DraftKings PGA: Travelers Championship Picks and Strategy

DraftKings PGA: Travelers Championship Picks and Strategy

This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.

TRAVELERS CHAMPIONSHIP

Purse: $8.3M
Winner's Share: $1.494M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Cromwell, Conn.
Course: TPC River Highlands
Yardage: 6,852
Par: 70
2021 champion: Harris English

Tournament Preview

Year after year, the Travelers Championship, the Little Engine That Could of the PGA Tour, does not disappoint. It continues to attract a boffo field despite being played the week after a major, despite not having the biggest purse, which is no small feat the days in golf. Granted, this major was about as close geographically as one can come to TPC River Highlands but still. Four of the top 10, eight of the top 25 and 19 of the top 50 in the world rankings are on hand for one of the oldest tournaments on the PGA Tour.

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, new No. 2 Rory McIlroy and 2017 Travelers champion Jordan Spieth headline the 156-man field. Other bold-face names include Patrick Cantlay, Sam Burns, Xander Schauffele, Joaquin Niemann, Tony Finau and defending champion Harris English. Justin Thomas, Sungjae Im and Brooks Koepka were originally in the field but all withdrew. Thomas and Im cited injuries; Koepka left for LIV Golf.

Usually positioned right after the U.S. Open, the Travelers has served as an unofficial launching pad to pro careers. Four years ago, Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland made their pro debuts here. Last year, their former Oklahoma State teammate Austin Eckroat made this his PGA Tour pro debut. In the past, so did Thomas, Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Webb Simpson and others. This year, Cole Hammer gets the honors. The 22-year-old former Texas Longhorn star actually made his pro debut last week with a missed cut on the Korn Ferry Tour. He's already played in four majors. How big of a deal is Hammer? Well, he was slotted for the lead media session on Tuesday morning. Another big-time college player, Haskins Award winner Chris Gotterup out of Oklahoma, will be making his third start as a pro and is coming off a made cut at the U.S. Open.

The Travelers Insurance Company has been affiliated with the tournament since its inception way back in 1952. It became the title sponsor in 2007 – after years of Sammy Davis Jr. being the "title host" in the 1970s and '80s – and recently re-upped to continue at least through 2030. It knows a good thing when it sees it. The tournament 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 on out. In 2017 and 2018, Tour members voted the tournament its Players Choice Award for "services, hospitality, attendance and quality of the course."

The players may love the hospitality, but they wouldn't come if they didn't like the course. TPC River Highlands came on the scene in 1984. It checks in at a mere 6,800ish yards. The 1928 design by Robert J. Ross and Maurice Kearney, with a 1982 Pete Dye renovation followed by a 1989 Bobby Weed renovation, tries to choke off the longest hitters by pinching the fairways around the 300-yard mark. That, plus tree-lined fairways and severe rough around the smallish greens, keeps scores from getting too low. The course usually ranks in the top half  on the difficulty meter, and last year was 22nd hardest among the 51 courses played on Tour. That said, the lowest score ever recorded on the PGA Tour took place at River Highlands: Jim Furyk shot a 12-under 58 in the final round in 2016. Cantlay holds the record for an amateur at 60. Two years ago, Mackenzie Hughes opened with a 60 en route to a tie for third. There was nothing super-low last year, when English won at 13-under after a marathon eight-hole playoff with Kramer Hickok.

One of the most fun holes on Tour is par-4, 296-yard 15th. There isn't a lot of water at River Highlands, but there is on that hole, plus four more. Virtually the entire field goes for the green there. There are only two par-5s, one a mere 523 yards where you better birdie or even eagle it. There are nine par-4s in the 400-450-yard range. The bentgrass/poa annua greens average 5,000 square feet and, with some changes a few years back, they speeded them up past 12 on the stimpmeter.

Weather-wise, showers are forecast for Wednesday and Thursday, so you'll want to keep checking before the lock. Temperatures will be in the 70s for the first round before soaring into the mid- to upper-80s for the final 54 holes. The wind can always pick up, but right now it looks moderate throughout the tournament.

