sort of captaincy is that? I have lost all respect for him.”

“My relationship with him is completely dead and will remain so. This will be the first time I don’t even watch the Ryder Cup on television, and you don’t know how sad that is, given how much I care for that tournament I desperately want the 12 players to be a success, but I want them to do it in spite of the captain.”

“If the decision was based on competitive results, then I could go along with it. But it seems there’s other reasons. He’s based his decision on results which happened five years ago.”

Bjorn went on to apologize the next day, but his feelings were made crystal clear by his outburst, particularly that last sentence. Parallels are certainly evident with his own selections of Paul Casey, and more so Sergio Garcia–deemed lucky by many to selected by the captain. Henrik Stenson caused a little concern with his injury; it’s contributed to his lack of points, and he’d have almost certainly qualified on merit if fit.

Ian Poulter was always going to be on the team–there can’t be an argument for his inclusion–and he only narrowly missed out on outright qualifying, losing out to Olesen, who would almost certainly not have been picked by his fellow Dane had he not accrued the required points. That undoubtedly put a bit of a wrench in the works, but to pick Casey, who’s not shown the form of late 2017/early 2018, and Garcia, who’s shown very little since his 2017 Masters win, are the ones to have caused controversy.

It has been suggested in certain circles that Casey was given assurances of a pick should he not qualify and this was instrumental in his decision to re-apply to the European Tour. Sergio however, was not the best pick. Everyone knows a firing Sergio is the first name on the team sheet, and Bjorn has since called him the heartbeat of the side. It seems he’s been picked for his role off the course more than that on the course, and this has left many feeling uneasy. By all means, have him as part of the side in some capacity, but one wonders how the likes of Rafa Cabrera Bello, three-time winner in 2018 Matt Wallace, or even 2016 hero Thomas Pieters are feeling after being overlooked.

Of course, all of these picks have the opportunity to prove their captain right in France this week. Should the Ryder Cup remain on these shores at the close of play on Sunday, Bjorn will be vindicated and hailed as a Ryder Cup legend. And such is the way of it: a losing captain will be labelled a flop, with every decision ridiculed.

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  1. jack04553

    Sep 26, 2018 at 11:28 pm

    Great point! I will keep this in mind the next time. Thanks

  2. Jim

    Sep 26, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    Rory has 4 majors.

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Courses

Open Championship courses you can play (and when the best time to book is)

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The final major of 2024 is nearly here as the top golfers head to Scotland’s southwestern coast to battle for the claret jug at Royal Troon. Golf’s original major dates all the way back to 1860 and has been played at 14 different courses throughout the United Kingdom (yes, this includes Northern Ireland) providing countless memories including celebrations, heartbreak, and unique moments that will never be forgotten (looking at you Jordan Spieth).

With The Open teeing off less than a week from now, we wanted to highlight some of The Open Championship’s finest links courses that should play when you make the journey to golf’s homeland:

Old Course at St. Andrews 

Do we even need to say anything else? The “Home of Golf”, host of 30 Open Championships, the most coveted tee time in the WORLD, there are a million reasons to have St. Andrews on your links golf bucket list. From the double greens, to the tee shot over the Old Course Hotel, to the walk up 18th fairway with the town buildings framing a picturesque scene (especially at dusk), every golfer should make the voyage to St Andrews at least once in their life.

Carnoustie 

Carnoustie – Championship Course

Roughly 25 miles north of St. Andrews lies the devious links of Carnoustie, often recognized by the large white Carnoustie Golf Hotel as the backdrop of the 18th green. While the course has only hosted The Open 8 times, it is considered to be one of the hardest layouts in The Open rota (just ask Jean Van de Velde) although not that long, playing just under 7000 yards from the tips. 

Muirfield 

Located right next to this week’s host of Scottish Open (The Renaissance Club), this fantastic links layout has hosted the prestigious Championship 16 times since 1892. The narrow fairways and penal rough requires precise shots off the tee while avoiding the devious pot bunkers is a must. The course is set away from the coastline so you won’t get the sweeping ocean views, but a round at Muirfield is one the premier tee times in all of Scotland (so make sure you book early – 12-18 months at least).

Royal Portrush 

A view of the new 572 yards par 5, seventh hole designed by Martin Ebert on the Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush Golf Club the host club for the 2019 Open Championship in Portrush, Northern Ireland. © 2018 Rob Durston

Our next stop brings us across the Irish Sea to the northern coast of Northern Ireland and the popular Royal Portrush. Having hosted The Open only twice in its illustrious history, Royal Portrush is a golfer’s dream with 36 holes of pure links golf set against a gorgeous backdrop of the ocean and cliffs. The Open Championship will return to Portrush in 2025 and YOU CAN BE THERE to watch it all in person! 

