Opinion & Analysis
2022 Travelers Championship: Outright Betting Tips
The PGA Tour’s third major championship did not disappoint as Matt Fitzpatrick capped off an excellent Sunday with a U.S. Open victory. The season rolls along to Cromwell, Conn., where the 2022 Travelers Championship will be played at TPC River Highlands. Last year, we saw one of the most captivating thrillers in history when Harris English defeated Kramer Hickok in an eight-hole playoff.
TPC River Highlands is a 6,841-yard par 70 and has been a Tour stop for 39 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 156 golfers this week. Some notable players in the field include number one player in the world Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka.
2022 Travelers Championship Best Bets
Patrick Cantlay (+1600)
Patrick Cantlay is everything I want in a golfer at TPC River Highlands. He has a solid overall game and can get hot enough to win tournaments with his putter. In the past, we’ve seen golfers get it done at The Travelers by doing a little bit of everything. In his past four starts at the course, Cantlay hasn’t finished worse than 15th.
Perhaps the most glaring identifier of a potential Cantlay victory is his success on Pete Dye designs. The 30-year-old ranks first in Strokes Gained: Total on Pete Dye designs. His team win earlier in the year at the Zurich Classic was also a Pete Dye design in TPC Louisiana.
If you exclude the major championships, which Cantlay has struggled in for the most part through this point in his career, he has been knocking at the door for a win. He finished second at the RBC Heritage (also a Pete Dye design) and third at the Memorial Tournament prior to his 14th at the U.S. Open.
Cantlay famously shot a 60 as an amateur at TPC River Highlands in 2011. He’s a birdie-maker who should enter the week under the radar and motivated to win another PGA Tour event.
Sungjae Im (+3300)
Sungjae Im is another golfer who’s played some great golf on Pete Dye tracks. He ranks fourth in his past 24 rounds in Strokes Gained: Total on Pete Dye designs.
Prior to the U.S. Open, the South Korean was playing his best golf of the 2022 season. He finished 21st, 15th, and 10th consecutively and gained an average of 8.7 strokes from tee to green per event in those three starts. He missed the cut on the number (+4), which doesn’t concern me in regard to his overall current form.
Throughout his career, Im has played a lot of his best golf on short par-70 courses. In his past 50 rounds, he ranks fourth in Strokes Gained: Total on courses that fit that description. On this shorter track, Im should give himself plenty of birdie looks considering he is playing from the fairway quite often. Throughout his career, he gains an average of 2.8 strokes on the field in Fairways Gained.
To win the Travelers, it will be important to get hot with the putter. Each of the past three winners of the event have gained at least 4.0 strokes putting on the field. Over the past three seasons, Im has gained more than 4.0 strokes putting in eighteen measured events. If he gets the flatstick working at TPC River Highlands, he has the all-around game to finish the job on Sunday.
Marc Leishman (+5500)
TPC River Highlands is one of the handful of stops on Tour where course history seems to be incredibly important. Among the players in the field this week, few have better course history than Marc Leishman. Since winning the event in 2012, the Australian has two additional top-10 finishes, including a third-place finish in last year’s edition.
It hasn’t been the most consistent of seasons for the 38-year-old, but he flashed some form last week at The Country Club in the U.S. Open. He finished in a tie for 14th place and gained 4.4 strokes on approach, which was the most he’s gained in an event since September of 2021.
When Leishman gets in trouble on the course, it tends to be due to his propensity to get a bit inaccurate with the driver. TPC River Highlands provides some opportunities to get away with errant drives, and, because it’s the shortest course on Tour, it allows for golfers to club down with an iron off the tee.
It’s possible that the strong performance last week was an outlier, but Leishman is a golfer who offers true win equity at a strong price.
Seamus Power (+5000)
Seamus Power had an excellent showing at the U.S. Open, finishing in 12th place. In the past, we’ve seen golfers parlay a strong performance at the U.S. Open into a Travelers Championship victory. Power fits the mold in the fact that he exceeded expectations last week and now heads to a course that should be much more manageable for his skill set.
