After a week of carnage on Long Island, the TOUR will head up to Cromwell, Connecticut, for the Travelers Championship.
This event has started to gain attraction in terms of field strength over the last few years and I'm sure the short trip from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands certainly made the decision easier for some golfers this year.
We have a full field of 156 golfers on hand this week with the cut-line rules returning to the normal top 70 and ties.
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TPC River Highlands is the star of the show this week. It's a Pete Dye Design that plays to a par 70 and reads just 6,841 yards on the scorecard.
As you'd expect from a 6,800 Pete Dye track, distance off the tee is not a major advantage here. It's actually a bit perplexing to me that so many big hitters have entered the field this week. More than 50 percent of the drives typically land under 280 yards. After that, there are eight par 4s where the average distance to pin for approach shots is inside 150 yards. This really does turn into a wedgefest as long as you are finding fairways.
In fact, Bubba Watson even set a record here back in 2015, having an average of less than 130 yards remaining after his tee shots.
There is water in play on just five holes (two on par 3s, three on driving holes).
The main concern is truly finding greens in regulation because the rough around these greens is very tough. This event is known for difficult pin placements which is how they keep the scoring reasonable on a 6,800-yard course. Golfers that try to get too aggressive will get punished but that punishment is way more lenient when you compare it to a course like Shinnecock Hills last week.
Overall, the scoring environment is usually pretty middle-of-the-road here. You might call it a par-makers course. There are four major "birdie holes" in No. 2, 6, 13, and 15 but everywhere else you typically see golfers just plodding along. Of course, Jim Furyk proved that's not always the case when he fired a 12-under 58 here in 2016.
Once golfers reach the greens they will deal with a bentgrass/poa blend that some years are more poa than bent and vice versa. In general, we should give a boost to any golfers that are comfortable on cool-season grasses and bump down anyone that makes most of their hay on bermudagrass.
Sifting through some past quotes over at the Fantasy Golfanac, let's try to break down the courses to see how they will play...
Robert Garrigus: "You definitely have to make sure you miss it on the fat side of the green, because if you get short-sided out here, it’s impossible. The rough is very thick and penal, so you’ve got to hit the fairway to hit the green."
Wesley Bryan: "You have to work the ball both ways. It doesn’t demand a lot of length. You have to be really precise going into the greens, especially where they were tucking some of those flags."
Russell Knox: "This is one of my favorite courses, obviously, on the PGA TOUR...It’s a lot shorter, a lot tighter, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I always think this course, if you tee off in the morning, the conditions, you can always shoot a mega low score."
Ryan Moore: "I’m from the Pacific Northwest, and the grass and the greens are very similar to this, so it kind of always has a little feel of what I grew up on, which I think that just adds a certain amount of comfort."
Chris Stroud: "This course is great for me. I’m not a bomber, so it’s nice to be able to have a lot of short irons into the greens. I even have a note in my yardage book, as long as I’m sharp from 100 yards to 165 this week, I can make a lot of birdies, and I’ve done that so far this week."
Overview: Golfers love to talk about the TUCKED PINS at TPC River Highlands. Other than that, it seems to be all about keeping the ball in front of you and attacking with wedges and short irons.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
Innisbrook's Copperhead Course
Farmers Insurance Open
Silverado Resort and Spa
TPC Deere Run
There isn't one overall theme that checks all the boxes here except maybe loads of greenside bunkers to deal with. We see some other TPCs show up on the list (Scottsdale and Deere Run) and a few courses with poa annua greens pop up (Farmers and Silverado).
Thursday: Sunny with a high near 80 degrees. Winds in the 5-to-10 MPH range.
Friday: Sunny with a high near 80 degrees. Winds in the 5-to-10 MPH range.
Weekend: Temps remain in the upper 70s. A chance of showers on Sunday and a chance that we see the winds pick up just a touch, but nothing crazy in the current wind forecast.
Looks like some solid golfing weather in Cromwell. There is some pre-tournament rain in the forecast so I'd expect the course to be on the softer side, which is pretty typical for this event which is usually played after a major championship. Unlike the USGA last week, they aren't trying to push this course to the limits.