Fun Travelers Factoid: The tournament is 70 years old, yet there have been only two host courses. From 1952 to 1983, they used Wethersfield Country Club. In 1984, they moved about six miles to TPC Connecticut (renamed TPC River Highlands in 1991), and they've played there ever since.

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.

• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee/Driving Accuracy
• Par 4 Efficiency 400-450

Past Champions

2021 - Harris English
2020 - Dustin Johnson
2019 - Chez Reavie
2018 - Bubba Watson
2017 - Jordan Spieth
2016 - Russell Knox
2015 - Bubba Watson
2014 - Kevin Streelman
2013 - Ken Duke
2012 - Marc Leishman

Champion's Profile

The winning score is in the teens year after year, though there has been a fairly wide disparity. Last year, English and Kramer Hickok ended regulation at 13-under. Before that, Johnson won at 19-under, Reavie and Watson (2018) at 17-under and Spieth at 12-under. Things changed four years ago, when the greens ran faster and poorer putters lost an advantage, or perhaps "equalizer" would be a better word. With gnarly rough uncharacteristically so close to the green, there's a premium on greens in regulation, perhaps even more than usual. This is a classic second-shot golf course. Even though the modern-day pro finds a way to thrive despite poor driving accuracy, we're putting some emphasis on tee balls this week, since the fairways are a bit narrow and pinched to cut off long drives. Overall, though, it's hard to find a true profile – long and short hitters have both emerged victorious. Five years ago, 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 the field 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. This was the tournament with Spieth's famous chest-bump with caddie Michael Greller after his 60-foot hole-out from a bunker on the first playoff hole defeated Daniel Berger. The over/under on the winning score on golfodds.com is 262.5 – 17.5 under par. That was the same over/under as last year, and it went way under.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS

Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap

Tier 1 Values

Scottie Scheffler - $11,200 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +900)
It's been an eternity since Scheffler has won – two whole months since the Masters! But he finished runner-up twice in the five ensuing tournaments, including last week at the U.S. Open. We usually like to avoid golfers who played meaningful minutes on the previous Sunday at a major, but Scheffler always seems so non-stressed, so laid back. And he surely would like to pay back this next guy for his playoff loss at Colonial.

Sam Burns - $10,400 (+1800)
This will be Burns' fourth straight trip to River Highlands and he's gotten better every year, from 43rd to 24th to 13th last year. It's true that Burns has already missed five cuts in less than half of 2022, matching all of 2021, but there's no doubt he's far better than he was a year ago. For a long hitter, he's also pretty good at the short par-4s, ranking 29th in 400-450 efficiency.

Patrick Cantlay - $10,200 (+1400)
Cantlay is coming off another major in which he didn't sniff the first page of the leaderboard. But he did tie for 14th. Outside of majors, he's never had trouble thriving in tougher fields. He's been top-15 here four years running. Take away the three majors and THE PLAYERS this year, and Cantlay has finished top-10 in six of eight starts in 2022.

Jordan Spieth - $9,900 (+2000)
The 2017 winner has not come close here since then. But Spieth so good in every strokes-gained category except putting that he's hard to avoid, especially since he's not in five figures. He is ranked 13th on Tour in par-4 400-450 – imagine if he could putt even a little bit?

Tier 2 Values

Seamus Power - $9,100 (+2800)
Power, coming off another strong major week, has shorter odds on the DK Sportsbook than Sungjae Im and Joaquin Niemann. That might be a bit extreme, but he's been playing great, now up to a career-best 36th in the world rankings. Power is ranked ninth in greens in regulation, 32nd in Strokes Gained: Putting and 25th in par-4 efficiency 400-450 yards. Power finished 19th here last year, which is just about the starting point of when he turned his career around.

