This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Winner's Share: $1.332M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Cromwell, Conn.
Course: TPC River Highlands
2019 champion: Chez Reavie
When the 2019-20 PGA Tour schedule came out last year, the Travelers Championship was scheduled for June 25-28. And lo and behold, that's when it will be played. This will be one of only two tournaments in the second half of the season that will be played on its original dates. The other is next month's 3M Open in Minnesota.
If the fields in the first two weeks since the reboot haven't been loaded enough for your taste, this week will bring an even stronger collection. There are a boatload of big names on hand – though not the owner of the biggest boat of all. Tiger Woods remains in other waters, and it's becoming increasingly apparent that we will not see Woods until the Memorial next month. Just about everyone else is here. Nine of the top 10 and 19 of the top 25 in the world will be at TPC River Highlands, which is annually a favored Tour stop even with this week's event traditionally following the U.S. Open on the calendar. Year after year, after major after major, something brings them back – and we're pretty sure it's more than just the cosmopolitan offerings of nearby Hartford.
The tournament has a rich history on the PGA Tour, dating all the way to 1952. It began as the Insurance City Open. For most of the 1970s and '80s, Sammy Davis Jr.'s name was in the title. This event has been at River Highlands since 1984, making this the 36th edition there. In 2017 and 2018, the Travelers Championship won the Players Choice Award – voted on by Tour members – for "services, hospitality, attendance and quality of the course." It annually ranks near the top of the PGA Tour attendance list – they treat the players great, which boosts the field strength, and in turn brings the fans out. But of course, not this year.
This year, the field is even better than usual. For the third straight week we'll see Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka. They'll be joined this week by No. 9 Patrick Cantlay, who will be making his post-quarantine debut. So will No. 25 Paul Casey. Those not in the max field of 156 who have already returned to golf are Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Hideki Matsuyama and Tyrrell Hatton. A year ago, college sensations Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff both made their pro debuts here; this year, two other collegiate stars, D1 player of the year Sahith Theegala of Pepperdine and BYU All-American Peter Kuest, will make their Tour debuts via a sponsor's invites. Current stars who received exemptions here to begin their pro careers include Rahm, Thomas, Cantlay and Webb Simpson.
TPC River Highlands checks in at a scant 6,800ish yards, the third short track in a row. The Pete Dye design chokes off the longest hitters by pinching the fairways, with drives averaging under 300 yards. That, plus severe rough around the small greens, keeps scores somewhat in check. That said, the lowest score ever recorded on the PGA Tour took place at River Highlands, when Jim Furyk shot a 12-under 58 in the final round in 2016. That would be hard to do again under any circumstances, but three years ago they increased the speed on the traditionally slow greens, moving them past 12 on the stimpmeter. We'll discuss how that affects play in the Champion's Profile below. One thing that does stay the same is one of the more entertaining holes around: the drivable par-4, 296-yard 15th. There isn't a lot of water at River Highlands, but there is on that hole, where there were 145 birdies and seven eagles last year, but also nearly 100 bogeys or worse. There are only two par-5s. There are nine par-4s in the 400-450-yard category, and two others just a few yards shy of 400.
Weather-wise, some scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast for Wednesday. After that, it is expected to stay dry, but there is a chance of rain Sunday. Temperatures will be in the upper 80s and the wind will be mostly light.
