After a dramatic week at the U.S. Open, it's now off to Connecticut for the Travelers Championship. Unlike most events after a major championship, we are being treated to a stellar field this week, with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth as well as last week's winner Brooks Koepka all ready to take on TPC River Highlands. In 2017, the Travelers Championship saw one of the most exciting finishes of the year with Jordan Spieth holing out from a greenside bunker on the first playoff hole to defeat Daniel Berger.
TPC River Highlands is a short par-70, measuring just 6,841 yards. The length of the course will come as a relief to many of the players in the field after back-to-back weeks at very long golf courses. However, like almost all Pete Dye-influenced courses, TPC River Highlands will offer up its challenges, with blind tee shots and tricky greens. The length of the course offers all types of players the opportunity to shine this week, and over the past few years we've seen both short hitters like Russell Knox and bombers like Bubba Watson enjoy success around this track. Twelve of the par 4s measure between 400-450 yards, and only two par 5s are on offer. Greens in regulation percentage, tee-to-green play and past performance on Pete Dye-designed courses will all be critical areas to focus on this week.
The market is dominated by the top five names all jostling for position and all of which you could present an impressive case for betting. However, with the lack of value on offer and question marks hanging over them after last week's performance, whether it be fatigue or poor form showed, I'm going to steer clear of them.
Instead, at 33-1 (+3300) with eight places on offer, Bubba Watson looks to offer plenty of value this week. Watson's missed cut last week at Shinnecock Hills surprised nobody. It's an event just not suited to his unique game, and he has now missed four of his last five cuts at the event. TPC River Highlands is an entirely different animal however, and it's a test that Watson has thrived on over the years.
Bubba Watson has twice won the Travelers Championship, the last time being back in 2015 a week following another missed cut at a U.S. Open. His only missed cut at this event came last year, when Watson was struggling with health issues. But there can be no doubt that Watson is back to his best in 2018, and the American has already won twice this year, at the Genesis Open and the WGC Match Play, the latter of which was held at another Pete Dye-designed course.
Watson's form in 2018 indicates that he is primed to take another run at this title. Watson is 11th for the season in greens in regulation percentage, and over his previous 24 rounds, he sits ninth in ball striking. Watson also has an affinity for Pete Dye-designed golf courses. On Dye designed tracks measuring less than 7,200 yards, Watson ranks seventh in the field for strokes gained total over his last 50 rounds, and if you add par-70 golf courses into this mix, he ranks first in the same statistic. I'd say 33/1 is too big a price for a player of Watson's caliber on a golf course he adores.
Another man who missed the cut last week but has played some excellent golf in 2018 is Emiliano Grillo. Before last week, the Argentine had five top-25 finishes in his previous six starts. All parts of Grillo's game seem to be in sync at the moment too. Over his last 24 rounds, Grillo ranks sixth for strokes gained approach, fifth for strokes gained around the greens, sixth for strokes gained tee to green, eighth for ball striking and second for strokes gained total.
Grillo is making just his second visit to TPC River Highlands, and it's a course that should suit the Argentine's game. He was let down last year by a miserable week on the greens but finished 13th for strokes gained tee to green. While his history on short Pete Dye-designed golf courses is excellent too. Over his 17 rounds on such courses, Grillo sits second in ball striking, and eight for strokes gained total. At 50-1 with eight places on offer, Grillo represents excellent value this week.
Like Grillo, Si Woo Kim is another player that plays short Pete Dye courses very well. The 2017 Players champion is fourth for strokes gained total on Pete Dye courses over the previous 24 rounds. Kim performed excellently on his debut at TPC River Highlands last year too where he led the field in strokes gained tee to green, only to be let down by a poor putting performance. A very hit and miss player, Kim is worth taking a chance on at 100-1 to continue his impressive run on Pete Dye-designed courses.
Although 2018 has not been the year Brandt Snedeker would have been hoping for, there are some signs that his game is coming around slowly. A sixth-place finish just two weeks ago at St. Jude was the Nashville native's best finish of the year, and now he gets to return to an event which has been a very happy hunting ground for him in the past. In his last three starts at the event, Snedeker has finished no lower than 14th. A lot of success around TPC River Highlands has been down to his ability to score with his short game, and it has been an area that has been slow to return since his run of injuries. But recently his short game has been excellent, and over his previous eight rounds, Snedeker ranks first in the field for strokes gained short game and around the green. His form at the course is too much to ignore, and I'm backing him to notch another top-20 finish here this week.
72 Hole Match Bets
Finally, the defending champion Jordan Spieth looks way out of sorts and could well be worth taking on this week. Up until the Memorial, it was a case of his long game being lights out and his balky putter preventing him from winning events. But over his last two outings, his long game too has deserted him. Combined at the Memorial and the U.S. Open, Spieth lost over a massive eight strokes tee to green to the field, a statistic that is even more harrowing when you consider he played just four rounds in that span. Justin Thomas, on the other hand, has gained 10.7 strokes tee to green over his last two events. Thomas wasn't at his best last week, but he still managed to claim a top-25 finish, his fifteenth-consecutive top-25 finish in fact. There is always the danger that Spieth can find some magic at a course he likes but Thomas' consistency makes him a bet at 20/23.
2018 Travelers Championship recommended bets
Outright Winner (All Each Way)
- Bubba Watson 33/1 (8 places, SkyBet)
- Emiliano Grillo 50/1 (8 places, SkyBet)
- Si-Woo Kim 100/1 (8 places, SkyBet)
Top 20 Finish
- Brandt Snedeker 5/2 (Ladbrokes)
72 Hole Match Bets
- Justin Thomas over Jordan Spieth 20/23 (Bet365)