We’re well into the beating heart of the PGA Tour’s 2020/21 season and the big events are coming thick and fast. So how come the Travelers Championship, at first glance not a tournament to grab the attention of the world’s elite, actually has such a decent field? It’s a simple equation. The organizers understand the event is post-U.S. Open and therefore they play into what the players really want right now between the big tests: fun golf, less stress, the ability to string birdies together, and an off-the-course vibe that relaxes them. And the good news for gamers? We’ve got to know the host course, TPC River Highlands, pretty good down the years.
TPC River Highlands
Often referred to as a Pete Dye design, TPC River Highlands is not quite pure-Dye. The original course was purchased by the PGA Tour in the 1980s and Dye was handed the role of renovating it to TOUR standard. In time, there have been many subsequent changes so we should be wary of lining up TPC Sawgrass, Harbour Town and Kiawah Island as ideal yardsticks for this week.
The course is a par-70 that plays short at 6,841 yards which explains why Jim Furyk was able to thrash a 58 there in 2016 and why 16-under or better has won in four of the last six renewals. Players will often say that they play a lot of short irons and wedges into the greens so look for a hot approach game. An added reason to seek that was highlighted by Englishman Paul Casey, who said: “They can tuck the pins away and put them on funky little slopes. If you short-side yourself, especially if you get over the greens, you’re going to be in a world of hurt.”
Consider, also, that a lot of players will be breathing a sigh of relief because they’ll be rolling the ball on bent grass greens again after the trauma (for some) of poa annua last week at Torrey Pines. The fairways are also wide and make for a contrast with the post-Masters stop-off at Harbour Town. That venue cramps the style of the big hitters, this one permits aggression and whoever takes advantage with those approaches will thrive.
The weather for Cromwell, Connecticut will start off sunny on Thursday before gradually clouding over the rest of the week. By the weekend there will be about a 25 percent chance of rain and the breezes will have risen from about 9 MPH to around 15 MPH. Thunderstorms are an outside possibility if they come in prior to the current forecast arrival of next Monday.
Past Champions in the Travelers Championship
The event stretches back to 1952 and has gone through plenty of name changes, but a good starting point to consider the winners would be 1997, when the course alterations had bedded-in and Stewart Cink, a two-time winner this season of course, claimed success for the first time. He was second on defense, claimed another triumph in 2008, and was second once more in 2018.
Cink’s steady game from tee-to-green, with the ability to shine when he gets the short irons in his hand (something that is not always possible on longer tracks) was pretty much the reason behind subsequent successes of the likes of Olin Browne, Peter Jacobsen, Woody Austin, Brad Faxon and JJ Henry between his first and second wins. Since then, Marc Leishman, Ken Duke, Kevin Streelman, Russell Knox, and Chez Reavie have maintained that theme.
But there has also been a thread of big-hitters who enjoy a bit of creativity. Bubba Watson is a three-time winner (in 2010, 2015 and 2018), Phil Mickelson won back-to-back in 2001-2002, Kenny Perrywent super-low (22-under) when winning in 2009, Jordan Spieth lifted the trophy in 2017, and Dustin Johnson carded a third round 61 when winning last year.
There are perhaps two themes going on therefore: the craftsmen who nudge their way around the track and the creative-types who, you might have noticed, have something in common: with the exception of Perry they all won at Augusta National – and even Perry should have done that, losing a play-off in 2009.
Here’s are some entirely FREE suggestions for you this week with MORE for subscribers (DraftKings Prices)
|A list||B. DeChambeau||$10,100|
|B list||B. Harman||$8,800|
|B list||C. Hoffman||$8,600|
|C list||K. Na||$7,500|
|C list||P. Kizzire||$7,100|
Bryson DeChambeau ($11,100) Blew up in the final round last week, but will find more space from the tee box this time around and it’s really intriguing to see how DeChambeau 2.0 plays the course. Before he beefed up and took the brutal route, he tagged three consecutive top 10s here, needing more than 68 shots in a round just once in 12 circuits. Gained over five shots with his approach play last week, wider fairways can help him maximize that aspect of his game this week.
Brian Harman ($8,800) T–19 last week at Torrey Pines, his second-best effort in the national championship and just a second top 30, a reminder that he’s in the form of his life. In fact, it was a seventh top 20 finish in eight starts and now he gets to play a course he really likes. He made his first four cuts at the layout easily enough without threatening much. But since then, he’s added three top 10s in six visits.
Charley Hoffman ($8,600) Seven top 30 finishes in 11 starts for Hoffman at River Highlands and three times he’s made a really good tilt at the title. Currently flying high and I’d even take his T–57 last week at Torrey Pines as a sign of decent play because he’s not always thrived there or in the championship. It was a 12th cut made in a row and eight times he ended the week top 20.
