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Travelers Championship Preview and Picks
by Matt Fargo - 06/21/2011
As with any golf fan, this is a letdown week after a Major, as the U.S. Open concluded Sunday with Rory McIlroy running away with the trophy in a wire-to-wire victory. The letdown not only comes because of the less importance on the line but also because the field strength goes way down following a Major championship. Both are the case this week for the Travelers Championship taking place from the TPC at River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.
The scoring will be different compared to last week at Congressional, although it was definitely not as difficult as usual U.S. Open's, as the last 17 winners of the Travelers have carded double-digit scores under par. That means birdies are coveted so ball striking and hitting greens are of the utmost importance. This can be said almost every week on tour but when you are talking about going low, they become even more important. Last year, 20 players finished double-digits under par.
TPC at River Highlands has hosted this event since 1984 and it was formerly known as the Buick Championship and the Greater Hartford Open. It has gone through two redesigns and River Highlands is second only to the TPC Scottsdale for most spectators at a PGA Tour event. With the scoring, it is not a very difficulty track and last year it was ranked 32nd in difficulty out of 52 venues. The 6,841 yards in length makes it one of the shorter stops as well.
Because of the U.S. Open taking place last week, the field has been thinned out considerably. There is only two players in the field ranked in the top 15, Jim Furyk and Nick Watney, and just seven players ranked in the top 30 in the OWGR. Also, just 12 tournament winners from this year are teeing it up so the possibility is there once again to crown a first-timer. Six of the past seven Travelers Champions are also in play with 2008 winner Stewart Cink sitting out this week.
Defending champion Bubba Watson (+2000) trailed by six-strokes heading into Sunday but rallied and forced a three-way playoff before defeating Scott Verplank on the second sudden death hole to claim his first PGA Tour victory. Watson was on the leaderboard at the U.S. Open Thursday afternoon but faded to a T63 finish. His best finish since winning in New Orleans is a T42 at the Memorial.
Hunter Mahan (+1500) is coming off a disappointing U.S. Open but if ever there is a venue to recharge, this is it for him. He had four straight top 20's heading into last week and his record at the Highlands is pretty solid. His has finished in the top five in four of the last five years including a win in 2007 so he obviously loves it here. He did miss the cut last year but that was part of four straight non-playing weekends.
Brandt Snedeker (+2500) continues to play well. He has five top tens including a win at the Heritage in April. He did follow that up with two missed cuts however he bounced back the week after with a T16 at Colonial and he is coming off a T11 at Congressional last week. His best finish here was a T47 in 2009 but his recent play trumps that and his putting alone should keep him in contention.
Webb Simpson (+3000) is coming off a T14 at the U.S. Open last week thanks to a 66-70 finish and he is having a great year without a victory. He is 17th on the money list and 16th in the FedEx Cup standings thanks in part to only two missed cuts and four top ten finishes. He has two solo second place finishes which came at the Transitions and the Zurich Classic, both of which had similar watered down fields.
Jim Furyk (+4000) is the highest ranked player in the field but these are not odds that correlate to that. He is struggling this season as he has missed five cuts in 14 stroke play events including three of the last four culminating with a +7 at the U.S. Open on Thursday and Friday. He has not played here since 2001 but that tells us that he is trying to get his game back to form. Incredible value here.
For a longshot this week, we will take a shot with Brandt Jobe (+5000) who has been playing great since mid-March. He has six top 20 finishes including three top tens and he has missed only one cut in his last nine events. He played consistent last week in his T23 finish and the start before that saw a T2 at the Memorial. He has no track record here but being first on tour in total driving sets him up well for TPC Highlands.
Recommended Tournament Win Five Pack at the Travelers Championship – All for 1 Unit
Hunter Mahan (+1500)
Brandt Snedeker (+2500)
Webb Simpson (+3000)
Jim Furyk (+4000)
Brandt Jobe (+5000)