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The Field

This week the tour sees a return to a normal sized 150+ player field with the top 70 and ties making the cut after Friday.  However, this field will be very different than last week’s US Open in many ways.  Even though there are some top players attending the bottom half of this field will be a lot weaker and with the tournament is being played across the country in Connecticut so fatigue may be a factor for some players.  Some top names in the field this week include Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson.

The Course

TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut

Par 70, 6800-6900 yards (depending on setup)

To say this course will be a different test than the one players saw last week is a pretty huge understatement.  Like Chambers Bay, TPC River Highlands is a par 70.  However unlike Chambers Bay, TPC River Highlands only measures between 6800 and 6900 yards and it’s a course where players will be able to make a lot of low scores.  The course features two par 5’s, one of which is extremely reachable by players in two and should yield a high number of birdies and eagles.  It also features two drivable par 4’s, one of which is the under 300 yard 15th hole which always produces a lot of drama late on Sunday.  TPC River Highlands is a very “gettable” course and I expect the player who wins this week is the one who comes in with a hot putter and is able to take advantage of the scorable holes better than most of the field.  This is another Pete Dye designed course so a player with a good history playing his designs may be someone to look at.

 

Last 5 WinnersUSATSI_8503704_168381090_lowres

2014—Kevin Streelman
2013—Ken Duke
2012—Marc Leishman
2011—Fredrik Jacobson
2011—Bubba Watson

 

What will it take to succeed at TPC River Highlands?

Birdies, and a lot of them.  Kevin Streelman showed how quickly things can change at this event when, after shooting a +1 on the front 9 on Sunday, he birdied his last 7 holes on the back and ended up winning the tournament.  Players will have to take advantage of the smooth putting surfaces and some of the shorter holes this week just to keep up with the field and have a chance to play the weekend.  Additionally, as TPC River Highlands is a par 70, with only two par 5’s on the course, par 4 scoring overall will become more important than normal.  A good ball striking week is important as players will need to give themselves as many looks at birdie as possible.  However, perhaps even more important will be having a good week with the putter.  Last year Kevin Streelman ranked 3rd in strokes gained putting and 1st in putts per green in regulation on his way to victory.  A good putting week is likely going to be the key to most player’s success so be on the lookout for someone who might be coming in with a hot putter.

Who has had success at the Travelers Championship?

This is definitely a week where many players will be coming in on the coattails of some very good course history at TPC River Highlands and I’ve earmarked the ones with the best records below
  • There’s zero question that Bubba Watson loves this event. He’s played here every year since 2008 and never missed the cut while amassing finishes of 1st-2nd-4th and 6th
  • Although nowhere near as famous, Chris Stroud has an equally impressive record at this event. He’s made 7 straight cuts here and also has a runner up finish from 2013.
  • Hunter Mahan is another player to eye this week. He’s a past winner (2007) who has also finished inside the top 5 four times since 2006, a definite horse for the course.
  • Vijay Singh isn’t the sexiest fantasy pick but he’s never failed to produce at this event. Since 2007 Singh has never skipped the Travellers and also never missed the cut while finishing inside the top 15 three times.
  • Lastly, Nick Watney is someone to keep an eye on this week. He’s only played this event 5 times since 2005 but he has four finishes inside the top 15 within that time period.
  Who has struggled at the Travelers Championship?
  • Kevin Na has been on fire lately but he’s never really put up good results at this event. In 6 attempts he only has one top ten and his other results have all failed to crack the top 30.
  • Jason Bohn has played here 5 times since 2009. He’s now missed his last three cuts at this event making him a questionable fit for the course.
  • In five cracks at this course Sean O’Hair has never finished higher than 60th and missed the cut 3 times. He’ll be rested having skipped the US Open but also a risky play due to poor history.
  • Even though he showed up on the US Open leaderboard briefly last weekend, Daniel Summerhays has never prospered at TPC River Highlands. He’s missed two of three cuts with a high finish of 74th.
 

What statistics are important?

With the course playing as a par 70 this week looking at statistics for par 4 scoring is a good place to start your research.  I’d look not only at par 4 scoring stats but also par 4 birdie or better leaders this week.  Lots of low scores will be needed and those players who can help you out with scoring well on the par 4’s should be in high demand.  Additionally, as I already mentioned putting stats this week is probably a good place to look and last year’s winner Kevin Streelman proved that having a good week with the putter is very important at this course.  For that reason I’d look not only at strokes gained: putting but also scrambling as getting up and down for birdie from just off the green on the par 5’s and reachable par 4’s will be key.  Finally, looking at overall birdie average on a week like this is never a bad idea.  Low scores will be needed and those who tend to make more birdies than the field should be given extra weight.

My Recommendation:

This is usually a fun week and this tournament has seen a lot of close finishes and some surprising first time winners.  I’d really concentrate on looking at players with solid course history and good stats in either birdie average or par 4 scoring.  Your fantasy team will need to score to be able to make the cut this week and so looking for players who can take advantage of the course and pour it in the hole consistently will be key.

My Pick to win: Russell Knox

I’m going off the board a bit this week with my pick.  Knox is a great young player with high rankings in par 4 scoring.  He’s played well in recent weeks and should be rested coming off the US Open week (which he didn’t play).  This event has seen a lot of first tie winners and I think he could be the next one.

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