Winner's Share: $1.26M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Cromwell, Conn.
Course: TPC River Highlands
2017 champion: Jordan Spieth
It's the week after a major and, lo and behold, we have a very strong field. The Travelers normally gets one of the better, if not best, post-major collections every season, but this one is especially good, and perhaps the best in tournament history. Five of the Top 10 in the OWGR are hand, led by Brooks Koepka, fresh off his second straight U.S. Open win, and defending champion Jordan Spieth, plus Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day. When you throw in Patrick Reed, Paul Casey and Marc Leishman, we're talking eight of the Top 15 in the world. That's heady stuff for the Hartford suburbs.
The tournament has a rich history on the PGA Tour, dating all the way to 1952. It's been at TPC River Highlands ever since 1984, making this the 35th edition there. It annually ranks near the top of the PGA Tour attendance list -- they treat the players great, so that bumps up the fields, which brings the fans out. It's certainly a nice change of pace following the pressure-filled week of the U.S. Open. For what it's worth, the past three winners here -- Spieth, Russell Knox and Bubba Watson -- all were in the Open, though none of them dealt with the pressure of contending.
TPC River Highlands checks in at a scant 6,800ish yards, another huge difference from last week's 7,400-yard-plus track at Shinnecock Hills. This must feel like miniature golf to these guys. But the Pete Dye-designed track does choke off the longest hitters by pinching the fairways, with drives averaging about 280 yards. That, plus severe rough around the small greens, keeps scores from getting too low. That said, the lowest score ever recorded on the PGA Tour took place at River Highlands, with Jim Furyk shooting a 12-under 58 in the final round in 2016. That would be hard to do again under any circumstances, but last year they the traditionally slow greens were sped up, moving past 12 on the stimpmeter. We'll discuss how that affects play in the Champion's Profile below. One thing that does stay the same is one of the more entertaining holes around: the drivable par-4, 296-yard 15th. There isn't a lot of water at River Highlands, but there is on that hole, where almost 40 percent of the field notched birdies last year -- but almost 15 percent left with bogey or worse.
Weather-wise, forecasters are calling for similar conditions all four days: temperatures in the 80s, moderate wind, little chance of rain and a decent dose of humidity.
Key Stats to Winning at TPC River Highlands
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
• Driving accuracy/strokes gained: off the tee
2017 - Jordan Spieth
2016 - Russell Knox
2015 - Bubba Watson
2014 - Kevin Streelman
2013 - Ken Duke
2012 - Marc Leishman
2011 - Freddie Jacobson
2010 - Bubba Watson
2009 - Kenny Perry
2008 - Stewart Cink
Things changed at TPC River Highlands last year, when the greens ran faster and poorer putters lost an advantage...or perhaps "equalizer" would be a better word. Slower greens give the bad putters a fighting chance, since it's harder to putt on fast greens. Regardless, the greens are still small by PGA Tour standards, averaging about 5,500 square feet. And with gnarly rough uncharacteristically so close to the green, that puts a premium on greens in regulation. With the greens so small, many will be missed, bringing scrambling into play. Even though the modern-day pro finds a way to thrive despite poor driving accuracy, we're putting some emphasis on tee shots, since the fairways are a bit narrow and pinched to cut off long drives. Overall, though, it's hard to find a true profile. Last year, Jordan Spieth had one of the oddest/worst stat lines you'll ever see for a winner. He did not finish inside the top 30 in the field in driving distance, driving accuracy, greens in regulation, proximity to the hole or strokes gained: putting, yet still managed to win. Even his "best" stat, scrambling, was only T19. Runner-up Daniel Berger conversely was top-6 in greens in regulation, proximity and scrambling, and putted far better than Spieth. All he got for his stellar play was a front-row seat to Spieth's 60-foot hole-out from a bunker on the first playoff hole, resulting in his now famous chest-bump with caddie Michael Greller.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Justin Thomas - $11,500 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 12-1)
Even though the last three Travelers winners played the U.S. Open the week before, it's difficult to stay focused and fresh following a grueling tournament. We like Thomas because he wasn't in contention at Shinnecock Hills and because, well, he's Thomas. His tie for 25th at the Open was his worst finish of the season outside of a missed cut in the two-man Zurich Classic. Thomas' best result at River Highlands was a T3 back in 2016. He's second on Tour in strokes gained: tee to green, eighth in approach, 11th in scrambling and 17th in strokes gained: off the tee.
Patrick Reed - $10,000 (16-1)
Reed was in contention throughout the U.S. Open, and he keeps showing us week after week that he's a different bird, that he can keep grinding and grinding. He was strong heading into his Masters win and has stayed focused with two more top-10s since, including last week's solo fourth. Reed was tied for fifth here last year, and T11 the year before. Stats don't tell his full story, yet he is sixth on Tour in strokes gained: around the green.
Tier 2 Values
Paul Casey - $9,600 (16-1)
Casey tied Reed for fifth here last year, and that followed a T17 the year before and a runner-up to Russell Knox in 2016. He's another one who has kept his foot on the pedal following a springtime win, with four top-20s in his five ensuing events. Casey is ranked 15th in strokes gained: approach and 18th in scrambling.
