American Ken Duke, 44, staked his wedge to three feet on the second playoff hole to hold off fellow American Chris Stroud to win the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands just outside Hartford. Duke won for the first time in 187 career starts as he and Stroud posted 12-under-par 268. Canadian Graham DeLaet rounded out the podium as he finished one shot out of the playoff at 11-under, 269.
Ken Duke began his final round two shots behind 54-hole co-leaders Graham DeLaet, Bubba Watson and Charley Hoffman but his closing round 66 was enough to get him into the playoff with Chris Stroud. Duke was fantastic this weekend as he fired 65-66 but it was 72nd hole that tested his mental strength. After pushing his tee shot well right on No. 18, he gathered himself and hit a smart shot away from trouble left of the flag. His next project was to get up-and-down to post the lead alone, and he did with a super pitch-and-run for a tap-in par. In the playoff, Duke showed his mettle on the second playoff hole when he staked his wedge to two feet. Stroud had a lengthy birdie chance slide by and Duke was the victor.
When Ken Duke’s name is mentioned in golf parlance, fairways hit is the stat that first jumps to mind. He’s second on TOUR in that department this season. He also hits plenty of GIR and his short game is solid as well. This week, he was T2 in birdies, a pre-requisite here, with 19. He was also T3 in bogey-avoidance as he only made five bogeys this week, including only ONE on the weekend. He was T10 in strokes gained-putting and first in putts per GIR. Those are stout numbers considering he was T62 in GIR this week.
Coming into the week, Ken Duke probably wasn’t on your short-list for fantasy games. The course history buffs would have reminded you that in four starts his best finish at TPC River Highlands was T27. This year he had only made 10 cuts from 18 starts and his last (and only) top 10 was back in late March at Arnold Palmer. In his last six starts, he had MC in four of them. Last season he had six top 10s in his first 20 events but didn’t have any in his final 10 starts to close out the season. In his last 28 starts on TOUR, he posted exactly one top 10.
Based on the above paragraph I’m not sure what the future holds for Duke. At his age, two things can happen. One, he uses this as a springboard and a revival to move forward but based on his last 30 events on TOUR, I’m not sure if I can make that stretch. The other angle would be a large exhale and a happy-go-lucky attitude for the rest of the year. Both of these angles are dangerous so proceed with caution in the fantasy world. I’ll be watching more closely if he can back this result up but I’m not holding my breath. It was a great week, weekend and playoff for the 44-year old from Hope, Arkansas. Congrats!
With this victory, Duke collects $1,098,000 and 500 FedExCup points. He also gets to play in the 2014 Masters and receives a two-year exemption on TOUR.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
This is the sixth, first-time winner in the last eight editions of the Travelers Championship. #trend
Only 11 of the 54-hole leaders or co-leaders have gone on to win the 24 stroke-play events on the season. Bubba Watson, Graham DeLaet and Charley Hoffman add their names to list. That’s twice now (RBC Heritage) for Hoffman in 2013.
There have been 26 tournaments this season. The Stars and Stripes have won 21 of them. #updated
There have also been 10 first-time winners this season. There have also been just two multiple winners, Woods (four) and Kuchar (WGC-Match Play; Memorial). #updated
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 (23), Rose (32) and now Duke (44). The young folks (30 and younger) now have 10 victories; the 30-somethings have racked up a a baker’s dozen, 13 victories, and the “old folks” (40 and up) now have three wins on the year as Duke answered the bell this week.
Ed Dougherty, 47, is the oldest first-time winner on TOUR (1995 Sanderson Farms Championship).
A look at the players who finished in the top 10
Chris Stroud: In his 184th event on TOUR, Stroud felt all the ranges of emotions as he chipped in on the 72nd hole to force a playoff and then saw Ken Duke pure his wedge on the second playoff hole to take the tournament away from him. For the first time in 184 starts Stroud finally hits the podium with his second place finish. His previous best finish was fourth at Mayakoba in 2011. Stroud is on the best run of form in his career as this is his third top 10 finish in seven events. In five years on TOUR, Stroud has made over 1 million dollars one time (2011) but with today’s check, he’ll make it two times in six years. Gamers, this might be the time to jump on and enjoy the ride. He’s solid off the tee and even better around the greens. He led the field in scrambling this week and is sixth on TOUR this season.
