Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Travelers Championship Tips 2021

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The Travelers Championship has always been a well-supported event on the PGA Tour and has a ‘big tournament’ feel in Cromwell, Connecticut, just 2 hours drive out of Manhattan. 2021 sees a strong field with the betting market headed by Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay and Brooks Koepka, plus Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Abraham Ancer, Justin Rose, Tony Finau and Marc Leishman.

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Before we go into the detail surrounding the Travelers Championship, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System, with the Open Championship only 4 weeks away. My 2021 Open Tips Research Preview is now available for you to read.

Welcome and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 5,900+ strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Course Guide: TPC River Highlands is a stock ‘Up-State’ par 70.

At 6,841 yards, the course is attackable and gives all styles of play a chance of victory. Chez Reavie averaged 279 yards off the tee here in 2019, whilst Bubba Watson has averaged 317 yards off the tee across his three victories here. Jordan Spieth, Russell Knox, Kevin Streelman, Ken Duke and Freddie Jacobson plotted and putted their ways to victory, as did Dustin Johnson in 2020, using hybrids off many tees.

River Highlands has seen significant changes since the 2015 renewal, with a PGA Tour-inspired renovation seeing 50 bunkers removed and the remaining bunkers being upgraded, and in many cases moved, to create fairway pinch points. 5 greens on the inward set were also rebuilt to present new hole locations. All in all though, River Highlands is a good, solid, mid-scoring, tree-lined parkland course where making birdies and putting extremely well will be key on Poa Annua/Bentgrass mix greens that aren’t overly taxing. Birdies and minimising mistakes will be the name of the game.

TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut: Designer Robert J. Moss 1928 with Pete Dye (1984), and PGA Tour (2016) renovations; Course Type: Resort; Par: 70; Length: 6,841 yards; Holes with Water In-Play: 5; Fairways: Bentgrass with Poa Annua; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass with Fescue 4″; Greens: 5,000 sq.ft average featuring Bentgrass with Poa Annua; Tournament Stimp: 12ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 69.84 (-0.16), Difficulty Rank 26 of 49 courses. 2013: 70.25 (+0.25), Difficulty Rank 20 of 43 courses. 2014: 69.69 (-0.31), Rank 32 of 48 courses:2015: 69.38 (-0.62), Rank 29 of 52 courses. 2016: 69.67 (-0.33), Rank of 26 of 50 courses. 2017: 70.20 (+0.20), Rank 21 of 50 courses. 2018: 69.60 (-0.40), Rank 25 of 51 courses. 2019: 69.72 (-0.28), Rank 19 of 49 courses. 2020: 68.63 (-1.37), Rank 32 of 41 courses.

Designer Links: For research purposes, other Pete Dye designs include:

  • Austin Country Club – WGC Dell Matchplay since 2016
  • Crooked Stick – 2012 and 2016 BMW Championship.
  • Harbour Town Golf Links – RBC Heritage
  • Ocean Course – Kiawah Island – 2012 & 2021 PGA Championship
  • TPC River Highlands – The Travelers
  • TPC Louisiana – Zurich Classic of New Orleans
  • TPC Sawgrass – The Players Championship
  • TPC Stadium, PGA West – The American Express since 2016
  • Whistling Straits – 2010 and 2015 PGA Championship

Course Overview: TPC River Highlands is a traditional north-eastern state parkland golf course that features little water. The short format calls for a greater degree of accuracy off the tee to fairways which aren’t difficult to hit for players who focus on course management.

At an average of 5,000 square feet, the green complexes are a typical short Par 70 affair, but the key to the course is that the Poa Annua/Bentgrass mix surfaces run at a receptive speed. River Highlands is a second-shot course where accurate approach play is key. Accurate drivers and plotters tend to prosper, although bombers can contend with Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson prime examples. But here more than anywhere a red-hot putter will be required to deliver a minimum 20 birdies required for victory.

No course statistics really jump from off the page – River Highlands really is pretty stock across the piece, apart from the fact that scrambling from the rough is particularly difficult (top-10 hardest pretty much every year) for those missing greens. This tournament though tends to be won on the par-4s. The course was in the top-10 easiest on the PGA Tour for par-4 birdie or better conversion in 2015, 14th easiest in 2016, 18th easiest in 2017, 21st easiest 2018 and 24th easiest in 2019, highlighting that the tournament is won or lost on the 48 looks at the par-4s.

Below is a breakdown of player par-4 scoring at TPC River Highlands across the last 9 tournaments here. Finishing position in brackets:

  • 2020: Dustin Johnson (Winner) -14; Mackenzie Hughes (3rd), Kevin Na (5th) -13; Bryson DeChambeau (6th) -12.
  • 2019: Chez Reavie (Winner) -13; Keegan Bradley (2nd) -8; Kevin Kisner (15th), Zach Sucher (2nd) -7.
  • 2018: Bubba Watson (Winner), Paul Casey (2nd) -11; Stewart Cink (2nd) -10; Brian Harman (6th) -9; J.B. Holmes (2nd) -8.
  • 2017: Jordan Spieth (Winner) -11; Boo Weekley (5th) -9; Anirban Lahiri (17th) -8; Daniel Berger (2nd), Paul Casey (5th), Keegan Bradley (8th) -7.
  • 2016: Russell Knox (Winner) -10; Jerry Kelly (2nd) Shawn Stefani (11th) -9; Tyrone Van Aswegen (5th) -8.
  • 2015: Bubba Watson (Winner) -12; Bo Van Pelt (7th) -10; Paul Casey (2nd) -9; Curran (10th), Delaet (4th), Jason Gore (10th), Harman (3rd), Pettersson (5th) -8.
  • 2014: Kevin Streelman (Winner), Brandt Snedeker (11th) -11; K.J. Choi (2nd), Marc Leishman (11th) -9; Aaron Baddeley (4th), Sergio Garcia (2nd), Jhonattan Vegas (31st) -8.
  • 2013: Chris Stroud (2nd) -9; Graham Delaet (3rd), Ken Duke (Winner), Charley Hoffman (7th) -8; Ryan Moore (7th) -7.
  • 2012: Charley Hoffman (2nd) -11; Tim Clark (4th), Matt Kuchar (8th), Bubba Watson (2nd) -10; Brian Davis (4th), Billy Hurley III (47th) -9.

travelers championship tips

Winners: 2020: Dustin Johnson (-19); 2019: Chez Reavie (-17); 2018: Bubba Watson (-17); 2017: Jordan Spieth (-12); 2016: Russell Knox (-14); 2015: Bubba Watson (-16); 2014: Kevin Streelman (-15); 2013: Ken Duke (-12); 2012: Marc Leishman (-14); 2011: Freddie Jacobson (-20); 2010: Bubba Watson (-14).

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2020: Round 1 -10; Round 2 -13; Round 3 -18; Round 4 -19.
  • 2019: Round 1 -6; Round 2 -11; Round 3 -16; Round 4 -17.
  • 2018: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -10; Round 3 -16; Round 4 -17.

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats | Strokes Gained Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side.

Top 10 of my published predictor are Dustin Johnson, Paul Casey, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay, Brian Harman, Kevin Streelman, Patrick Reed, Jason Day and Abraham Ancer.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to Valspar Championship / Tenerife Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Brendon Todd; 2) David Hearn; 3) Chez Reavie; 4) Brian Stuard; 5) Jim Herman; 6) Brian Harman; 7) Adam Long; 8) Ryan Armour / Satoshi Kodaira; 10) Keegan Bradley; 11) J.J. Spaun; 12) Kramer Hickok; 13) Brice Garnett / Nate Lashley; 15) Ryan Moore; 16) Kyle Stanley; 17) Henrik Norlander / Chase Seiffert / Michael Thompson; 20) Abraham Ancer / Doug Ghim; 22) Paul Casey / Tom Hoge / Doc Redman; 25) Rickie Fowler / Ian Poulter.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Matthew Wolff; 2) Paul Casey; 3) Hank Lebioda; 4) Emiliano Grillo; 5) Garrick Higgo / Russell Knox / Guido Migliozzi; 8) Doug Ghim; 9) Brooks Koepka; 10) Keegan Bradley; 11) Danny Lee; 12) Bryson DeChambeau / Luke List; 14) Pat Perez / Kevin Streelman / Aaron Wise; 17) Luke Donald / Charley Hoffman; 19) C.T. Pan / Kyle Stanley; 21) Patrick Cantlay; 22) Brice Garnett; 23) Russell Henley; 24) Abraham Ancer / Beau Hossler.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Ryan Armour; 2) David Lipsky; 3) Sam Burns; 4) Patton Kizzire; 5) Adam Scott / Nick Taylor; 7) Scottie Scheffler; 8) Ian Poulter; 9) Cameron Smith; 10) Phil Mickelson; 11) Vincent Whaley; 12) Sebastian Munoz / Scott Stallings / Cameron Tringale; 15) Matthew Wolff; 16) Talor Gooch / Vaughn Taylor; 18) Satoshi Kodaira / Brandt Snedeker / Brendon Todd; 21) Tony Finau / C.T. Pan; 23) Joaquin Niemann / Carlos Ortiz; 25) Robby Shelton.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Valspar Championship / Tenerife Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players’ rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Matthew Wolff; 2) Bryson DeChambeau; 3) David Lipsky; 4) Paul Casey; 5) Patrick Cantlay / Bubba Watson; 7) Dustin Johnson / Brooks Koepka; 9) Scottie Scheffler; 10) Keegan Bradley; 11) Keith Mitchell; 12) Tom Lewis / Guido Migliozzi; 14) Charley Hoffman; 15) C.T Pan / Kyle Stanley; 17) Abraham Ancer; 18) Garrick Higgo; 19) Joaquin Niemann; 20) Jason Day; 21) Joseph Bramlett; 22) Bronson Burgoon / Satoshi Kodaira / Aaron Wise; 25) Danny Lee / Luke List / Kevin Streelman.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Paul Casey; 2) Guido Migliozzi; 3) Luke Donald; 4) Emiliano Grillo; 5) Charley Hoffman / Kevin Streelman; 7) Kevin Chappell; 8) Stewart Cink; 9) Russell Knox; 10) Sam Burns / Matthew NeSmith; 12) Keegan Bradley / Bo Van Pelt; 14) Aaron Wise; 15) Joaquin Niemann; 16) Pat Perez; 17) Matthew Wolff; 18) Brandt Snedeker; 19) Patrick Cantlay; 20) Max Homa; 21) Jason Dufner / Brooks Koepka / Kyle Stanley; 24) Patrick Reed; 25) Talor Gooch / Danny Lee / Henrik Norlander / Doc Redman.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) David Lipsky; 2) Kevin Na; 3) Patrick Reed; 4) Cameron Tringale; 5) Harris English; 6) Jason Day / Kramer Hickok; 8) Aaron Wise; 9) Matt Jones; 10) Rickie Fowler / Brandt Snedeker; 12) Nate Lashley; 13) Brian Harman / Anirban Lahiri; 15) Zach Johnson / Ian Poulter; 17) Tony Finau; 18) Paul Casey / Francesco Molinari / Brian Stuard; 21) Denny McCarthy / Pat Perez / Vincent Whaley; 24) Keegan Bradley / C.T. Pan.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Paul Casey; 2) David Lipsky; 3) Patrick Cantlay; 4) Brooks Koepka / Guido Migliozzi / Aaron Wise; 7) Kevin Streelman; 8) Charley Hoffman / Scottie Scheffler; 10) Patrick Reed; 11) Keegan Bradley; 12) Francesco Molinari / C.T. Pan; 14) Bryson DeChambeau / Brian Harman / Kyle Stanley / Matthew Wolff; 18) Hank Lebioda; 19) Sam Burns / Harris English; 21) Garrick Higgo / Dustin Johnson; 23) Emiliano Grillo / Pat Perez; 25) Satoshi Kodaira.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Matthew Wolff; 2) Adam Scott; 3) David Lipsky; 4) Troy Merritt; 5) Adam Long / Rob Oppenheim; 7) Patton Kizzire; 8) Garrick Higgo; 9) Zach Johnson / Doc Redman / Scott Stallings / Nick Taylor / Brendon Todd; 14) Ryan Armour / Harris English; 16) Kevin Kisner; 17) Adam Hadwin / Satoshi Kodaira; 19) Austin Cook; 20) Sam Burns; 21) Ian Poulter; 22) Cameron Tringale; 23) Brian Gay / Marc Leishman / Cameron Smith / Vaughn Taylor.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) David Lipsky; 2) Paul Casey; 3) Matthew Wolff; 4) Aaron Wise; 5) Guido Migliozzi; 6) Patrick Cantlay; 7) Sam Burns / Brian Harman; 9) Hank Lebioda / Patrick Reed; 11) Bryson DeChambeau / Scottie Scheffler / Kyle Stanley / Kevin Streelman; 15) Harris English / Pat Perez / Satoshi Kodaira; 18) Garrick Higgo; 19) Keegan Bradley / Ian Poulter; 21) Abraham Ancer / Dustin Johnson; 23) Joaquin Niemann; 24) Luke Donald / Charley Hoffman / Doc Redman / Adam Scott.

Winners & Prices: 2020: D Johnson 30/1; 2019: Reavie 70/1; 2018: Watson 33/1; 2017: Spieth 10/1; 2016: Knox 50/1; 2015: Watson 14/1; 2014: Streelman 150/1; 2013: Duke 150/1; 2012: Leishman 125/1; 2011: Jacobson 45/1; 2010: Watson 40/1. Past 7 Renewals Average: 51/1; Overall Average: 65/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2020: Thursday: Mostly sunny with a high of 87. Wind SW 8-16 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 88. Wind W 6-12 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 83. Occasional showers. Wind SSW 6-12 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy with a high of 86. Wind SW 5-10 mph. Due to a dangerous weather situation, the final round was
  • suspended from 5:17 p.m. until 6:15 p.m.
  • 2019: Thursday: Overcast, with light showers throughout the day. High of 74. Wind S 6-12 mph. Due to wet course conditions, preferred lies in closely-mown areas were in effect for round one. Friday: Rain in the morning and partly cloudy in the afternoon. High of 74. Wind NNW at 10-20 mph. Due to wet course conditions, preferred lies in closely-mown areas were in effect for round two. Saturday: Sunny. High of 82. Wind NW 12-22 mph. Sunday: Sunny. High of 85. Wind WNW 10-20 mph.
  • 2018: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 85. Wind NNE 6-12 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy. High of 67. Wind SE 4-8 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy with scattered showers. High of 67. Wind NE 6-12 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy. High of 81. Wind SW 8-15 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high of 85. Wind SSW 7-12 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy, with intermittent showers throughout the day. High of 85. Wind SSW 10-20 mph. Saturday: Due to expected morning thunderstorms, tee times were between 10:45 a.m. and 1:05 p.m. Cloudy in the morning, with light rain. Clear and mostly sunny in the afternoon, with a high of 86. Wind NW 8-16 mph. Sunday: Sunny, with a high of 84. Wind SW 10-18 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Sunny. High of 82. Wind SSE 6-12 mph. Friday: Sunny. High of 85. Wind SSW 10-15 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy with light precipitation. High of 85. Wind WSW 10-15 mph. Sunday: Sunny. High of 87. Wind WNW at 10-15 mph.
  • 2015: Thursday: Sunny, with an afternoon high of 83. Wind SW at 6-12 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy, with an afternoon high of 85. Wind SW at 6-12 mph. Saturday: Cloudy, with an afternoon high 73. Light, afternoon rain. Wind SE at 8-15 mph. Sunday: Due to expected overnight rain Saturday, officials moved final-round tee times between 11:40 a.m.–1:30 p.m., in threesomes off Nos. 1 and 10 tees. Cloudy, with light rain. High of 74. Wind NNE at 7-12 mph.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Hartford, Connecticut, is here.

This part of the world has received 35mm of rain in the past 7 days, so I’m expecting lush conditions with some cut in the turf. TPC River Highlands is always on the receptive side and there’s a 50% chance of rain on Tuesday afternoon as well. Temperatures up to 27 degrees Celsius are slightly down on what we usually see here, but will be more than pleasant. But it’s the weekend which looks intriguing with the current forecast suggesting 25 mph southerly winds across both Saturday and Sunday.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 11 winners here at the Travelers Championship since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this:

  • 2020, Dustin Johnson (-19). 303 yards (27th), 62.5% fairways (47th), 77.8% greens in regulation (10th), 27’8″ proximity to hole (3rd), 62.5 % scrambling (33rd), 1.63 putts per GIR (4th).
  • 2019, Chez Reavie (-17). 279 yards (55th), 82.9% fairways (3rd), 75.0% greens in regulation (1st), 31’4″ proximity to hole (2nd), 83.3% scrambling (2nd), 1.69 putts per GIR (10th).
  • 2018, Bubba Watson (-17). 312 yards (7th), 51.8% fairways (70th), 77.8% greens in regulation (7th), 33’11” proximity to hole (29th), 56.4% scrambling (44th), 1.64 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2017, Jordan Spieth (-12). 290 yards (52nd), 62.5% fairways (41st), 68.1% greens in regulation (42nd), 31’1″ proximity to hole (35th), 65.2 % scrambling (19th), 1.63 putts per GIR (3rd).
  • 2016, Russell Knox (-14). 296 yards (24th), 67.9% fairways (30th), 79.2% greens in regulation (5th), proximity to hole 30’6″ (8th), 66.7 % scrambling (19th), 1.68 putts per GIR (8th).
  • 2015, Bubba Watson (-16). 319 yards (1st), 53.6% fairways (70th), 69.4% greens in regulation (38th), proximity to hole 38’1″ (59th), 90.9 % scrambling (1st), 1.70 putts per GIR (17th).
  • 2014, Kevin Streelman (-15). 291 yards (48th), 73.2% fairways (17th), 73.6% greens in regulation (10th), proximity to hole 29’5″ (5th), 52.6% scrambling (58th), 1.55 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2013, Ken Duke (-12). 282 yards (57th), 78.6% fairways (10th), 62.5% greens in regulation (62nd), proximity to hole 30’7″ (13th), 77.8% scrambling (3rd), 1.62 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2012, Marc Leishman (-14). 301 yards (12th), 76.8% fairways (15th), 70.8% greens in regulation (28th), proximity to hole 30’1″ (9th), 61.9% scrambling (18th), 1.67 putts per GIR (10th).
  • 2011, Freddie Jacobson (-20). 275 yards (46th), 85.7% fairways (9th), 72.2% greens in regulation (34th), proximity to hole 32’0″ (45th), 95.0% scrambling (1st), 1.67 putts per GIR (11th).
  • 2010, Bubba Watson (-14). 321 yards (1st), 66.1% fairways (58th), 70.8% greens in regulation (38th), proximity to hole 31’5″ (25th), 57.1% scrambling (43rd), 1.63 putts per GIR (2nd).

Tournament Skill Averages:

Driving Distance: 30th, Driving Accuracy: 34th, Greens in Regulation: 25th, Proximity to Hole: 22nd, Scrambling: 22nd, Putting Average 7th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2020, Dustin Johnson (-19). SG Off the Tee: 46th, SG Approach: 6th, SG Around the Green: 25th, SG Tee to Green: 6th, SG Putting: 4th.
  • 2019, Chez Reavie (-17). SG Off the Tee: 10th, SG Approach: 1st, SG Around the Green: 24th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 10th.
  • 2018, Bubba Watson (-17). SG Off the Tee: 4th, SG Approach: 18th, SG Around the Green: 10th, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 22nd.
  • 2017, Jordan Spieth (-12). SG Off the Tee: 56th, SG Approach: 7th, SG Around the Green: 2nd, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 30th.
  • 2016, Russell Knox (-14). SG Off the Tee: 16th, SG Approach: 3rd, SG Around the Green: 42nd, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 19th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 26th, SG Approach: 7th, SG Around the Green: 21st, SG Tee to Green: 3rd, SG Putting: 17th.

Let’s take a view from players as to how TPC River Highlands sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Dustin Johnson (2020): “Well, to me I thought the wind, well, yesterday morning they didn’t have any breeze. Today we had, I mean, I was just talking to Jordan, and other than 16, every single shot we hit was into the wind. I mean, we didn’t get one hole downwind. I don’t know how you can go around this golf course and do that other than 16, which worked in our favour. All three of us made birdies there. But yeah, I thought the wind was tricky today. It was hard to get a beat on it, and it wasn’t blowing one or two miles an hour, it was enough to where it would affect the golf ball enough. That’s why I think it played tougher this morning.

Yeah, I mean, probably obviously the way I hit my irons today was, finally I felt like I had a lot of control of my distance and the shot shapes. I hit a lot of great shots, you have to shoot a 61. I think that was probably the biggest key. But probably the most important part of the round would have been No. 11, where I made that really good bunker save because I put myself in just an awful spot with a wedge.

On 9, I’ve been hitting hybrid off the tee, and today I hit hybrid and a pitching wedge to about two inches, and then yesterday I did the same thing, hybrid and a pitching wedge to about five feet and made it. I just want to hit it off the fairway, especially around here, because the rough is pretty thick. It’s hard to control the golf ball. The greens are fast and kind of firm. For me, it doesn’t really matter what distance I’m playing from, as long as I’m in the fairway.”

Chez Reavie (2019): I mean, I hit the ball a little closer on the back than I did on the front, but I hit a lot of great shots on the front, too. I would say the front was a little tougher for me. Some of the holes are real long and playing into the wind today. I was hitting 5-wood. Like at 4 and 5 I hit 5-wood at both of those holes and hit good shots. So I just got some more scoreable clubs on the back nine in my hands. I have shot 28 before on nine holes, but not on tour, I don’t believe. I’ve done it at home.

Yeah, the golf course is great. You can shape it both ways off the tee; hit every club in your bag from longer irons to short irons. It’s just a test of all your shots. That’s something I like. I’m a shot maker. I like to work it both ways. Fortunately I don’t have to hit hybrid like I did at Bethpage. I’ve always loved the layout since the first time I came here. Just the way the holes are shaped you can shape shots and think around the greens. It’s a great challenge and something I really enjoy.

Biggest shot for me down the stretch? When I stepped up to 17 tee, which that is the toughest visual shot for me on the golf course because I like to hit a draw. With that water off to the left it kind of doesn’t suit me, so I just tried to aim at the bunkers and let the wind blow it into the fairway. Knocked it on the green and I was very comfortable, and when I made the putt it kind of sealed the deal for me.”

Bubba Watson (2018): “Earlier this year I had won in L.A. for my third win in L.A. Now I just need one more in Augusta and that would be great. Get a different jacket. I like this jacket, don’t get me wrong. I love this. I’ve got a few of them. But, yeah, there are certain places that we’ve built our schedule, everybody builds their schedule around places they’ve seen, loved, the atmosphere, all of that comes into play. Around here there are a lot of driver holes where I can hit some drivers and shape it. There are a lot of guys, a lot of guys that are starting to come. Jordan came last year when he won, and he said, “Bubba, anywhere you play good that’s where I want to play, because I think I can play where you can play.” I don’t know if that was a dig or what, but he backed it up with a win. Yeah, it’s one of those things where it just fits our eye. You can see the fairway. You can see the shape of the holes and the greens are always in great shape, so it’s fun.”

Jordan Spieth (2017): “Yeah, I had no idea until we kind of got on the grounds and I saw Michael (Greller) on Tuesday before we played any holes, and he said, “This course is tailor made for you,” is what he said. I love the back nine. I think it’s a very exciting nine holes of golf, one of the coolest stretches that we play where anything can happen. So that’s good and bad when you’re leading. So again, yeah, I thought it was a really good golf course for us. You kind of manoeuvre the ball both ways. You’ve kind of got to watch out for – you’ve got some clearings where the wind affects it more than other times where you’re kind of in the valleys. But overall, poa annua greens, historically, aren’t my best, and so today was a big confidence boost. The rest of the golf course I really love. You’ve got to work both ball flights. You’ve got to kind of be fearless in playing different shots. You really have to. You can’t get out there and just step and hit just draws the whole day. It forces you to hit different shots. The greens are just tough.

Yeah, you’ve got to stay patient. You can’t force it here. You get so many opportunities, you feel like you’re losing to the field if you don’t birdie with a wedge in your hand. But they put these pins in such difficult locations it’s hard to feed it next to it, once you do, it’s difficult to get the right line on the green. So recognizing that the course is 6800 yards for a reason. It’s tricked out elsewhere. And being very patient on the weekend is key. I always mention that, that’s always the word. I try to tell myself that, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Given here especially, given that we’re going to have a lot of chances, greens in regulations is going to be an important stat.

Russell Knox (2016): “The scores here – I always think this course, if you tee off in the morning, the conditions, you can always shoot a mega low score. That’s what Jim Furyk did last year on Sunday. But as the day goes on, teeing off in the afternoon, especially on a weekend, shooting under par is a great score if you tee off at 1, 2 o’clock. So the course changes significantly as the day goes on, just the firmness of the greens. I think players like that. But every hole, I don’t really feel uncomfortable on. I mean, you don’t have to overpower this course. I remember watching the year before. I think Bubba Watson and Corey Pavin were in a playoff with Scott Verplank maybe too. And I remember thinking what an amazing course this must be that the shortest hitter and longest hitter in the field are in the playoff. So this course, I think, allows everyone in the field to win, and I think that shows what a great course this is.

Paul Casey: “This is a golf course where the green is relatively small, but they’re tucking the pins away and putting them on some funky little slopes. If you short side yourself, especially if you get over these greens, you’re going to be in a world of hurt. I’m a guy that hits a lot of greens in regulation. I’m pretty aggressive when going with the irons into the greens. I try to give myself a lot of birdie looks. To me, as a player, I love playing these kinds of events where you can go low. I think it’s good for the psyche. If all you ever do is play events where level par is winning score, you feel like you get beaten up, and you’ve got to have these, because every now and then you’ve got to go really low. It is fun. You can’t get the wrong side of it. With a golf course like this, it’s not that easy. I think the scores are reflective in the fact that we’ve got perfect conditions and perfect greens. If you get to the wrong side of it, you can make bogeys very easily out there.

Bubba Watson: “First hole is going to be a wedge; second hole, wedge; third hole, wedge. These are the approach shots. And then next hole is going to be…it’ll change, but 8, 9 or wedge; next hole is a 6 iron to a 5 iron; next hole is a 3 iron, going for it in two; next hole is a wedge; next hole is an 8 iron; next hole is a wedge; next hole is a wedge; next hole is a wedge; next hole is a wedge; next hole is going for it in two; next hole is a wedge; next hole is a wedge, or if you drive the green you can putt; next hole is a 9 or an 8; 17 is a 9 or a wedge; and 18 is a wedge. So when you look at that, why would I not want to play here if I’m hitting that many wedges? It doesn’t matter if I’m in the rough or not, those are the clubs I’m hitting. It comes down to me putting; if I can putt halfway decent, I have a chance to top 10 here or scare a victory.

Marc Leishman: “I think it’s a fun golf course. If you’re playing well, you can make a lot of birdies. If you’re not playing well, you can make bogeys. But I think this is a fun golf course because there are birdies out there. If you’re willing to take it on, you can have a low score. But at the same time, if you do take it on, you’re bringing in that big number into it as well. I think that’s a good indication of a good golf course. I think this is one of them.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 11 Travelers winners:

  • 2020 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: 79th, Round 2: 20th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2019 – Chez Reavie: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2018 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 77th, Round 2: 8th, Round 3: 6th.
  • 2017 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2016 – Russell Knox: – Round 1: 9th, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2015 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2014 – Kevin Streelman: Round 1: 61st, Round 2: 39th, Round 3: 7th.
  • 2013 – Ken Duke: Round 1: 48th, Round 2: 32nd, Round 3: 6th.
  • 2012 – Marc Leishman: Round 1: 25th, Round 2: 8th, Round 3: 20th.
  • 2011 – Freddie Jacobson: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2010 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 5th, Round 2: 10th, Round 3: 4th.

Shots Off the Lead: Below are the shots from the lead during the tournament of the Travelers Championship winners since 2010:

  • 2020 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: 9 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2019 – Chez Reavie: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 6 ahead.
  • 2018 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 7 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 6 back.
  • 2017 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 1 ahead, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2016 – Russell Knox: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2015 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 2 ahead, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2014 – Kevin Streelman: Round 1: 7 back, Round 2: 8 back, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2013 – Ken Duke: Round 1: 8 back, Round 2: 7 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2012 – Marc Leishman: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 6 back.
  • 2011 – Freddie Jacobson: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2010 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 7 back, Round 3: 6 back.

Incoming Form of winners since 2010:

  • Dustin Johnson: 17th Harbour/MC Colonial/48th Mexico/10th Riviera.
  • Chez Reavie: 3rd US Open/MC Colonial/14th PGA/18th Quail.
  • Bubba Watson: MC US Open/44th Memorial/54th TPC Sawgrass/5th Augusta.
  • Jordan Spieth: 35th US Open/13th Memorial/2nd Colonial/MC TPC4S.
  • Russell Knox: 22nd PGA/30th Open/10th Scottish Open/54th Firestone.
  • Bubba Watson: MC US Open/42nd TPC Sawgrass/29th Shenzhen/38th Augusta.
  • Kevin Streelman: MC US Open/MC St Jude/MC Memorial/MC TPC Sawgrass.
  • Ken Duke: MC St Jude/16th Memorial/31st Colonial/MC TPC4S.
  • Marc Leishman: 58th Memorial/57th Colonial/3rd TPC4S/45th TPC Sawgrass.
  • Freddie Jacobson: 14th US Open/32nd St Jude/27th TPC4S/31st Colonial.
  • Bubba Watson: 33rd Memorial/MC TPC Sawgrass/43rd TPC Louisiana/14th Houston.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2020 – Hughes – AM -10/60 – 150/1.
  • 2019 – Ancer/Armour/Burgoon/Hughes/K.H. Lee/Sucher – 2AM/4PM  -6/64 – 95/1,150/1,200/1,125/1,125/1 & 250/1.
  • 2018 – Z Johnson/Spieth – AM/PM  Split -7/63 – 55/1 & 33/1.
  • 2017 – Spieth – PM -7/63 – 20/1.
  • 2016 – Kelly/V Taylor – AM/PM Split -6/64.
  • 2015 – Watson – PM -8/62.
  • 2014 – Steele – AM -8/62.
  • 2013 – Hoffman – PM -9/61.
  • 2012 – Mathis – PM -6/64.
  • 2011 – Renner – PM -7/63.
  • 2010 – Goggin/Harrington/Rose/Wi – 3AM/1PM -6/64.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Poa Annua and Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 11 – Dustin Johnson.
  • 6 – Bubba Watson.
  • 5 – Phil Mickelson.
  • 4 – Bryson DeChambeau, Brandt Snedeker.
  • 3 – Patrick Reed.
  • 2 – Jason Day, J.J. Henry, Brooks Koepka, Hunter Mahan, Scott Piercy, Adam Scott, Brendan Steele, Nick Watney.
  • 1 – Jonas Blixt, Keegan Bradley, Patrick Cantlay, Stewart Cink, Jason Dufner, Emiliano Grillo, J.B. Holmes, Max Homa, Russell Knox, Nate Lashley, Marc Leishman, William McGirt, Sean O’Hair, Ted Potter Jnr, Andrew Putnam, Chez Reavie, Justin Rose, Scott Stallings, Steve Stricker, Nick Taylor, Vaughn Taylor, Kevin Tway, Richy Werenski.

From a correlating course perspective, there’s undoubtedly a form link between TPC River Highlands and a number of other classical golf courses. The course here features Bentgrass mixed with Poa Annua green complexes, and as we know the latter is a problem for many players. So a look at classical west coast courses which feature Poa Annua isn’t a bad angle in my view, namely Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach and Riviera Country Club.

A look at Dustin Johnson’s west coast resume tells you all you need to know. A 2-time winner at Pebble Beach (2009, 2010) a winner at Riviera Country Club (2017) amongst 10 top-10 finishes, DJ also has a 3rd place at Torrey Pines (2011) to his name.

2019 champion Chez Reavie won this straight off of finishing 3rd at Pebble Beach-hosted U.S. Open the week before. He’d also finished 2nd at the 2018 AT&T Pro-Am at the classical Pebble and had finished 7th (2016) and 10th (2020) at Riviera Country Club.

3-time Travelers winner Bubba Watson always performs well on the west coast Poa Annua. 4th (2007), 1st (2011) and 6th (2020) at Torrey Pines is supported by 3 wins (2014, 2018 and 2018) at Riviera. 2017 Travelers winner Jordan Spieth follows the Reavie mould with 4th (2014), 7th (2015), 1st (2017), 9th (2020) and 3rd (2021) at the AT&T National Pebble tournament. He’s also been a feature at Riviera finishing 12th (2014), 4th (2015) and 9th (2018).

2014 champion here at TPC River Highlands, Kevin Streelman, is a real Pebble Beach specialist chalking up 4 top-9 finishes on the Monterey coast. 9th (2012), 6th (2018), 7th (2019) and 2nd (2020), highlights a player who copes admirably on a short course with Poa Annua greens. And 2012 Travelers champion Marc Leishman, has finished 2nd (2010), 9th (2011), 2nd (2014), 8th (2018) and 1st (2020) at Torrey Pines, with 5th (2016) and 4th (2019) at Riviera.

The mix of recent winners here is interesting. Defending champion Dustin Johnson and 3-time winner Bubba Watson blasted their ways to victory, but both are undoubtedly creative shot-shapers. 2017 winner Jordan Spieth and Marc Leishman are also ball-flight movers who thrive on shorter, tree-lined tests. Reavie, Knox, Streelman, Duke, Jacobson and Perry were far more accurate from the tee. It’s a crazy mix of short accurate types and those with a little more length off the tee, especially Dustin and Bubba! So what is the key to TPC River Highlands?

Well high quality birdie-making powered by top-notch Strokes Gained on Approach is the winning formula here in Hartford, Connecticut. All 11 of these Travelers winners sat in the top 17 for Putting Average (Putts per GIR) across the week with sub-1.7 Putts per GIR looking an essential target for victory, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to a strong Strokes Gained Putting performance.

So we aren’t necessarily talking about whoever holes the highest distance of putts winning this week; instead the last 5 winners have all ranked in the top 18 for Strokes Gained on Approach and in the top 6 for Strokes Gained Tee to Green.

My Final Travelers Championship Tips Are As Follows

Paul Casey 2.5pts EW 16/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Ladbrokes

Paul Casey landed his second consecutive Major Championship top 10 at Torrey Pines last week with a backdoor 7th place.

For those of you interested, the last time the Englishman achieved that feat was back in 2017, finishing 6th at The Masters, after finishing 10th at the 2016 PGA Championship. And the Cheltenham-born, 43 year-old is having one of his best seasons ever. 1st at the Dubai Desert Classic in January, has been backed up with 5th at Pebble Beach, 5th at TPC Sawgrass, 4th at Kiawah Island, 6th at the European Open and 7th last week at Torrey Pines. His previous best at Torrey had been 22nd way back in 2002 and Paul now finds himself a marked man in the betting as he arrives in Connecticut for a tournament and course that he loves.

2nd (2015), 17th (2016), 5th (2017), 2nd (2018), 5th (2019) and 32nd (2020) is some set of results in Connecticut and it’s worth pointing out that last year’s 32nd was his first outing post Covid-19 resumption. Back then pre-tournament he noted that this and Harbour Town were his favourite courses on the PGA Tour. His love for TPC River Highlands can be seen, both in his results here and his Travelers Strokes Gained numbers. They are worth a look as over the his last 20 rounds he ranks in this field 8th for Off the Tee, 6th for Strokes Gained Ball Striking, 4th for Tee to Green and 3rd for Strokes Gained Total.

And then I look at my 8-week skill-set trackers and I find Paul ranking 2nd in this field for Greens in Regulation and from a Strokes Gained perspective, 4th for Off the Tee, 1st for Approach, 18th for Around the Green, 1st for Tee to Green and 2nd for Strokes Gained Current Form. That demands inclusion in this week’s betting portfolio and in 2021 where Casey looks set for Team Europe Ryder Cup inclusion, a victory here would be a very nice tonic heading into the Open Championship and FedEx Cup Playoffs. RESULT: T36

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Russell Henley 1.5pts EW 55/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Russell Henley was mighty impressive at Torrey Pines last week, leading across Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the U.S. Open. That undoubtedly takes some doing and highlights a player who was in control of his golf ball around one of the toughest courses in professional golf.

Did we expect him to hang around with the likes of DeChambeau, Koepka, McIlroy and Rahm breathing down his neck? Well the answer to that has to be no, and sure enough bogeys started to accrue as the pressure ratcheted up from the 6th onwards on Sunday. But my take-away from Torrey Pines – a course that for me is too long for Henley – is that the 32 year-old Georgian is playing some great stuff as he arrives at a tournament and course which is very much to his liking – the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands.

4 appearances here have been in the main eventful. 1st after 36 holes and 2nd after 54 holes on course debut in 2016, he eventually finished 11th. 2018 was his next visit and Russell was 2nd after both 36 and 54 holes, going out in the final Sunday pairing with Paul Casey. A Sunday 69 brought home a 6th place finish as Bubba delivered a 33/1 return for us. 2019 delivered a missed cut, whilst playing some terrible stuff and book ending 65s and 64s were both in the top 10 for Thursday and Sunday scoring at 2020’s tournament where Henley was 32nd. Fascinatingly he has ranked 10th, 7th and 2nd for Strokes Tee to Green here across 2016, 2018 and 2020, tournaments where he also ranked 13th, 8th and 2nd for Approach. Safe to say River Highlands fits Russell’s eye.

12th for Greens in Regulation, 3rd for Strokes Gained on Approach and 13th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green last week at Torrey Pines, Russell sits at 56th in the Official World Golf Ranking so a 4th PGA Tour title this week would be most welcome. And as we’ve seen this season with 3rd at the CJ Cup, 4th at the ZOZO Championship and 3rd at the Honda Classic that Russell can certainly put himself into contending for the win positions on the PGA Tour. Buoyant and confident, a visit to Hartford is a huge opportunity for Henley this week. RESULT: T19

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Rickie Fowler 1pt EW 66/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Ladbrokes

Rickie Fowler is making progress and he’s added TPC River Highlands to his schedule for the first time since 2013. That makes sense on the basis he never qualified for the U.S. Open and that highlights perfectly how far Rickie has dropped down the pecking order.

91st in the OWGR is not a position you would expect with Fowler, but undoubtedly the green shoots of recovery have been visible in recent appearances. 17th at the Valero Texas Open the week before The Masters saw him rank 22nd for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, but it’s been the last 2 outings which have excited the most.

8th at the PGA Championship was his first top-10 finish since the 2020 Tournament of Champions and was also his first Major top-10 since the 2019 Open Championship. Strokes Gained-wise, 17th for Approach and 13th for Putting were the highlights.

And his last outing at Muirfield Village was also positive. 11th was his best finish at ‘Jack’s Place’ since 2018 and the Jupiter, Florida-based 32 year-old ranked 22nd for SG Tee to Green and 9th for SG Putting. Undoubted improvement and that must excite the Oklahoma State University graduate, who has finished 13th here across his last 2 visits. A Pete Dye design winner at TPC Sawgrass back in 2015, I’m hopeful of another decent showing from Rickie this week. RESULT: MC

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Guido Migliozzi 1pt EW 100/1 (10EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Guido Migliozzi would seem an auto-bet this week at a juicy enough price.

2nd at the Qatar Masters in March has been followed by 12th at the Kenya Open, 15th at the Lopesan Open, 2nd at the British Masters, 2nd at the Made in Himmerland and 4th at last week’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, in what was his first Major Championship.

The 24 year old from Vicenza, Italy is very much on the upward trajectory and he’s now up to a career-best 72nd in the Official World Golf Rankings. He’s also up to Number 11 in Team Europe’s World Points List above the likes of Bernd Wiesberger, Justin Rose, Robert MacIntyre, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter.

As we’ve seen over recent times, European Tour players have made a habit of landing some excellent finishes on the PGA Tour, despite not being full Tour members. Last August Matthias Schwab finished 3rd at the Barracuda Championship, the week before playing the PGA Championship. Bernd Wiesberger was 5th at the RSM Classic last November, the week after The Masters. And just a fortnight ago, Garrick Higgo had time to fill between the PGA Championship and U.S. Open, so he took the opportunity to play the Palmetto Championship and won at 50/1. With a 2 year PGA Tour exemption in his back pocket, Higgo will soon be part of the FedEx Cup Playoffs which start in Mid-August.

So I could see a confident and motivated Guido going well at TPC River Highlands this week. He’s undoubtedly a form horse and across my 8-week trackers in this field he ranks 5th for Greens in Regulation, plus from a Strokes Gained perspective ranks 12th for Off the Tee, 2nd for Approach, 4th for Tee to Green and 5th for Current Form.

There are also pointers from his European Tour CV that he will like the short and tree-lined confines of River Highlands. His first European win came at the 2019 Magical Kenya Open, played on a tree-lined 7,000 yard, Par 71 namely the Karen Country Club. And within 3 months he then went on to take his 2nd European Tour title at the Belgian Knockout, which was played on another sub-7,000 yard, Par 71, parkland, tree-lined course, namely the Rinkven International GC.

With 5 professional wins to his name since September 2017, Migliozzi is developing quickly before our eyes. So a bonus Travelers Championship appearance fresh off a Sunday U.S. Open 68 which saw him vault from 21st to 4th spot, could well be the launchpad for another decent outing this week. RESULT: T13

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:55BST 21.6.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.