Webb Simpson - $9,100 (25-1)
Simpson was on the periphery of contention last week, but he just couldn't quite get there. That continued his season-long strong play, though. Simpson tied for eighth here a year ago. He's just been lights-out all season on and around the greens, ranking third in scrambling and eighth in strokes gained: putting. Fun fact: Simpson was priced at $6,900 here last year.
Ryan Moore - $9,000 (30-1)
Moore has the advantage of being fresher than most of the other golfers, having missed the U.S. Open. Of course, that means he wasn't good enough to get in, but his play of late has been on the uptick. Moore tied for 13th at the Memorial in his last start, his third top-20 in two months. He's racked up five top-10s at River Highlands through the years and was T17 in his most recent visit two years ago. He's ranked fifth in scrambling and 20th in strokes gained: approach.
Bubba Watson - $8,800 (25-1)
Watson has cooled a bit since winning twice earlier this season, but he does love this track, with two wins and three other top-6s here. He's been the one bomber who hasn't sacrificed distance but still succeeds at River Highlands. Watson is ranked fifth in strokes gained: off the tee and a surprising 11th in greens in regulation.
Patrick Cantlay - $8,400 (30-1)
Cantlay notably shot a 60 here in his second PGA Tour start back in 2011. He has been back only two times since, though, and not since 2014. Cantlay is ranked 14th in strokes gained: off the tee, 26th in greens in regulation and 11th on Tour in strokes gained: tee to green.
Brandt Snedeker - $8,100 (50-1)
It's been a slow road back, but Snedeker is showing signs of finding his form. He closed with two rounds in the 60s at Colonial last month, then followed that with a 62-fueled T6 in Memphis. Snedeker has run off top-15s in three straight visits to River Highlands, including a T14 last year, his final event before shutting down his season because of injury.
Tier 3 Values
Russell Knox - $8,000 (50-1)
Knox is showing flashes of reaching the lofty level he hit a few years ago. The short-hitter's game is well suited for River Highlands, where he won in 2016. But Knox is also impressively coming off a T12 at far-longer Shinnecock Hills, his third top-20 in his past four starts. Knox is ranked 10th on Tour in greens in regulation.
Emiliano Grillo - $7,700 (50-1)
Grillo's strong season took a detour with a missed cut last week, but that's something we're willing to overlook. He's still riding high with three top-10s and five top-25s since April. Grillo is ranked 25th in strokes gained: off the tee, 17th in greens in regulation, 11th in strokes gained: putting and a more-than-respectable 41st in scrambling.
Brendan Steele - $7,600 (60-1)
Steele made the cut here six of the past seven years, with all six of them top-25 cashes. He's ranked eighth in strokes gained: off the tee, 11th in greens in regulation and 24th in strokes gained: tee to green. Steele should still be fresh despite playing four rounds at Shinnecock Hills, as it was his only start since THE PLAYERS.
Kevin Streelman - $7,400 (80-1)
Streelman has a love-hate relationship with River Highlands. He loved it in 2013, when he was the champion, and last year, when he tied for eighth. But he also missed the cut in his two visits in between. With a ranking of third on Tour in greens in regulation, 21st in strokes gained: tee to green and 23rd in SG off the tee, we're banking on more love for Streelman this week.
Pat Perez - $7,000 (100-1)
We can't recall the last time we took a trip to scrub-ville ($7,000-and-under) and didn't see at least one or two guys we somewhat liked. But here we are. So we start with Perez, amazingly still the 35th-ranked golfer in the world. He doesn't have a top-25 since January, when he wrecked his season by opting for an international cash grab (Singapore, Dubai) over the West Coast Swing, his traditional wheelhouse. But at least Perez is back to playing all four rounds, and has made three straight cuts, including a very respectable T36 last week at Shinnecock Hills. This is Perez's first visit to River Highlands since 2009.
Corey Connors - $7,000 (200-1)
The Canadian rookie has missed only four cuts in his 20 starts, and has cashed five of his past six tournaments, including a career-best T8 last month at Colonial. He's ranked an impressive 27th in greens in regulation and 69th in strokes gained: tee to green. Connors' problems start once he reaches the green, which is why he's only 116th in the FedEx Cup standings.
William McGirt - $6,900 (150-1)
After missing the cut in his first two trips to the Travelers, McGirt has figured it out somewhat, having played four straight weekends and notching a top-25. He has missed a lot of cuts this season, but made it in two of his past three events. McGirt ranks 63rd in strokes gained: approach and 51st in strokes gained: putting.
Ryan Armour - $6,700 (Field, 8-1)
The surprise winner of the Sanderson Farms back in October has not been able to come close to repeating that success. But he has made three straight cuts, two of them top-25s, including at the Memorial. Armour is ranked 198th in driving distance, but that shouldn't hurt him at River Highlands as much as it does most weeks. He's second in accuracy off the tee. Armour also ranks 10th in strokes gained: around the green and is even 27th in proximity to the hole.