Graham DeLaet: Entering the week with a heavy heart because of the devastating flooding in his hometown of Calgary, DeLaet did an admirable job of hanging on and contending as he was also searching for his first win of his young career. This week’s solo third eclipses his 2010 T3 at Shell Houston Open as the best finish of his career. The No. 1 ball-striker on TOUR didn’t disappoint this week but when things got interesting late, he couldn’t keep pace. His tee shot on the par-three No. 16 was short. So was his chip. So was his putt. He found a birdie with a great wedge on No. 18 that moved him out of a T4 and gave him third alone. DeLaet has now hit the top 10 four times in 2013, a new career-high, in only 17 events. His ball-striking will keep him around these parts for many years to come and his best golf is surely in front of him. DeLaet has now made six weekends in a row that he’s teed it up and 14 of 17 on the season. He didn’t catch my eye this week because of his 68, MC and T68 finishes over the last three years. His current form should have suggested otherwise. Stay tuned for the counter-example to this theory.
Bubba Watson: After making 11 of 13 cuts on the season, you would think gamers would be pleased with Watson so far. That’s not the case as his T4 this week is only his second top 10 of the season. His frustration was amplified on the weekend as he saw a four-shot lead disappear with three bogeys on the back nine on Saturday to put him into a three-way tie heading into Sunday. On Sunday, his two-shot lead evaporated on No. 16 as he made a messy triple after finding the water. Sadly, Watson will be more remembered this week for chewing on caddy Ted Scott more than his first top-five since the season-opening HTOC. Even though his 2013 has been uneven, Watson had to be the play this week because of his past history at this course. His T4 in 2013 joins his T2 last year, victory in 2010 and T6 in 2008. Here’s where course history trumps current form when putting together your fantasy line up. If Watson isn’t injured and is standing on two feet next year, he’ll be the favorite in this event, period.
Webb Simpson: Bookend rounds of 65 saw the 2012 U.S. Open champion post his second finish in the top five in his last six events on TOUR. That’s the good news. The bad news is Simpson hasn’t won in just over a year. The decent news is that Simpson has finished in the top 25 nine times in 12 weekends this year and looks to be a very safe, if not spectacular, weekly play in most formats.
J.J. Henry: The Connecticut native didn’t disappoint the home town gallery this week as he turned in his 12 weekend in 15 events at the Travelers Championship. Henry has been on TOUR for 13 straight seasons so we know he has to come good at some point in the year! For gamers, it’s usually in Ft. Worth at the HPBNC but his final round 75 knocked him back to T42. Henry was third in GIR and fourth in strokes gained-putting this week as his T5 finish was his best on TOUR since his victory at Reno-Tahoe last August.
Ryan Moore: Another “form versus course history” selection this week, Moore MC in five of his last eight events on TOUR. But, in seven events at TPC River Highlands, he made six cuts and hit the top 10 three times. I think it’s easier to ignore current form for course history because some courses just fit certain guy’s eyes. They make their schedule to include these places and they have confidence when they arrive. Moore, with his T7 this week, now has four top 10s in eight starts here and has to be on your list for next season, regardless of his form. He likes it here. In eight events, he has four rounds over par. Four.
Charley Hoffman: After his late round meltdown last year, “Goldielocks” (my nickname, not official or anything) came out firing this year with 61 on Thursday. He, like most, found that backing that score is next to impossible, and put up 73 on Friday but comfortably made the cut. Another solid round, 66 on Saturday, put him in the final group on Sunday. His 72, including a chip-in on No. 18, saw him hit the top 10 for the second year in a row (T7). Hoffman has three rounds over par in the last four tournaments here. Folks, that’s four top 10s in his last nine starts and 13 of 16 on the year. Pay attention people!
Angel Cabrera: The fantasy equivalent of the Latin American Phil Mickelson, Cabrera was simply going about his business this week at even par before he ripped off nine birdies on Sunday for the best round of the day, 63. Cabrera had only played this event once, last year, and fired two of three rounds over par before MDF. He’ll join Ken Duke on 44 years in September of this year so I’m not going out of my way for him even though he’s 11 of 14 on the season making cuts. He has two top 10s and two other top 25s. Buyer beware.
