Event and Course Preview: Travelers Championship

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Event and Course Preview: Travelers Championship

After Matthew Fitzpatrick was victorious at the U.S. Open on Sunday, the PGA Tour heads to Cromwell, Connecticut for the Travelers Championship. The tournament has a vast amount of history, as it began in 1952 and has been played at TPC River Highlands since 1991. The event has been played the week following the U.S. Open each year since 2007, except in 2020 due to the pandemic. We will see a loaded field once again this week, as players have their sights set on preparing for The Open Championship later in July.

Course Preview

TPC River Highlands is located near Hartford, Connecticut and was originally founded in 1928. The venue was known as the Middletown Golf Club until it was purchased by the PGA Tour in 1980. The course was designed by Pete Dye to match “TPC PGA standards”, who has designed other TPC courses such as TPC Sawgrass and TPC Louisiana. The course is a par 70 track that measures 6,852 yards, making it the second shortest course on Tour. The fairways are made up of bentgrass and are surrounded by four inch Kentucky bluegrass and fescue rough. The green sizes are below the Tour average and have a mixture of bentgrass and poa annua. There are four holes with water hazards that come into play, so accuracy off-the-tee and on approach shots will be important.

Quick Points
  • Course Architect: Pete Dye (1982), Bobby Weed (1989)

  • Par: 70 (Four Par 3s, Twelve Par 4s, Two Par 5s)

  • Distance: 6,852 Yards

  • Greens Surface: Bentgrass with Poa Annua

  • Average Green Size: 5,000 Sq. Feet - Below Tour Average

  • Number of Holes With Water Hazards: 4

  • Sand Bunkers: 69

  • Rough Length: 4 Inches Kentucky Bluegrass / Fescue

  • Historic Cutline: Between +2 and -3 over the last 20 years

Pivotal Holes

The most difficult hole at TPC River Highlands is the fourth hole, a par 4 measuring 481 yards long. The longest par 4 on the course will require two solid shots to reach the green. The hole sees bogies almost 25% of the time.

The two par 5s are both reachable in two shots and see birdies at a 34% rate or higher. The sixth hole measures 574 yards long and sees birdies over 34% of the time and bogies at only 8%. The thirteenth hole measures 523 yards and sees birdies or better at over 40% of the time. Both of these holes provide scoring opportunities that golfers must take advantage of.

The second toughest hole on the course is the tenth hole, a par 4 that measures 461 yards long. The hole sees bogies nearly 20% of the time due to the narrowness of the fairway and a large oak tree that sits on the left side of it. The green is tricky as well, as it is narrow and slopes from the front to the back.

The par 4 seventeenth hole measures 420 yards long and is the third most difficult hole on the course, as it sees double bogies at a 5% rate. There is a large lake that sits on the right side of the fairway that provides a true risk/reward test for players. The approach shot must carry over the water onto the green, so club selection is crucial, especially if the wind is gusting.

Watch the Early-Tee-Time Livestream tonight at 6 PM ET for a hole-by-hole breakdown and a more in-depth look at TPC River Highlands.

Key Stats

  • SG: Off-the-Tee / Good Drives Gained

  • Approach / Proximity from 125-175 Yards

  • SG: Around the Green

  • Par 5 Scoring

  • Par 4 Scoring / 400-450 Yards

  • SG: Putting / Opportunities Gained

Over the last month, we have seen a multitude of courses with thick, penalyzing rough. I’m going right back to my weighted Off-the-tee stat, that takes Good Drives Gained into consideration. Matthew Fitzpatrick ranked 4th in this stat going into the U.S. Open last week and it certainly showed throughout the event.

Top 5 Players in SG: OTT / Good Drives Gained
Brendan Steele
Mito Pereira
Rory McIlroy
Tony Finau
Joaquin Niemann
DFS Values: Anirban Lahiri (6th), Doug Ghim (7th), Lucas Glover (8th)

Let’s take a look at who has been playing well with their irons over the last 24 rounds, as SG: Approach will always be important in each event. With nearly 50% of approach shots coming from 125-175 yards, I am looking at a weighted SG: Approach stat this week that takes the key proximity ranges into account.

