WATCH: PRICE CHECK – TRAVELERS CHAMPIONSHIP
The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help with roster selections.
Previous Week Roundup
The U.S. Open was a wild affair from start to finish with a ton of big-named players disappointing for fantasy. Of the top five players in the world, only Hideki Matsuyama and Jordan Spieth made the cut, while Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and world number one Dustin Johnson all missed the weekend festivities. Ultimately it was Brooks Koepka taking home the title with a dominant performance that saw him rise to number 10 in the OWGR. This was Koepka’s first major and second win on the PGA, he equaled the event scoring record at 16-under on a week where the course played much easier than it usually does at this event.
This is a full-field event and actually has quite a few bigger names attached to it. Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy are all in attendance and will be looking to make quick amends for what was a brutal U.S. Open for the top-ranked players. Other big names who will also be teeing it up here are Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey. With this being the week after a major, it will be hard to know exactly what to expect, but with the Open Championship only about a month away now players will be pushing hard to get their games in order. Like most regular PGA Tour events, the cut this week takes place on Friday and the top-70 players and ties will make the weekend. The field this week is also a big one as 150+ golfers will be teeing it up making it another tough week to get 6/6 through in DFS.
TPC River Highlands — Cromwell, Connecticut
Par 70, 6,800-6,900 yards
This course will be an extremely different test from what the players saw last week. TPC River Highlands is a short par 70 that features a pretty eclectic blend of holes – it’s also the place where Jim Furyk had one of the greatest rounds of fantasy golf ever when he shot 58 on Sunday last year. Last year this venue was ranked only 26th in terms of toughness on tour and yielded an average score of 69.668 to the field.
There’s only two par 5s on the course, but one of them is the extremely reachable 523-yard 13th hole which should yield a high number of birdies and eagles for the week. And while the course only has two par 5s, it also features two very drivable par 4s, one of which is the under 300 yard 15th hole which always produces a lot of drama late on Sunday. In short, TPC River Highlands is a place where players can and must make birdies and where we’re likely to see a winning score in the mid-to-high teens.
The course itself was designed back in 1928 but was reworked by perennial PGA course designer Pete Dye in 1982. And while the course isn’t an original Dye, it still lines up nicely with many of his other venues mainly because it challenges players with several tougher approach shots, even if overall it plays fairly easily. The course itself has seen all types of players win here as big hitters like Bubba Watson and Marc Leishman have prospered at this event, while several shorter hitters like Kevin Streelman, Freddie Jacobson and Chris Stroud have also found success at these grounds. Hence, while big numbers off the tee are not required here, a solid iron game, and perhaps more importantly, a great week with the putter will be necessary as players will need to give themselves as many chances at birdie as humanly possible.
2017 Outlook: As of writing, the weather for this event looks like it will be very cooperative with medium to hot temperatures and very little sign of any rain or poor weather in sight. Friday does have some higher wind forecasted in the afternoon, so that may be something to keep an eye for fantasy purposes. Overall though, scoring conditions will likely be ideal throughout, so expect regular low scores here and possibly something in the high teens to win.
Last six winners
- 2016 –- Russell Knox -14 (over Jerry Kelly -13)
- 2015 — Bubba Watson -16 (over Paul Casey in playoff)
- 2014 — Kevin Streelman -15 (over Sergio Garcia and KJ Choi -14)
- 2013 — Ken Duke -12 (over Chris Stroud in playoff)
- 2012 — Marc Leishman -14 (over Charley Hoffman and Bubba Watson -13)
- 2011 — Fredrik Jacobson -20 (over Ryan Moore and John Rollins -19)
- Four of the last seven winners of the Travelers have been first-time winners on the PGA Tour.
- Three of the last four winners of this event were coming into the week off of missed cuts in their previous start.
- The last five times the Travelers was played after the U.S. Open (’15-’11) only once has the winner played the U.S. Open the week before and made the cut (Jacobson 2011)
- Strokes Gained: Approach the Green
- Approach Proximity 125-150, 150-175
- Birdie or Better Percentage
This week may be more difficult to quantify than others, especially given the different profiles of winners we have seen at this event. That being said, there’s zero doubt that approach stats are where you should be looking in terms of strokes gained. While not all winners have ranked highly in this stat, last year five of the top-10 finishers (including winner Russell Knox) ranked inside the top-10 in this stat for the week.
Given the ease of scoring here, it also makes sense to weigh Birdie or Better Percentage higher than normal as well. Since 2012, the worst a winner has fared in this category has been 12th (Bubba Watson 2015) with last year’s winner Russell Knox ranking fifth in this category and runner-up Jerry Kelly ranking second.
