TPC River Highlands
TPC River Highlands
Par: (35-35) 70
Greens: Bentgrass; 5,500 square feet
Rough: Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass and fescue at 3.5"
Water Hazards: 5
Course Architects: Pete Dye (1982); Bobby Weed (1989)
Purse: $6.4 million
Winner’s Share: $1.152 million
FedExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Dates: June 25-28
Notes: 156 players; stroke play; low 70 and ties play the weekend
Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker (twice), Bill Haas, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Brandt Snedeker, James Hahn, Padraig Harrington, Alex Cejka (PRO), Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth (three times), Matt Every, J.B. Holmes, Jim Furyk, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Chris Kirk, Steven Bowditch, David Lingmerth and Fabian Gomez are the first 23 winners of calendar 2015. Hahn (No. 297), Harrington (No. 297), Cejka (No. 285), Every (No. 96), Bowditch (No. 137), Lingmerth (No. 212) and Gomez, No. 283 are the only players outside the top 70 OWGR to win this year.
After 28 wins in 45 events last season the USA has won with Snedeker, Koepka, Haas, Walker TWICE, Reed, Hahn and Johnson, Spieth THRICE, Every, Holmes, Furyk, Fowler and Kirk in 2015.
Cejka, Harrington, Jason Day, Rose, McIlroy, Bowditch, Lingmerth and Gomez make up the rest of foreign legion who have won in calendar 2015. They join Sang-moon Bae (Korea) and Nick Taylor (Canada) from the 2014 as the international winners.
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. Through 32 events in 2015, Hahn, Koepka, Martin, Streb, Taylor, Cejka and Lingmerth and Gomez have broken their maidens.
Lazy River Road
The week after a major on TOUR always has the air of a hit-and-giggle until we remind ourselves that these guys are playing for a two-year exemption and over $1.1 million in cold, hard cash. The week will start more casually as TPC River Highlands will get the players attention but they'll also remember it has played over par exactly once in the last seven years (2013). The average winning score over the last 10 years has been around 15-under par and that's exactly what Streelman posted on his way to the win last year.
With only two par fives that play as the easiest two holes on the course, par-four scoring will be hugely important this week. Bogey avoidance won't hurt either but TPC River Highlands doesn't have the easiest greens to hit from off or on the fairway. Ball-strikers will have an advantage if they hit greens but Ken Duke and The Junkman have also racked up wins in the last few years. Hell, Freddie Jacobson made ONE bogey and 21 birdies when he won in 2011.
Greens that will run only 10.5' on the Stimpmeter should encourage players who find GIR to give their putts a full run at the hole and that will keep the scoring average down. Water comes into play down the stretch and will put the best players in world under pressure as they need to squeeze metals and irons between sand and water. As Kevin Streelman and others have proven over the last 10 years a big charge on Sunday is possible as this course give up a low one or two.
Facts and Figures
2014: Kevin Streelman -15
2013: Ken Duke -12
2012: Marc Leishman -14
2011: Freddie Jacobson -20
2010: Bubba Watson -14
2009: Kenny Perry -22
2008: Stewart Cink -18
2007: Hunter Mahan -17
2006: J.J. Henry -14
2005: Brad Faxon -14
Italics: First-time winner
Bold: not playing this week
Faxon trailed by seven shots before winning and Leishman was down by six, the biggest comebacks. Streelman was four back last year. #neverquit
Of the last nine winners, six have been first-timers on TOUR.
Since the turn of the century Jacobson and Leishman have been the only foreigners to claim the title.
Phil Mickelson is the last player to defend his title (2001-2002) and the only player to do so in the 2000s. Duke, the 2013 champ, was T46 in his defense last year.
Blowouts are few and far between at TPC River Highlands since the turn of the century. Henry and Perry have won by three shots; every other result has by one shot or ended up in a playoff.
Of the last five champions, three didn't play the U.S. Open the week before.
There are seven players who hit the top 15 at Chambers Bay teeing it up this week:
Louis Oosthuizen: T2
Branden Grace: T4
Cameron Smith: T4
Brandt Snedeker: 8th
Tony Finau: T14
Andres Romero: T14
Patrick Reed: T14
I have a feeling you'll be reading about some of these fellas in The Chalk...
Kenny Perry's 258 (-22) is the tournament record set in 2009.
Patrick Cantlay shot 60 in 2011 to set the course record.
Bizarre Stat(s)of the Week:
This Will Win You a Bar Bet
Brad Faxon has teed it up here a whopping 29 times. After covering the U.S. Open for Fox last week, he gets a pass for missing out this year. If you didn't hear, he also called Ian Poulter a "twat" on a Boston radio station on Monday. Google it.