Top 5 Players in SG: Approach / Proximity from 125 - 175 Yards L24
Justin Thomas
Sam Burns
Aaron Wise
Scottie Scheffler
Brendan Steele
DFS Values: Tom Hoge (9th), Brian Stuard (12th)

Golfers will need to scramble their way around the greens when they miss the smaller than average targets. With the rough being long around the fairways, GIR% is likely to go down when players miss the short grass. Even the best iron players in the world will need to be strong around the greens. Only two players inside the top 20 of last year lost strokes around the greens.

Top-5 Players in SG: ARG / Scrambling L24
Jordan Spieth
Denny McCarthy
Harold Varner III
Jason Day
Tony Finau & Andrew Novak
DFS Values: Anirban Lahiri (7th), Si Woo Kim (10th), Andrew Putnam (12th)

Eight of the holes at TPC River Highlands are par 4s that measure 400-450 yards long. Let’s take a look at who has been gaining strokes on these types of holes.

Top 5 Players in Par 4 Scoring / 400-450 Yards L24
Scottie Scheffler
Jordan Spieth
Justin Thomas
Sungjae Im
Tony Finau
DFS Values: Davis Riley (6th), Keegan Bradley (8th), Anirban Lahiri (9th)

Easy scoring holes don’t come very often at TPC River Highlands, so golfers have to take advantage of the two par 5s at this course. Golfers such as Abe Ancer and Beau Hossler finished inside the top 10 last year due to leading the field in SG: Par 5s.

Top 5 Players in SG: Par 5s L24
Rory McIlroy
Mito Pereira
Scottie Scheffler
Sam Burns
Keith Mitchell & Jordan Spieth
DFS Values: Si Woo Kim (8th), Harold Varner III (9th), Johnny Vegas (11th)

The entire top-15 from last year was positive in Strokes Gained: Putting. This week I want to look at the best putters in the field, as well as who has given themselves the most opportunities at 15-foot birdie putts.

Top 5 Players in SG: Putting / Opportunities Gained L24
Justin Thomas
Sam Burns
Keegan Bradley
Tony Finau
Brian Harman
DFS Values: Davis Riley (7th), Maverick McNealy (8th), Seamus Power (9th)

Check out Pat James’ Stat Model article on FantasyPoints for a more in-depth breakdown of the main stats to look at this week.

Tournament History

Last year, Harris English won his second event of the season by edging out Kramer Hickok in a two-man playoff. English ranked 3rd in SG: Tee-to-Green and backed that up by gaining almost four strokes putting. The duo battled it out in an epic eight-hole playoff, where Harris English eventually birdied the eighteenth hole after the sixth time they played it. This was English’s fourth career victory and pushed him to 10th in the OWGR at the time.

The last five winners of this tournament include:

  • 2021 - Harris English (-13) Won a playoff vs. Kramer Hickok

  • 2020 - Dustin Johnson (-19)

  • 2019 - Chez Reavie (-17)

  • 2018 - Bubba Watson (-17)

  • 2017 - Jordan Spieth (-12) Won a playoff vs. Daniel Berger

The Field

The favorites to win the 2022 Travelers Championship include:

Course History

DataGolf has TPC River Highlands ranked inside the top 10 when looking at courses where course history has been the most predictive.

Patrick Cantlay

After missing two of his first three cuts at TPC River Highlands, Cantlay has finished T15 or better in each of the last four years. He has gained strokes on approach in all seven starts here.

Made Cuts: 5/7. Best Finishes: T11, T13, T15, T15.

Rory McIlroy

Rory has only played TPC River Highlands three times, but he has never finished worse than T17. He has also improved his finishing position in each start, as he finished T11 in his most recent appearance in 2020.

Made Cuts: 3/3. Best Finishes: T11, T17.

Jason Day

Day only has one missed cut in seven appearances at the Travelers, with two top 10s and four top 20s. He finished T10 last year and has finished T12 or better in three of the last four events here. Made Cuts: 9/12. Best Finishes: 2nd, T2, 3rd, T7, T9.