The strokes gained statistics don’t tell the whole story in terms of how well the Irishman has played at Pete Dye tracks. In the WGC-Dell Match Play earlier this year, Power advanced all the way to the quarterfinals when he finally lost 3&2 to the eventual champion and best player in the world Scottie Scheffler. The event was held at Austin Country Club, which is a Pete Dye design that requires creative shot making similar to TPC River Highlands.
Another Pete Dye course that doesn’t show up in the strokes gained metrics is TPC Louisiana, which hosts the Zurich Classic. Although it is a team event, Power finished in a tie for fifth at the event in 2019 while playing with Curtis Luck.
Power has three top-17 finishes in his past four starts, and TPC River Highlands should be a better fit for him than any course he’s played in that stretch.
Brendon Todd (+10000):
Brendon Todd has historically been one of the best putters on the PGA Tour, and he’s started to show it once again in his past few starts. The three-time Tour winner has gained an average of 5.5 strokes putting on the field in his past two starts. In those events, Todd finished in third place (Charles Schwab Challenge) and 13th (RBC Canadian Open).
Todd has also been hitting his irons very well, which is a great sign for his chances to contend this week. He’s gained strokes on approach in five of his past six starts and had his best iron week of the season in his most recent start in Canada (+3.8 SG). He’s also excellent around the greens which will be helpful at TPC River Highlands because its greens are a good deal smaller than Tour average.
Todd was close to victory here in 2020, when he was the 54-hole leader. Unfortunately, he made a mess on the par-4 12th hole and eventually lost to Dustin Johnson. That experience should prove to be useful if he gets in the hunt once again this week.
Opinion & Analysis
The best bets for the 2023 Scandinavian Mixed
There could hardly be a more distinct difference between two courses holding consecutive events.
Last week, 20-year-old Tom McKibbin pounded his way around the 7500-odd-yards of Green Eagle to break his maiden in impressive fashion, courtesy of this outstanding approach shot to the 72nd hole. Remind you of anyone at that age?
Leading the tournament, 20-year-old rookie @tommckibbin8 hit this incredible shot into 18 to claim is first win on Tour. ?#PEO23 pic.twitter.com/F0Sl3hXo43
— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) June 5, 2023
Fast forward not long and the DPWT arrives at Ullna Golf and Country Club for the third renewal of the mixed-gender Scandanavian Mixed.
The welcome initiative sees male and female players on the course at the same time, playing to the same pins. Only movement of the tee boxes distinguishes the challenge, and whilst there is water aplenty at this coastal track, yardages of no more than 7000 and 6500 yards should frighten none of the top lot in each sex.
Genders are one-all at the moment, with Jonathan Caldwell winning the inaugural event thanks to a lacklustre Adrian Otaegui, and the brilliant Linn Grant winning by a country mile last season.
Most will be playing their approach shots from the same distance this week and with neither particularly stretched, this may be the most open of mixed events yet.
Defending champ Linn Grant and fellow home player Madelene Sagstrom look on a different level to the rest of the European ladies this week, but preference is clearly for the 23-year-old winner of eight worldwide events, including her last two in Sweden.
Last season, the Arizona State graduate took a two-shot lead into the final round before an unanswered eight-birdie 64 saw her cross the line nine shots in front of Mark Warren and Henrik Stenson, her nearest female rival being 14 shots behind.
Since that victory, Grant has won two events on the LET, the latest being a warm-up qualifying event for the upcoming Evian Championship, held at the same course and at which she was 8th last year. The Swede is making her mark on the LPGA Tour,
Given the yardage advantage she has off the tee amongst her own sex, the pin-point accuracy of her irons and a no-frills attitude when in contention, this looks no more difficult than last year. If there is a a market on ‘top female player,’ there may be a long queue.
He’s been expensive to follow for win purposes, but Alexander Bjork is another home player that will revel with the emphasis on accuracy.