Royal Troon 

TROON – JULY 26: General view of the ‘Postage Stamp’ par 3, 8th hole taken during a photoshoot held on July 26, 2003 at the Royal Troon Golf Club, venue for the 2004 Open Championships, in Troon, Scotland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

The host of this year’s Open Championship, Royal Troon is home to one of the best par-3 holes in all of golf, “The Postage Stamp.” A downhill 125-yard tee shot to a minuscule green surrounded by bunkers on all sides makes it one of the more challenging holes. Another hole that adds to the challenge is the 601-yard par 5 that used to be the longest golf hole in Open Championship history. This year will be the 10th Open Championship held at Royal Troon, the first since 2016 when Mickelson and Stenson had a battle for the ages in the final round.

Royal Birkdale 

For the next course on the list, we have to head down to the northwest coast of England just outside of Liverpool. Consistently ranked in the Top 10 courses in all the UK, this 10-time host of The Open has hosted many other prestigious events such as Ryder Cups, Women’s Opens, and more! The course is laid out with fairways running through flat-bottomed valleys surrounded by high dunes which provide many blind shots throughout the course. The Open returns to Royal Birkdale in 2026 so it won’t be long before it is back in the spotlight.

Royal St. George’s 

For the final course on our list, we are staying in England, but heading across to the southeastern side of the country to Kent. Royal St. George’s is 4th on the list of most Open Championships hosted with 15 (1 behind Muirfield) the most recent being Collin Morikawa’s victory in 2021. RSG is the only active course on The Open rota in this part of the UK, but two former hosts (Prince’s and Royal Cinque Ports) are within 3 miles of the property. The expansive course is laid out with holes separated by dunes with heavy rough, undulating fairways, and deep pot bunkers to challenge your game. While it may not be mentioned in the discussions of St. Andrews, Carnoustie, and the like, Royal St. George’s is still a Championship layout that is worth the trip across the pond.


With these big-name courses in such high demand, it is important to note that if you want to play them, you need to start planning your trip early. Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR, the world’s #1 rated golf tour operator, suggests planning and booking your trip at least 12-18 months in advance in order to secure a tee time at the courses you want. The UK & Ireland specialists at Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR have the knowledge to help tailor the perfect golf trip for your group so you can play big-name courses and hidden gems you might not have heard of. If you’re ready to start planning your bucket list trip across the pond, make life easier and go with Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR.

Editor’s note: This article is presented in partnership with Golfbreaks. When you make a purchase through links in this article, GolfWRX may earn an affiliate commission.

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Courses

Ryder Cup 2025: Crossing to Bethpage – New York State Park golf, Part 1

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The 2025 Ryder Cup matches will be held over the sprawling, bruising, Long Island acreage known as Bethpage Black State Park Golf Course. The course has hosted multiple national championships, most recently the 2019 PGA Championship. In September 2025, Bethpage Black will welcome teams from the USA and Europe to contest the 45th Ryder Cup matches. Team Europe, the defending champions, will be led again by captain Luke Donald. The U.S. PGA has not yet announced the name of its leader, yet all sources and speculations point to a 15-time major champion and an eight-time participant in the biennial event.

Bethpage Black will join Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester (1995) as the second Empire State course to host the event. The Ryder Cup matches were played in the metropolitan New York area once before, in 1935 at the Ridgewood Club, in Paramus, New Jersey. It’s fair to say that metro NYC is due to host this world-stage, golf event. I can’t wait. The USA’s loss to Europe in 2023 adds to the considerable drama.

What makes Bethpage Black an outlier in the world of championship golf, is its mere existence. It’s a state park golf course, one of five on property, each with a colorful name. The Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow join big brother Black as outstanding tests of golf in Farmingdale. Of the five, only the Green was not originally built as a state course. The Lenox Hills Country Club, designed by Devereux Emmet, opened in 1923. By 1932, the club had closed and the land had become property of the state. Its birth date made the Green the oldest of the five courses. New York State began to build on a series of adjacent parcels, guided by the hands of Alber “A.W.” Tillinghast, Joseph Burbeck, and Alfred Tull. The Yellow course, built entirely by Tull, was the last of the five to open.