Lastly, with this being a shorter course, I would also look into some specific proximity stats. Last year our friends at Fantasy Golf Metrics (@FGMetrics on Twitter) showed us that approaches from 125-175 will generally be the most common the players will have to encounter at this venue, and that makes targeting players ranked highly in these categories valuable. In general, a good wedge game will be valuable here on a shorter course as players will need quality birdie looks to keep up with the pace of scoring.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful of putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.
|Byeong Hun-An||60-1||$7,100||Graham DeLaet $7,100 and 70-1
Morgan Hoffmann $7,100 and 150-1
Jonas Blixt $7,100 and 200-1
|Adam Hadwin||80-1||$6,800||Fabian Gomez $6,800 and 200-1
Robert Streb $6,800 and 200-1
Alex Cejka $6,800 and 300-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
- Bubba Watson loves the Travelers, and more specifically, he loves TPC River Highlands. Since 2008 he has accumulated five finishes of T6 or better including wins in 2010 and 2015. He’s also only finished outside of the top-25 twice in his last nine appearances. Even with poor form, he’s a lead horse this week.
- Webb Simpson has been solid at this event and venue. Since 2008 he’s gone 7/7 in cuts made here and has two top-15 finishes at this event in his last four appearances. Webb enters this week off a decent U.S. Open T35 finish and has made four cuts in a row.
- Marc Leishman won his first PGA Tour event at this venue back in 2012, and he’s backed that appearance up with two more top-12 finishes at TPC River Highlands over the past three years. Overall, Leishman is 6/6 in cuts made here and generally enters the week in solid form, even after a slightly disappointing weekend at the U.S. Open.
- Charley Hoffman has played here six times since 2010 and has accumulated five top-30 finishes in that span. To add to that record Hoffman was also the runner-up here in 2012 and finished T7 in 2013, so there’s little question as to whether the venue suits him. He’s also coming off his best finish ever in a major — T8 last week.
Cash Games: Although it may be hard to pay up for “studs” after the letdown from last week, I would still feel good about starting any lineup here with Rory McIlroy, who hasn’t missed two cuts in a row on the PGA since 2012 and is still very affordable at under $12k. Players in contention last week will have some fatigue, but Justin Thomas also looks like a nice target at $10,200 given his high birdie percentage. After him, Brandt Snedeker, Branden Steele, Byeong Hun-An, Graham DeLaet, Chez Reavie, Adam Hadwin and Webb Simpson would also all be on my radar for this format.
Tournaments: Fading some of the top players who were in contention last week and hoping for some fatigue isn’t a bad idea. I’d consider Paul Casey ($9,400), who most will be down on after his weekend implosion, a decent GPP target here too; he was second at this event on debut in 2015. Bubba Watson also fits this narrative, as he will be fresh from the weekend and ready to attack a course which he’s demolished over his career. Other decent GPP targets include Anirban Lahiri (see below), Bud Cauley ($7,500), Harris English ($6,900) and Derek Fathauer ($6,500).
Top Recent Form
1. Justin Thomas: Has a ninth- and fourth-place finish over his last two starts and is 17-under par over his last eight rounds.
2. Brian Harman: Coming off a solo second at the U.S. Open, also has a seventh and a win to his credit over his last five starts.
3. Charley Hoffman: Has made six straight cuts now and coming off best ever U.S. Open finish (T8) and his best finish in a major.
Top Strokes Gained: Birdie or Better Percentage (year to date)
1. Justin Thomas
2. Jordan Spieth
3. Hideki Matsuyama
MY PICK: Rory McIlroy ($11,600)
There’s actually a fairly stacked field in attendance this week, so there are a lot of different ways you can go at the top in terms of roster construction, but my favorite target this week has to be Rory McIlroy. The U.S. Open will have been a disappointment, but coming off an injury layoff was not the ideal prep for Rory at a notoriously tough event. McIlroy will be seeing TPC River Highlands for the first time ever this year in competition, but it’s a course which has been kind to first-timers and with players who rank highly in terms of tee to green skills too. Last year, Daniel Berger bludgeoned the course for three rounds on his first attempt, and the big-hitting Bubba Watson has always liked the course as well, so there is every chance that Rory will come here and find it a very inviting place for hitting his usual bombs off the tee. With Jason Day still struggling tee to green, and the rest of the top players coming off long weeks at Erin Hills, Rory is the target for me this week among the top group and should have an excellent shot at finally bringing in that first win of the season.
MY SLEEPER: Anirban Lahiri ($7,500)
If one of the lesser salaried players is going to take down the title this week it will have to be someone who can pour in a ton of birdies; especially since the top of this field is stacked with great names. Enter Lahiri, who is currently ranked fourth in Birdie Average, ninth in Birdie or Better Percentage and 16th in par four Birdie or Better Percentage. In short, Lahiri can pile up the DK points fast when he’s on and looks like he’ll be a great fit for a course which is typically one of the most lenient on tour in terms of scoring. When you add in his recent form (T2 at Memorial) and the fact he is coming off 10 days of “meditation” according to his Twitter account (@anirbangolf), he makes for a very interesting play this week in DFS and one that could yield a ton of DK points if things go well.
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