The Course: TPC River Highlands
TPC River Highlands will host the 2019 Travelers Championship. It’s a 6800-yard course, but don’t let the short yardage fool you: Par is only 70. Despite being one of the shorter courses we’ll see all year, it is typically a fine challenge to the field and a wide variety of golfers are capable of winning.
Driving accuracy numbers tend to be a bit higher here than at the average course, while driving distance numbers skew slightly lower because so many guys take less than driver off the tees. The cut line usually falls around even par, and winners tend to find themselves around 15-under after the 72 holes.
Golfers who find themselves in the top-10 at River Highlands have a tendency to drive it well and chip it well. Considering the smaller greens and run-off areas, you want to be able to hit fairways and get up and down from difficult positions.
Bubba Watson has won this tournament three times since 2010, and previous recent winners include Jordan Spieth, Russell Knox, and Kevin Streelman.
The field for the Travelers this year is stronger than previous years with guys like Koepka, Cantlay, Spieth, Thomas, and DeChambeau attending. Koepka is quite clearly the betting odds favorite at 13/2 (+650) while Cantlay and Spieth come in behind him at 10/1 (+1000) and 14/1 (+1400), respectively.
Our model actually likes Patrick Cantlay to be the favorite this week at 5.7% odds (an implied +1654), although we must acknowledge that Koepka has a tendency of taking non-major tournaments “off,” whether it’s intentional or not. Simply put, Koepka seems to step his game up for the majors and statistically doesn’t check out as the best player in the world until he needs or wants to be.
Following Cantlay and Koepka in our model is Justin Thomas (who has recently returned from injury and hasn’t played well), Tommy Fleetwood, and Paul Casey.
Tommy Fleetwood (+2800)
It’s only a matter of time before Tommy Fleetwood wins on the PGA Tour. He ranks in the top-39 across the board in all strokes-gained metrics for our model in the field this week with his strength being the play off the tee, ranking 3rd. He has only played on Tour in the last two majors and has certainly struggled, but that’s given us a great opportunity get a better number than expected here. Though our edge isn’t huge at 28/1, we still think his odds are a bit higher than 3.4% to win.
Lucas Glover (+8000)
Glover has been flying under the radar as one of the better low-end tournament players on the Tour right now. He started off the year finishing in the top-17 in all but one of the first nine tournaments he played before missing the cut at The Players. Perhaps after missing the cut last week in the toughest field in golf, we’re getting a slightly better number than we should at a tournament that tends to see guys like Glover pop.
Glover ranks in the top-32 across the board in every strokes gained metric for us this week and is only being ranked as a top-30ish golfer on the board. At 80/1, it’s tough not to throw a few bucks at him.
Jason Kokrak (+6600)
In all of March and April, Jason Kokrak finished T22 or better in six of his seven tournaments. It was looking like his first worldwide win was inevitable, but he’s struggled since. Nonetheless, he ranks 8th in our model this week off the tee and third on approach. The hold up this week will seem to be he’s currently one of the worst chippers on tour. However, if he pegs enough greens and fairways, he may be able to make up for his deficiency around the greens.
Matt Jones (+15000)
Matt Jones has shown the ability to pop with two worldwide victories and his game excels in the proper areas to do so again at the Travelers. Jones ranks 19th driving and 10th chipping this week. He’s also a decent putter, ranking 19th. Jones’ hold up in his career has always been his iron play and that continues this year, but that’s the most expendable area for a longshot to win this week. At 150/1, we’ll throw a dart.
Max Homa (+20000)
Max Homa started off his PGA season finishing T60 and proceeded to miss six straight cuts. Since February, though, he’s been a pretty average PGA Tour player. He’s already shown the ability to win on Tour, winning the big paycheck at the Wells Fargo in May where he gained nearly ten strokes putting.
That said, Homa probably won’t gain ten strokes putting, or win, this week, but he’s a fine tee-to-green player and ball striker, ranking 21st and 15th in this week’s field, respectively. Our model thinks, with some putting luck, Homa is much better than the 60th-best golfer in the field his odds indicate.
Brooks Koepka (+750)
As we mentioned above, Koepka has a tendency to struggle in these less exciting events with worse fields. It’s not that we don’t think Koepka doesn’t have a great chance to win, he ranks second in our model. We just aren’t jumping at the opportunity to take the chalk at just 7.5/1 odds this week. From a data standpoint, Koepka ranks 5th off the tee and on approach this week, but just 41st in chipping and 38th in putting.
Francesco Molinari (+2000)
The once-shiny object Francesco Molinari, has fallen since his spectacular run last year and win at Bay Hill this year. He did finish T16 last week in the US Open, but faltered late against Tiger at the Masters. He also missed the cut at the RBC, took T48 at the PGA Championship, and T53 at Charles Schwab.
His great iron play and putting he utilized to go on his recent tear has been on a small decline. Though his chipping is well above average, he’ll need the putter to get extremely hot if he doesn’t step up his iron play this week to have any chance.
Phil Mickelson (+5000)
We don’t like to write guys off entirely, but Phil has been tough to watch since winning at Pebble Beach. His best finish since is T37 back in February, and he’s missed four cuts in his last eight tournaments.
Our model rates him 75th in the field off the tee, 72nd on approach, and 83rd putting. Even his previously miraculous play around the greens only ranks 33rd this week. Phil doesn’t rank inside 78th on Tour in any strokes gained metric this season and just 102nd overall. Can he win? Sure. Are we running to bet him as a top-15 player in the field this week? Absolutely not.