The Travelers Championship 2017 Preview

Travelers Championship. Championship 2017 Preview

Our golf scribe previews this week's PGA Tour event, the Travelers Championship.

So, in the wake of a US Open that courted controversy for completely antithetical reasons to what was imagined - it was generally felt that the fairways were too generous and never presented enough of a challenge - the players head to one of the most birdie-friendly courses on the entire calendar: TPC River Highlands. The course has attracted an amazing field despite being in that post-Major malaise stage. Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day will all feel that they have something to prove after US Open displays that ranged from the disappointing to the absurd.

TPC River Highlands is relatively short at 6.841 yards, with eight par four’s that range in between the 400 to 500-yard range. This really means that the importance of bombing the ball is mitigated to some extent, with players often clubbing down from the tee to find that ideal zone from which to attack the green from the fairway. Russell Knox exemplified that last year, while 2015 tells a similar tale.  Brian Harman ranked second in GIR, going on to finish third, while Paul Casey finished runner-up after finishing first in GIR. Clearly, the big hitters will prosper if accurate, but one should expect this to be something of a nostalgic affair that places position over aggression.

With 119 bunkers dispersed liberally throughout the course, players will do well to avoid the thicker stuff. The course was revamped last year to narrow the fairways to some extent, but scoring still reflected a fairly benign set of conditions. Jordan Spieth is probably the man at the top of the market with the most consistency going into this week. Bubba Watson has been in indifferent form but is aiming to win here for a third time. Elsewhere, Justin Thomas will be looking to string a complete week together after that remarkable 63 on Saturday at Erin Hills.

The Travelers Championship |  Thursday 22 June - Sunday 25 June 2017 | TPC River Highlands, Connecticut

Past Winners
2016: Russell Knox (-14) | 2015: Bubba Watson (-16)*playoff | 2014: Kevin Streelman (-15) | 2013: Ken Duke (-12) | 2012: Mark Leishman (-14)

To Win Outright
Jordan Spieth 12/1 | Rory McIlroy 12/1 | Jason Day 14/1 | Justin Thomas 14/1 | Paul Casey 22/1

Value Bets

Bubba Watson - To Win 35/1 & To Place 17/2
As he has shown at Augusta, when Bubba likes a course he tends to perform well there regardless of form. He has missed three of his last five cuts, which makes him even more attractive at the diminished price. Lest we forget that this is a two-time winner here: 2010 and 2015. Since 2008, his scoring average at this course is 67.19. That’s quite incredible for the player that everybody loves to hate. Obviously known for his huge driving, he is actually a deceptive iron player and is able to negotiate this course with a combination of guile and sheer brutality.

Charley Hoffman - To Win 40/1 & To Place 17/2
The ever mercurial Hoffmann has actually found that most elusive of friends this season: consistency. Since that excellent push for a Green Jacket, Hoffmann has gone from strength to strength. He has secured top 10 finishes in four of his last 13 stars, including a career-best eighth place showing at the US Open last week. He also is batting six for six at this course since 2010, which includes two top 10 finishes. Hoffman has been the bane of punters everywhere. His unpredictability - whilst charming on course - is not exactly the stuff to put your cash behind. But there is a steely determination about him this season that hints at a more consistent entity.

William McGirt - To Win 110/1 & To Place 24/1 
William Mc Girt picked up his first victory just over a year ago against a similarly strong field. He is currently at 39th in greens hit, showing that he is still striking the ball well. He wasn’t a factor at Erin Hills, admitting that the course was fractionally long for him. Last year he followed a poor week at Oakmont with a seventh place showing at the Bridgestone Invitational. Twice he has also finished runner-up at the Canadian Open, in the wake of the Open Championship. He definitely has an element of opportunism about him that should suit him at a course that fits his game. He hasn’t finished worse than 31st in three trips here. He looks an outstanding pick in the place markets.

The Man to Beat
Brian Harman - To Win 35/1 & To Place 15/2
Clearly backing Harman is a risk considering the mental anguish that must have come with that finish at Erin Hills. But over the four days, he displayed a near flawless tee to green game, with exceptional iron play that will be ideal here. As I said earlier, en route to finishing third here in 2015, he finished second overall in GIR. He has that all-important first victory at Wells Fargo, which should go some way to ameliorating the pain of Koepka’s romp to victory. He also has top 10 finishes at the Dean&Deluca and the Heritage in the last few months. He seems completely dialled in and this course should suit his eye. Also, consider the record of fellow lefty Bubba Watson.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets

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