Travelers Championship – Cromwell, CT
TPC River Highlands (6,841 yards, par 70)
$1,260,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner
After a newsworthy U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, the PGA Tour travels just 100 miles north to Cromwell, CT for the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands. Given its proximity to Shinnecock, the field is noticeably strong, with eight of the world’s top 15 players in attendance. TPC River Highlands is now in its 35th year of hosting on the PGA Tour and boasts a Pete Dye overhaul completed in 1984. In the early 1990s the course got another upgrade, leading to a four-acre lake with holes 15-17 circumventing the body of water. The course is seen as a birdie-producing venue, yielding Jim Furyk’s historic 58 in 2016, the lowest round ever shot on the PGA Tour. With that in mind, look for plenty of par-breakers to litter the property this week and a thrilling finish to unfold in the final stretch come Sunday.
Recent Past Champions
2017 – Jordan Spieth
2016 – Russell Knox
2015 – Bubba Watson
2014 – Kevin Streelman
2013 – Ken Duke
2012 – Marc Leishman
2011 – Fredrik Jacobsen
2010 – Bubba Watson
2009 – Kenny Perry
2008 – Stewart Cink
Key Stats to Victory
• Par Breakers percentage
• Par 4 Scoring Average
• Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green
As of the PGA Tour’s shortest courses, length has little to do with success at TPC River Highlands. A plethora of shorter holes mean birdies can come in bunches, so look for players with a propensity to make birdies on a first run-through. The par-70 course has 12 par-4s on the card, including a drivable one, so par-4 scoring average will prove important given the lack of par-5s. Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green is also an incredibly useful stat this week, because hitting it close is what separates players when they are - in many cases - forced to position themselves with less than driver off the tee. In the past four years, top finishers at the Travelers Championship leaderboard saw over half of their scoring advantage from Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green alone.
FanDuel Value Picks
Brooks Koepka, $12500 – After last week’s impressive defense of his U.S. Open title, Koepka will be riding on fumes on a much easier course setup. But as he proved the past two U.S. Opens, he can win whether it’s a birdie-fest (2017) or a grind (2018). Though it’s pretty unlikely he will win again this week, there’s a very good chance he will carry over the momentum from last week and produce at least a top-25 result.
Justin Thomas, $12300 – With a T25 last week Thomas notched his 15th straight top-25 in individual competition, making him the safest pick of the week. Thomas has no real weaknesses in his game and can pile up birdies as well as anyone in the world, as evidenced by him ranking fifth on Tour in Par-Breakers.
Rory McIlroy, $11800 – Last week’s missed cut shouldn’t scare you. It just means Rory probably played too aggressively at the tough Shinnecock track. At a much easier and forgiving venue, McIlroy’s talent should rise to the top and provide him a good chance to pick up the win. In his first start here last season, he finished T17.
Jordan Spieth, $11500 – Spieth’s hole-out to win the Travlers last season was easily the shot of the year, but this time around he’s in a putting slump. His strategic ability to navigate the doglegs at TPC River Highlands should produce plenty of birdie looks, but he will need to convert for any chance at winning. He’s a risky play at $11500 but obviously has the upside to defend his title.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Paul Casey, $11200 – Casey finished runner-up in 2015 here and followed it up with two more top 20s the past two years. Given the strong course history, Casey exudes value on FanDuel, and he should continue to be his consistent self after a T16 at Shinnecock last week.
Bubba Watson, $10400 – Watson has claimed victory at TPC River Highlands twice and notched three other top-6 finishes in just 11 career starts – this is clearly a favorite course of his. Regardless of his form entering this week, Watson is capable of rekindling fond memories of success. He’s a solid value and one you can’t ignore if you’re entering multiple lineups on FanDuel.
Ryan Moore, $9800 – Moore’s career record at TPC River Highlands speaks for itself: five top-10s in 10 starts. His game of strategic driving, elite short irons and great putting fits the champion’s profile to a tee, so expect the underrated option to outperform his salary this week.
Xander Schauffele, $9600 –Last year Schauffele produced a T5 at the U.S. Open and went on to produce a top-15 at the Travelers. This year he enters this week on the heels of a T6 at the U.S. Open. Can you say, déjà vu?
Strategy Tips for this week (based on 60k standard salary cap)
This event has often produced a first-time champion, but last year in a strong field Jordan Spieth took the tourney in dramatic fashion. Expect a similar top-level talent to find his way into the winner’s circle again this year in what should be a welcome return to under-par scoring. The salaries are bunched this week, meaning it’s not difficult to fit 3-4 studs in your lineup and still fit in some decent low-cost talent from the bottom tiers. Don’t be afraid to take some fliers in that range, with an emphasis on those who can produce plenty of birdies.