This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Course: TPC River Highlands (6,841 yards, par 70)
Winner: $1,332,000 and 500 FedExCup points
Year in and year out, the Travelers Championship is one of the most exciting tournaments on the PGA Tour. Much of that has to do with the back nine at TPC River Highlands, which features a reachable par-5, a drivable par-4, an 18th hole with a natural amphitheater and opportunities for big numbers all around. Since 2010, we have seen four playoffs and nine times in which the event was decided by one shot or less. The most memorable has to be Jordan Spieth's hole-out from the bunker in a playoff against Daniel Berger in 2017. That was about as big a crowd reaction as I can ever remember at a regular Tour event. TPC River Highlands is a course that gives you the opportunity to go low if you're on, as every winner since 1993 has been at least 10 strokes under par. This is also where Jim Furyk shot a 58 back in 2016. That remains the lowest round in PGA Tour history.
Dustin Johnson lost his No. 1 ranking with Jon Rahm's victory at the U.S. Open last week, but Johnson could take it back with a strong showing in Connecticut. He has no doubt been off his game the past few months, but he heads back to the Travelers Championship as the defending champion. The win at this event last summer really is what propelled Johnson into an incredible finish to the year 2020. Making up the rest of the top three players on the board are rivals Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, both of whom will be looking to bounce back following disappointing finishes at the U.S. Open. Patrick Cantlay continues to lead the FedExCup standings and will be teeing it up at the site of his 60 that he shot in 2011 as an amateur. Bubba Watson contended for awhile last week at Torrey Pines and he will be looking to join Billy Casper as the only four-time winners of the Travelers Championship. Other notables teeing it up in Cromwell include Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau, Matthew Wolff, Rickie Fowler, and reigning PGA Champion and two-time Travelers champion Phil Mickelson.
Thursday and Friday should provide very scoreable conditions, with no threat of rain and little-to-no wind. Temperatures will kick up to the high-80s on the weekend and winds could reach 20 miles per hour in the third and final rounds. There's also a chance of a thunderstorm or two on the weekend.
2020 – Dustin Johnson (-19)
2019 – Chez Reavie (-17)
2018 – Bubba Watson (-17)
2017 – Jordan Spieth (-12)
2016 – Russell Knox (-14)
2015 – Bubba Watson (-16)
2014 – Kevin Streelman (-15)
2013 – Ken Duke (-12)
2012 – Marc Leishman (-14)
2011 – Freddie Jacobson (-20)
2010 – Bubba Watson (-14)
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- GIR Percentage
- Driving Accuracy
TPC River Highlands is one of the shortest venues on the PGA Tour at under 6,900 yards. It really gives any player the ability to win if he is on his game. The challenge here is much more about precision. With the field for this event becoming much stronger over the last 5-to-7 years, the rough has quietly become a big challenge the players must contend with. At four inches, the primary cut makes it difficult to control approach shots into the relatively-small greens. The fairways are fairly average in width, but the ball in the short grass will take precedent over distance for sure. The greens have a fair amount of undulation as well, making the targets smaller yet. High GIR and FIR numbers should be keys to success this week. While we go from the West Coast to the East Coast, the green surfaces will remain Poa annua, which automatically will raise the difficulty of putts inside 10 feet. Small greens mean that scrambling will also be an important factor. Players will have the challenge of facing both thick rough close to the greens as well as large runoff areas around a number of holes. You can make quite a few birdies on this layout, but big numbers are lurking with just one errant shot.
FanDuel Value Picks
Paul Casey ($11,600)
Casey should be a popular OAD pick this week, as his record at TPC River Highlands is fantastic. He is 6-for-6 with four top-5s, including a pair of runner-ups. His record of late is also pretty impressive, with a T4 at the PGA Championship and a T7 last week at the U.S. Open. In 2021 he has finished outside the top 30 just once.
Brian Harman ($11,100)
Harman is rolling right now, as he has finished top-20 in seven of his last eight starts. We all know he is a short, but accurate, hitter and this course suits exactly what he does well. Harman is 29th in SG: Around-the-Green, fifth in scrambling, 17th in SG: Putting, and 16th in scoring average. The former Georgia standout has a trio of top-8 finishes in his last six starts at TPC River Highlands.
Abraham Ancer ($11,000)
Ancer is one of the most precise ball strikers around, ranking sixth in driving accuracy and 11th in greens in regulation. He is also top-35 on Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Approach, SG: Tee-to-Green, proximity to the hole, scrambling percentage, and birdie average. Ancer missed the cut at the U.S. Open, but that course didn't suit his game, and prior to that he had a streak of 10 straight finishes of T26 or better, including three top-10's in his last five starts. Ancer has finished T8 and T11 in his last two attempts at TPC River Highlands.
Kevin Streelman ($10,600)
Streelman is another horse for this course, as he ranks second all-time in earnings in this event's history. He has six top-15 finishes in Cromwell, including his win back in 2014, when he birdied the last seven holes to win by a shot. At 42 the Duke product is playing some of his best golf, with five straight finishes of T26 or better. Streelman ranks top-35 on Tour in SG: Approach, SG: Tee-to-Green, GIR percentage, proximity to the hole and scoring average.
Longer Shots with Value
Emiliano Grillo ($9,600)
If you want a stud iron player on your roster this week, Grillo is the best in the field in that department. He ranks sixth in SG: Approach, second in GIR percentage, and first in proximity to the hole. Grillo is also 36th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 27th in birdie average, and 23rd in scoring average. Over his last 10 starts, the 28-year-old has top-15 finishes in half of them.
Stewart Cink ($9,100)
Cink picked up his first career win at TPC River Highlands back in 1997 and then got the job done again in 2008. All in all, the 48-year-old is 13-for-17 here with nine finishes of T21 or better. Cink has made the cut in seven straight starts, which includes his win at Harbour Town, a course that possess many similarities with TPC River Highlands. The eight-time PGA Tour winner ranks 23rd in SG: Approach, seventh in GIR percentage, and 27th in proximity to the hole this season.
Russell Knox ($8,600)
Knox is another very precise ball striker. He ranks 28th in SG: Approach, 45th in driving accuracy, sixth in GIR percentage, and 10th in proximity to the hole. He is also 18th on Tour in scrambling. Knox is 6-for-9 in his career at the Travelers, including his win back in 2016. He made the cut in five of his last six starts after struggling at the beginning of 2021.
Brendan Steele ($8,600)
Steele has been a consistent threat at TPC River Highlands. He has a total of eight top-25s in 10 starts here, including a T6 last year. A missed cut last week at the U.S. Open ended a streak of 13 straight made cuts, a stretch that included a trio of top-4 results. Steele ranks top-30 in total driving and proximity to the hole during the current campaign.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
After jumping on as many bombers as possible at the U.S. Open, that same strategy will not be necessary at TPC River Highlands. As I mentioned in the profile, the focus should be on players that are really strong with their approach play and who are accurate off the tee. Putting here isn't uber-important, but being a good scrambler does come in handy quite a bit on these smaller greens. Bryson DeChambeau has had three straight top-10s here, but his iron play hasn't been good as of late. I think it's also best to avoid Dustin Johnson, who hasn't been accurate off the tee or into greens the last few months, and Brooks Koepka, who just doesn't bring the same level of focus to non-major events.