Other Course History Options to Consider
  • Jordan Spieth: Made Cuts: 3/4. Best Finishes: Winner (2017), T42, T54

  • Brian Harman: Made Cuts: 9/11. Best Finishes: 3rd, T5, T6, T8

  • Mackenzie Hughes : Made Cuts: 5/5. Best Finishes: T3, T17, T42

  • Kevin Streelman: Made Cuts: 10/14. Best Finishes: Winner (2014), 2nd, T6, T8

  • Chez Reavie: Made Cuts: 9/11. Best Finishes: Winner (2019), T11, T25

  • Brendan Steele: Made Cuts: 8/11. Best Finishes: T5, T6, T13, T13, T14, T17

Essential Questions

Can we expect another hangover from golfers who were in contention in the U.S. Open? Or will they carry that momentum over?

This has been a key question I have considered after both major championships this year, and so far we have seen mixed results. Jordan Spieth won the RBC Heritage in April after missing the cut at the Masters. Sam Burns placed T20 in the PGA Championship before winning the Charles Schwab Challenge the following week, however golfers such as Will Zalatoris and Abraham Ancer missed the cut after contending at Southern Hills. What can we expect from the Travelers? In recent years, Chez Reavie won in 2019 after placing T3 the week prior in the U.S. Open. Last year, Harris English won the Travelers following a 3rd place finish in the U.S. Open as well. On the contrary, golfers such as Bubba Watson (2018) and Kevin Streelman (2014) won this event following a missed cut in the major championship. With such mixed results over the years, the answer to this question could be a major x-factor this weekend. In my opinion, I like longshots such as Joel Dahmen and Denny McCarthy to carry their momentum over into the week, as they likely can’t be too deflated by top-10 finishes in the U.S. Open.

Early DFS Targets

Mito Pereira

The Chilean missed the cut on the number last week, which ended an impressive run of seven made cuts in a row, where his worst finish was T27 at the Valspar Championship in March. Pereira’s last few months have been highlighted by a T3 finish at the PGA Championship, T7 at the Charles Schwab, and a pair of T13 finishes at the Memorial and Valero. He’s gained strokes on Approach in 11 of the last 12 events and has shown strong putting performances. Pereira lost strokes OTT last week, something he hasn’t done since February. I expect him to bounce back strong this week, as he ranks highly in multiple stats I am looking at. He is 2nd in my weighted SG: OTT stat and in SG: Par 5s, as well as 7th in SG: Approach. At 55/1 on FanDuel, I will also take Mito in the outright market.

Anirban Lahiri

Lahiri had a strong Spring season, making six straight cuts that included a runner-up finish at the Players Championship, a T13 at the Valero, and a T6 finish at the Wells Fargo. The Wells Fargo Championship was held at TPC Potomac, which was another shorter par 70 course that had long rough grass and small greens similar to TPC River Highlands. Lahiri does have two straight missed cuts that I am willing to forgive a bit, as he lost over five strokes Putting at the PGA Championship and missed the cut on the number at the Memorial. I expect these missed cuts to reduce Lahiri’s ownership, and his $7.3K price on DraftKings provides a nice value piece. He ranks 6th in my weighted SG: OTT stat, 7th in SG: ARG/Scrambling, and 9th in SG: Par 4s 400-450 yards.

Brendan Steele

Brendan Steele has exactly what I like to target each week: Great Form combined with Good Course History. Steele has made his last 6 cuts, highlighted by his T9 finish at the PGA Championship followed by a T10 finish at the Memorial. He has gained strokes on approach in 5 of those 6 events, in addition to gaining strokes OTT in all 6. At $7.7K on DraftKings, I am curious if DFS players will think Steele’s price is too high. He ranks 1st in my SG: OTT stat, 5th in SG: Approach / Proximity from 125-175 yards, and has made 8 cuts in 11 starts at TPC River Highlands.

Early Tee Time Livestream - Monday @ 6 ET

Well, that does it for this week’s Event and Course Preview. For a more in-depth breakdown of the course, the field, DFS strategy, and my favorite picks this week be sure to check out the Early Tee Time livestream this Monday at 6 PM Eastern. Good luck everyone!

*All stats used are from FantasyNational and DataGolf

Hunter Vanness started his golf content by posting a player pool each week on Twitter, which eventually turned into a DFS cheatsheet, in addition to a weekly event preview. He is fascinated by the game theory part of PGA DFS and is continuing to dive into the data side of the game.