Best bets for the Travelers Championship and the BMW International Open on June 22nd-25th

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Best bets for the Travelers Championship

Wyndham Clark had never finished better than T-75 in any of his previous six majors. However, Clark (pre-tournament average price of 80/1) has been a consistent player over the last year plus and won a big-time event last month at the Wells Fargo Championship, cashing a 75/1 for us in the process. Clark is now a major champion as he led the field for Scrambling and ranked fourth for Strokes Gained: Putting en route to winning the U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club winning by one stroke over Rory McIlroy, who still seeks his fifth career major championship in a drought that dates back to 2014. Perhaps The Open Championship next month is where he gets off the schneid considering he won at this year’s venue, Royal Liverpool, back in 2014.

 

McIlroy led the field for Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and Greens In Regulation, but his putter betrayed him on the weekend as he lost three strokes to the field putting on Saturday and Sunday.

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler actually gained a little with the putter and is always in contention but settled for 3rd. Rounding out the Top 10 were Cameron Smith (4th), Rickie Fowler (T-5th), who was the 36-hole leader and 54-hole co-leader, Tommy Fleetwood (T-5), who shot a Sunday round of 63, Min Woo Lee (T-5), Harris English (T-8), Tom Kim (T-8), Austin Eckroat (T-10), Jon Rahm (T-10), Dustin Johnson (T-10), and Xander Schauffele (T-10).

As for the Los Angeles Country Club, opinions were certainly polarizing from fans and players alike. Despite Fowler and Schauffele shooting 62 (8-under) on Thursday, the winning score ended up being 10-under as the course did bite back a little on the weekend. LA CC is scheduled to get the U.S. Open again in 2039, so they do have 16 years to find a way to get the spectators closer to the action as the atmosphere sometimes seemed dead out there. Also, they could find a way to make more tickets available to the general public.

This week, the PGA TOUR moves to its customary post-U.S. Open date in Hartford for the Travelers Championship, which is now a designated event with a $20 million purse. The Travelers Championship typically gets an excellent field even the week after a major, but it is even better this year due to the designated event status.

Scheffler, per usual, is the pre-event favorite at 6/1 and has not finished worse than fifth in any of his last five most recent starts. World No. 2 Rahm (10/1) and McIlroy are just behind on the odds board. Neither of these three have a Top 10 finish here in Hartford.

In 2011, Patrick Cantlay (12/1) shot the lowest-ever round carded by an amateur with a 60 here and has never finished outside the Top 15 in the last five years here. His Ryder and Presidents Cup partner Xander Schauffele (14/1) returns to defend his title from last year.

Victor Hovland (20/1) is just three weeks removed from his career-best victory to date at The Memorial Tournament. Like Hovland, Collin Morikawa (25/1) and Matt Fitzpatrick (35/1) knocked at the door for a Top 10 last week before settling for Top 20 finishes. Tony Finau (28/1) has missed three of his last four cuts here. Max Homa (40/1) has never made the cut here in four appearances and disappointingly missed the cut last week at LA CC where he was heavily supported in the market.

Tommy Fleetwood (33/1) was runner-up two weeks ago in Canada, and his Sunday 63 nabbed him a Top 5 last week.

The Saturday and Sunday final pairing are also in this week’s field with Wyndham Clark (40/1), who is off winning a major championship plus locking up his first Ryder Cup spot in the process, and Rickie Fowler (35/1).

In all, eight of the OWGR Top 10, 14 of the OWGR Top 20, and 22 of the OWGR Top 30 are here in Hartford this week.

The Event

The Travelers Championship celebrated its 70th anniversary last year as it was established in 1952 as the Insurance City Open before it became known as the Greater Hartford Open for most of its existence from 1967-2003. Legendary entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr was a fixture at the Tuesday/Wednesday pro-ams in Hartford, and his name was attached to the event from 1973-1988. TPC River Highlands has been the permanent venue for the tournament since 1984. The Greater Hartford Community Foundation manages the event. Travelers, which is one of the largest insurance companies in the United States, took over the sponsorship in 2007 after Canon and Buick were associated with the event for many years.

Multiple-time winners at the Travelers include Billy Casper (1963, 1965, 1968, 1973), Bubba Watson (2010, 2015, 2018), Arnold Palmer (1956, 1960), Paul Azinger (1987, 1990), Phil Mickelson (2001, 2002), Peter Jacobsen (1984, 2003), and Stewart Cink (1997, 2008).

The Travelers is customarily (since 2007) held the week after the U.S. Open on the PGA TOUR schedule but still manages to attract consistently solid fields year after year. In 2017 and 2018, the tournament earned the PGA Tour’s Players Choice Award, which is voted on by PGA Tour members for its services, hospitality, and quality of the course and overall event.