There isn’t a awful lot to add to last week’s preview (or indeed the previous week’s) which both highlighted just how well the Swede is playing.
- Linn Grant
- Alexander Bjork
Opinion & Analysis
Winning and the endowment effect
A central concept in behavioral economics is the endowment effect. Coined by Richard Thaler at the University of Chicago, the endowment effect describes how people tend to value items they own more highly than they would if they did not belong to them. So how does this relate to sports, or more specifically, to golf? Let me explain.
Golf is hard. Winning is harder. Golf has created a lure where winning major championships is the hardest of all. The problem is that mathematically a win is a win. This means that valuing wins differently is actually an instance of the application of the endowment effect in golf.
Winning in golf creates an inverse normal distribution where winning can be very hard, then easy, and then very hard again. To win, players must evoke the “hot hand”; this is the idea that success breeds success. In golf, the reality is that birdies come in streaks; players typically enjoy a run of birdies over a couple of holes. The goal for every player is to hold this streak for as long as possible. The longer and more often they are able to do this, the more likely a player is to win.
Another question is, how much do players value wins? At the current moment, up to the PGA Jon Rahm sees winning as easier (or less valuable) with his recent win at the Masters and other early season events to accompany his U.S. Open win from 2021. However, that changed at the PGA, when he opened with a round in the mid-70s. All of a sudden the lure of the trophy distracted Rahm. Likewise, we saw both Corey Conners and Hovland hit extremely rare shots into the face of the bunker on Saturday and Sunday. These are shots that do not happen under distribution. In my opinion, the prestige of a major was at the root of these shots.
To overcome the barrier of becoming a champion, players must first understand that winning is not special. Instead, winning is a result of ample skills being applied in duration with the goal of gaining and holding the hot hand. The barrier for most players with enough skill to win, the endowment effect tells us, is that they overvalue winning. Doing so may prevent them from ever getting the hot hand. So maybe, just maybe, the key to winning more is wanting to win less. Easier said than done when one’s livelihood is on the line, but to overvalue a win at one specific tournament, be it the Masters or the two-day member guest, may be doing more harm than good.
Opinion & Analysis
The best bets for the 2023 Porsche European Open
Green Eagle hosts the European Open for the sixth consecutive time, missing only the pandemic year of 2020.
Known for its potential to stretch to 7800 yards, this monster course in Hamburg is able to reduce itself to around 7300, a far less insurmountable proposition that allows the non-bombers to make use of their pin-point iron play.
Of the top 16 players last year (top 10 and ties) nine fell into the top 12 for tee-to-green, split into those that made it off-the-tee (six in the top-12) and those from approach play (total of four players). Go back to 2021 and champion Marcus Armitage won the shortened three-round event with a ranking of 40th off-the-tee, whereas four of the remaining top-10 ranked in single figures for the same asset.
It’s a real mix, and whilst I’m definitely on the side of those that hit it a long way, there are more factors at work here, particularly a solid relationship with the Italian Open, as well as events in the Czech Republic and Dubai, weeks that allow drivers to open up a tad.
Last year’s winner Kalle Samooja has a best of 2023 at the Marco Simone Club, a tournament won by Adrian Meronk, and with a top-10 containing the big-hitters Julien Guerrier, Nicolai Hojgaard and Daniel Van Tonder, with Armitage a couple of shots away in ninth place.
Like Armitage, the Finn also boasts a win in China (although at differing courses) where solid driver Sean Crocker (third) carries a link between the Czech Masters, being runner-up to Johannes Veerman (10th here, eighth Italy), and another bomber Tapio Pulkkanen, whose best effort this year has been at the Ryder Cup venue to be.
Of the 35-year-old Englishman, his only other victory came in the 2018 Foshan Open, where his nearest victims included Alexander Knappe, Mattieu Pavan and Ryan Fox, all constantly there in the lists for top driving, with Bernd Ritthammer (tied runner-up here 2019) in ninth place.