State park courses just don’t hold major championships. Private clubs and elite resorts are the typical sites that receive the nod from the world’s golf bodies. It’s a testament to the lovers of Bethpage, the New York state government, and the PGA of America (among others) that Bethpage is as good as it is, and that it continues to improve. It’s a fitting site for the 2025 Ryder Cup matches, but the 2025 Ryder Cup matches need a beginning to their story. I’ll do my best to provide it.

The quintet of courses near Bethpage, New York, is just the beginning of the New York state park golf course system. 19 parks in total offer golf from the tip of Long Island, to the shores of Lake Ontario, through the Catskill mountains, to my home town. I’m a Western New York guy. The Buffalo area has been my home for most of my 58 years on the golf ball known as Earth. I live two miles from the westernmost, state park golf course: Beaver Island. The Beav, as everyone calls it, was designed by William Harries. It opened the year I was born, which means that it is close to 60 years old! Unlike the Bethpage property, where topography is king, the Beav is a flat course, albeit full of enough interest to bring you back for more.

As I considered the magnitude of the state park system, I realized that golfers who frequent those 19 state parks can point to their home course and say, “You know, the Ryder Cup will be at a state park course next year.” I started to count on my fingers, the number of state park courses I had played: Beaver Island, Green Lakes (Syracuse), James Baird (Poughkeepsie), and the five at Bethpage, I realized that I had played eight of the 23 total courses, and had visited a mere four of the 19 parks.

Bethpage is the only, multi-course state park across the Empire State. Other venues range from pitch-and-putt, to nine-hole, to regulation 18-hole courses. The majority occupy nice tracts of land, and feature 18 holes of memorable, enjoyable golf. PGA Tour professionals Joey Sindelar and Mike Hulbert grew up on one of those courses, and Dottie Pepper spent a bit of time on another, near her hometown.

There will be many stories that trace the path to Bethpage and its 2025 Ryder Cup, and I look forward to reading and hearing them. This one is my own, and I’m proud (and a little frightened) to undertake it. I’ll visit each of the remaining parks over the next 16 months, and report in with images and words that tell the story of each park and its golf course.

The Ones I’ve Played

The Bethpage Five

As mentioned above, I’ve played eight of the 23 courses, but the majority of that number is owed to a 2011 pilgrimage to Long Island. The Black had just hosted its second US Open championship, and the ink for the 2019 PGA Championship was not yet printed. I spoke with a Bethpage caddy, in anticipation of the trek. I wrote a series of articles on the courses on my own site, BuffaloGolfer. Down the road of this, current series, I’ll discuss the most poignant piece that I connected with Bethpage. That’s a story for another time. After all, Bethpage is a five-course meal.

It’s safe to say the the Bethpage property is unlike any other, municipal, golfing space in the world (at least, those not named the Links Trust of St. Andrews!) The park encompasses nearly 1500 acres of wooded land and offers much beyond golf to its visitors. As pilgrimages go, Bethpage is it. For a New York state resident, on a weekend, it would cost a total of $257 dollars … to play all five courses. Even for those outside the state, the trip to Bethpage is worth consideration. Each course rambles over uneven, heaving land. Holes carry along falloffs and bend unexpectedly around corners. Greens are benched into hillsides and settled into valleys. All five courses remind you of the others, yet none of them says to you “You’ve played this course before.”

James Baird State Park 

One of the hats that I wear, is high school golf coach. Each spring, golfers from my team travel to Poughkeepsie to play the James Baird State Park golf course. Pronounced “Bard,” the course was opened in 1948, after a middle-aged, Robert Trent Jones, senior, put pen to paper to lay out the course. Jones was about to become a household name, as he would offer renovation advice to many of the country’s classic clubs. He was most famously associated with the Oakland Hills Country Club near Detroit, the host site of the 1951 US Open. You know, the one where Ben Hogan purportedly gasped “I’m glad I brought this course, this monster, to its knees.”

Trent didn’t leave a monster in Poughkeepsie. What he left was something that locals call Baby Bethpage. The James Baird course is blessed with topography similar to its five-course cousin, but it offered a challenge that Bethpage does not: a huge expanse of marsh across the belly of the property. There was not going over nor through it, so Jones simply went around it. He created something that he never, ever did: a short par three. Jones was a fan of the brutish, 200-yard plus, all-carry, par three hole. For the third hole at Baird, he had all of 120 yards, and it was downhill! Jones placed a green in the marsh, connected to the mainland by an earthen bridge. He then turned north for a time, then returned south, outside the marsh. Trent Jones had another stretch of tricky land to navigate, this time, on the inward half. He brought a trio of holes (pars 4-3-5) through a challenging corner of the property, before returning to the open meadow that hosts the majority of the layout.

