TPC River Highlands
TPC River Highlands
Yards: 6,841 as per the scorecard
Par: 70 (35-35)
Greens: Bentgrass; 5,500 square feet on average
Rough: Bentgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass and fescue at 3.5”
Water Hazards: 5
Course Architect: Robert J. Ross and Maurice Kearney (1928); Bobby Weed (1998)
Winner’s Share: $1,098,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Marc Leishman fired a final round 62 and sat around for over two hours awaiting his fate. After late bogeys by Charley Hoffman and Roland Thatcher, Leishman’s 62 stood up for his first TOUR win.
Dates: June 20-23
Notes: This tournament moved to its current position after the U.S. Open in 2007
Greg Norman and Marc Leishman are the only Australian winners in 61 editions of this event.
Leishman joins Fredrik Jacobson (2011) as the only two international winners at this event since Greg Norman won in 1995.
There have been 25 tournaments this season. The Stars and Stripes have won 20 of them but Australian Adam Scott and Englishman Justin Rose have the two biggest trophies, the Masters and U.S. Open, respectively.
Past champions in the field include:
Brad Faxon (2005)
J.J. Henry (2006)
Hunter Mahan (2007)
Stewart Cink (1997; 2008)
Bubba Watson (2010)
Fredrik Jacobson (2011)
Marc Leishman (2012)
In the last seven editions of the Travelers, five of the winners made this their first win on TOUR, including the last three champions.
There have also been nine first-time winners this season. Looking at the previous stat, it could be 10 after this week!
There have also been just two multiple winners, Woods (four) and Kuchar (WGC-Match Play; Memorial).
The winners on TOUR have been Johnson, D (28), Henley (24), Gay (41), Woods FOUR times (37), Mickelson (42), Snedeker (32), Merrick (30) Kuchar TWICE (34),Thompson, M (27) Brown (29), Streelman (34), Points (36), Laird (30), Scott (32), G-Mac (33), Horschel (26), Ernst (22), Bae (26), Weekley (39), English (26) and now Rose (32). The young folks (30 and younger) now have nine victories; the 30-somethings have racked up a baker’s dozen victories, 13, and the “old folks” (40 and up) have their two wins. Phil Mickelson finished second for the sixth time last week at the U.S. Open. Ernie Els and Steve Stricker also hit the top 10. Watch out for those crusty veterans!
Rank and File
As of Monday morning, 18 of the top 50 OWGR were schedule to play this week.
Welcome back to stadium golf, this time on the East coast as the TPC River Highlands hosts this week’s stop on TOUR. The property on which the ground sits upon was Edgewood Country Club from 1932 until 1982. Pete Dye was put in charge of the first redesign in 1982 and the first Travelers tournament at the TPC Connecticut was held in 1984. After five years, it was redesigned again, this time by Bobby Weed, and was renamed TPC River Highlands. How often does a Pete Dye design get redesigned? Weird. There is plenty of amphitheater seating on the back nine designed to bring the roars of the massive crowds into play on the weekend. Only TPC Scottsdale handles more visitors each season to their event that the Travelers.
TPC River Highlands is known for its difficult finishing holes and undulating greens. At only 6,841 the golf course is protected mainly by bunkers, water and the undulations on the putting surfaces. When Jacobson won here in 2011, he didn’t make a bogey until the back nine on Sunday so that tells me I’m looking for guys who can sting GIR, make birdies and avoid bogeys. Every winner here in the last 10 years has been double-digits under par. Nick Price was the last winner to fire in single digits, 271, in 1993. Kenny Perry has the tournament record at 258.
After a week of fighting Merion, those who played the U.S. Open will be relieved to see fairways wider than a country road and greens that are running just 10.5’ on the Stimpmeter. With greens running that mellow, there should be plenty of birdies this week as the aggressive players will not be penalized and putts will get to the hole. Heck, Patrick Cantlay fired 60 here two years ago in his pro debut. Since moving to its new position on the calendar in 2007, TPC River Highlands has ranked in the “easier” half of courses played on TOUR. Last year, it checked in at No. 26 of 49 played. It played hardest at No. 18 in 2007. Between 2008 and 2011 it was rated in the 30s of 50 or so courses used. Remember this though: TPC River Highlands was in the top five hardest courses for scrambling from the rough last year.
So, let’s find guys who hit tons of GIR, stay away from bogeys and make a few birdies this week. Jacobson showed us premium short game can win here; Watson showed us it’s all about ball-striking. If the average winning score is around 15-under, that formula should be about right.
Best 10, Plus One
John Rollins: His last three trips around par-70 courses were his last three tournaments. He finished T21 at HPBNC, T4 at Colonial and sixth at FESJC in Memphis so he’s dialed in and rolling. See what I did there? Anyhow, he’s playing great and it doesn’t hurt that he crushes par threes and fours (both inside top 21) and is 18th on TOUR in total birdies. If that’s not enough, he finished T2 (-19) in 2011 and T4 (-12) last year at TPC River Highlands. His worst round in the last two years was 68. He’s registered 10 top 25s in 12 weekends this season. He’ll be my one-and-done as well.
