TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. hosts this week’s Travelers Championship and a loaded field fronted by each of the top seven golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking and DraftKings is rolling out a third straight PGA Tour Millionaire. The first-place finisher will win $1 million and a ticket to Super Bowl LV in Tampa. Chez Reavie will defend his 2019 title against three-time champ Bubba Watson, and World No. 9 Patrick Cantlay. Charles Schwab Challenge winner Daniel Berger withdrew from the field late Sunday night and RBC Heritage winner Webb Simpson withdrew Wednesday along with former World No. 1 Brooks Koepka. We look at the week’s best bets here, and below, we look at the best DFS picks for the 2020 Travelers Championship at DraftKings.
We’ll first preview TPC River Highlands and the key stats best tailored to success, as well as detail some DFS lineup building strategies for the third tournament in the PGA Tour’s return.
The course: TPC River Highlands
TPC River Highlands is one of the PGA Tour’s shortest regular host venues at just 6,841 yards. Playing to a par of 70 and featuring Bentgrass greens, it’s more forgiving and open than Colonial Country Club and Harbour Town Golf Links which were played the last two weeks.
Winning scores since 2000 have ranged from minus-10 to 22-under par. Reavie and Watson both shot minus-17 the last two years in victories of four and three strokes, respectively. Nine holes, including the opening three, have a scoring average below par. Nine others play above par, including each of the final three. The easiest hole on the course is typically the 578-yard par-5 sixth with an average of 4.640. The most difficult has been the 400-yard par-4 17th with a scoring average of 4.183.
The marquee attraction is the 289-yard par-4 15th. The drivable green presents a make-or-break risk-reward opportunity with water down the left side and sand on the right. Eagles have been rare, but they’re available and it plays to a scoring average of 3.875 strokes.
Key stats to consider for your Travelers Championship DFS picks
The Travelers Championship was already an event favoring top golfers, as none of the last five champions ranked lower than 48th in the OWGR at the time of their victory. This was with the event playing at a Strength of Field of just 436 last year. It ranked 19th among all 2019 PGA Tour events, but as with the RBC Heritage, the field was usually watered down as the follow-up to a major, taking place the week after the US Open. The 2020 RBC Heritage had a SOF rating of 712 compared to 460 in 2019 and the 2020 Travelers Championship will see an even greater boost.
The stats most strongly associated with success at TPC River Highlands, according to historical data from Fantasy National, are Strokes Gained: Ball Striking, Opportunities Gained, Good Drives Gained, Greens in Regulation Gained, Proximity from 150-175 Yards, and Par 4 Efficiency: 400-450 Yards. My model is set to the most recent 50 rounds for each golfer in the field on courses shorter than 7,200 yards and featuring Bentgrass greens. We’ll also continue looking at Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass over an expanded sample of 100 rounds.
TPC River Highlands is an annual staple on the PGA Tour schedule, so much of the field has plenty of experience here. Thirty-nine players in this week’s field have at least 20 rounds played on this course, according to Data Golf.
Travelers Championship lineup building strategies
Scoring low hasn’t been an issue for the fields overall in the last two events since the PGA Tour resumed play. With birdies being worth three points, bogeys subtracting a half-point, and each double bogey or worse taking away just one point, DFS roster managers need to focus on scorers. The cut lines at the Charles Schwab Challenge and RBC Heritage were at minus-1 and minus-3, respectively. Three of the top four finishers at each event shot all four rounds under 70 for a five-point scoring bonus.
With top-heavy leaderboards expected to continue to be a theme of these strong fields, it’s essential to roster golfers with a chance to grab at least a share of a fifth-place finish and nothing worse than a top 10. There have been 13 golfers finish with a T-10 or better in each of the last two tournaments. Having the winner and getting the 30-point first-place bonus is key in larger Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPP) tournaments to help separate from the competition. It can also help make up for a golfer missing the cut or withdrawing over the weekend and still allow for a profitable finish.
Travelers Championship DFS Picks: Ownership
The strength of the last two fields has helped to ease concerns over ownership and the same can be expected this week. With so many name-brand, top-ranked golfers in the fields, the attention for each individual one is more evenly divided among the 148,529 competing lineups. Last week’s winning entry included Simpson at a staggering 27.9 percent. It included five golfers that finished T-5 or better and none finished worse than Brooks Koepka‘s seventh at 11.1 percent ownership. Only one golfer from the winning lineup was less than five percent owned. It was T-5 finisher, Joaquin Niemann, at 2.5 percent.