James Baird is a tremendous golf course, one that prepares our high school competitors well for the next step: the state federation championship at, you guessed it, Bethpage Black. Six golfers move on to compete against other, high school divisions, at the big brother of them all.

Green Lakes

The Baird course came to life 13 years after Trent Jones opened his first, New York state parks course. Originally from Rochester, New York, Trent ventured 90 minutes east to Manlius, near Syracuse, in 1935, to lay out one of his first ten courses. RTJ was gifted the magnificent land that abuts the two glacial lakes in central New York. The lakes are meromictic, which we all know means that surface and bottom waters do not mix in the fall and spring, as happens with dimictic lakes.

Trent Jones placed his clubhouse and finishing greens (9 and 18) in an interesting portion of the property. The ninth hole is an uphill, par five that plays fifty yards longer than its measured distance. Once home to upper and lower greens, the lower has been expanded and enhanced, and the upper is now abandoned. On the other side of the clubhouse, the sneaky 18th moves out of a corridor of trees, into the open space beneath the clubhouse. It’s a bit reminiscent of the 18th at Bethpage’s Green course. It’s not a long hole, yet when you walk off with five or six on your card, you wonder where you went astray.

The front half of the course plays along a vast meadow, above Green Lake, the larger of the two, nautical bodies. The inward side forages among the tree above Round Lake, before finally emerging at the home hole. The apparent contrariety of the two nines is resolved through expansion of fairway corridors on the treed nine, and the constriction of playing paths with bunkers and doglegs, on the exposed side.

If you’re a walker, Green Lakes will make you a fit one. It will also demand all the clubs and shots that you can fit in your bag.

Beaver Island

“Tame” isn’t the proper term to describe Beaver Island, the state park course near my home. I believe that “calm” is a better term. It may seem ironic, given that the 1965 course occupies a tract of land at the southern tip of Grand Island, where the Niagara River splits east and west, before reuniting at the north end. When we think of the Niagara, we think of the mighty rapids and cascades near the brink and bottom of the falls. At the southern split of the river, however, you can throw a canoe in the water and have a paddle. Beaver Island knows that it is adjacent to the river, but you never get the sense that this golf course borders water. I’ve redesigned the park hundreds of times in my head, moving the golf course to the banks of the river, where the trails, beach, playground, and other amenities are currently found. In the end, not every great golf course can, nor should, be built.

William Harries trained under the famed competitor and architect, Walter Travis. Despite this exposure to the master, Harries went his own way with his golf courses. The most striking difference is in green construction. While Travis was extraordinarily creative and daring, Harries was the polar opposite. His greens are routinely flat and easy to navigate.

He designed a number in the western New York area, including Brookfield Country Club. Originally known as Meadow Brook, the club hosted the 1948 Western Open, won by the aforementioned, Ben Hogan. The majority of Harries’ work was in municipal courses, and he designed Sheridan Park for the town of Tonawanda. That course hosted the 1962 USGA Public Links championship.

On Grand Island, Harries traced his layout around three ponds. The massive, western one, comes into play on the second through fifth holes. The middle one plays games with the approach to the eighth green. The final one, on the inward side, forces golfers to carry their tee shot over water, to the 14th fairway. Beaver Island bears no resemblance to the topography of the other locales mentioned previously. There is no heaving, no tumbling, no turbulence, along its fairways. Beaver Island is more St. Andrews in its flattish presentation, which makes it an honest, what-you-see, sort of golf course. It’s an enjoyable walk in the park, a not-too-demanding one.

Part Two: south-central New York-Soaring Eagles, Chenango Valley, Indian Hills, and Bonavista

https://www.rydercup.com/ PGA of America Ryder Cup Trophy

Ryder Cup Trophy @ Bethpage – Photo courtesy of PGA of America

 

 

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Travelers Championship betting preview: Patrick Cantlay to continue impressive play

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The third major championship of 2024 did not disappoint as Bryson Dechambeau capped off a sensational week with the second U.S. Open victory of his career. The season rolls along to Cromwell, Connecticut, where TPC River Highlands hosts the 2024 Travelers Championship. This is yet another designated event with a $20 million dollar purse.

TPC River Highlands is a 6,841-yard par-70 that has been a PGA Tour stop for 40 years. Home of the only 58 in Tour history, it is possible to go extremely low at this Pete Dye design. However, TPC River Highlands does feature a difficult closing stretch with holes 16-18 all historically averaging scores over par.

