With the second major of the season complete, Ryan O’Sullivan will return on Friday, June 22 for the third installment of his Ryder Cup series. Look for his feature on our main golf page.
Inside the Ropes
The Travelers Championship
TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, CT
TPC River Highlands
Yards: 6,841 as per the scorecard
Par: 70 (35-35)
Average green size: 5,500 square feet
Stimpmeter: 10.5 ft.
Water Hazards: 5
Course Architect: Robert J. Ross and Maurice Kearney (1928); Pete Dye (1982); Bobby Weed (1998)
Notes: Bentgrass greens fairways; Kentucky Bluegrass, perennial rye grass and fine fescue rough.
Winner’s Share: $1,080,000 and 500 FedExCup points
Defending Champion: Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson held off Ryan Moore and John Rollins for his first TOUR victory in 183 starts.
Date: June 14-17
Notes: TPC River Highlands was the 41st most-difficult (out of 51) course on TOUR in 2011.
This event has been on the PGA TOUR calendar since 1952 when it debut as the Insurance City Open. The original site was Wethersfield C.C. and it was used until 1983. Pete Dye refurbished the old Edgewood C.C. in 1982 and turned it into the TPC Connecticut. The TPC Connecticut hosted its first event in 1984 but after five years it decided to revamp itself once again, this time through Bobby Weed, to its current-finished product, TPC River Highlands.
Four of the last six champions at the Travelers Championship have been first-time winners on TOUR: Jacobson (2011), Bubba Watson (2010), Hunter Mahan (2007) and J.J. Henry. Jacobson and Henry still only have one TOUR win.
Four of the last eight championships have been decided in a playoff.
Only two players have gone wire-to-wire to claim the title, Gene Littler (1959) and Tim Morris (1982).
Kenny Perry has the tournament record 258 set in 2009 (-22).
Fredrik Jacobson in 2011 was the first foreign winner since Greg Norman in 1995.
Phil Mickelson is the only player in history to defend his title at the Travelers Championship (2001, 2002).
Of the OWGR top 50 (as of Monday), 12 players are teeing it up this week.
Five past champions are in the field this week: Jacobson, Watson, Perry, Mahan and Henry.
Young Guns versus Old Guns
In 26 tournaments in 2012 the “Young” versus “Old” has seen the “Young” battle back to even the “Middle” guys after back-to-back wins by twenty-somethings Dustin Johnson and now U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson. The season-long standings are 12-12-2 as the “Old” folks have just contributed two wins.
For the “Young”, in order of victory on the calendar, Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan (29 at the time of his TWO wins), Rory McIlroy (now 23), Justin Rose (31), Rickie Fowler (23), Dustin Johnson (27) and now Webb Simpson (26) have cashed winner’s checks.
The “Middle” now has victories from Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34), Matt Kuchar (33), Jason Dufner (35) TWICE and Zach Johnson (36) have helped keep the “Middle” men in the hunt.
The “Old” guys that have hoisted the trophy are Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41). The “Old” guys had multiple chances to get on the board this week as Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, David Toms, Padraig Harrington, Retief Goosen and Lee Westwood all had finishes in the top 10.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
Can you hear that? That’s a huge sigh of relief from anyone who played the U.S. Open last week at Olympic Club as they arrive to a tournament this week that averages almost 16-under-par to the winner since 2000. Birdies, Birdies, Birdies will replace bogeys, bogeys, bogeys as the TOUR players play one of the shortest courses on the 2012 calendar. To put this in perspective, 2011 winner Fredrik Jacobson didn’t make bogey until his 64th hole en route to 20-under par victory.
I like how this course follows the U.S. Open because it is fun to see just how good these guy are when they plays tracks that are set up for scoring. Sure, it’s one extreme to another but I would rather watch 18-under win this week instead of eight-under. TPC River Highlands will require players that can flat-out make birdies from everywhere. And when they are not making birdies, as illustrated above by Freddy Jacobson, they better not be making anything worse than par or they will have to make even MORE birdies. Last year, AMATEUR Patrick Cantlay shot 60 in round two. Could we see our first 59 of 2012?
The 15 finest I could find, as always, in order.
