Date: June 21-24, 2018
Course: TPC River Highlands – Cromwell, CT
TV: The Golf Channel/CBS
By: Evergreen of Predictem.com
There are plenty of professional golfers that are ready for a vacation after the grind at Shinnecock but there is no rest on the PGA Tour. The Travelers Championship is next on the schedule and players will at least get a much easier course to tackle this week. TPC River Highlands just outside of Hartford, Connecticut will host a strong field that has plenty of players that teed it up at the U.S. Open, including Brooks Koepka. Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day join defending champion Jordan Spieth to round out the betting favorites. All are favored to contend but many on that list are smarting a bit after a less than successful U.S. Open run. They will look to turn the tide at an event that is much more of a birdie-fest but River Highlands will still test those that are not swinging it well.
The Pete Dye designed River Highlands will play at the same par-70 that Shinnecock did but is nearly 600 yards shorter than the Open course and certainly features less overt difficulty. Players will still need to set up correct angles and avoid well placed bunkers but the short game and putting are big keys this week. The rolling, sometimes hilly landscape will challenge players with tricky lies and the undulating greens will play into the hands of the better putters on Tour. Long players have won here but guys like Brad Faxon, Jerry Kelly, K.J. Choi and Corey Pavin have also seen high levels of success. Jim Furyk logged the Tour’s only round of 58 at River Highlands in 2016. Seeing those names is a sign that control is necessary to do well here and also that a strong recovery game will come in handy through the week.
Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best values on the board. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of high-profile head-to-head matches that you can find at just about any golf betting site. Here are our picks to win the 2018 Travelers Championship.
Patrick Reed (16 to 1 odds to win)
The Masters champion is coming off a very impressive fourth place finish at the U.S. Open and he has two other top-10 finishes just since Augusta. He was 11th at River Highlands in 2106 and improved to 5th last season so his trend here is right where it needs to be as well. A lot of his ball striking numbers are a bit less than special but Reed is a strong scrambler and a top-20 putter so he often makes the most of his rounds. He enters the week in the top-20 in both birdies and scoring as well as total strokes gained. The confidence level was clearly high at Shinnecock and it does not appear that Reed is looking to do anything other than win at this time.
Bubba Watson (28 to 1)
Watson was one of those that missed the weekend at Shinnecock but that was no surprise to most that understand his game. I don’t think Bubba was too put off by missing the weekend at an event he has historically struggled at so there should be no lingering damage done to his mental game. Watson heads to a much more comfortable spot this week having won the Travelers in both 2010 and 2015. He will attack the course with his length and ability to work the ball in both directions. He has maintained an elite level of hitting greens (currently 11th) but his putting has left him taking a few more pars than he would like. I think the familiar surroundings will help and the demonstrated success on these greens is a good predictor of future success. After a couple of rocky seasons, Bubba has two wins in 2018 and seems to be ready to win anytime his putter is performing. He may be done winning Majors but wins at regular Tour stops are still well within his talent range. He has a dominant stat category and will threaten the front page if can get it rolling on the greens.
Charley Hoffman (40 to 1)
Hoffman is getting a bit older but still is one of the hardest workers on Tour and has missed just three cuts in eighteen starts this season. He put in two masterful rounds at Shinnecock heading into the weekend before falling to 20th. That result was certainly less than what he wanted considering his position after Friday but Hoffman remained consistent throughout and never really fell apart when others crumbled from the get-go. Charley has gone against the best and fared well with top-20 finishes in Mexico, at the Masters and at the Palmer. He faces a bit weaker of a field this week and that is a factor should he be able to put it all together at River Highlands. There are few true weaknesses on his stat sheet and his scoring average is much better than his raw birdie numbers would suggest so he is doing a good job at limiting any damage. He is certainly going to be a longshot against guys like Spieth and McIlroy but he has the goods to contend this week.
Picks to win based on predicted score for all four rounds. Check with your favorite online betting site for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.
Brooks Koepka v. Rory McIlroy (pick to win: Koepka)
There is certainly some recency bias in this pick and you should be careful of blindly betting the better guy from the week prior but Koepka has been winning this head-to-head since he healed from his wrist injury. In just the last eight starts, Brooks has the US Open win and two other runner-up finishes while Rory has just three top-10 finishes in 11 starts this season. One of those top-10’s was a win at the Palmer but McIlroy is just a bit off his vintage form. Koepka was swinging hard from that Open rough so there is no worry about his health any longer and he looks ready to go on an extended run of success. Brooks is getting the better of Rory in terms of hitting greens and Rory’s slight edge in putting performance is not enough to out-birdie our out-score Koepka at this point. That is telling when you factor in the statistical hole Brooks was in as he tried to play through his bum wrist. Koepka is the lesser ball striker but has emerged as an elite scrambler and couldn’t be riding higher. McIlroy is due but you have to make him prove it against an opponent of this caliber.
Paul Casey v. Bryson DeChambeau (pick to win: DeChambeau)
This is a tough pick as both players arrive at nearly the same statistical spot when you add up their total sheet. Paul is the better scrambler and scores a bit better despite a small disadvantage in birdies made but Bryson is a little more accurate into the greens overall. DeChambeau is one of the best on Tour in off-the-tee metrics and is rarely in a bad spot as a result. He putts fairly well, about the same as Casey does, but nets a few more quality looks due to that top-notch iron game. Casey is a tough out as he limits mistakes and rarely misses cuts but DeChambeau is fearless beyond his years and has the ability to score with anyone while Casey just seems to lag when the pace quickens. Casey has won two of the last three against DeChambeau heading back to the Masters but Bryson has not finished outside the top-30 in any of those events while Casey missed the RBC cut. DeChambeau is still the more mercurial of the two but it appears he is on a hot run and that should continue at River Highlands.
Good luck and good golf!