Betting Overview and Market
It's that go low or go home week of the year again as The Travelers Championship takes centre stage on the PGA Tour. It's destination TPC River Highlands with a twist though as the course has seen numerous changes since the 2015 edition. Landing areas have been narrowed in spots and bunkers have been moved to bring the sand into play more from the tee. Surfaces have been redone to add more pin placements. Birdies will still be the brief though on what is annually one of the three easiest stops on tour.
Bubba Watson - 13.00 - will lead the betting at one of his favourite haunts of the year. Bubba recorded an emotional maiden victory on the property back in 2010 - an event he was doubtful for amidst family issues - but he played and won, and TPC River Highlands has had a place in his heart ever since. Bubba beat Scott Verplank and Corey Pavin in a playoff that year and I remember he had a significant advantage with his length down 18 in the first sudden death hole. Bubba has since recorded 4th and 2nd place finishes at TPC River Highlands and returns as defending champion after winning again last year.
Paul Casey is the man amongst the marquee names that stands out at 26.00 and 6.00. Casey lost out only in a playoff to Bubba last season and after a top 10 at Baltusrol, Paul may be the man to put it to Watson and Brooks Koepka - 15.00. There's an interesting stat being bandied about on Twitter this week: one of par 4 scoring efficiency from 400-450 yards, where the Englishman seemingly sits 3rd with an average of 3.92. There is a premium on par 4 performance at the par 70 TPC River Highlands.
Early memories from the Travelers Championship include decent course form for Carl Pettersson, Webb Simpson - 41.00 - having the run of the greens, impeccable course form from then tee to green expert ball striker Hunter Mahan - 251.0, while another course specialist Ryan Moore - 61.00 - owns a myriad of top 10s here. The standout recent memory though is Kevin Streelman - 61.00 - closing out with 7 consecutive birdies to win the 2014 edition.
The course: TPC River Highlands - Par 70 - 6,841 yards
I alluded to the advantage Bubba had on 18 earlier and with generous fairways here at TPC River Highlands, I made the mistake last year of over estimating the importance of targeting this type of profile. Justin Thomas - 61.00 - was my main bet and ultimately he missed the cut due to being overly aggressive, a no-no when Pete Dye is involved in the design. Hopefully he's learned now but basically he fired at all the pins, missed greens in the wrong spots and struggled.
You'll see the words "putting contest" mentioned this week and while a good week with the flat stick will be important, greens here at TPC River Highlands generally run at just 10.5 - 11' on the stimp. Perhaps that explains the relatively poor record of Zach Johnson - 31.00 - who looks a perfect fit for the course, as slow greens tend to negate the advantage of the better putters, as I alluded to for the Open Championship re Henrik Stenson's weakness. To sum up, it may be worth looking more closely at the proximity to the hole stats than the putting ones, while the total birdie and par four performance stats are key. As mentioned above, the "generous landing areas" have now been tightened somewhat and the bigger hitters won't have much of a head start. Patrick Cantlay shot a course record 60 back here in 2011 as an amateur.
Travelers Championship Best Betting Tips
Jon Rahm - 31.00 or 7.00 - is the latest leading amateur to join the pro ranks and he's kicked off with a bang. Rahm finished T2 with a fantastic performance at Glen Abbey where he showed excellent resilience and bouncebackability, ranking T10 in birdies and 2nd in strokes gained total. He banged in 2 eagles. Prior to this, the Spaniard had recorded a top 25 at the US Open, winning the low Amateur, and he notched a hugely impressive T3 in his pro debut at the Quicken Loans, firing an opening 64 at Congressional. Rahm won the Ben Hogan award twice and was the world no. 1 amateur golfer for 60 weeks. He looks the real deal, unlike Patrick Rodgers. He made the cut at the Travelers Championship in 2015 so has some track experience to draw from.
Francesco Molinari - 61.00 or 13.00 - is one of the European Tour to PGA Tour success stories, with notable top 10s at the Arnold Palmer, Sawgrass and Congressional on his CV this year. He is currently simmering nicely form wise with T36 and T22 finishes in the 2 recent (and consecutive for him) majors. He squeezed in a runner-up finish in France, showing once again his tee to green prowess at Le Golf National. The Italian was T6 in greens in reg en route to a top 25 at TPC River Highlands in 2015. Molinari is 19th in strokes gained: approach, this year on the PGA Tour and is renowned in Europe for his distance control / proximity with the irons. The market doesn't like him here and I don't know why.
I'm going to stick with Gary Woodland - 61.00 or 13.00 - this week despite a missed cut at Baltusrol and the course changes at Highlands. The MC has inflated Gary's price but doesn't seem anything to be overly concerned by. Prior to that he had some of the best form on the tour with 6/7 recent top 30 finishes including a 4th at Memorial and a 2nd at the Barracuda. He was 12th in the Open. Woodland also recorded a top 20 here last season. Gary ranks 21st in strokes gained approach and 26th in par 4 scoring average.