The Travelers Championship will play host to 72 golfers this week. Being a signature event, almost all of the best players on Tour will be teeing it up. 

PGA Tour U winner, Michael Thorbjornsen, will be making his season debut this week at the Travelers. 

Past Winners at The Travelers Championship

  • 2023: Keegan Bradley (-23)
  • 2022: Xander Schauffele (-19)
  • 2021: Harris English (-13)
  • 2020: Dustin Johnson (-19)
  • 2019: Chez Reavie (-17)
  • 2018: Bubba Watson (-17)
  • 2017: Jordan Spieth (-12)
  • 2016: Russell Knox (-14)

Key Stats For TPC River Highlands

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for TPC River Highlands to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach sits at the top spot in the stat model this week. The course is relatively short, and golfers with multiple types of skill sets compete here. Iron play is often the great equalizer allowing the shorter hitters to compete, and that should be the case again this week.

SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.61)
  2. Corey Conners (+1.11)
  3. Sepp Straka (+0.92)
  4. Xander Schauffele (+0.91)
  5. Tony Finau (+0.88)

2. Par 4 Birdie or Better %

With only two par-5s on the course, the importance of par-4 scoring cannot be understated. Whoever plays the par-4s most effectively this week will put himself in the driver’s seat.

Par 4 Birdie or Better % Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Eric Cole (25.4%)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+24.6%)
  3. Patrick Cantlay (+23.5%)
  4. Rory McIlroy (+22.8%)
  5. Wyndham Clark (+22.7%)

3. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking

Ball striking combines off the tee and approach and will be the stat I use to incorporate off-the-tee play this week. The over-emphasis on approach play will incorporate golfers who give themselves plenty of birdie looks in the event.

SG: Ball Striking past 24 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.56)
  2. Ludvig Aberg (+1.67)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+1.57)
  4. Rory McIlroy (+1.44)
  5. Corey Conners (+1.31)

4. Course History

Course history has proven to be a major factor at TPC River Highlands. With seven golfers who have multiple wins at the course, familiarity could be the key at the Travelers Championship.

Strokes Gained: Total at TPC River Highlands per round over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Xander Schauffele (+2.03)
  2. Patrick Cantlay (+2.02)
  3. Brian Harman (+1.98)
  4. Rory McIlroy (+1.97)
  5. Scottie Scheffler (+1.54)

5. Strokes Gained: Total Pete Dye Designs

TPC River Highlands is another prototypical Pete Dye track where many of the same golfers play well consistently.

SG: Pete Dye per round Over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.49)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+2.22)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+1.86)
  4. Brian Harman (+1.66)
  5. Patrick Cantlay (+1.61)

6. Strokes Gained: Putting on Bent/POA Mix

TPC River Highlands is another prototypical Pete Dye track where many of the same golfers play well consistently.

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bent/POA Mix Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Denny McCarthy (+1.41)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+1.04)
  3. Keegan Bradley (+1.01)
  4. Robert MacIntyre (+0.98)
  5. Wyndham Clark (+0.84)

The Travelers Championship Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (26%), Par 4 Birdie or Better % (13%), SG: Ball Striking (20%), Course History (13%), SG: Putting Bent/POA (14%) and SG: Pete Dye (14%).

  1. Xander Schauffele
  2. Rory McIlroy
  3. Scottie Scheffler 
  4. Viktor Hovland
  5. Corey Conners
  6. Sahith Theegala
  7. Brian Harman
  8. Keegan Bradley
  9. Collin Morikawa
  10. Tony Finau

2024 Travelers Championship Picks

Patrick Cantlay +2500 (FanDuel)

When a player contends in a major in the previous week, I typically like to fade said player the following week. However, this week feels a bit different to me. Cantlay has been struggling all season, and I can’t help but feel like the former FedEx Cup champion found something during the U.S. Open. I also don’t think he was incredibly disappointed with the result. He played well on Sunday and was impressive over the weekend, finally getting a true feel of what major championship contention felt like. It was all positives for Cantlay at Pinehurst.

Cantlay will now head to a spot where he’s had an incredible amount of success but has not yet notched a victory. In his last six starts at the course, he’s not finished worse than 15th. His best start came last year, where he finished T4. He ranks 1st in the field in Strokes Gained: Total at TPC River Highlands. Cantlay is also a Pete Dye specialist and ranks 4th in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on Dye tracks. The 32-year-old ranks 3rd in Par 4 birdie or better percentage.

