The PGA Tour heads to TPC River Highlands this week for a Travelers Championship tournament which has elevated in status since it was last played and which should act as a perfect follow up to the US Open.
Xander Schaufffele will be the man who is looking to defend the title this week but he’ll do so against a much better field than the one he beat here last year with this event now one of the designated tournaments.
2022 – Xander Schauffele
2021 – Harris English
2020 – Dustin Johnson
2019 – Chez Reavie
2018 – Bubba Watson
2017 – Jordan Spieth
2016 – Russell Knox
2015 – Bubba Watson
2014 – Kevin Streelman
2013 – Ken Duke
It is TPC River Highlands that is staging the tournament again this week. You know what you are going to get from River Highlands. It is a par 70 which only measures 6,852 yards so it isn’t long. You can use length to your advantage here as there are a couple of drivable holes but in the main this is a course which rewards those who drive the ball well and putt well regardless of how long they are off the tee.
The rough remains relatively significant this week at four inches but the players who are most likely to be in it are going to be a long way down there so I don’t think that will hamper them in any way. Accuracy is still going to be key around here but the emphasis is very much on accuracy. A hot putter is never a bad thing either it has to be said. The forecast suggests there is going to be rain from the second round onwards so these leading players could be firing darts at these pins from Friday onwards.
As we have seen all season these designated event fields are seriously strong and this might be the strongest yet with those stars of the sport who are in the supposed elite bracket on the PGA Tour all here with the exception of Sam Burns and Jordan Spieth. Xander Schauffele is one of those and he is the man teeing it up looking to make a successful defence of the title. Last week’s US Open champion Wyndham Clark tees it up for the first time as a major champion.
Speaking of major champions, we have the winner of the opening major of 2023 here in the form of Jon Rahm while the likes of the world number one Scottie Scheffler and Patrick Cantlay are also in the field. Rory McIlroy will be looking to put the Sunday disappointment of last week behind him immediately. Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau, Tommy Fleetwood, Tom Kim, Hideki Matsuyama and Matthew Fitzpatrick are some of the other elite players teeing it up.
Scottie Scheffler is the world number one and he is the favourite to win this tournament. He has become a bit of a regular at TPC River Highlands without winning the title and he’ll be eager to put that record to bed. He seems to be high up on the leaderboard every time he tees it up right now but his putter looks to be causing him issues and in a low scoring event that isn’t exactly ideal. He’s plenty long enough though and certainly good enough but that cold putter puts me off taking him at 13/2.
Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay are next in the market at 11/1. Rahm has gone a little quiet since he won The Masters which is understandable but we are waiting for him to break out. He seems a little angry on the course so something isn’t completely there with his game. Patrick Cantlay went round here in 60 swings back in his amateur days but he is yet to crack the top 10 as a professional. You would imagine that will change soon but I’m not interested at 11/1 until it does.
Rory McIlroy is a 14/1 shot to win the title this week. If you are backing him then you need to put Sunday out of your mind where he just went nowhere. Worryingly for his fans and followers, that was the third Sunday in succession he has completely stalled and in a low scoring event like this usually is you just can’t afford to be on anyone who doesn’t go forward when it really matters. I get the impression McIlroy is all about the majors right now and well this isn’t one of those so he isn’t for me.
Xander Schauffele comes next at 16/1. He probably should have contended much stronger in the US Open than he actually did and his weekend at Los Angeles Country Club is a concern. He is the defending champion so there will be plenty of media scrutiny on his time and in this particular time in the golfing landscape with questions regarding the PGA/LIV get together still very much happening that can be a real distraction. Defending champions aren’t for me.
Just the one main bet interests me this week. That comes in the form of Matthew Fitzpatrick who really should be ideally suited to this place with him not having to pound a driver off the tee to set up the scoring irons which he specialises in so much. Fitzpatrick had an acceptable US Open title defence last week but he was never in contention so he was able to enjoy the week without pushing himself too much. I fancy he’ll be eyeing up a much stronger week here.
Fitzpatrick is a very good putter and with the aim of this particular test to find the greens, which he specialises in, and then hole a good number of putts, this place should be right up his street. There are definitely others in the field this week who used up a lot more mental energy at the US Open than he did and that is very much a positive. He has already won a PGA Tour title this season and at 33/1 I’ll pay to see if he adds to the collection here.
I’ll go with four outsiders this week as well, each of whom specialise in the shorter irons into the greens. The first of those is Keegan Bradley, who according to the PGA Tour website sits third on the season for approaches from between 125-150 yards and there are plenty of those this week. The concern for Bradley comes on the greens but it is nothing like as much of an issue as it was earlier in his career. He is another who has already won on the PGA Tour this season so he feels overpriced at 80/1.
Austin Eckroat is making a big name for himself at the minute and he comes in here in excellent touch, largely down to the scoring irons being dialled in for the last few weeks. His last four events have been T2-T16-T30-T10, the last of those being at the US Open last week where he closed with a very impressive 65. If you look at his overall season numbers not much stands out but he is improving all the time and was in the top 20 for approaches in that 125-150 yard range at the US Open last week and he is holing putts. He could outrun his price here.
I took Chez Reavie in Canada a couple of weeks ago and while I got no joy the fact he concluded that tournament with a 65 makes me keep him in the staking plan here on a course he has won on previously. Reavie wasn’t at the US Open last week so he should be nice and fresh for a tilt here. Reavie isn’t a long hitter so he has to be dialled in with the wedges and short irons so this course really does suit him. If he can take confidence from that closing 65 in Canada then he could be a monster price.
Another player who could be a massive price based on the more than solid US Open showing he delivered is Charley Hoffman and this is another player who might be suited to the test this week given how good and aggressive he is with the scoring clubs. Hoffman ended up T49 at the US Open but he sat on two under par at the halfway mark but ran out of juice on a tough test if you aren’t one of the longer hitters. This is nothing like that so if Hoffman can hit the ball as well here as he did there he might get us excited at a bonkers price. He was T14 in Phoenix so he’s still got it in him and I’ll pay to see if it comes out here.
Back M.Fitzpatrick to win Travelers Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back K.Bradley to win Travelers Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back C.Reavie to win Travelers Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 201.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back them here:
Back A.Eckroat to win Travelers Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 91.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)
Back C.Hoffman to win Travelers Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 501.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)