The Travelers Championship
So what a week that was in the end at the US Open. The event had everything you have come to expect from the US Open, tough conditions, carnage on the scoreboard, some great play, a tight finish, controversy and of course the obligatory cock up from the USGA. Roll on Pebble Beach next year!
From our point of view we were struggling from the get go on Thursday and in the end I was more than happy to claw back 50% of the weeks outlay, courtesy of a fabulous round 4 effort from Tommy Fleetwood.
As each week and big event go by Tommy impresses more and more and to me it is now not a matter of ‘if’ he will win a major championship but ‘when’.
The rest of our main team including our first round leader picks performed disappointingly unfortunately, particularly Branden Grace on Sunday. I am still keen on his chances at Carnoustie though!
As for our trader Ted Potter Jnr, whilst he missed the cut he performed well early in his round on Thursday and that was enough for him to trade at 200, well within the target price based on the initial ‘back’ at a 1000.
Following on from the US Open we now return to the bread and butter of the PGA Tour as we move about three hours north to Cromwell, Connecticut for the Travelers Championship.
The tournament has been a fixture on the tour since the early 1950s and it has been played at its current home TPC River Highlands since 1991.
Since 2007 the event has held the spot in the calendar of the week after the US Open. The only exception to this was in 2016 when as part of the tweaking of the schedule due to the Olympics it was moved to August.
Considering this is the week after a major and only a month away to the next one the field is a strong one with JT, Spieth, Day, McIlroy and the now two time US Open Champion Koepka heading things up.
TPC River Highlands is a Par 70 measuring at 6841 yards.
The greens are Bentgrass with Poa Annua.
The original course designer was J Moss back in 1928. Subsequently the course has undergone renovations in the hands of Pete Dye in 1982 and Bobby Weed in 1989.
There are different ways to play TPC River Highlands. One, as we have seen from Bubba over the years, is to over power it’s collection of short par 4s. Another as shown by the likes of Russell Knox and Ken Duke is to plot your way round. Either way plenty of birdies will be required on what is basically a short resort course.
As I say above there have been different types of winner here of late.
Over the past 10yrs we have seen two wins for Bubba who basically over powered the course. There have also been wins for bigger hitters Cink and Kenny Perry.
Then we have seen Spieth and Freddie Jacobsen use their short game skills to win.
Finally we have seen wins for Knox, Duke, Leishman and Streelman, all renowned ball strikers who have combined this with a hot putting week.
Streelman of course memorably made seven straight birdies when closing out victory in 2014.
Of these players Duke, Leishman, Watson [the first time!] and Jacobsen were all clinching their maiden PGA Tour victories when they won here.
It is not unsurprising that after the demanding test we usually see at the year’s second Major the week before this event The Travelers is usually won by a lower tier player.
The only real exceptions to this over recent years have been Spieth’s win last year and Bubba’s win in 2015
It’s worth noting however that Jordan was never really in serious contention at Erin Hills last year, finishing down the field in 35th place. In addition it would be fair to say that the challenge offered up by Erin Hills last year was more than akin to a ‘week in week out’ PGA tour event than the US Open.
With regards to Bubba’s win in 2015 whilst he was seen as a marquee player at the time of his second win here his record in his home championship is poor and he had duly missed the cut at Chambers Bay the week before.
Of the remaining eight winners over the past ten years three of them, Duke, Leishman and Bubba [in 2010] did not play in the US Open the week before whilst Streelman missed the cut in 2014 at the US Open.
Of the remainder Perry finished 44th the week before and Jacobsen and Cink both finished 14th the week before.
As mentioned previously the year Knox won, 2016 the event was played in August the week after the USPGA.
Therefore as we can see from this no player has won the Travelers in the past 10 yrs who finished higher than 14th the previous week at the US Open.
On that basis you can in theory rule out Koepka, Reed, Schauffele, Berger and Simpson this week who are all in field at the time of writing. As they say though stats are there to be broken.
As mentioned earlier plenty of birdies will be required this week to get the job done and over the past ten years we have seen winning scores ranging from -22 by Kenny Perry back in 09 to -12 on a couple of occasions including last year from Jordan with the average over recent years being between -12 to -16.
As I type we look to be in for a week of sunshine and temperatures in the low to mid 80s. Basically perfect conditions. The wind shouldn’t be an issue blowing at no more than 10mph all week.
Hopefully this won’t change!
I have gone with four players this week as follows;
RYAN MOORE – 33 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED MC
I feel a bit like a stuck record going back to the well this week with Ryan Moore again however I make no apologies for doing so.
I believe this will be the fifth time I have put Ryan up this calendar year and I am convinced he will repay my loyalty soon!
My logic with Ryan this year is that as has been well documented he used the off season to change coach and regain full fitness with a view to getting the maximum return from his game over the next five years.
As a result, and whilst somewhat frustratingly they have not come in events we have backed him in, Ryan has notched three top 10 finishes so far this year.
With the exception of his missed cut at Wells Fargo [when we were on board!] Ryan has not been outside of the top 30 in his past seven starts.
A quick glance at Ryan’s stats this year will immediately tell you all you need to know about what has been stopping him getting a win under his belt this season. Basically everything from tee to green is in top gear but he can’t buy a putt!
We now return to one of Ryan’s favourite stops on tour TPC River Highlands. In his last seven visits to the Travelers Ryan has not missed a cut and has notched six top 17 finishes including four top 7s.