Amidst plenty of Crans and Alfred Dunhill form on various cards, 2022 Italian Open winner Robert Macintyre was the second of three that tied in second place here behind the classy Paul Casey in 2019, as well as tying with Matthias Schwab at Olgiata, Italy, in the same year.
The Austrian, now plying his trade on the other side of the pond, also brings in the third of three players that ran up here, a seventh place at Green Eagle, two top-10 finishes at Albatross and top finishes at the Dubai Desert Classic and China.
Current favourites Victor Perez and Rasmus Hojgaard both disappointed last week at the Dutch Open, and whilst that occurred in completely differing circumstances, they give nagging doubts to what would otherwise be solid claims on class alone.
The Frenchman hadn’t recovered from a week away at Oak Hill when missing the cut, but probably should have won here last year when eventually third, and his ball-striking doesn’t quite have the same sound at the moment. On the other side, the Dane star again had a chance to prove best last week, but for the fourth time in nine months, failed to go through with his effort after entering Sunday in the final two groups.
If wanting a player to link up all the chosen comp tracks, then Jordan Smith would be the selection, even at 20/1 or thereabouts. However, having been safely in the draw for the weekend after 12 holes of his second round at Bernardus, the 2017 Green Eagle champ completely lost control of his tee-to-green game, dropping nine shots in his last seven holes. The 30-year-old is made for this place, as his two further top-11 finishes indicate, but last week’s effort needs a large bunker of forgiveness and I’ll instead nail my colours (again) to Alexander Bjork, the man that beat Smith in China in 2018.
I was with the Swede last week based on crossover form, and this week he makes similar appeal being able to back up that Asian form with top finishes in Dubai, Abu Dhabi (see Casey) and Crans (Armitage and shock winner of this event Richard McEvoy). Of that sole victory at Topwin, it has to be of interest that former China Open specialist Alex Levy won the last running of the European Open at Bad Griesbach before finishing second and 13th here, whilst impossible-to-read HaoTong Li, the 2016 Topwin champ, was 18th on his only try around the monster that is Green Eagle.
Last week’s top-30 made it 10 cuts in a row for 2023, with some impressive displays through this first half of the year, including top-20 in Dubai, second in Ras and back-to-back fourth placings at both the Soudal and Italian Opens.
The 32-year-old ranks fifth for overall performance over the last 12 weeks comprising 32nd in total driving, 24th for ball-striking and 12th for putting. He is exploiting his excellent tee-to-green game, and now ranking in third for scrambling, remains one of the rare players that can recover well when missing their target – although at 19th for greens-in-regulation, this isn’t that often.
Bjork has made all four cuts here, with his last three finishes in the mid-20s, but is in probably the best form of his life. With doubts surrounding many of the rivals at the top, his constant barraging of the short stuff should see him challenging over the weekend.
Home favourite Yannik Paul has been well backed from a far-too-big early price, and there is a case for making him still value at 30+, but Jorge Campillo needs forgiving for an awful display from the front last weekend, even if that was an outlier to his otherwise excellent run, that includes a victory and top-10 in Italy.
There seem to be an awful lot of doubts about the top lot in the market (save a mere handful) so take a trip downtown and try nabbing a bit of value prices that will pay nicely should they nab a place.
Whilst Gavin Green would seem to be an obvious place to go, he sits in the range between 50/1 and 100/1, full of untapped talent and players, that have least not had too many chances to put their head in front.
Jordan Smith won on debut here, so it’s not impossible, and whilst Jeong Weon Ko may need another year or two to reach his peak, he is one that appeals as a ‘watch’ for the rest of 2023.
The French-born Korean dominated his home junior scene before taking his time through the Alps and Challenge Tours, eventually settling in during the second half of 2022. From July to September, Ko played 14 times, recording four top five finishes, two further top-10s and a pair of top-20s, those results including a fourth place finish at the Challenge Tour finale.
His rookie season at this level started well with a 30th and fourth place in Africa, and he has since progressed steadily as the DPWT ramped it up a level.
