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2016 Travelers Championship Preview
Our golf scribe previews this week's PGA Tour event, The Travelers Championship being played at TPC River Highlands.
The final major of the year has come and gone and Branden Grace’s place finish means I can finally show my face in public again. The PGA Tour waits for no man and we move swiftly on to the Travelers Championship this week.
The TPC River Highlands will again host a Tour event the week following a major championship. Most years the Travelers provides a welcome respite after the U.S. Open but this season it will serve as both the after-party to the PGA Championship and the precursor to the Rio Olympics.
At just over 6,800 yards TPC River Highlands has firmly entrenched itself as one of the easiest courses on the Tour over the last five years. Not even a recent facelift is going to change that. I’ve yet to see a pro who doesn’t like making bunches of birdies after dealing with the harsh realities of major championship golf the week before.
Bubba Watson, the favourite this year, took the title in both 2010 and 2015, but the four winners in between his victories – Kevin Streelman, Ken Duke, Marc Leishman and Freddie Jacobson – have combined for just one other career PGA Tour victory. In other words, it’s a tournament that just about anyone can win.
2015 Bubba Watson -16 (playoff)| 2014 Kevin Streelman -15 | 2013 Ken Duke -12 (playoff) | 2012 Mark Leishman -14 | 2011 Fredrik Jacobson -20
Bubba Watson 14/1 | Branden Grace 16/1 | Brooks Koepka 16/1 | Zach Johnson 22/1 | Matt Kuchar 22/1 | Patrick Reed 22/1
By the numbers
6 – Of the last 10 event winners, six have been first-timers on Tour.
4 – Of the last six event winners, four have not played the major the week prior. Rested.
1 – Phil Mickelson is the only player to defend his title in the event’s history (2001-02). Lefty.
Matt Kuchar (22/1 Win & 5/1 Place)
Kuchar is a player I don’t particularly like backing for wins, but his record on Pete Dye-designed tracks simply couldn’t be ignored. All seven of Kuch’s career wins have come on Dye courses and in five starts on their layouts this year, he’s yet to finish worse than T9. He ranks second only to Jason Day in SG on Pete Dye courses since 2013. That’s some record to have. Kuchar has six T10s in his last nine starts, and there’s very little to suggest he won’t make that seven from 10 this weekend.
Tyrell Hatton (50/1 Win & 11/1 Place)
Hatton comes into this tournament on the back of some solid form. The Englishman has tallied three Top-10 finishes in a row, two of which have come at majors – T5 at the Open Championship and T10 at the PGA Championship. And yet, he still enters this week’s tournament somewhat under the radar at odds of 50/1. Another strong showing could force the hand of European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke and provide a tidy profit for his followers. Myself included.
Ryan Moore (50/1 Win & 11/1 Place)
Although he has yet to claim the title at the Travelers Championship, Moore has been better than anyone not named Bubba at this tournament. In nine appearances since 2006, he has made eight cuts and racked up five Top-10 finishes. During that stretch, he’s second among all players in strokes gained at TPC River Highlands. The only drawback is his current form, but it’s tough to ignore his course history.
Horse for the course
Bubba Watson (14/1 Win & 3/1 Place)
In truth, Watson should be in single digits given his record here. Since missing the cut on debut in 2006, his last eight consecutive starts have yielded form figures reading 6-14-1-38-2-4-31-1. That’s eight cuts in a row with five top 10’s. Even more astounding is that fact that 27 of his last 32 rounds are under par and he has finished in the top four three of the last four years. It’s a course that clearly favours left-handers and Watson can follow in Phil Mickelson’s footsteps and become just the second person to defend his title here.