Key Stats to Winning at TPC River Highlands
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in Regulation/Strokes Gained: Approach
• Putting average/Strokes Gained: Putting
• Driving accuracy/Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
• Par 4 efficiency 400-450
Things changed at River Highlands three years ago, when the greens ran faster and poorer putters lost an advantage – or perhaps "equalizer" would be a better word. Slower greens give the bad putters a fighting chance, since it's harder to putt on fast greens. Regardless, the greens are still small by PGA Tour standards, averaging about 5,500 square feet. With gnarly rough uncharacteristically close to the green, that puts a premium on greens in regulation. And with the greens so small, many will be missed, bringing scrambling into play. Even though the modern-day pro finds a way to thrive despite poor driving accuracy, we're putting some emphasis on tee balls, since the fairways are a bit narrow and pinched to cut off long drives. One golfer who has surely figured out a way around that is three-time winner Bubba Watson. Overall, it's hard to pin down a true winning profile, surely an aspect that contributes to the strong fields, as so many types of players have a chance to win. Three years ago, Jordan Spieth had one of the oddest/worst stat lines you'll ever see for a winner. He did not finish inside the top 30 in driving distance, driving accuracy, greens in regulation, proximity to the hole or strokes gained: putting. It's a marvel that he won. Even his "best" stat, scrambling, was only T19. Runner-up Daniel Berger conversely was top-6 in greens in regulation, proximity and scrambling, and putted far better than Spieth. All he got for his stellar play was a front-row seat to Spieth's 60-foot hole-out from a bunker on the first playoff hole, resulting in his now famous chest-bump with caddie Michael Greller. That seems like a lifetime ago for Spieth, doesn't it? Two years ago, Watson eclipsed a quintet of runners-up by three strokes. He was almost last in the field in driving accuracy yet seventh in greens in regulation. The top six finishers in 2018 were either top-12 in greens in regulation or SG: Putting – or both. Last year, Reavie put on a clinic and was simply masterful across the board, ranking third in driving accuracy, seventh in GIR, sixth in proximity, second in scrambling and 10th in SG: Putting.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Bryson DeChambeau - $11,000 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 14-1)
Even though Rory McIlroy had back-to-back subpar weeks, it was difficult to bypass him, and we have no argument if you decide to add him to your lineups. But we're going in another direction this week. Only four guys have finished top-10 in both events since golf returned and DeChambeau is one of them. Justin Thomas, J.T. Poston and – not entered this week – Daniel Berger are the others. DeChambeau continues to pound the ball as far as possible and leads the Tour in driving distance. He hasn't been very accurate, but that really hasn't hurt him. This is his fifth straight year playing River Highlands and he's coming off top-10s the past two years.
Justin Thomas - $10,800 (14-1)
Thomas was on the periphery of contending the past two weeks. In his eight rounds since coming back, five of them have been 66 or better. Thomas really has no weakness, but his absolute strongest facet is what's most important this week – he is ranked fifth on Tour in SG: Approach and 12th in GIR. He played Hartford the past five years and, other than a third-place showing in 2016, has not scored well. Obviously we think that will change this time around.
Brooks Koepka - $10,000 (20-1)
Koepka sure was impressive on Sunday, firing laser after laser at the pin. That level of play had not been seen from him in almost a year, dating back to the Tour Championship in August. He finished seventh at Harbour Town, his first top-10 since East Lake. Koepka led the field in SG: Off-the-Tee, was tied for sixth in GIR and ranked 14th in SG: Putting. If he does that again this week, it might be good enough to win. Despite all his troubles this season, Koepka ranks 17th in Par 4 400-450.
Xander Schauffele - $9,600 (25-1)
Schauffele did not have a good tournament last week. What he did have were two great rounds – twin 66s – and two bad rounds. He was coming off a near-miss at Colonial. Schauffele has one of the best tee-to-green games around, and he's ranked fourth on Tour in GIR. He's played River Highlands twice, tying for 14th in 2017 and missing the cut a year later.
Tier 2 Values
Justin Rose - $9,200 (30-1)
Rose sure looked like his old self playing TaylorMade clubs the past two weeks as he embarked on his post-quarantine, post-Honma era. He ranked top-16 in all of SG: Off-the-Tee, Approach and Around-the-Green at Harbour Town – and that wasn't even his best week of the two. Rose hasn't played River Highlands since 2013, when he tied for 13th. He also finished ninth way back in 2010.
Abraham Ancer - $9,000 (30-1)
It's hard to turn away from Ancer after such a remarkable showing last week, during which he hit 65 of 72 greens in regulation, including all 18 on Sunday. Of course, he won't do that again. It's hard to believe Ancer is ranked only 108th on Tour in GIR – and that includes last week's numbers. Something obviously clicked last week for Ancer, who tied for eighth here a year ago.