In order, these are the players that I believe project the best this week (Yahoo! group in parentheses).
Bubba Watson (A): He posted 26 of 28 rounds here at par or better. Slowish greens will help him card plenty of red numbers and his ball-striking will make those opportunities plentiful. He's made seven weekends in a row in Connecticut and only two of those finishes are outside T14. He won in 2010 for his first TOUR victory and this has been the perfect tonic after struggling at the U.S. Open.
Brandt Snedeker (B): Returned here last year after two years away and posted his best finish in four starts, T11. Where Watson struggles with the U.S. Open, Snedeker doesn't but they both have had decent results here. Snedeker opened with 65 and closed with 64 so he'll look to improve on his 69-72 "middle" rounds. He's in the top 10 in par four scoring and has seven top 10s this year.
Billy Horschel (B): After closing with 65 at FESJC and 67 at Chambers Bay, Horschel is trending in the proper direction. He also had a chance last week to blow off steam about the greens at Chambers Bay so he should be free and clear this week. His last four stroke play events are T13-T11-T8-T25 and I would expect this trend to continue on a course where ball-striking is key. The smooth Bentgrass greens running at 10.5' will be right up his alley.
Sergio Garcia (A): He finished a shot behind Streelman last year at TPC River Highlands and rolled in 20 birdies so more proof that solid ball-strikers prosper in Connecticut. Garcia's spring has been very solid with T17 at the Masters, P2 at THE PLAYERS and T18 last week at Chambers Bay with three rounds par or better. His closing 68 reinforced my belief that he'll factor again this week.
Tony Finau (C): The train is going to come off the tracks at some point but if I was on him last week, I can't abandon him this week after T14 at the U.S. Open. The big hitter has now hit the top 19 in his last five events and has 11 top 25s in 15 weekends this season. With his future for next season easily taken care of the next step is claiming his first victory. #HouseMoney He also leads the TOUR in birdies.
Justin Thomas (C): This track has shown a history for first-timers and up-and-comers and Thomas checks off both boxes. He ended a run of six weekends in a row when he MC at Memorial. That's hardly surprising given the Nicklaus design and tough greens. This will be Thomas' second trip to the Travelers and fired a pair of 66s in his first trip to finish T30. Thomas leads the TOUR in rounds in the 60s, is sixth in the all-around ranking and ninth in birdie average.
Russell Knox (C): He's playing like Ft. Knox as he's cashed in seven straight and 16 of 20 in 2014-2015. One of the shortest courses on TOUR will play right into his hands as that's the only facet of his ball-striking that isn't elite. He'll pound fairways and greens and is second on TOUR in proximity. He'll be taking his fourth crack at TPC River Highlands so he should have his game plan figured out to improve on T13 two years ago, his best finish.
Patrick Reed (C): I'm not leaving a guy out who's made 15 of 16 cuts in 2015! His weekend at the U.S. Open might sour a few but his T14 was his best finish since falling to Spieth in a playoff at Valspar. In an field that's not dripping with premium players I'll take a look at a guy who has been making cuts for fun regardless of his ball-striking numbers. Reed is similar to Horschel where I believe THEY believe that they are going to win regardless of what's going on around them. #Gamer
Kevin Na (C): If the U.S. Open is the only stroke-play event he's finished outside of the top 20 in his last 10, I'm hardly worried. Gamers concerned about his ball-striking should remember he was T6 at THE PLAYERS and T10 at Colonial, two places that there is nowhere to hide. He's also T15 in SGTTG and 15th in scoring average.
Francesco Molinari (C): He's first in fairways and fourth in GIR so there's no wonder why the Italian has been in excellent form the last two months. He doesn't overpower courses; he picks them apart and he was inches away from winning at Memorial. The smaller the greens, the better as his iron play will separate him from the pack. His T27 last week doesn't make me forget about his three inside the top five leading up to the U.S. Open.
Louis Oosthuizen (C): He closed 66-67-66 after opening 77 last week at the U.S. Open so any question about his resilience or ball-striking should have been answered. Gamers will remind me that he closed with 67 at Pinehurst No. 2 last summer and then WD in round one at Travelers the following week. He birdied six of his last seven holes last week to finish T2 in an incredible display of golf. Let's hope his neck/back survived the week and the cross-country flight that followed! I'd point out that he WD at Colonial after three rounds before his U.S. Open performance but that's just mean. When healthy, he's legit and elite.
