It's "go low or go home" time again as the PGA Tour hits Connecticut and TPC River Highlands for the Travelers Championship. Aggression is the order of the week - take it low on all four days or compensate for a poor round by shooting in the low sixties. Patrick Cantlay was on 59 watch here as an amateur in 2011, eventually coming up one shy for a course record 60, and Charley Hoffman carded an opening round 61 in 2013. Course specialist and money leader Hunter Mahan - 41.00 - did the same en route to a then career low 61 on the Sunday of the 2012 renewal.
A lot of players are coming here after a gruelling US Open and Zach Johnson is one of them. It's had to predict how those guys will react so It's a watching brief for me but he certainly stands out amongst the leading group in terms of price at 41.00 in the betting.
Market leader Bubba Watson - 13.00 - recorded his maiden victory at this track in 2010. When up against two shorties - Scott Verplank and Corey Pavin - in a playoff, Watson had a huge advantage in being able to bomb it off the tee and dance a wedge shot in around the pin at number 18. Aggressive birdie makers like Bubba and back to back winner Phil Mickelson are a common theme throughout Travelers Championship leaderboards.
The course - TPC River Highlands
Playing to a very modest par 70 sub 6,900 yards, TPC River Highlands ranked as the easiest par 70 on tour in 2011 and third easiest in '14. Putting surfaces run slower than the average on the PGA Tour and while playing from the fairways is always a help, the Pete Dye designed TPC River Highlands is forgiving from the tee and very much there to be overpowered by the bigger, more aggressive players. Look to those aggressive both with the irons and the flat stick, and those who excel in the area of par breakers this week. Accessible pins positions lend the course to low numbers and Kevin Streelman - 41.00 - hit a seven consecutive birdie run on the way home last year en route to victory.
Three from the pack
This is one of a handful of events I've had pegged for Justin Thomas - 34.00 or 7.50. Basically his game ticks every box and he has all the attributes required to take on TPC River Highlands. Thomas led the birdie average / par breakers and par 4 scoring stats on the Webcom tour last season and on the main stage he's earned the title of 'pound for pound longest hitter'. The 22-year-old is super aggressive from approaches and lies 2nd in total birdies on the PGA Tour - only just overtaken last week by Tony Finau. Thomas also demolishes par fives, leading in this area and and the eagle blue (3rd) is becoming a regular occurrence on his card. Justin shares the lowest round of the year so far with a 61 at the Sony Open. Thomas also has some experience of the course under his belt shooting 66-66 on the Friday and Saturday in 2013, eventually posting a top 30.
Nick Watney - 51.00 or 11.00 is extremely hard to figure out but the man is capable of birdie streaks like not many others and he's been simmering of late. Again, there are not many course that fit his profile better. The slower greens should equalise his putting inefficiencies somewhat while his aggressive style and the room for manoeuvre here should stand him in good stead. Indeed, Watney has a handful of sporadic appearances here and one missed cut is surrounded by four top 13 finishes. Nick posted a top 10 at the Byron Nelson, posting two rounds of 65 in the process.
Sul Yeung Noh - 81.00 or 17.00 - was described during his European Tour adventure as "deceptively long" and for me he fits the TPC River Highlands aggression profile. Not just this course, but Pete Dye courses in general, and Sul Yeung recorded his maiden PGA Tour victory at the Dye designed TPC Louisiana last year in the Zurich classic. I'm surprised at the Korean's price this week given he recorded an obvious 3rd place at the ST. Jude Classic last time out. Noh posted a weekend 66-65 with a leading GIR% clip of 75%. He has lukewarm course form - his best being a T18 in 2012 posting four rounds of 68.
When birdies are the brief, Brendon De Jonge is always on the radar and he trades at 81.00 or 17.00. Brendon is a regular at the upper end of the birdie stats and indeed led the tour for Total Birdies in 2013. Currently he sits 4th in that stat and was lying 2nd until last week. The big man owns two top 10s here. Brendon was in contention again at the recent Byron Nelson but stalled to a Sunday 70.