Kevin Na ($7,500) Missed the cut at the PGA Championship and U.S. Open, but take greater note of the cuts made at Innisbrook and Colonial – shorter tests that suit him. He’s 6-for-8 at playing the weekend on the course, including T–9 in 2007 and T–5 last year. A winner at Waialae this year when excellent tee to green.
Patton Kizzire ($7,100) Had his early problems with River Highlands (1-for-4) but on his fifth visit in 2020 he landed T–6. I like his T–7 at Waialae and T–3 at Colonial this year as hint that he’ll back up that improved performance. His approach work was superb in the latter.
Ryan Armour ($6,700) He’s very cheap so why the warning? Well, it may seem like a risk worth taking because he was T–6 in the event last year and T–8 last time out at Palmetto. But prior to last year’s top 10 he’d missed three cuts and the three times he did make the weekend he was outside the top 50. An absolute putting week from the Gods got him that result. The stats say he’ll need a repeat because his long game won’t be helping him out.
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- A couple of good alternative picks to help you build out GPP options based around not one but two CORE lineups.
Here’s Another Alternate of Core Picks For the Travelers Championship
|A list||P. Casey||$9,900|
|B list||J. Niemann||$9,000|
|B list||B. Watson||$8,900|
|C list||G. Higgo||$7,900|
|C list||S. Cink||$7,300|
Paul Casey ($9,900) More fun and games for the Englishman last week who has been superb for a year now. In 2021 alone he has 12 top 30 finishes from 14 starts, nine of them top 15s. That whole time his SG Tee to Green number have been great. They’ve always been good on the course, too, and it’s helped him go 6-for-6 with a pair of second, a pairs of T–5s, and nothing worse than T–32.
Joaquin Niemann ($9,000) The Chilean was T–5 on debut and, while, never in the hunt, he did add three sub-70 laps when T–63 last year so he likes the course. He’s on a run of 20-for-21 in stroke play, he was second at Waialae when in excellent form tee to green, and he plays par-70s very well.
Bubba Watson ($8,900) When Bubba likes a track it feeds into his brain, firing whatever it needs to fire – his imagination, more than anything. This is one of those tests and, like many of those others he adores, he repeats the good results. He’s 11-for-14 there, with no less than three wins and also a second. Fifth at halfway last week, the slog got to him, but this is a good after-show option for him.
Garrick Higgo ($7,900) It was worth a punt with him last week after his heroics since the start of April (two wins in Europe, another at the Palmetto Championship). Even more reason to go with him again now. He can open his arms from the tee and he spent three weeks in Europe doing that then firing at pins with short irons. This might be right up his street.
Stewart Cink ($7,300) Made the cut last week again, his seventh in a row as he continues a gloriously fun season that has witnessed two wins. He won the week after the Masters – repeating that would be too neat, but there’s every reason for some sort of echo: it’s a course with similar requirements, he’s a two-time winner and he’s also twice been second, including in 2018. He’s in much better nick now.
Kevin Kisner ($7,100) Kisner is never shy of telling folk that he can’t compete on the big tracks so you’d think he would talk River Highlands up. Yet, whenever he’s asked to list tracks that suit him, this one is never mentioned. He’s missed three cuts in four visits which might well explain it. He’s also got a best of T–40 in his last eight stroke play starts with six missed cuts. A player you might be tempted by, but probably shouldn’t be.
In the last five years of this event the winners have thrived in SG Tee to Green. That often happens, but it makes a lot of sense here. As discussed above, the course can be attacked, but it needs a neat package. Those five winners all ranked top six T2G and five of them by also ranking top seven for SG Approach, but crucially not being weak around the greens when they missed a few. Bubba Watson ranked 18th for Approach but made up for it gaining more from the tee. I also like that players who thrive here drop hints by finishing high up the leaderboard in similar tests earlier in the season, and doing so with good T2G numbers. Think Waialae, Harbour Town, Riviera and Colonial.
Other Player Options For The Travelers Championship
• How will Russell Henley respond to going backwards last Sunday at Torrey Pines? His stellar approach play is a good course fit and he’s 3-for-4 at the tournament with a pair of top 12 finishes.
• Beware Max Homa. Nice guy on Twitter and fine golfer, but you’d need to be bold to pick him this week: he’s played River Highlands three times, never made a cut and never look like doing so.
• Keep an eye on young Italian Stallion Guido Migliozzi. He won twice on the European Tour in 2019, made back-to-back seconds on that circuit in recent weeks, and was tied fourth in his U.S. Open debut. He likes to attack.
COVID-19 and Injury Warning:
Pro DFS players know it makes sense to stay up-to-date on Twitter, DraftKings, FanDuel and-or subscribe to any number of email feeds and whatever to remain up to speed with injuries or COVID-19 withdraws. Players that don’t make the cut are tough enough. Players that don’t play all four rounds (even when pulling out at the last minute) make for a pretty weak lineup.
Go win your lineups and then tell us how you did. Twitter (@FantasyDFSX) is a good place for that.
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