My hope is that whilst a chunk of this weeks field were battling all that Shinnecock Hills could throw at them last week, Ryan, having missed out in Sectional Qualifying for the US Open, will have been back home in Vegas finding that missing key with the flat stick.
If this is the case and the UNLV grads putter half behaves this week he wont be far away come Sunday.
BUBBA WATSON – 40 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 1st!!!!
Next up for me is two time former champion of this event Bubba Watson.
As I mentioned earlier there is more than one way to get the job done at TPC River Highlands and Bubba has chosen the good old fashioned ‘grip it & rip it’ route on the way to his two wins here.
Last year of course Bubba was going through a slump in his game and it is therefore not unsurprising that he missed the cut, however as we know he has sprung back to life this year with two wins.
Whilst he has cooled of slightly over recent weeks, with the exception of his MC at Shinnecock Hills he has still been playing solid golf, and to be honest the MC last weekend is probably not a bad thing in relation to this week. Also as I said earlier in the piece Bubba and the US Open are not a good mix historically.
One thing we clearly know about Bubba is that he will consistently and repeatedly perform on tracks he likes and has played well on in the past, whilst not ‘showing up’ at ones he doesn’t.
We have seen this from a positive point of view from his performances at Augusta, Riviera and here of course over the years, and a negative point of view at Sawgrass to name but one.
I am therefore more than happy to have Bubba on side this week at what is clearly one of his favourite stops of the year.
EMILLIANO GRILLO – 66-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 19th
When scrolling down the list of odds on Oddschecker I got to the 50-1 shots and still having seen no sign of the Argentine I came to the conclusion he must have withdrawn.
Scrolling further I was then very pleasantly surprised to see him sitting in the general 66-1 area and to be honest I am struggling to fathom this price.
My logic here is that whilst Grillo only tee’d it up for the first time last year at TPC River Highlands, finishing 43rd when in no sort of form compared to this year, I see him as an ideal fit for this venue.
In fact if you said to me Knox, Duke & Streelman and asked me to name one player back on the PGA Tour that fitted this mold Emilliano would probably be the name I came up with.
For this reason Grillo would always be of interest to me coming in to this event, however when you add in the fact that he has been in the form of his life of late I cannot understand why he is being quoted as a 66-1 shot this week.
Currently sitting 10th in DA, 16th in GIR, historically the most important stat here, and 11th in SGP and with three top 10 finishes in his 6 individual stroke play events prior to the US Open, he is a winner waiting to happen and this course should be perfect for him.
I can only assume that the layers this week are for some reason putting too much emphasis on Grillo’s MC at Shinnecock and I am delighted to have him in our team at a very juicy 66-1.
CT PAN – 90-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED MC
For my next pick this week I am going to keep faith with one of my '6 to follow for 2018' and a player who featured in our team at the Fedex St Jude in the form of CT Pan.
I wrote in my preview for the St Jude that fans of progressive form would like the look of his previous four finishes on tour prior to his visit to Memphis as they read 76 46 32 20. Well he then added an 18th place finish to this at TPC Southwind to keep trending in the right direction.
To be honest that 18th place finish was a frustrating one for us as CT had sat in 8th place going in to the last round and a solid performance in Sunday would have delivered us a juicy e/w return.
Unfortunately however this wasn’t to be as he posted a disappointing final round of 72.
Whilst as I say that was a frustrating finish to a good week for CT, there is a lot to like about his credentials for the test in front of him at TPC River Highlands this week.
CT currently sits 21st in DA and 8th in the key stat for the week GIR. You would therefore think that this course would be a perfect test for his solid tee to green game.
Pleasingly this is not something we need to speculate on as the former world No 1 amateur arrived in Connecticut this time last year on a run of 6 missed cuts in his previous seven starts and notched an 8th place finish.
In addition The Travelers Championship has a reputation of giving young players sponsors exemptions when they are first cutting their teeth on tour and CT received one of these in 2015 and he took full advantage of this to finish 25th.
Clearly therefore this is an event CT will have great fondness for and it is clearly a course that suits his game perfectly.
I am therefore confident he can give us a big run at a big price this week and potentially go close to his first PGA Tour victory.
UPDATED 19th JUNE - TRADER & FIRST ROUND LEADER BET
COREY CONNERS FINISHED MC BEST PRICE TRADED 220
The young Canadian is having a very solid first season on the PGA Tour.
He initially opened up by making eight straight cuts before finally missing out on the weekend at Pebble Beach.
A few weeks after that he found himself in the spotlight at the Valspar Championship holding the lead after three rounds.
Understandably bearing in mind it was his first time in contention on the PGA Tour he fell away rather tamely on the Sunday, however he is bound to have learnt a lot from that experience.
Currently Corey is on a run of four cuts made and this included an eighth place finish at Colonial a couple of starts ago.
Conners is making his debut at TPC River Highlands this week so we have no course form to go on, however you have to think the track will be to his liking.
My logic for thinking this is that Corey's speciality is hitting fairways and greens and as we have already noted this is a key requirement at this venue.
Corey has been handed a tee time in the first group out from the 10th on Thursday and I can see him getting of to a fast start.
On this basis I have chosen him as our trader this week and I have also chosen to have a small investment on him in the FRL market in the hope that he can take advantage of the early tee time.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 320
FIRST ROUND LEADER 1/2 pt e/w - 125-1 1/5 odds 1st 6.