Matt Kuchar: The “new” (post 2008) Matt Kuchar doesn’t have any history at this course but the way he is playing right now, who cares! Kuchar, who has made a TOUR-leading 20 cuts in a row, is made for a course like TPC River Highlands. On top of his steady driving and an excellent iron play, Kuchar also ranks second on TOUR in par-four performance. With only two par-fives this week, players will have to score on the par-fours to contend. Kuchar is 16th in scrambling when he not banging GIR (13th best on TOUR). He went about his business at Olympic Club last week in finishing T27 will enjoy getting back to making boatloads of birdies this week at the Travelers Championship.
Padraig Harrington: There might not be a hotter player on TOUR at the moment without a win than Harrington. In his last three events he’s finished T15 (HP), T13 (FESJC) and rammed home two-under par 68 to T4 last weekend at the U.S. Open. Nothing on the stat page jumps out at you when you look up Harrington except his scoring average, which is eighth on TOUR. He knows how to get the ball in the hole and he’s turning up the heat as summer-proper kicks in to gear. Harrington’s best finish in three-career starts was T5 in 2010.
Zach Johnson: After two, second-place finishes and a win in four weeks, it’s no surprise that Johnson took a couple of steps back over the last two tournaments. Nobody can play that hot/well for that long and Johnson is human just like the rest of them. After his MC at Memphis that shocked the fantasy world, Johnson looked like a train-wreck in round one at Olympic Club as he needed 77 strokes to get around on Thursday. In classic Johnson form, he played the next three rounds in only four-over par. Birdies will be the order of the week and Johnson’s putting should help him find red numbers this week. Johnson is sixth in strokes-gained putting and is 23rd in total putting. His GIR percentage is 93rd but remember, he’s the sixth-best scrambler on TOUR as well. Johnson will be excited this week when the putts he holes will be for birdies, instead of pars, like last week at Olympic Club.
Bo Van Pelt: It seems like every week Van Pelt finds his way into this category and this week isn’t any different. Van Pelt is currently fifth on TOUR in birdie-or-better conversion percentage and that will come in handy this week at TPC River Highlands. So will his strokes gained-putting (4th) and birdie average (12th). Van Pelt has shown he is a fan of this course as he’s finished T13, T34, T9, MC and T6 in his last five starts in Connecticut. He’s made 10 of 11 cuts on TOUR in 2012 as well.
Kevin Stadler: He’s made the cut 12 times in 2012 and of those he’s hit the top 25 nine times. His record here is terrible but on the other par-70 courses this season he’s finished T9 (Honda), T4 (RBC), MC (CPIC) and T11 last time out at FESJC in Memphis. He’s already over a million dollars in 2012 so he shouldn’t be feeling any pressure as he moves into summer. Looking at his results so far, he looks to be quite relaxed and he fits the bill here by having zero-career wins on TOUR!
Fredrik Jacobson: The defending champion showed us last year that his swing could hold up under pressure on Sunday and that he fears no putt that he sees on any green. Jacobson made one bogey last year and only won by one shot as he cranked in 21 birdies. Jacobson began Sunday at the U.S. Open only two-shots behind co-leaders Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk but a final-round 75 killed any chances of him winning his first major. Only Phil Mickelson has defended his championship here or I would rate him higher this week. I sometimes get nervous rating a guy with the nick-name “The Junkman”…
Blake Adams: Adams’ recent form has been very solid on TOUR as he’s made five cuts on the bounce since MC at Zurich and WFC. Adams, along with any TOUR players not previously eligible for the Open Championship, are trying to finish in the top two in a “mini-season” to gain entrance into the Open Championship. The top two players who earn the most money from THE PLAYERS, FESJC, U.S. Open, Travelers Championship, AT&T National and The Greenbrier will cash their golden ticket at a chance to play Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s in July. Currently, Adams is fourth on that list and is playing quite well. He’s currently trying to catch and/or pass Michael Thompson, John Merrick and Jhonattan Vegas for one of those two spots. Adams, in his second event here last year, finished T9. He MC in 2010 in his other appearance. This is what I love about the TOUR. They give you chances to PLAY yourself into positions that might not come about otherwise.
Michael Thompson: Coming off a T2 at the U.S. Open and solo fourth here last year, Thompson seems like a no-brainer this week. It’s hard to ignore those facts and then when you put that he had the lowest round and T2 lowest round at the U.S. Open it’s obviously obvious to rank him this week. Thompson, known as “Slick” (waaaaaaaaay better nick-name than “The Junkman”) on TOUR, makes his mint with the flat stick. Thompson is currently fifth on TOUR in strokes gained-putting. His form entering the U.S. Open was not very good, making just three cuts in last six events. I tend to ride the hot hand and history performance here shouldn’t suggest a let-down this week. Another finish this week inside the top five and he could all but wrap up his trip to England for the Open Championship.