The winning lineup for the Charles Schwab Challenge included T-19 finisher Corey Conners but at 4.3 percent ownership. The key there was Jason Kokrak‘s T-3 result at just 1.1 percent ownership. Nobody from the winning lineup was higher-owned than Jordan Spieth at 19.7 percent, as he finished in a tie for 10th. This winning lineup didn’t include Berger, but eight of the other top-10 finishers did.
When possible, be sure to pivot from a more popular golfer at certain price points. As an example, three-time Travelers champ Watson is $100 more expensive than Patrick Reed, who is coming off a missed cut last week. Paul Casey is $100 more expensive than Watson in his return to competitive golf and has stellar course history of his own.
2020 Travelers Championship DFS picks
Top Tier: $11.2K – $8K
Rory McIlroy ($11,200)
McIlroy and Jon Rahm ($10,200) are the only two of the 19 most expensive golfers to have played each of the last two tournaments without a top-20 finish. The high salary, lack of air time on Sundays and the strong play of the cheaper options in this top tier helps to make McIlroy a contrarian play. The No. 1 player in the world finished T-17 here in 2017 and T-12 in 2018. He lost another 0.22 strokes per round putting last week, but he gained 0.91 strokes from tee to green and 0.56 strokes off the tee in a T-41 finish.
Brooks Koepka ($10,000)
Koepka finally showed signs of his former World No. 1 self at Harbour Town Golf Links. He finished alone in seventh while leading the field with 1.73 Strokes Gained: Off the Tee per round. He scored in the 60s all four rounds last week and should tear up this short venue.
UPDATE: Koepka withdrew from the field Wednesday after his caddie tested positive for COVID-19.
Paul Casey ($8,900)
Casey would be a popular play at this price if it wasn’t for Watson being slightly cheaper. He’ll be making his PGA Tour return at a course where he has four top-5 finishes in five appearances. He skipped the last two events, but there may now be an added advantage with some extra rest as the top of the field plays for a third week in a row.
Marc Leishman ($8,000)
The 2012 champion at 12-under par has just one top-10 result in his last five appearances here. He leads this field in SG: Ball Striking and Par 4 Efficiency: 400-450 Yards on short courses, and he ranks sixth in Greens in Regulation Gained. He won the Farmers Insurance Open at a considerably longer Torrey Pines at minus-15.
Mid Tier: $7.9K – $7K
Joel Dahmen ($7,700)
Dahmen (pictured) is another good example of a pivot play. He’s $100 cheaper than the considerably more popular Viktor Hovland and Ian Poulter, and he’s $100 more than Kevin Kisner who sits 30 spots higher in the OWGR. He shot 63 last Saturday after opening with 68-68 but collapsed with a Sunday 75. Though still in search of his first PGA Tour win, he already has two top 10s in eight events this year.
Scottie Scheffler ($7,600)
Scheffler’s likely to fly under the radar this week after withdrawing from the RBC Heritage last Tuesday morning. He’s a strong ball-striker and can create plenty of scoring opportunities on short courses. The Korn Ferry Tour graduate opened the Charles Schwab Challenge with three rounds in the 60s before a Sunday a 73.
Jason Day ($7,500)
Day’s best golf seems to be a distant memory at this point, but he’s 10th in this field in ball striking over his last 50 rounds on short courses. He also leads the field in SG: Putting on Bentgrass and finished T-8 last year. He started 2020 with back-to-back top-20 finishes at the Farmers and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Keegan Bradley ($7,400)
Last year’s runner-up is likely to be a popular target at this price point. He sat out last week following a T-32 at the Charles Schwab Challenge, where he gained 0.93 strokes per round putting on Bentgrass greens.
Value Tier: $6.9K and Lower
Ryan Moore ($6,900)
Moore has missed two consecutive cuts despite finishing at even par. He tied for 15th here last year, 17th in 2016, and was a co-runner-up in 2011. He ranks third in my stat model coming into the week and has averaged more strokes gained per round than all but Casey among players with a minimum of five rounds played.
Doc Redman ($6,700)
Redman is a strong course fit heading into his debut at TPC River Highlands. He ranks ninth in SG: Ball Striking, eighth in Good Drives Gained, and third in Proximity from the key distance. The 22-year-old finished 66-65-67 at Harbour Town last week.
Adam Long ($6,300)
Long missed the cut each of the last two weeks following back-to-back top 30s before the season was suspended. He’s eighth in this field in Opportunities Gained across his last 50 rounds on short courses. He tied for 21st in 2019.
Hudson Swafford ($6,200)
Swafford hasn’t played a PGA Tour event since a T-21 finish at The Honda Classic, and he hasn’t played the Travelers Championship since a T-66 in 2017. He’s 24th in my overall stat model, leaning on ranks of fifth in Opportunities Gained and sixth in Proximity.