Cantlay was spectacular across the board at Pinehurst. For the week, he ranked 3rd in Strokes Gained: Approach, 7th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 10th in Strokes Gained: Putting. I fully expect him to build off of that performance and contend once again at one of his favorite Tour stops.

Sam Burns +3500 (DraftKings)

Sam Burns had a great Sunday at Pinehurst, which is always a bonus heading into the following week. He shot -3 in his final round, which got him into the top ten (T9) in what was a successful major for a player who’s not performed his best in them historically.

Burns is a prolific birdie maker who can win a boat race to -20 as well as anyone on Tour. He’s also had some success at both Pete Dye courses, where he ranks 13th in Strokes Gained: Total over his past 36 rounds, and at TPC River Highlands, where he ranks 12th in Strokes Gained: Total over his past 36 rounds.

Burns has been playing some solid golf of late. He has four top-15 finishes in his past starts including a T13 at the Wells Fargo Championship, 10th at the RBC Canadian Open and 15th at the Memorial Tournament. He has gained strokes on approach and off the tee in five of his past six starts.

The LSU product can win golf tournaments in a variety of ways. His ability to make putts if it turns into a wedge and putting contest makes him a strong candidate to contend this week.

Sahith Theegala +4500 (BetRivers)

Sahith Theegala has been playing some solid golf over the last few months. As we saw last year with Keegan Bradley, a missed cut at the U.S. Open shouldn’t necessarily scare someone off from a player who fits TPC River Highlands, which I believe Theegala does.

TPC River Highlands is the site of Theegala’s near victory a few years back. He finished in a tie for 2nd in 2022 after making double-bogey on the 18th hole with a one-shot lead, losing to Xander Schauffele. Theegala will now head back to the course as a more mature player who is in the midst of the best season of his career.

This season, the former Haskins award winner in having strong finishes in some of the season’s most important events. He finished 5th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, 6th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, 9th at the PLAYERS Championship, 2nd at the RBC Heritage and 12th at both the Memorial Tournament and PGA Championship.

In his past 24 rounds, Sahith ranks 12th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 11th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking, 18th in Par 4 birdie or better percentage and 8th in Strokes Gained: Putting on Bent/POA mixed putting surfaces.

If this turns into another shootout, Theegala has the type of ball striking and putting combination that can win a race to -20.

Sungjae Im +6600 (BetRivers)

After seemingly regaining his form over the past month, Sungjae took a step back at last week’s U.S. Open. The South Korean missed the cut, shooting +10 over his first two rounds. Despite the disappointing result, I don’t believe one poor start at a long and difficult golf course is enough reason to give up on him. 

Although the score was regretful at Pinehurst No. 2, Im hit the ball pretty well from tee to green. In his two rounds, he gained strokes both off the tee and on approach. His downfall was with the putter, which can be extremely hit or miss, especially over the course of this season.

Prior to the U.S. Open, Sungjae had finished in the top ten in three of his previous four starts. He finished T4 at the Wells Fargo “Signature Event” at Quail Hollow, T9 at the Charles Schwab Challenge and T8 at The Memorial Tournament. He’s also gained strokes off the tee in nine straight events.

Im has made three starts at TPC River Highlands, finishing 21st, 58th and 29th respectively. Im hits fairways at a high clip, which will be a massive advantage this week and his lack of driving distance won’t be an issue. He also ranks 12th in the field in his past 24 rounds in Strokes Gained: Total on Pete Dye designs.

It’s been a long time since Im has won an event (2021 Shriners), but I believe he’s back on the upswing and is still a higher end talent on the PGA Tour with another win coming soon.

Tom Kim +6600 (BetRivers)

After a sluggish start to the 2024 season, Tom Kim has come on strong over the past month or so. The South Korean started his stretch of impressive play at Valhalla for the PGA Championship, finishing 24th. After that, Kim put together finishes of T4 at the RBC Canadian Open and a T26 at last week’s U.S. Open. In between, he finished T43 at The Memorial, but hit the ball great from tee to green.

Tom has done an impressive job of playing well at long and difficult setups, but this week, he will head to a course in TPC River Highlands that should his game immaculately. Both of Kim’s wins have come at short setups that mitigate his biggest weakness, which is driving distance. The course is short this week and fits the mold of the tracks Tom has had great success at over the past few seasons on Tour.

In his past 24 rounds, Kim ranks 7th in Par 4 birdie or better percentage, which will come into play this week. He also ranks 19th in the field in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Kim is already a three-time winner on the PGA Tour and has shown that if he gets a sniff of contention, he can close out a tournament with the best of them.

 

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