Davis Riley - $8,900 (+4000)
Riley had a string of five straight top-13s end with his tie for 31st at Brookline. The best result in that run was a T4 at Colonial, which is another short, tactical track. Then again, Riley is playing well on all kinds of courses. This will be his Travelers debut.

Brian Harman - $8,600 (+4000) 
If there's a horse for this course outside of three-time winner Bubba Watson, it's Harman, who was fifth here last year. That was his fourth top-8 in his past seven Travelers starts. There's really no need to look at any stats, but what the heck: Harman is ranked 12th on Tour in driving accuracy and 20th in par-4 400-450.

Marc Leishman - $8,400 (+5000)
Warning: Things rarely go well when we pick Leishman. But he's had great success at River Highlands, tying for third last year and winning way back in 2012. He also had his best showing in five months last week with a T14 at Brookline. Leishman is ranked 37th on Tour in scoring average, and he has been often saved by his putter, as he ranks 12th in SG: Putting.

Tier 3 Values

Brendon Todd - $7,900 (+10000) 
Short course = we pick Todd. He was 13th in Canada last time out, which followed a tie for third at Colonial. He did not qualify for the U.S. Open, so he's even fully rested. Todd doesn't play River Highlands often, but he was 11th two years ago and 30th last year. He is ranked fifth on Tour in both driving accuracy and SG: Putting.

Brendan Steele - $7,700 (+6500)
Over the past nine years, Steele has seven top-25s here, including a pair of top-10s, most recently two years ago. He missed the cut last year. He's a terrible putter, but a great ball striker, and he's ranked 35th on Tour in both greens in regulation and SG: Tee-to-Green.

Harris English - $7,600 (+10000)
English has played only twice since his long layoff following hip surgery. He did make the cut last week at the U.S. Open and, frankly, his price tag and 100-1 odds are simply too good to pass up for someone was a top-20 player before the injury and still is No. 28 after all that time off.

Cam Davis - $7,500 (+15000)
The hush-hush secret about the big-hitting Davis is that his best results have been coming at shorter courses. He was recently seventh at Colonial and third at Harbour Town. Truth is, he doesn't hit the ball as far as he used to, or at least he's taking something off. His stats don't paint a very compelling picture, but those two recent short-track results do.

Long-Shot Values

Lanto Griffin - $7,100 (+20000) 
Griffin missed the cut at the U.S. Open, but he had made six of seven before that, and also succeeded at his Open qualifier. He's three for three in cuts at River Highlands with one top-25. Griffin is ranked 45th on Tour in SG: Approach, 60th in SG: Putting and 33rd in par-4 400-450.

Chris Gotterup - $6,400 (+30000) 
We turned to Gotterup at his pro debut in Canada and he missed the cut. But he came right around and not only qualified for the U.S. Open but made the cut and notched a tie for 43rd. It's at this time of year we like to take a flyer on the recent college grads, at least the best ones. We've seen over the past few years that these guys can come out of school and hit the ground running. Besides, what else looks really good down here?

Tyler Duncan - $6,400 (+30000) 
We'll tell you what else looks good down here. Back to another short-course favorite of ours. Duncan let us down last time out, barely missing the cut in Canada despite a second-round 66. He previously had finished top-15 at Colonial and Harbour Town. Duncan also has made four straight Travelers cuts, and no one else sub-$6,500 will give you that. Duncan is a terrible putter, so don't go hoping for a high finish, but weekend play is surely in the mix.

Justin Lower - $6,200 (+40000) 
We tabbed Lower at the Canadian Open and he came through, not only making the cut by tying for 35th. That gave him seven cashes in hisd past ninth PGA Tour starts. He's accruing more DraftKings points (57.3) than anyone else in this range, and even among guys a little more expensive than him. Lower is ranked 39th on Tour in greens in regulations despite being one of the shorter hitters.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Len Hochberg plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DK: Bunker Mentality.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years. He was named 2020 "DFS Writer of the Year" by the FSWA and was nominated for the same award in 2019.
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