Branden Grace (C): I'm not crazy on first-timers in most events but Grace proved last week that he should be in most conversations moving forward this year. He's won twice this season in Europe and he's hit the top 10 in three of his last four on TOUR. His streak of converting 54-hole leads ended at six last week when his tee shot sailed OB on No. 16 at Chambers Bay. He had no trouble knocking it around a short, tight Harbour Town where he finished T7.
Will Wilcox (C): Gamers, he's playing eight of the next nine weeks on TOUR so if you're late to the party, don't worry, there's still time to get on board. Let's go through this again, just like we did before FESJC: He's played six events in 2015 on TOUR and has made the cut in five. He has four top 25s, a top 10 and nothing worse than T33. He's a fantastic ball-striker and an above-average putter. He's 20th in scoring average.
Brendan Steele (C): He's teed it up here the last four years and has T13-MC-T13-T5 to show for his effort. Most of us saw Steele last week commentating on the U.S. Open on Fox's extra channels so I hope he's fresh and FIRED UP this week. Sitting back and watching might have been exactly what he needed to get back to playing solid golf as he did earlier this year. After blistering eight cuts in a row to start 2015 his last five are MC-MC-T9-MC-T63. He opened with 62 here last year and 11 of 14 career rounds are in the 60s.
Keegan Bradley (C): He's never finished better than T18 in four starts at TPC River Highlands but he's in the middle of a very solid T22-T8-T27 swing after a disappointing start to May (T52-MC). He should have it figured out in his region for his fifth time around and flying under the radar might help. It's unbelievable that he hasn't won anywhere since 2012 but I'll lean on the regional bias for the Vermonter.
Hot Form/Long Shots/Off-the-Radar
Hot plays, trendy fliers, tough fits, you name it, I got it.
Jason Bohn: He made five in a row here before MC in his last three. His last four on TOUR T9-T2-T52-T29 and only three rounds have been above par. He's another player that won't lament the lack of length this week as he'll play from the middle of the fairway.
Harris English: The last three years have seen him figure it out as he's gone from T64-T43-T7. Last year was the first year that he put three rounds in the 60s including 66-64 to open. His third round 72 was the third consecutive year that he fired 72 during this event. That's been the theme for 2015 as well as he can't avoid the big number weekly.
Marc Leishman: Some will have him up the list this week as they will throw out his crash-and-burn 73-77 last week at Chambers Bay. He gets some love for me this week but he also bombed out at TPC Four Seasons where he had never finished worse than T13 when I thought he'd factor. He backed that up with T5 at Memorial where he had never been better than T30. Got all that? Me neither. It's like trying to time the stock market! He's 27-under in the last three years here with a win in 2012 so there's that.
Kevin Streelman: What gets lost in his UNBELIEVABLE finish last year was that he entered the week on ZERO form. That's not the case this year as he was T9 at WFC, T58 at Colonial and T18 at Memorial after a 65-75 weekend. He had a week off to fine tune his game and will look for his fourth top 10 in his eighth start this week.
Colt Knost: Bentgrass greens that don't run upwards of 14 have been what Knost has been feasting on in the last two month. He MC at Muirfield after back-to-back T10s in Dallas where he lives. I love the fact that he bounced back from that MC to hit T12 at FESJC the following week.
Scott Brown: His streak of eight events playing the weekend also died at Memorial. He also rebounded for T12 at FESJC the following week.
Morgan Hoffmann: He's played the weekend in all three trips and was T9 in 2013. He's placed 10 of 12 rounds at par or better and is coming off a week at Chambers Bay where he shot 66 on Sunday. His T27 was his best finish in a major so he should be flying high again this week.
Cameron Smith: I'm always up for taking a flyer on guys who receive STM the week after they achieve it, especially in games where making the cut is healthy. He needed eagle on the final hole on Sunday at a U.S. Open to make this happen. He then went out and executed the three shots. Wonder what he could have sold that eagle for to Johnson, Oosthuizen or Grace for? Did I mention that was Smith's first major? #Cajones
Patrick Rodgers: Speaking of STM, he's accepted and will have a busy summer. He's looking to build on making the weekend in six of his seven weekends in 2015. As a former Hogan and Nicklaus award winner, he's already teed it up here twice in the last three years so this will be a familiar stop.
Brendon de Jonge: It seems like I type his name every week when a big field isn't competing. He's looking to add another top 10 to his collection but his first since 2012 at TPC River Highlands.