The Greater Hartford area continuously supports this event as The Travelers consistently rates just behind the Waste Management Phoenix Open for attendance.

The Course

TPC River Highlands is in Cromwell, CT, which is approximately 12 miles south of Hartford. Robert Ross and Maurice Kearney were the original designers in 1928, and the track was founded as the Middletown Country Club. It became the Edgewood Country Club from 1934-1984 before being purchased by the PGA TOUR and officially becoming TPC of Connecticut before being renamed TPC River Highlands in 1989. It was re-designed by Pete Dye in 1984 and remodeled in 1989 by Bobby Weed, a Dye protege, with assistance from consulting then-PGA TOUR pros Howard Twitty and Roger Maltbie.

The course plays as a Par 70 of 6,852 yards. which is the 4th shortest course on the PGA TOUR. Jim Furyk set the course record here in the final round of the 2016 Travelers by shooting a 58, the lowest round in PGA TOUR history.

River Highlands is a tight and short tree-lined parklands that sits on a bluff above the Connecticut River. Wind is the main defense here though, and the winning score averages out to be in the mid-teens under par. The average round score has been -0.62 strokes under par over the last five years.

There are only five water holes, and some bunkers (69 in total on course remain) were removed in a 2015 renovation to create more fairway short pitch shots into the greens. The fairways and rough are Bentgrass/Poa Annua (Kentucky Bent/Fescue mix in the 4″ penal rough) and the greens (5,000 sq ft average – 6th smallest on TOUR; 12 ft which is average speed on the stimpmeter) are also a Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix. In terms of the type of player this course favors, there really isn’t a prototype. Shorter hitters have won here as well as bombers. As always, ball striking and hitting greens with regularity are usually a good recipe for success, and River Highlands is no exception in that regard.

Here is the official scorecard for the 2023 Travelers Championship:

As for the layout of the holes, the front nine is straightforward. Everything is out in front of the players, and there are few hazards off the tee. The tough finishing stretch from holes 15-18 is what has made this event have so many close and competitive Sunday finishes. Stewart Cink, who won the 2008 Travelers Championship, called them “four of the most exciting finishing holes in a group anywhere in the world.” This stretch of holes is typical of Pete Dye courses as he loves tempting players to hit toward hazards on drives and approach shots. With precise control, hitting toward the hazard increases the risk, but also provides a reward with an easier shot into the greens.

Holes 15-17 all play around a four-acre lake. The 296-yard Par 4 15th is one of the best risk-reward holes on Tour. It tempts players to go for the three-tiered green with water surrounding on the left side and a forested hilly area with bunkers on the right. Both double-bogey and eagle are each very possible. The 171-yard Par 3 16th hole is in the most wind-affected area of the course and is completely over water with a near-impossible up-and-down if you go long. The Par 4 17th is 431 yards and wraps around the pond with a demanding shot off the tee and on approach towards the back-to-front sloping green.

Here are some of the other Pete Dye designs that feature on the PGA Tour:

Austin Country Club – WGC Dell Matchplay since 2016

Crooked Stick – 2012 and 2016 BMW Championship.

Harbour Town Golf Links – RBC Heritage

Ocean Course – Kiawah Island – 2012 & 2021 PGA Championship

TPC Louisiana – Zurich Classic of New Orleans

TPC Sawgrass – The Players Championship

TPC Stadium, PGA West – The American Express since 2016

Whistling Straits – 2010 and 2015 PGA Championship

Of the other Dye courses, Harbour Town and TPC Sawgrass correlate most to TPC River Highlands. Other correlated courses include Colonial, Pebble Beach, Sedgefield, Innisbrook, and Waialae.

Travelers Championship Recent History/Winners

2022: Xander Schauffele (-19/261); 20/1

2021: Harris English (-13/267); 35/1*

2020: Dustin Johnson (-19/261); 30/1

2019: Chez Reavie (-17/263); 70/1

2018: Bubba Watson (-17/263); 33/1

2017: Jordan Spieth (-12/268); 10/1**

2016: Russell Knox (-14/266); 50/1

2015: Bubba Watson (-16/264); 14/1 ***

2014: Kevin Streelman (-15/265); 150/1

2013: Ken Duke (-12/268); 150/1 ****

2012: Marc Leishman (-14/266); 125/1

2011: Fredrik Jacobson (-20/260); 45/1

2010: Bubba Watson (-14/266); 40/1*****

Playoff win vs. Kramer Hickok – *

Playoff win vs. Daniel Berger – **

Playoff win vs. Paul Casey – ***

Playoff win vs. Chris Stroud – ****

Playoff win vs. Corey Pavin & Scott Verplank – *****

Travelers Championship Recent Trends