Golfers to Watch
He's found his putter in two straight events but now his elite ball-striking has left him. Just needs to sync that up. He's the defending champ here but arriving off back-to-back missed cuts. Last year was his debut here and his caddie Michael Greller told him from the start that TPC River Highlands was tailor-made for him. Fellow competitor, Brandt Snedeker, said the same exact thing, calling Spieth the best wedge player in the world. Doesn't have the form to match up with the other stars in the field, but he's the man to beat in my eyes.
Has a remarkable rate of top 20s over the last 12 months. That's been the story at TPC River Highlands, as well. He finished runner-up in his 2015 debut and returned to post T17 in 2016 and T5 last year. He's entered the final round at T6 or better in all three visits.
Nearly picked off stage 2 of the grand slam last week. He settled for T4 which is similar to where he finished at the Travelers last year (T5). Wedgefests have never been a problem for PREED, winning the Wyndham, Tourney of Champs, and CareerBuilder. I would expect Captain America to get right back in the mix this week.
If look at his top performances since 2012 you'll see tracks like TPC Deere Run, TPC Kuala Lumpur, TPC Summerlin, and TPC Scottsdale pop up. If there is an event played on a TPC course that turns into a wedgefest then Moore is typically up for the task. "I’m from the Pacific Northwest, and the grass and the greens are very similar to this, so it kind of always has a little feel of what I grew up on, which I think that just adds a certain amount of comfort. Besides that, I think overall the course fits my eye really well. The tee shots and second shots into the greens, I’m very comfortable with them."
Five of his top six finishes on TOUR have come on bentgrass or poa annua greens. That includes both of his career 54-hole leads (2017 Farmers and 2017 John Deere Classic). Both of those events happened to show up in the correlated venues section. Added this last year, "I love this event. It’s my fifth time playing it already, which is crazy. It feels very, very comfortable, and it’s a good golf course for me." The problem? He's lost strokes on approach in six of his last seven ShotLink events. I'm not ready to dive all in on Rodgers but I do think he deserves a look this week.
He's been dormant since the Memorial but his torrid run of steady play continues. He's been T32 or better thru 36 holes in each of his last six starts. I would still hesitate to call him a safe play, but until he starts flirting with cut lines again, I don't see any reason not to trot him out onto fantasy lineups. If you want a reason to fade the form then just look at his history here, 2-for-6 with five finishes landing outside the top 55.
Ryan Moore cited the grasstypes here as being similar to what he grew up on in the Pacific Northwest. That might bode well for Pan who went to school at the University of Washington and calls Bellevue home. He was also T7 after 54 holes in his most recent start. Still has just three top 10s on his resume but one of them came here last year (T8). Someone that just missed my top 25 but he'll certainly find plenty of my DFS rosters this week.
While Pan and Moore might like the grasses as Pacific Northwesterners, Bradley has the regional advantage this week. As a New Englander, this is one of the few annual stops that Bradley considers a home game. He is 7-for-7 here with a pair of top 20s. If we use Fantasy National to look at Proximity from 100-125 and 125-150 yards (over the last 24 rounds) then Bradley ranks 1st in the field this week. If you recall from the Quotes section, that is where Chris Stroud said is the moneymaking range at TPC River Highlands. Not surprisingly, Stroud actually ranks 5th in that regard (McIlroy #2, JT #3, Steele #4). Don't let Keegan fall through the cracks this week just because of a missed cut at Shinnecock Hills.
Ranking the Field
1. Jordan Spieth
2. Paul Casey
3. Jason Day
4. Patrick Reed
5. Brooks Koepka
6. Webb Simpson
7. Justin Thomas
8. Patrick Cantlay
9. Bubba Watson
10. Marc Leishman
11. Rory Mcilroy
12. Brandt Snedeker
13. Ryan Moore
14. Keegan Bradley
15. Zach Johnson
16. Daniel Berger
17. Emiliano Grillo
18. Bryson DeChambeau
19. Brendan Steele
20. Chez Reavie
21. Charley Hoffman
22. Russell Knox
23. J.B. Holmes
24. Kyle Stanley
25. Jim Furyk
Head over to Dave Tindall's BMW International Open Preview. Check back on Tuesday afternoon for our Expert Picks and Wednesday for the DFS Dish.