Travelers Championship Betting Preview: Sleepers, Values, And Our Pick To Win

Posted By Esten McLaren on June 19, 2019

TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut is once again the site of this week’s Travelers Championship, as it’s been since 1991. Gary Woodland won his first career Major at last week’s US Open by three strokes over a star-studded leaderboard. He isn’t part of this week’s field, which still includes five the top 10 golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking, including No. 1 and US Open-runner-up Brooks Koepka.

Woodland moved from No. 25 to No. 12 in the OWGR with his fourth-career PGA Tour win. Other notable changes near the top of the world ranking include Justin Rose retaking the No. 3 spot from Rory McIlroy (No. 4) after the latter followed up his RBC Canadian Open win with a (relatively) disappointing T9 at Pebble Beach. Rose finished in a four-way tie for third after firing a closing round of plus-3, 74. Neither player is in the field. World No. 6 Francesco Molinari represents Koepka’s top-ranked competition.

The strong field this week is likely due to TPC River Highlands and the Travelers Championship having won the Players Choice Award each of the last two years. The award is voted on by PGA Tour golfers and acknowledges the tournament for services, hospitality, attendance, and quality of the course. The Travelers Championship ranks second to the Waste Management Open in annual attendance figures.

The course: TPC River Highlands

Originally designed by Pete Dye, TPC River Highlands underwent a renovation overseen by Bobby Weed and the PGA Tour in 1991 after the course was purchased by the Tour in 1984. It measures just 6,841 yards—following the PGA’s recent schedule trend of shorter courses—and plays as a par 70. Rolling fairways are lined by a wide variety of trees, with a large assortment of bunkers and lakes spread throughout the course. Both the fairways and greens feature Bentgrass.

The finishing stretch from No. 15 to No. 18 is widely regarded as one of the best closing stretches in golf. No. 15 is a 296-yard par 4, which requires an incredibly accurate tee shot to navigate the water on the left and the sand on the right. The longest par 4 on the course measures 481 yards.

Two of the four par 3s play to either side of the 200-yard mark. The second-shortest is the 178-yard No. 16, which requires golfers to carry the water and hold position on the narrow putting surface. Then, No. 17, a 420-yard par 4, can draw some of golf’s largest crowds as they anticipate disaster. A miss left means ending up in the drink.

Fredrik Jacobson‘s aggregate score of minus-20 in his 2011 victory is the lowest final score since the turn of the decade. Jordan Spieth in 2017 and Ken Duke in 2013 share the highest score since 2004 at 12-under par.

Key stats to consider for the Travelers Championship

The stats best tailored to TCP River Highland’s design are Strokes Gained: Ball StrikingSG: ApproachOpportunities GainedGreens in Regulation GainedSG: Par 5s, and Par 4 Efficiency: 400-450 Yards. These stats also strongly correlate to historical success, according to Fantasy National.

My model looks at the performance of all golfers in the field over their past 36 rounds played on courses shorter than 7,200 yards.

Travelers Championship betting picks: Sleepers and values

Emiliano Grillo +6600 (DraftKings Sportsbook)

Grillo ranks third in the overall stat model, but he leads the field in SG: Ball Striking and SG: Approach. The 26-year-old finished T58 last week following his T9 in a strong field at The Memorial Tournament. He finished T19 at TPC River Highlands last year.

He’s made the cut in 17 of 18 events and has two top 10s dating back to last October’s CIMB Classic. He hasn’t won since 2015—before being named 2016’s Rookie of the Year—but he’s 42nd in Scoring Average this year. His low round of 63 this season bodes well at the course where Jim Furyk fired his record 58 in 2016.

Kevin Kisner +8000 (FanDuel Sportsbook)

Kisner’s been quiet since winning the WGC-Match Play in late March. He made the cut in just four of his six solo events in that time. The three-time PGA Tour winner bounced back from a missed cut at the PGA Championship to finish T49 at the US Open.

The 35-year-old hasn’t played this week’s course since missing the cut in his first two attempts in 2011 and 2012. He’s 18th in the stat model, riding ranks of 16th in Par 4 Efficiency and 17th in Opportunities Gained.

Joaquin Niemann +10000 (FanDuel Sportsbook)

Niemann enters rested after failing to qualify for last week’s US Open. He’ll now make his debut at the Travelers Championship, as he tries to extend a streak of made cuts to four. The 20-year-old Chilean has struggled with the putter this year, but he’s fared better on Bentgrass than other surfaces. Putting has also been less important at TPC River Highlands than average Tour events, historically.

Niemann’s in just his second year as a professional on Tour. He’ll be looking to hold off the likes of Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff, who turn pro this week.

Travelers Championship betting picks: The winner

Paul Casey +2000 (DraftKings Sportsbook)

Casey is a two-time runner-up at the Travelers, including last year’s event, won by Bubba Watson. The Englishman stayed steady at No. 15 in the OWGR after a T21 finish last week. It was Casey’s best Major finish this year after missing the cut at the Masters and placing 29th at the PGA Championship.

Casey finished in the top five three of the past four runnings of the event, and he already has a Tour win this year. He’s second in the stat model and in the top 10 in four of the six key stats.

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Esten McLaren

Esten grew up on a golf course and made the switch from real-life trunk slammer to the daily fantasy realm as soon as the game was launched. He's been betting golf regularly for the better part of the last 10 years, most memorably winning big on Rory McIlroy's 2014 Open title, but a trip to Carnoustie for the 2018 Open and a walk around St. Andrews share the honor for best golf highlight. He has written about all major sports at FNTSY Sports Network, theScore, and SportsBookWire.

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