Stuart Appleby: He’s now made eight weekends on the bounce and his T9 finish is his best on TOUR since 2011 Honda Classic. Ouch. The 42-year old Aussie can still scramble and putt and the results have been moving in the right direction. He was in our “long-shot” section this week and his recent form is worth a look-see over the next few events in my opinion.
Morgan Hoffmann: Gamers, it’s time to get the spelling up-to-speed. Goldilocks spells his name with ONE N as young Morgan uses two Ns. I was a week early on him as I had him as a dark horse last week at Merion. Hoffman hit it all over Connecticut this week but his steady putter saved his bacon and vaulted him into the top 10 for the second time in five events. He only made seven bogeys and a double on the week and this young kid can play. The problem with all young kids is summed up in his last five events as he has two top 10s, T69 and two MCs. Hang on and enjoy the ride!
Jeff Maggert: The 65-68 weekend saw the 49-year old Texan hit the top 10 for the second time in four events as he adds this T9 to his T2 at THE PLAYERS. Before those two finishes in his last four tournaments, Maggert’s best finish this season was T46. In short, eight of his 10 finishes have been T46 or worse. He played great this week but I can’t advise you that he’ll carry on this form the rest of the season. If you have a deep roster game and are looking to fill it out, you could do worse that take a chance on a guy who’s played every course on TOUR 100 times but he still is 49.
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
I take a look back at what happened to the chalk
John Rollins: I had him as my pick for OAD. DO I NEED TO KEEP TYPING? Good form, good course history and two rounds that included ONE bogey and one double had him at five-under heading into Saturday. He opened Saturday even on the front but followed that up with 43 on the back which included a nine on No. 10 and a triple on No. 16. BALL OF FLAMES. MDF. I’m sticking with the fundamentals no matter my luck. It’s the only way forward.
Hunter Mahan: At least you can’t blame me for his quiet weekend! He opened up on fire with 62 and that adds to his unbelievable record of having rounds of 63 or better in seven straight outings here. The grueling weekend at the U.S. Open last week could have been a factor as Mahan didn’t break par in the final three rounds of the weekend and settled for T24. He’s an automatic roster selection here each year and this week’s result does nothing to change that!
Jason Dufner: MC by one shot so it’s not the end of the world but it’s not the building block I thought this event would have provided after his 67 on Sunday at the U.S. Open. It will be interesting to see what kind of schedule he plays into the Playoffs but right now he’s week-to-week on usage.
Brendon de Jonge: After making 10 birdies in the first two rounds, de Jonge sat comfortably at six-under and poised for the weekend. In two of the last three years at the Travelers, he closed the deals with finishes of T8 and T9 either side of a MC. This year, he made nine bogeys and a double on the weekend against four birdies and dropped all the way to T63. Rubbish.
Padraig Harrington: He found himself T2 after opening rounds of 66-66 and was just two shots back of 36-hole leader Bubba Watson. Harrington, who had been playing well with T10 at Memphis and T21 at Merion, now has made the weekend five straight times in Connecticut. Sadly for the gamers who invested in him, he backed up 66-66 with 72-80 to finish T72 out of 74 players who finished Sunday. His 80 is the worst score in relation to par in his 18 year career. WHEN I GO, I GO BIG.
Rickie Fowler: He hit plenty of fairways and made plenty of putts but it was the second-best round of the day, 64, on Sunday which saw him jump up to T13. After entering the day even par, Fowler helped gamers like me who had no choice but to enter him into the lineup on Sunday after Rollins’ crash and burn. Fowler was a one-round-wonder but it worked in Yahoo! and was pretty decent in most formats.
Justin Rose: The 2013 U.S. Open Champion found himself on Sunday just one shot back of the leaders at nine-under after birdies on six and seven but he played his last 10 holes three-over to finish T13. I opined that I thought Rose would fade as the weekend progressed, and he did, but not to the point of running your fantasy week. He’s in the field this week again at AT&T so he must be comfortable with his schedule. All systems go.
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