The third event since the shutdown of the PGA Tour due to the coronavirus pandemic takes us to a familiar location as TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut plays host to the 2020 Travelers Championship. This Pete Dye design has crowned a variety of champions over its long history, including last year’s champion Chez Reavie, who defeated upstart Zach Sucher by 4 strokes to claim the title with a winning total of 17-under par. Bubba Watson, who doesn’t exactly spring to the front of anyone’s mind when you hear that this is a short, tree-lined course, will undoubtedly be a popular selection this week as he tees it up as a three-time champion of this event.
In 1984 this tournament made the switch to TPC River Highlands, where players will find greens that are slightly below Tour average in size and feature a fast mix of poa and bent grasses. This par 70 layout possesses only two par 5s for the players in this week’s field, but those two holes prove to be the most scorable on the course – players making par here will be losing ground to the rest of the field. The par 4s here most commonly fall within the 400 to 450 yard range, with seven such holes challenging this week’s field. The positional nature of this course is no more evident than viewing the historical approach shot dispersion charts – the second most common range of approach shots at this course is from 200 or more yards. That indicates that players commonly are taking less than driver off of the tee and leaving themselves with lengthy approach shots into greens – focusing on players who have traditionally shown strength in that area will be a must.
Statistically this event has often turned into a Birdie Fest, with four of the last six winners posting scores of 15-under par or better. For that reason, focusing on players that make a lot of birdies, hit a lot of greens to maximize their chances at birdies, and can traditionally score on par 4s is a good recipe for success at TPC River Highlands. This is also a course where putting has traditionally been a bit of a separator for players that end up posting a Top 10 finish – while I don’t often weigh putting in my stats model on a weekly basis, this is one layout that may lend itself to players that are strong with the flat stick. With all of that being set, let’s dive in! Here are my favorite selections in each DraftKings pricing range, for this week’s Travelers Championship!
Justin Thomas ($10,800)
For three weeks in a row the stats models love Justin Thomas, which probably shouldn’t be a huge surprise. #2 overall in my model, Thomas ranks second in this field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, Approach, and Birdies or Better Gained, so I do not believe he will be hurting for chances to take it low this week. His history at this event isn’t great (four made cuts in six starts, highlighted by a third place finish in 2016) but he is coming off of two Top 10 finishes in the last two weeks, making him one of only three players that can say that here this week. I weighted Strokes Gained: Tee to Green the heaviest this week and Thomas has only lost strokes in that category once since coming back after the shutdown – let’s ride the hot ball striking this week and see where it takes us.
Colin Morikawa ($9,100)
I try to make it a habit of reading through last year’s notes on an event prior to digging into my research for this year, and what I found last year literally left me in shock. In my article I wrote up Morikawa as a really nice “under the radar” selection…in the $6K range! My how things have changed as we are now talking about Morikawa as potentially one of the best ball strikers on Tour, and I can think of no better course to showcase that talent that TPC River Highlands. #1 in this field in Strokes Gained: Approach, Morikawa was underwhelming last week at Harbour Town, but his result was a little deceiving. His 64th place finish was punctuated by a final round in which he lost four strokes on approach – only once in his career previously had he lost more than 1.7 strokes on approach. So to call that round a fluke seems completely reasonable to me. Lastly, a ton is made of the putting woes that Morikawa has experienced in his early career. If there is one silver lining to his putting, poa greens appear to be his most confident surface to this point, which should build at least a little confidence on the greens when opportunities for birdies arise. We all know about the made cuts streak that he is on – I anticipate that streak to continue ticking up this week at the Travelers.
Sungjae Im ($8,600)
Maybe the most shocking performance last week was the missed cut that was posted by Im, who had made 18 of his previous 19 cuts and had recorded three consecutive Top 10 finishes heading into an event that seemed to fit his game perfectly. Well, it didn’t – and I paid the price. But this week Im is priced around the majority of the course history darlings this week (Watson, Casey, and Spieth to name a few) and I think there is a chance he could be overlooked a bit here. His SG: Approach and Tee to Green numbers admittedly are not what they have traditionally been lately, but he is still making a ton of birdies (#6 in this field over his last 50 rounds) and playing par 4s extremely well (#12 in this field over his last 50 rounds.) The part that makes me a little less uneasy about Im’s performance last week is the fact that the majority of the lost strokes came from his short game, which historically has been outstanding. The ball striking was still there, which gives me confidence to go back in his direction this week again in Connecticut.
Scottie Scheffler ($7,600)
This price range was the most difficult for me to narrow down this week as there are so many viable options, but I think Scheffler makes the most sense regardless of what type of contests you plan on entering. 13th overall in my model, Scheffler was a popular choice heading into last week’s RBC Heritage before an unexplained WD prior to the start of the event. Thankfully he is back this week, ruling out a serious injury or contraction of the coronavirus, and I think he will fly a little under the radar because of that withdrawal last week. Scheffler is a great Par 4 player and is a guy that makes a ton of birdies – enough birdies that you can balance out the inevitable sprinkled bogey on the scorecard. He has lost strokes Tee to Green one time since October of last year and is coming off of a disappointing finish in his last start at the Charles Schwab Challenge, which really was because of an awful round on Sunday. I am confident enough to play him in cash and think he will have a low enough ownership to play him with other higher owned players in GPPs.
Cameron Tringale ($6,300)
I was all ready to fire off Tringale as a play last week in the $6K range until he, like Scheffler, withdrew from the tournament early in the week. Again like Scheffler, it appears as though there are no major issues with Tringale as he is back in action this week, ranking 21st in my overall model and 16th in SG: Tee to Green in his last 50 rounds. Tringale is on a nice run of 11 made cuts in his last 12 events, his best finish being a 13th place result at the Houston Open in October. I understand that this is his first week back since the coronavirus shutdown, but he had gained strokes Tee to Green, on Approach, and Ball Striking in each of his last seven rounds. You can’t get too picky down in this range when filling out your lineups, and Tringale does an awful lot of things well enough to make the cut this week and propel your team to a 6/6 finish Sunday night.
As always, thank you very much for giving my article a glance this week as you prepare for the Charles Schwab Challenge. If you have any questions you would like to ask me about your lineup or about my article in general, join us on DPA Premium where you can get exclusive access to myself as well as the rest of our other experts for NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL. I’ll be available to answer questions about your lineups this week from 8PM to 10PM on Wednesday, May 23rd.
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