Andres Romero: Total form-play here as Romero is coming off T2 at the Memorial and was T6 here a year ago. Romero started to heat up this time in 2011 as he hit the top six three times in five events from the Travelers through the The Greenbrier. Last year was his first year playing this event and he ripped off 64 in his first round and then followed it up with 67 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This might be a bit of stretch but with a thin field after a major, I feel he could surprise again this week. WD Tuesday.
Hunter Mahan: Before he was on the Ryder Cup team, before he was winning WGC events, Hunter Mahan was known for destroying the TPC River Highlands. In his first four outings at this event, Mahan was MC twice and never finished better than T21. In his next four tournaments, Mahan blew up finishing T2, WIN, T2 and T4. Sadly for gamers, nothing lasts forever, not even Freddy Couples at Augusta, as Mahan was MC in 2010 and T43 last year. Mahan struggles to make birdies on par-fives but is in the top 40 in birdie-or-better leaders on par threes and fours. His putting has improved and he should have good vibes heading into this week based on his previous performances in Connecticut.
Ryan Moore: In six-career starts Moore has hit the top 10 three times at TPC River Highlands, including T2 last year. In those six-career starts, he’s made the cut five times with his worst finish being T33. Gamers, the one thing that jumps off the page when looking at Moore is he is ninth in par-four birdie-or-better category. Gamers, the one thing that will make you jump off a bridge is when looking at Moore’s numbers is his third-round (162nd) and fourth-round (177th) scoring in 2012.
Ken Duke: Duke leads the TOUR in birdies and is coming off a final-round 65 at FESJC his last time out. The good news with Duke is when he plays well, he plays “top 10” well. All five of his top 25’s in 2012 are top 10’s. In his last four tournaments at courses that play par-70, Duke has finished T7 (FESJC), T26 (CPIC), T60 (RBC) and T5 (TC).
Keegan Bradley: Since his T4 at SHO Bradley has struggled to only hit the top 25 in one of his last seven events. I believe this week, close to home in the Northeast, that Bradley will start to heat up. Bradley is seventh on TOUR in birdie average and has been racking up birdies on par-threes and fours all season long. He said via Twitter that his favorite two clubs in his bag right now are his driver and his putter. He’ll take a hot putter this week! This and the Deutsche Bank Championship are the closest Bradley will get to a “home game” in 2012.
S.Y. Noh: The last time we saw S.Y. Noh he was closing with 66 at FESJC two weeks ago. This was right after Sean Foley proclaimed that his name will shortly be remembered as “Soon You’ll Know” because his game is moving in the right direction. Noh has made 14 of 18 cuts in 2012, including his last seven in a row. During his stretch of seven-consecutive cuts-made he has hit the top 13 three times. Noh is second on TOUR in birdies carded. He is playing this event for the first time but his current form is what I’m looking at this week. Remember, four of the last six winners here have been first-time winners on TOUR.
J.B. Holmes: Since his T8 performance at SHO, Holmes has made the cut in four of six events and has hit the top 19 three times in that span. His last two time out he’s finished T13 at the Memorial and T19 at FESJC so his current form suggests he’s ready to make the leap into the top 10 again.
Webb Simpson: Can’t leave out the U.S. Open champ!!! I have no idea what he’s going to do this week but I’m not fading him either!
John Merrick: Merrick has played 16 events this year and has only made eight cuts. In those eight times that he’s played the weekend, he’s finished in the top 25 exactly once, second alone last week in Memphis. The previous year Merrick was T11 in Memphis. In Merrick’s last three starts at TPC River Highlands he’s banged out T9, T34 and T11 in 2009. Horse for course, plus he is second in the race to the Open Championship mentioned above.
John Peterson: After finishing T4 last week at the U.S. Open I’ll take a chance with him and try and ride this wave if I need a player in a deep-draft. Hell, he’s only played three or four events, has no TOUR status anywhere, so I am guessing he’s quite desperate to back up his result last week. Almost as desperate as I am in my year-long fantasy league!
