Damien Kayat previews the 2022 edition of the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship taking place at TPC River Highlands.
2021/2022 US PGA Tour
TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut
Fitzpatrick’s Brookline brilliance
We should savour last week’s epic scenes in Brookline. It was a timely rebuke to the gaudy theatrics of LIV Golf’s new tour. It was also fitting that the LIV Golf rebels failed to make an impression in the tournament itself.
I was pleased with my own predictions as Will Zalatoris and Keegan Bradley flirted with contention. But it was the mild-mannered Matthew Fitzpatrick who took down the title.
It really completed a beautiful narrative: Fitzpatrick first came to prominence at Brookline with victory in the US Amateur nine years ago. That bunker shot he hit at 18th was comparable with Mickelson’s heroics at the 2010 US Masters.
It will be interesting to see if Fitzpatrick can use his added length to contend in further Major Championships. Or will he be another Danny Willett?
Looking ahead to the Travelers
Founded as the Insurance City Open in 1952, the Travelers Championship has gone through a variety of incarnations. Its place in the calendar was rejigged in 2016 and 2020 (due to the Olympics and Covid respectively).
But since 2007 it has been the traditional US Open follow-up. This event is the perfect tonic to the vagaries of a US Open. It’s been 11 years since Patrick Cantlay set the course record with a 60 (which is also the lowest round on the PGA Tour by an amateur).
In 2014, Kevin Streelman became the first player to birdie the last seven holes to win a PGA Tour event. And who could possibly forget Jim Furyk’s remarkable performance in 2016? Furyk became the first person in the history of the PGA Tour to shoot a 58.
As I said, this is an event that allows the players to regain some confidence after some old-fashioned US Open brutality.
TPC River Highlands
TPC River Highlands was originally designed by Robert J. Ross and Maurice Kearney in 1928. But it has gone through significant renovations under the eyes of Pete Dye and Bobby Weed.
Holes 15, 16 and 17- known as the ‘Golden Triangle’- wind around a lake and often make for a dramatic conclusion to affairs. As I alluded to earlier, this isn’t the most exacting test on the tour.
This par 70 is cartoonishly small at just 6,841 yards. The fairways and smaller-than-average Poa Annua greens are easy to find. It all really boils down to who putts the best throughout the week. It’s probably also good to look for players with a high birdie average.
Rory McIlroy will be looking for some solace after yet another near-miss at a Major Championship. I say near-miss but he never really got going on Sunday.
The putter- which had served him so brilliantly all week- deserted him in the crunch moments. Still, it allowed Rory to leapfrog Jon Rahm into 2nd place in the current world rankings.
But he still lags behind World No.1 Scottie Scheffler, who would have found himself in a playoff on Sunday had he made that putt on the 18th. Still, the laconic Scheffler continues to impress with one of the most consistent streaks of golf you are ever likely to see.
US PGA Champ Justin Thomas couldn’t really get things going last week (a fact exacerbated by a pesky water drain). He will be looking for a solid bounce-back this week.
Elsewhere, the likes of Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth should make this an action-packed follow-up to Brookline.
2021: Harris English (-13) *playoff
2020: Dustin Johnson (-19)
2019: Chez Reavie (-17)
2018: Bubba Watson (-17)
2017: Jordan Spieth (-12) *playoff
2016: Russell Knox (-14)
To Win Outright:
Rory McIlroy 10/1 | Scottie Scheffler 11/1 | Justin Thomas 12/1 | Patrick Cantlay 16/1 | Sam Burns 18/1
Davis Riley- To Win 45/1 | To Place 19/2
Davis Riley did alright last week, ultimately settling for a share of 31st. I don’t think anyone was really expecting him to duke it out with the world’s best last week. But Riley has been one of the more consistent, under-the-radar performers of late. His US Open performance was preceded by five consecutive top 13 finishes. He also currently ranks 10th on tour in Birdie Average (which should prove a vital stat this week). I don’t even mind that this will be his first venture to TPC River Highlands.
Sahith Theegala- To Win 125/1 | To Place 25/1
This one is based on a combination of consistency and value. You wouldn’t have got this price for Theegala a month ago. But a T53 in Canada meant that he wasn’t able to qualify for this year’s US Open. This has probably led to a slightly unfair reaction in the markets. Still, Theegala has made nine consecutive cuts on the US PGA Tour (with two top 10’s thrown into the mix). He could thrive on this shorter course and I love his value in the place markets.
The Man to Beat- Patrick Cantlay- To Win 16/1 | To Place 7/2
This could be a strong week for Cantlay. Last year’s FedEx Cup champ has largely underwhelmed in 2021. But there are signs that Cantlay is getting back to his best. At the Country Club, Cantlay was one of the few players that improved with every single round. He shot rounds of 72-71-70 and 69 to finish in a solid tie for 14th. That came after an excellent T3 at Colonial. As I noted earlier, Cantlay shot 60 on this course as an amateur. That hasn’t really manifested into explosive results around TPC River Highlands. Still, he hasn’t finished outside the top 14 in each of his last four starts here. Cantlay wasn’t really in contention last week so he may have the mental energy to mount a real challenge in Cromwell.