Travelers Championship ⏤ Picks & Analysis

Fantasy Golf

Tpcriver Highlands4

PGA TOUR action continues this week at the Travelers Championship hosted by TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, CT. The trend of strong post-COVID fields continues as this week will feature all of the top seven players in the world and fifteen of the top twenty players. Moreover, the competition should continue to heat up as most of the players have now had ample time to get their games back into tournament shape. Some of the slower starters coming out of the break (e.g. Brooks Koepka) have had time to play themselves back into form and rust will no longer be a viable excuse this week for those making their third straight start.

TPC River Highlands usually provides an exciting event packed with birdies and a home stretch that lends itself to a tight finish. In fact, 12 of the last 16 Travelers Championships have been decided by one shot or fewer (a playoff) and we think the final four holes have a lot to do with why. Three of them have water, one of them is a drivable par-four and there's plenty of opportunity for a nervy leader to drop some shots and a hungry challenger to make some birdies. Low scores will likely be the order of the day here so players without a cooperative putter and a sharp iron/wedge game will be unlikely to chip and putt their way into contention.

Chez Reavie will be defending his title this week as he won last year's contest by four shots over Zach Sucher and Keegan Bradley.

Group A

Group A is fully loaded this week with some of the greatest talents the PGA TOUR has to offer. Certainly, you can't go wrong backing any one of these six horses but there are a couple of players who have shown some cause for concern. Rory McIlroy has seemingly cooled off post-COVID after providing some false hope through three rounds at Colonial. His final round 74 started a five-round slide that including a very pedestrian T41 finish at the RBC Heritage. Dustin Johnson hasn't looked particularly good in either of his first two starts post-COVID and there are too many other great players on form in this group to wax your pick on a lark with DJ.

To our mind, there are three major contenders for the ideal pick in this group. Bryson Dechambeau has looked very good at times in the last few weeks and his newfound length and generally quality ballstriking should make him a fine pick at TPC River Highlands. As always, the question mark with him is how cooperative his putter will be. Justin Thomas has also played relatively well the last few weeks with consecutive top-ten finishes.

Nevertheless, our pick in this group is Brooks Koepka. He is a player who was maybe more in need of the COVID break than any of the other top contenders as he was still recovering from some knee issues that hampered his play in the early part of the year. He's posted four straight rounds in the 60s to begin the post-COVID part of the season including an impressive Sunday 65 that resulted in a top-ten finish. This golf course suits him even more than Harbour Town and we expect him to be among the contenders late Sunday.

Group B

Taking Webb Simpson in Group B seems like an absolute no-brainer to us. He has had a tremendous season so far with two wins and a third place finish in five events. He just won last week after posting a near-flawless Sunday round of 64 and we see no reason why the form he has shown to this point this season should cool off this week. The only potential concern here is any fatigue or let down in the wake of that victory at the RBC Heritage.

Justin Rose wouldn't be a terrible choice among this group either as his performances seem to be trending in the right direction after a rough pre-COVID stretch heading into the pause. He's done some work on his equipment, fired his longtime coach and looks to be a new man as compared to the struggles we were seeing from him just a few months ago. If his putter stays hot and his ballstriking comes around he could definitely be a threat to win this group.

Group C

This is an interesting group as it includes four lesser-known PGA TOUR players who might be the favorites ahead of the two guys whose names we are mostly likely to know. By resume only, you'd want to pick Tony Finau or Sungjae Im in this group but the other four players have shown some incredible form in the last few weeks. Morikawa and Berger were both in the playoff at Colonial just a couple of weeks ago (with Berger coming out on top) and Niemann and Ancer both found their way to near the top of the board come Sunday at the RBC Heritage.

Our choice among them is Abraham Ancer in the wake of his incredible tee-to-green performance at Harbour Town last week. The course features the smallest greens on the PGA TOUR and Ancer shot 69-64-65-65 while missing a total of two greens in regulation over the final 36 holes. On Sunday, his 65 included hitting all eighteen greens in regulation and if the putter can wake up a little bit his ballstriking should be more than good enough to get him into contention this week.

Group D

This is a tough group but we're going to go with a "horses for courses" pick in Bubba Watson. He's a three-time champion at this golf course (2010, 2015, 2018) and his form is relatively decent thus far this season. He hasn't gotten himself into the mix all that much but he's got three top tens so far this season including one two weeks ago at the Charles Schwab Challenge. He played well for most of last week but a Saturday 73 at a course that was getting lit up by everyone left him a mile behind the pack. If he can clean up his rounds a little bit and make a few more putts he is a definite threat at this comfortable track for him.

Group E

The veterans group is always a tough one to pick from as you know that at least three of these guys are likely to miss the cut. That having been said, that's what makes these such key groups as the difference between a strong week from one of these guys and the missed cut from another could be 10-20 shots over the course of the weekend. All you are really looking for out of your pick in Group E is a player who makes the cut and we think Jim Furyk is the most consistent among the players listed. Don't forget that Furyk is also the only player in PGA TOUR history to shoot 58 and he did it here at TPC River Highlands.

However, we're going to go with Phil Mickelson for the simple reason that we believe if everyone in this group plays to their potential that Phil wins the group by a mile. His top gear revs so much higher than the other five players and out of the six only he and Furyk can be considered actual threats to win the golf tournament. He's a high-risk pick with a lot of potential for a bust MC, but since there's plenty of risk with the rest of the choices in this group we're going to gamble on the PGA TOUR's resident gambler.

Group F

This group stands in stark contrast to Group E as we shift gears from the old guard to the young brigade on the PGA TOUR. Each of these players is generally considered an up-and-comer on the PGA TOUR and there's a lot of cause for optimism with each of them. Luke List recently won on the Korn Ferry Tour just a couple of weeks ago. Cameron Champ is one of if not the longest hitter in the game. Patrick Rodgers missed the cut at the RBC Heritage but that broke a streak of three straight top-25 finishes for him. Scottie Scheffler has made 12 of his 14 cuts on the PGA TOUR this season (going back to the fall) and his game seemed to be trending in the right direction going into the COVID pause.

Our pick among the bunch is Viktor Hovland. The former U.S. Amateur champion (at Pebble Beach) was the low amateur at the U.S. Open in 2019 (also at Pebble Beach) and bagged his first win earlier this season at the opposite-field Puerto Rico Open. He's finished in the top-25 both of the last two weeks and we think he's a near lock to make the cut with enormous upside potential as a win in a real PGA TOUR event (no offense Puerto Rico Open) seems to be not far away.