Bubba Watson: The last four tournaments Watson has played in have been on some of the more demanding courses on TOUR. Wells Fargo, THE PLAYERS, the Memorial and The U.S. Open will test the patience of the best golfers in the world and Watson should be grinning from ear-to-ear this week as he arrives in Connecticut. The course obviously fits his eye as he’s won (2010), finished T2 (2012), T6 (2008) and T14 (2009) in four of the last five years. His other finish was T38. He has ONE round over par in that stretch of tournaments. He has the best scoring average at TPC River Highlands with players with 15 or more rounds at 67.40. Michael Letzig is second. WHO KNEW? He’ll enjoy greens only rolling 10.5’ on the Stimpmeter as the putter is usually the club that holds him back. This is the site of his first TOUR win which he accomplished as his father was dying. Watson is highly emotional and that will work to his advantage this week.
Hunter Mahan: Since moving to this spot on the calendar in 2007, Mahan has played AT LEAST one round of 63 or BETTER in six tournaments (MC in the other). WHAT? Read that again, please. That’s insane! Mahan was on my list last week as I thought his form was rounding into shape and he didn’t disappoint with his T4 finish at the U.S. Open. Horse-for-course, form or class, it doesn’t matter this week with Mahan, just get him on your roster. Don’t worry either. This horse is a closer! His Sunday finishes in his last six are 61, 72, 64, 65, 65, and 65. In those tournaments he’s won, finished second twice, fourth and T11.
Jason Dufner: He had the co-round of Sunday and the tournament with a closing 67 at Merion. It would have been even better if he wouldn’t have jacked one on to Sergio Garcia Drive on No. 15 to make triple. Anyhow, Dufner hasn’t been playing poorly, per se, just poorly for gamers. Top 25s are great for guys that have never won on TOUR before or hit the ball crooked. Dufner is neither. His T4 finish last week was seventh straight weekend but only his first top 10. I think he’s ready to burst.
Brendon de Jonge: He’s second on TOUR in birdies in 2013 only behind Billy Horschel so I know he can take it low, if necessary. de Jonge is a known as a work-horse on TOUR and in the fantasy realm as he normally will put 30 or so starts on the board in a season. This year he’s teed it up in 19 of 25 so he’ll have plenty of chances to hit No. 30 again this year. He’s played the weekend in 15 of those 19 starts and was T8 here last year and T9 in 2010. He also fits the recent trend that supports first-time winners here as he’s looking for that elusive victory.
Ryan Moore: The classic argument of current form versus course history is front and center with Moore this week. He began May with T6 at Wells Fargo but since then he’s posted three MCs and T13 at Memorial. #allornothing. Gamers don’t like uncertainty so we’ll mark his current form as questionable. This week he returns to a course where he has one round in the last four years over par and has career finishes of T2, T2, T4 and T13 in seven events. His only MC was 2008. Some courses fit guy’s eyes perfectly and that’s my rationale with him this week.
Charley Hoffman: In the last three years here Hoffman has played nine of 12 rounds at 68 or better and that’s exactly what it will take to be in the conversation come Sunday this year as well. Hoffman has had an excellent spring as he’s made eight of nine cuts since MC at API in late March. In that stretch he’s banged out three top 10s and two additional T20 or better. He makes plenty of birdies and was T2 here last year.
Lee Westwood: In five of his last six events Westwood has been T15 or better. His only miss was a WD after a weather delay at the Memorial where he chose not to come back and finish bright and early. Westwood will be happy to see the back of the U.S. Open as he was brutally unlucky for the second year in a row. Last year it was a lost ball in a tree on Sunday; this year it was a ricochet off the legendary baskets atop the flagsticks at Merion. Both led to big numbers essentially knocking him out of contention. Putting isn’t his forte either but he won’t have the pressure to get it close knowing these greens will be running like regular European Tour events. Westwood is also in the top 10 in scrambling this season. That will help with the putting as well.
Padraig Harrington: Last season Harrington started heating up as June hit the calendar with quality finishes at HPBNC, FESJC and the U.S. Open before T11 at the Travelers. This season hasn’t been as lucrative but he has shown form as he finished T10 in Memphis and T21 last week at Merion. He’s made all four cuts in Connecticut including T5 in 2010. When form meets course history…
Rickie Fowler: The 2009 Walker Cup standout rewarded course history gamers last week at Merion as he finished T10. If he could get the ball in the fairway and get up-and-down last week, I would suggest he could find the form that saw him finish T13 here in 2010. He’ll hit plenty of fairways and should be aggressive with his putter.
Justin Rose: We saw Webb Simpson play in this event after his first major victory last year and Justin Rose is keeping up the tradition. Simpson went out 66-68 before falling apart on the weekend so we’ll see if Rose can keep pace with all of that. Another player who will be happy to see slow-ish greens this week, there is no reason to believe that he won’t post a few numbers the way he’s been hitting the golf ball. He didn’t make a double-bogey at Merion in four days! I think a top 25 would be acceptable following this life-changing experience. Anything in the top 10 would be a bonus for me. He’s in the top 10 plus one because he’s really freaking good (and out of respect) but it would be silly to expect a “normal” performance from him this week.