Bubba Watson - $8,800 (30-1)
Watson is a three-time Travelers winner, last in 2018. He wasn't great last week in South Carolina, but he continued to putt very well. Watson is ranked 19th on Tour in SG: Putting, and a similar performance this week will likely have him on the first page of the leaderboard come Sunday.
Gary Woodland - $8,300 (50-1)
Woodland quietly tied for ninth at Colonial. He was T62 at Harbour Town, but that was with a pair of 7s on his scorecard on the weekend, one of them on a par-3 (ouch). He was still 12th in field in GIR last week, and he's seventh overall on the season. Woodland is back in Hartford for the first time since 2016. The year before, he tied for 20th here.
Tier 3 Values
Matthew Fitzpatrick - $8,100 (50-1)
Fitzpatrick has committed to playing the PGA Tour, as he arrived from England and self-quarantined before golf started back up. So far, so good. Fitzpatrick tied for 33rd at Colonial and 14th at Harbour Town. In both tournaments he ranked top-5 in putting. Fitzpatrick's GIR numbers have not been great, but he finished top-20 in the field last week.
Viktor Hovland - $7,800 (60-1)
Hovland returns to the scene of his pro debut a year ago – and to give you an idea how big the hype was then, he's actually $100 cheaper now. Hovland tied for 54th in 2019. He returns riding a pair of top-25s, shooting 68 or better in six of his eight rounds. He was top-15 in GIR each of the last two weeks. Perhaps, more impressively, he was top-30 in scrambling at both – and that's been the big weakness in his game.
Scottie Scheffler - $7,500 (60-1)
Candidly, we're not seeing anyone we feel very strongly about between $7,000 and $7,800. But our editors make picks, so here we are. Scheffler came back from the break with a T55 at Colonial, then withdrew from the RBC Heritage after being announced in the field. He has never played River Highlands, but his tee-to-green game is good enough to deliver a top result this week.
Harold Varner III - $7,100 (150-1)
After missing the cut in his first two appearances in this event, Varner figured something out last year when he tied for 21st. He had a special week at Colonial but then missed the cut at Harbour Town. Still, things set up nicely here for Varner, who is ranked 39th on Tour in GIR and 15th in SG: Tee-to-Green
Lucas Glover - $7,000 (150-1)
Glover had an absolutely brutal start to the season, but since coming back two weeks ago, he has posted consecutive top-25s. The hallmark of Glover's game, iron play, has improved. He was ranked 84th in GIR before the break but is now up to 65th. He also putted very well last week. Glover missed the cut in the last four Travelers Championships, but his results the last two weeks inspire enough confidence to land him here.
Rafa Cabrera Bello - $7,000 (150-1)
It all depends which version of the Spaniard shows up. In his six PGA Tour starts in 2020, Cabrera Bello has finished in the top 25 three times and missed the cut three times. Since the reboot, he tied for 23rd at the CS Challenge and trunk-slammed at the RBC Heritage. Cabrera Bello does not have good season-long GIR numbers, but he was T54 at Colonial to go along with fifth in scrambling and 10th in SG: Putting. Not bad.
Brendon Todd - $6,700 (200-1)
Todd is one of the shortest drivers and one of the most accurate drivers. The first part won't hurt him on this track and the second part will surely come in handy. He played this tournament only four times in the past decade and missed three cuts, but did tie for 15th in 2015. Interestingly, Todd will have a new caddie this week, as his regular looper is quarantining after coming in contact with Nick Watney's caddie. With Todd having missed both cuts since the reboot, who knows, this may help.
Matthew NeSmith - $6,600 (150-1)
NeSmith was on the RBC Heritage leaderboard early in the week and shot three rounds of 67 or better to ultimately wind up tied for 33rd. He missed three straight cuts to start the season but since then is 11-of-13 with five top-25s. We like NeSmith because he makes a lot of cuts and hits a lot of greens in regulation – he's ranked 20th on Tour. He's also a better-than-average putter, ranked among the top 50.