Top-20 finishes in Korea, India and Belgium, where he was in second place at halfway, suggest he should soon be competing on a Sunday, whilst in-between those, a third-round 67 was enough to launch him to inside the top 10 at St. Francis Links.
On the tour-tips.com 12-week tracker, Ko ranks 12th with positions inside the top-30 for all the relevant stats.
15th for distance, 25th for greens, and top-10 for par-5s, he has a bit of Green about him but without the question marks. Whilst he hasn’t won on the professional stage, his second to bomber Daniel Hillier at the Swiss Challenge reads nicely, as does his top-15 at the Di-Data in 2021 when surrounded by longer hitters, and he appears to be of the quality that will leave these results behind in time.
Hillier himself can be fancied, especially after last week’s fifth at the Dutch Open, but I’ll go with the man that beat him by a single shot last week in the shape of Deon Germishuys.
The DPWT rookie has already had a season to remember, leading home fellow South African Wilco Nienaber at U.S Open qualifying at Walton Heath at the beginning of May, and securing his ticket to his first major.
Interestingly, two of the other five qualifying spots were won by Alejandro Del Rey and Matthieu Pavon, all four names being some of the longest drivers on the tour.
That may well have been the boost that pushed the 23-year-old to record his best effort on the DPWT so far, his third at the Dutch Open marking another step up from the 15th in Belgium just two weeks previous, and a top-10 in Japan when just behind Macintyre, Paul, Smith and Campillo.
In what is a fledgling career, this event starts just a few days after the anniversary of his first victory on his home Sunshine Tour where he beat some of the country’s longest hitters to the biggest prize for a non co-sanctioned tournament, before nabbing his DPWT card via a 20th place ranking at the end of the Challenge Tour season.
The three mentioned top-15 finishes have all appeared on his card since the beginning of April, and this rapidly-improving player now has last weekend’s finish fresh in the mind, finishing in front of Meronk et al, despite not being able to buy a putt on Sunday.
A lot of what Deon is doing on the course reminds me of compatriot Dean Burmester, who had a terrific record at the Di-Data at Farncourt, something being repeated by the younger man (20th and 7th). Now signed by LIV, Burmy also had a solid record at Albatross and in Italy, where a best of fifth place should have been higher at the bizarre Chervo track, biased towards long-hitters but won by a demon putter instead.
I’m tempted by the names Tom Mckibbin, nowhere near a finished article and keen to attack this course, flusher Dan Bradbury, and bomber Marcus Helligkilde (still not convinced he is absolutely one-hundred percent), but they may only make the top-10/20 bets.
Kalle Samooja should go well in his bid to defend his crown, but I’m taking fellow Finn Tapio Pulkkanen to improve on his 18th here last year with the chance to again make his length count.
Having won both the Nordic League (2015) and the Challenge Tour Order of Merit (2017), the be-hatted one was always going to be a player to look out for and, in truth, it hasn’t really happened.
However, his case lies with the best of his efforts, all of which combine to believe that should organisers stretch this course to over 7500-yards at any point, then he is one of a few that could handle the layout.
Silver and bronze at the Czech Masters, Pulkkanen thrived on the open layout of the Dunhill Links, finishing top-10 twice since 2019. Add those to a second (Hainan) and 14th in China, top-20 finishes in Dubai and Himmerland, as well as good finishes at the classier BMW at Wentworth and he just needs to show something to make appeal at one of only half-a-dozen tracks that he could be fancied around.
The 33-year-old led in Chervo in 2019 before showing he enjoys Italy with his best-of-the-season 16th at the Marco Simone at the beginning of May, where he should have done better, having been in the top five for all the first three rounds.
By no means one to place maximum faith in, he is similar to the likes of Veerman and Joakim Lagergren in that they suit certain types of tracks, and they are the only ones they could be backed at. This one, Green Eagle, together with Pulkkanen, seems like one of those times.
- Alexander Bjork
- Dean Germishuys
- JW Ko
- Tapio Pulkkanen
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