The PGA Tour heads to the familiar stop of the Travelers Championship to blow the US Open blues away this week and with them go a very strong field considering we are just off the back of the third major of the season.
Harris English enjoyed himself around here last year when he outlasted Kramer Hickok in a seven-hole play-off to win the title. He is back to attempt to make a successful defence here but the challenge looks much stronger.
2021 – Harris English
2020 – Dustin Johnson
2019 – Chez Reavie
2018 – Bubba Watson
2017 – Jordan Spieth
2016 – Russell Knox
2015 – Bubba Watson
2014 – Kevin Streelman
2013 – Ken Duke
2012 – Marc Leishman
It is TPC River Highlands that is staging the tournament again this week. You know what you are going to get from River Highlands. It is a par 70 which only measures 6,852 yards so it isn’t long. You can use length to your advantage here as there are a couple of drivable holes but in the main this is a course which rewards those who drive the ball well and putt well regardless of how long they are off the tee.
The rough remains relatively significant this week at four inches but the players who are most likely to be in it are going to be a long way down there so I don’t think that will hamper them in any way. Accuracy is still going to be key around here but the emphasis is very much on accuracy. A hot putter is never a bad thing either it has to be said. The forecast suggests there is rain in the lead up to the tournament so we are likely to have a soft course for the first round or two.
When you consider what went on last week in terms of the US Open the field this week has a really strong look to it. Whether that is players coming out to get behind their tour in face of stiff competition or not I’m not totally sure but any time the world number one Scottie Scheffler is in the field you know the competition will be strong. It might not be quite as strong as it might have been with the likes of Justin Thomas, Sungjae Im and Will Zalatoris withdrawing in the lead up but it is strong enough.
Canadian Open champion Rory McIlroy is in the field this week looking for a second regular tour title in succession while the likes of Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth and Sam Burns all have tee times too. Harris English tees it up as a defending champion this week while the likes of Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Joaqiun Niemann, Keegan Bradley, Marc Leishman and Tommy Fleetwood are some other notables who have a tee time here.
Rory McIlroy won the Canadian Open a couple of weeks ago but seems to have been spending all his time since then answering questions about the new rival tour and defectors to it. This will actually be the fourth week in a row he has been on the golf course and I never think that is ideal, especially when he used up a lot of mental resources in winning in Canada and then had a major last week where it has to be said he showed signs of being jaded over the weekend. He isn’t for me at 9/1.
Scottie Scheffler comes next in the betting at 10/1 and he might have a point to prove this week after letting the US Open slip from his grasp last Sunday. The world number one led with nine holes to play at Brookline but couldn’t get it done on the back nine. There was one or two signs that he isn’t quite flushing his irons as well as he was earlier in the year when he was seemingly winning everything. He’s a class act and they should never be dismissed easily but he’s just a fair price in my eyes.
Patrick Cantlay had a much better US Open than he might have been expected to and if that has given him some confidence to push on for the remainder of the season then I’m sure he’ll be popular at 12/1 this week. You sense he’ll need to find his best on the greens but this is a man who was only touched off in a play-off at the Valspar a few weeks ago and who won alongside Xander Schauffele since then. His price is also just a fair one in my eyes.
Xander Schauffele and Sam Burns are the other players shorter than 20/1 in the field. Both can be backed at 18/1 on the best prices. Schauffele looked right out of touch at the US Open last week which is so often a positive tournament for him. To be fair he’s looked off his best for a while. Burns is one of the players of the season but I wonder how he’ll be affected mentally by the way he bombed out on Sunday at the US Open. I’m happy to leave both alone.
There are a lot of players who are playing for a fourth week in a row here and who might be coming to the end of their resources without a rest. One player for whom that isn’t the case is Davis Riley. He ended the US Open in a tie for 31st place last week but at -1 at the halfway mark he was right there but the weekend caught him out. Prior to that though he had recorded finishes of 4-5-9-13-4-13 so he’s in great form. He is picking up multiple shots on approach at the minute and is putting pretty well too. If he can keep the driver under control, and with little need to pound it this week I expect him to do that, then I think he’s a big challenger here. In an ideal worth he’d have had a spin around here in the past but he won’t have played many of the courses he is delivering strong results on so that is only a minor issue. He’s my first main bet.
The second one I was struggling to pick between Joaquin Niemann and Seamus Power but I’ve gone for the latter because I just like his more solid all-round driving game. Power is a good putter too and although he missed the cut at The Memorial recently, either side of that he finished 9-12 in the last two majors, carding three 70s to close at Brookline when others were haemorrhaging shots over the weekend. Power is driving the ball brilliantly and putting very well at the minute so if he can keep setting up chances another title is going to come his way soon. He was T19 here last year and I expect a vast improvement on that here.
I’ll take three outsiders this week with the first one a fairly obvious pick after his run at the US Open last week in Denny McCarthy. McCarthy is known as one of the best putters on the PGA Tour so it stands to reason that he is part of the staking plan here. He was eighth in fairways hit at the US Open last week and fifth in greens hit so if he has that long game with him then with the way he laps the field with the putter most weeks he is going to be there or thereabouts. His record here leaves plenty to be desired but he has never come here off the back of a week like he had in Brookline.
Nick Hardy was another who we saw on the leaderboards a lot last week and I think he is worth chancing this week. There is the comedown potential with Hardy which isn’t ideal but at the same time everything he experienced in the first half of the week could well inspire him to work hard and get back to more majors. Hardy gained over nine shots on the field on the greens last week so if he can hit the ball well, and last three outings GIR ranks of 16-9-13 suggest he will, then there is nothing to suggest he won’t be in the mix either.
Andrew Putnam went under the radar to finish just outside the top 30 at the US Open last week and prior to that he finished T15 at the Charles Schwab Challenge so on two tough golf courses he has come away with results which suggest he is hitting the ball well. Driving accuracy ranks of 17-20 in those two weeks confirm that. In those weeks he has been safely in the top 10 for strokes gained putting so Putnam is beginning to tick the boxes needed to deliver this week. He was T13 here last year and if he is rounding into some good ball striking form he can better that here.
Back D.Riley to win Travelers Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)
Back S.Power to win Travelers Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 46.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)
Back D.McCarthy to win Travelers Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 61.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)
Back N.Hardy to win Travelers Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with Coral (1/5 1-8)
Back him here:
Back A.Putnam to win Travelers Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 201.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back him here: