2008 Travelers Championship Preview and Picks

Tournament: Travelers Championship
Date: Thursday June 19 - Sunday June 22, 2008
Course: TPC River Highlands - Cromwell, CT
Television: Golf Channel/CBS

The second major of the year is over and the PGA makes a cross country leap from California to Connecticut for this week’s Travelers Championship. The TPC River Highlands is the host course and players making the trip will from the Open should find the going a bit easier than Torrey Pines. Hunter Mahan returns as the defending champion and looks to fend off a field that may be missing some starpower, but is still long on experienced veterans as well as eager youngsters looking to breakthrough. The Golf Channel has the telecast for the early rounds with CBS picking up the weekend action.

While the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines played extremely long at over 7,600 yards, the TPC River Highlands is one of the shortest courses on the PGA Tour. The track will play at 6,820 yards, par 70 for the Championship. The players may not need the lengh this week, but they will need to be accurate as the course demands proper placement of drives and approaches to maximize birdie chances and avoid trouble. Number 15 is a great little par-4 that plays only 296 yards and opens up to potential eagles and almost all players will have a shot at a more conventional eagle at the shortish par-5, 13th. Course knowledge and proper management will serve players well this week as trees and bunkers are placed adjacent to popular landing areas which plays into the shotmakers hands as well.

Tiger, Phil and the rest may be sitting this one out, but let’s take a look at the remaining contenders and we’ll make a pick to win from a short, middle and longshot look. We will also breakdown a few matches available at our recommended golf bookies. The following odds to win are courtesy of the book at Bodog.

Stewart Cink

14 to 1 for the win and 11 to 4 to finish in the top-5 (including ties)

It seems inevitable for Cink to breakthrough this year after leading the Tour in top-10 finishes for the majority of the year. Will a weaker field provide the push that Stewart needs to step into the winners circle? Cink is coming off a solid U.S. Open in which he finished T14 and posted a 67 on a tough layout. For the year, Cink is 6th in greens hit and averages 3.78 birdies per 18 on the strength of a 35th ranked putter. If the grind from the Open doesn’t produce a hangover, Cink will be on the first page on Sunday.

Vijay Singh

14 to 1 and 11 to 4

Singh is another looking for his first win in ’08 after posting consistent finishes all year. A tough week at Torrey had Vijay in 65th, but he ran T11 at the St. Jude before that and has a slew of top-25’s this year on all types of courses. An 8th best GIR% and 3.52 birdies per round will play well, more putts need to fall for Vijay to win as he currently has the 108th ranked putts per round average. The driver has been a bit crooked as well, but missed fairways don’t charge such a price this week and Vijay has the length to put scoring clubs in his hands to overcome some accuracy issues.


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Kenny Perry

16 to 1 and 3 to 1

Perry is back in action after taking the Open off to concentrate on events such as the Travelers, in which he has five previous top-10 finishes. Perry was hot before the rest with playoff second at the PLAYERS and a win at the Memorial. There aren’t many better in the ball-striking areas than Perry and his 16th ranked total driving and 12th best GIR stats. Kenny also owns a top-10 scoring average at 69.74 and is 2nd in pre-cut scoring average, so a fast start is possible if your looking at single day matches. Skipping the Open will leave Perry plenty fresh to keep the run going.

Hunter Mahan

20 to 1 and 7 to 2

Hunter is on a run in Connecticut with a 2nd in ’06 to go along with the win last year. A T18 at the U.S. Open show that the game is in good shape and Mahan is the Tour’s 6th best in terms of ball-striking. Mahan hits the fourth most greens on Tour, but a 174th ranked putting average keeps the birdies down. If Hunter can have a hot week with the putter, a run at back-to-wins is a solid bet.

Carl Petterson

28 to 1

The Swede is our middle road pick this week coming off a T6 at the Open, which included a 68 on Sunday. Another top-10 at the Memorial shows Petterson heating up with the summer temps. Petterson also took a share of 15th here last year even with consecutive rounds of 2-over on Friday and Saturday. Nothing absolutely jumps off the stat sheet here, but above average ranks in putting average and total driving lead to the 9th most birdies on Tour and a top-30 scoring average.

Woody Austin

50 to 1

Woody is our longshot this week and is another player who uses a balanced statistical game to get it done each week. Austin ranks 17th in GIR% and is above average in driving accuracy and distance, leading to a 40th ranked ball striking number. Woody struggled to a T71 at the Open, but was off to a decent start with a pair of 72’s to start the event. Two of Woody’s best finishes came at the Accenture Match Play (T5) and the PLAYERS (T21) which bring out the strongest fields in golf, so look for success in a lesser field this week.

For the Win:

Short: Stewart Cink 14 to 1 - Overdue as can be and top-billing with Vijay make Cink the favorite.

Middle: Carl Petterson 28 to 1 - Mahan is another good one here, but I like Petterson and his last two finishes (10,6)

Longshot: Woody Austin 50 to 1 - Woody is quietly one of the more solid players on Tour, especially on a short track.

Matches:

All matches are for entire tournament (available at Bodog)

Stewart Cink (-120) v Vijay Singh (-120) (our pick: Cink)

The match between the two favorites will hinge on the putter where Cink has been much more consistent than Vijay on the year. The rest of the stat groupings are nearly identical, but Cink is notching top-10’s and Singh is back a bit from the first page.

Chad Campbell (-120) v Zach Johnson (-120) (Campbell)

Campbell is scary consistent, ranking 29-36th in GIR%, birdie average, scoring average, putts and total driving. Johnson is better at finding fairways, but is outside the top-100 in putting average and birdie average.

Good Luck!

U.S. Open Picks and Props Recap.

The 2008 U.S. Open had drama, suspense and unbelievable story lines, not to mention fantastic play, and much of it happened in primetime. I’m sure you can do without another rehashing of Tiger’s knee issues and Rocco’s resolve, instead we will take a look at how we fared on our picks for the Open.

We went away from the easy pick of Woods and took Phil as the next best thing at 7 to 1 to win. Lefty started alright with an even-par, 71 on Thursday, but a 75 on Friday probably led to the aggressive play that led to the meltdown on 13 on Saturday and a 76. A 68 on Sunday was too little, too late and left Mickelson at +6 and T18.

Sergio Garcia was our middle pick at 18 to 1 after strong finishes leading into the Open. Garcia was awful to start, going +6 in the first six holes, but played 1-under from there and carded a 76. A pair of 70’s got Garcia back into contention but 74 on Sunday dropped him back to +6 overall in a tie for 18th. Any type of reasonable start would have given Sergio a solid look here.

Our longshot was Justin Leonard at 40 to 1. We overlooked Leonard’s below average length in hopes his super accurate irons would play at Torrey Pines. Justin never really got on a good run, but was in OK shape at +5 going into the weekend. A 75/71 finish wasn’t horrible either, but under-par was needed and Leonard posted a +9 total and a T36.

We gave you Scott Verplank at 150 to 1 as a bonus longshot and were looking to cash a big one as Scott stood at +2 after the first two days. A pair of 74’s on the weekend dashed our dreams and Verplank slipped to +8 and a tie for 29th.

All in all, not a bad set with all four making the cut and inside the top-40, but Phil disappointed and Sergio and Leonard under-performed a bit. No consolation prizes for solid finishes.

We faired better in the matches we picked, going 3 and 1 overall.

Our pick of Garcia over Harrington came through with Sergio finishing three strokes ahead of Padraig, +6 against +9.

Jim Furyk was another winner for us over Vijay Singh. Neither player threatened the leaders for most of the week and Furyk cruised to a five shot win, +9 to Singh’s +14.

Geoff Ogilvy and Luke Donald could have come down to the wire with both players on the first page of the leaderboard in the final round. Donald was forced to withdraw due to injury and gave the easy W to Ogilvy, who finished at +4.

Our only loss came in the Tiger versus Phil match. Hindsight is 20/20 but with the knee and the layoff and Phil at (+150) we leaned on Lefty as many did. Phil did have the edge after round 1, but couldn’t hold it and couldn’t rally as he fell behind on day 2.

We also had a good run at the prop bets for the U.S. Open if you like to jump in of that action.

We called for an American to win the U.S. Open and Tiger proved us right. Not big hit here as the U.S. contingent ran as the 8/15 favorite.

Tiger’s win also paid off as we took Tiger and Phil versus the field. A bit better rate here with the duo at (+188)

We took Phil to log more birdies or better than Tiger on day one as well as card more bogeys or worse. Lefty was the favorite on both at 11/10 and (-138) but both paid.

We also called the Mickelson finish in the 1-20 slot although that was a heavy 4/11 favorite. Close one here and Phil needed the final round 68 to pull it out.