Vijay Singh: I know what you are thinking, so save it. Singh is 86th in the OWGR and 80th in the FEC points race so that qualifies as off-the-radar in my world. He’s five-for-five here including fourth in 2007 and fifth in 2008. Singh also has one whopping top 10 finish in 2012.
Brendon de Jonge: Don’t tell anybody that he’s made nine cuts in a row since missing at API at the end of March. He’s made 15 of 18 on the season but has only hit the top 10 once. He was MC here last year after finishing T9 (2010) and T34 (2009). He’s 18th GIR on TOUR and fourth in total birdies.
Five Left Out:
Recently, players who have made this list have gone on to find their form again. Last week, K.J. Choi hit the top 15 for the first time in a full-field event in 2012. Who’s this week’s winner going to be?
Steve Marino: He picked a difficult route for his comeback as his first event was the Memorial and he backed that up with the U.S. Open. He was 27 OVER par in those two events. I’ll wait until he’s made some strides before jumping back on his bag.
Camilo Villegas: He hasn’t had a top 10 in 2012 after he closed out 2011 with a bang. The name is always tempting but the form just hasn’t been there as he’s MC in two of his last three events. His only start here was T21 in 2006. Not going to stretch for him this week.
Y.E. Yang: New caddy James Walton (June 5th, according to Yang’s Twitter feed) is trying to help Yang shake up his game and get it back on track in 2012. The first round together Yang shot 68 at Memphis but finished T66. Last week at Olympic Club, he missed the weekend by a shot. I’m going to give this relationship some time to gel before I jump on “former major champion” in weekly games.
Kyle Stanley: See Yang, except that Stanley is on his THIRD caddie of 2012. It’s hard to believe that he lost in a playoff and won in consecutive weeks back in late January-early February. That seemed like a lifetime ago on TOUR.
Bubba Watson: He rebounded nicely at the U.S. Open to shoot 71 on Friday after saying that Olympic Club was just too tough for him. I’m not sure where Watson is at currently with his game after coming off consecutive MC’s. Will he play better here because this was site of his first ever TOUR victory or will he continue on his uneven run of form? If I can’t answer those questions, I’m not taking a chance this week.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: the Travelers Championship (Glass’s Picks)
Group 1: Matt Kuchar
Group 2: Padraig Harrington
Group 3: Kevin Stadler
Group 4: Kenny Perry
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. Now, Ned also provides us with his Golf Channel fantasy game selections as well!
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Matt Kuchar--I was pretty high on Kuchar last week and lots of times this season I've found that I'm a week or two early on a player. His history isn't that great here, but he hasn't played here recently and he is a much better player now.
Webb Simpson-- It's a bit much to think he will go with back-to-back wins, but he does tend to play well in streaks and I'm not that crazy about the remaining choices in Group A.
Zach Johnson, J.B. Holmes
Ryan Moore-- Moore played well in the late spring and he has a nice record here of three top-4s (T2 in '06, T4 in '09 and a T2 last year) in six career starts.
Ian Poulter-- After THE PLAYERS, Poulter played in a couple of tournaments on the European Tour and he looked good. I was surprised he only tied for 41st place at the U.S. Open and I expect him to bounce back this week to his prior form.
Bo Van Pelt-- He is another player that was playing well going into the U.S. Open and finished back in the pack. He does have a good recent history here with a pair of top-10s (T6 in '07 and a T9 in '09) and a T13 last year.
Hunter Mahan-- Mahan notched a pair of early season wins on this year's TOUR, but recently he pretty quiet. His recent history here has been pretty good with three top-4s in his last five starts, which includes a championship in '07.
Bubba Watson, Fredrick Jacobson, Brian Davis, Brendon de Jonge, Chad Campbell, Blake Adams
Padraig Harrington-- Harrington had been playing pretty well going into the U.S. Open, so his T4 finish wasn't a surprise. He has three career starts at the Travelers, with his best result being a T5 in '10.
John Merrick-- I'm taking a bit of a shot with this pick. Merrick in coming off a second place at the St. Jude Classic and he has played well at the Travelers with a T11 in '09 and a T9 last year.
John Huh, Harris English, Kevin Stadler, Louis Oosthuizen
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: the Travelers Championship (Ned’s Picks)
Group 1: Matt Kuchar
Group 2: Ryan Moore
Group 3: John Merrick
Group 4: Kenny Perry
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at NOON, ET. They will be breaking down the field at the Travelers Championship and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.