Travelers Championship Tips

Steve Bamford’s tips for the 2011 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands

A change of Major strategy delivered a sensational 1-2 at Congressional last week so congratulations to McIlroy and Day who delivered for us at 22/1 and 45/1 EW respectively - and yes I’m chuffed to bits! Thanks for your congratulations via Twitter @Golfbetting

But a tipster never sits on their laurels as we have season-long (yes we tip every week from January through to December) profit to build upon so we move “up state” to the slower Bent greens of TPC River Highlands in Connecticut.

After the classical set-up that some of the field faced in Maryland last week, we move to an altogether more PGA Tour-type setup where making red numbers is essential. TPC River Highlands is set up to be smashed as the course only measures 6800 yards and is a Par 70. Making birdies is the name of the game, so a liking for Bent greens is essential. Length helps, but certainly isn’t essential and missing fairways is punished only in the fact that you lose the opportunity to make Birdie. With tranquil conditions forecast and thunder storms softening the greens further scoring will be low.

Field-wise my initial reaction on Friday evening was one of disappointment, but all in all the field is strong enough with Mahan, Watney, Watson, Zach Johnson, Snedeker, Toms, Furyk, Harrington and Poulter making for a reasonably strong betting market. So what to look for this week?

The event itself is popular with over 80,000 fans in attendance but the mix of previous winners highlights some key characteristics. Bubba Watson won his first PGA Tour event in a play-off last year (over veterans Verplank and Pavin) and 2009 saw veteran Kenny Perry grab his 2nd win of the season and 14th career victory with a winning score of -22. Cink captured the 2008 title and 2007 saw Hunter Mahan, like Bubba, capture his first PGA Tour title.

A team made up of proven winners and players seeking their first win all with a penchant for Bent carpet seems the prudent way forward this week:

Zach Johnson 1pt EW 25/1 with BetFred Free Bet Get a £50 free bet via this link: BetFred Free Bet

The Sea Island, Georgia resident ticks all the required boxes this week and in many ways reminds me of Kenny Perry. I’m not talking in terms of the way he plays, but in the fact that he is a regular winner on Tour with 7 wins to his name. Like Perry he can win on both Bermuda and Bent greens and on top of that his wins are often at Par 70 tracks where low scoring is essential to get the job done. The analytical side of me counted up his sub -10 scores since 2008 and I counted 16 of which 50% were on Bent greens – I told you he could play both surfaces. Wins at La Cantrera (2008 – 2009), Waialee (2009) and Colonial last year were all on Par 70 set-ups and his two wins at TPC Sugarloaf (2004 – 2007) link in perfectly as Sugarloaf has Bent greens and is a resort style course. 25/1 for a player in great nick in terms of immediate from 30-32-4-12-6 – who was contending at Congressional after 36 holes but then got a sinus infection – seems like decent value to me so I’m on. Oh, by the way, the 4th and 6th finishes were on Bent at Colonial and Quail Hollow respectively. RESULT: T24

Webb Simpson 1pt EW 30/1 with Sky Free Bet Get up to £35 in free bets via this link: Sky Free Bet

Regular column readers won’t be surprised, but could you imagine if Simpson won his first PGA Tour tournament this week and I wasn’t on-board?! I’ve supported Simpson for longer than a tipster cares too mention and he has delivered some super results for me at big prices, BUT he has always stumbled at the final hurdle costing me the big win. Rewind to the Shriners Open in October last year where he let a 1 shot lead slip on the 71st hole with a double. Bugger! 14th then followed at Hilton Head where I tipped him at 50/1 after sitting 5th and then……he loses in a play-off (we are on at 66/1) in New Orleans to Bubba after the furore of a ball oscillating / moving incident gifted Watson a Play Off. Bugger x2! Lesser players would have collapsed, instead North Carolina based Simpson has pumped in 7th at Muirfield and a decent 21st last week in his first US Open. 3 appearances at TPC River Highlands have delivered 3 paid finishes and a round average of 68.4. He also sits 7th on the PGA Tour for Birdie Average. He’s ready to win. RESULT: T13

Charley Hoffman 1pt EW 66/1 with Paddy Power Free Bet £50 In Free Bets, get it here: Paddy Power Free Bet

The Hoffmeister is a must for the team this week and I must say I was pleasantly surprised at the 66s Paddy Power have served up on a plate this week. I featured Hoffman at the recent Byron Nelson at 35s where he proceeded to miss the cut, but the logic behind the pick remains sound - after all we are looking for players who are streaky and can generate low red numbers. Charley is a 2-time PGA Tour winner whose victories have been at the Bob Hope Classic where he shot -17 (not particularly low for the Bob Hope Lottery) in 2007 and at TPC Boston where he conjured up a fabulous closing round of 62 in windy conditions last September to win with -22. Indeed Arizona-based Hoffman has a penchant for low scores across Bermuda and Bent greens. The last 2 seasons have seen Hoffman deliver scores of -22 -15 -13 -13 -10 on Bent carpet across TPC at Deere Run, St Georges, TPC Boston, Turning Stone and the aforementioned TPC Boston win. Hoffman contended for the victory and finished a shot back of winner Brendan Steele at TPC San Antonio in April and semi-contended at TPC Sawgrass in May so he’s in “the mental space” to challenge this week in Connecticut, where he shot a closing 64 when finishing 27th last year. RESULT: T43

Kevin Na 1pt EW 70/1 with Bet365 Get £200 in free bets via this link: Bet365

I’m a believer in Na as I have been of McIlroy over past months and, despite his famous 16 shot debacle at TPC San Antonio, he’s had a decent season. The character of a man is how he responds to ridicule and the week after Texas he finished 9th at Hilton Head and then delivered a stellar 5th at Quail Hollow pocketing $360,000 across the 2 weeks. When you add 5th place at the Bob Hope Lottery and a contending 3rd at Riviera in February you start to see the ability the Nevada man has across a whole host of different course formats. Na was 5th here in 2007 and likes to go low on courses where free scoring is possible. Indeed he’s delivered scores of -18 -14 -12 -12 -12 -11 -11 -11 -11 -10 on Bent carpet in the past 3 ½ seasons. As ever you have to catch him on the right week but the World Number 56, who is already in the Open Championship field, has all the right assets to challenge this week if he can find enough greens to let his amazing putting game illicit the required number of birdies. RESULT: MC

Carl Pettersson 1pt EW 66/1 with BetFred Free Bet Get a £50 free bet via this link: BetFred Free Bet

When it comes to par 70 specialists, “Petters” along with Toms, Furyk and Zach Johnson, are always at the top of the research list. Par 70 wins at Sedgefield in 2008 and St Georges last year were achieved on Bent greens with winning scores of -21 and -14 respectively. Now back up to his fighting weight, the Carolina domiciled Swede is devastating when the famous belly putter warms in the summer months “up state.” Carl hit my radar with a 9th at Quail in May and 8th last time out at St Jude (Par 70) and interestingly his putting has improved rapidly since the start of May. Never outside the Top 40 in his last four appearances at TPC River Highlands Pettersson is a real momentum player who could do some real damage this week at an attractive Each-Way price. RESULT: T24

Odds and bookmaker offers correct 19:30BST 21.6.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation.

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