Jon Rahm: Shhhhhhhhhhhh. He's the No. 2 ranked amateur in the world and was T5 at TPC Scottsdale in his only other TOUR event this year. He MC at Mayakoba in 2014. The Spaniard just completed his junior year at Arizona State. He played a practice round early Monday with his countryman Sergio Garcia. Vamos.
Jerry Kelly: The University of Hartford man will have plenty in his corner this week behind the ropes and in fantasy land. He rolled up five checks of T30 or better before TPC Southwind got him for MC. This will be event No. 18 at TPC River Highlands but shockingly he's only posted two top 10s in that time and has only one top 25 in his last seven.
Lee McCoy: He won four times in the college ranks. There's a reason he's an exemption this week.
Vijay Singh: He's never missed in 11 tries in his career. He's currently at eight in a row since 2007.
Angel Cabrera: He's three-from-three but his last two are the attention getters as he was T9 two years ago and T11 last year. His last win was at TPC event (Greenbrier) last summer.
David Toms: He hasn't played here in three years but he rattled off five cuts in a row and 54-under-par in the five years prior. Of those five finishes four were T27 or better including T2 (-19) in 2009.
John Merrick: He's made six cuts in a row and five have gone for T30 or better.
Nick Watney: He's played twice here in four years and posted T13 in 2011 and T11 last year. He can't putt.
Hunter Mahan: He's the leading money winner in this event and has gone super-low too many times to count. His current lack of form on TOUR pushes him down here as his best finish in stroke play since T9 at Augusta is T39. That's five events. Yikes.
Louis Oosthuizen: OH WAIT, HE'S IN THE CHALK??? That's the conundrum with gamers this week who have watched this saga develop over the years. Trust he's healthy or fade him because he could break down again at any minute.
Tim Clark: I'm never too high on guys arriving back to TOUR action after a long layoff. Clark returns after elbow problems sidelined him after the Sony in January.
Matt Every: He WD after three rounds in Memphis and backed it up with WD at the U.S. Open.
Stuart Appleby: He returns to action for the first time since Pebble Beach in February after dealing with a herniated disc. Ouch.
Rookie/Up-and-Comer of the Week Last Week
Once called the “Jordan Spieth” of the week, I had to retire that name after his last two seasons on TOUR. Now, we’ll keep a broad view of newer names/faces that gamers should pay attention to as the season moves on. Some former examples in this column include Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Chesson Hadley.
Shriners: Finau, T7
McGladrey: Robert Streb, WIN
CIMB: Cameron Smith, T5
HTOC: Taylor played his sixth event as a pro. He’s won 1/6 of the events he’s entered. That’s worth keeping an eye on for the foreseeable future.
Sony: Blair and Thomas finished T6 in their Sony debuts.
Humana: SJ Park (T2) is new to the TOUR but is hardly a rookie; Oh, look: Thomas in the top 10 again (T7).
WMPO: Koepka won so he graduates from this column like Reed, Spieth and Matsuyama before him. Justin Thomas is now the current mayor. Daniel Berger was T10, Thomas T17 and Finau returned with another top 25.
Farmers: Blair and Ortiz were T11 and Finau and Berger were T24. Not bad on a big, bad course!
Pebble Beach: Another top 10 for Berger and Curran as they had low rookie honors at T10. Will Wilcox was T18.
Northern Trust: Barber checked in at T12 and all that took was firing a tournament-low 65 on Sunday. No shame in Ortiz’s final round 75 from the final group as he played two very tough SoCal courses, Torrey South and Riviera T11 and T20. Noted.
Honda: Berger lost in a playoff. He’s played 10 TOUR events.
PRO: Young Argentine Emiliano Grillo missed a three-footer for his first win on TOUR. Curran hit another top 10, his third this season. Grillo has three TOUR starts; Curran has 17.
Valspar: There’s that pesky Thomas back in the top 10 AGAIN!
API: Berger just missed out on another top 10 with T13 and Blair and Ortiz racked up another top 25 each on T21.
VTO: Welcome Scott Pinckney to the proceedings as his T8 was quite stout. Ortiz hit the top 20 AGAIN with T15.
SHO: Berger, T25. He just keeps on keepin’ on.
Masters: Now you see why Spieth (WINNER) and Matsuyama (5th) were retired from the column? Koepka has already won as well. So has Henley. And Reed. Nobody this week fits.
RBC Heritage: Thomas, T11.
Zurich: Berger, T6. Thomas T12.
WGC-Match Play: N/A but Tommy Fleetwood is only 24 on the European Tour.
THE PLAYERS: Thomas fell from T5 to T24 closing with 75. #learningexperience
Wells Fargo: Web.com’s Patrick Rodgers inched closer to STM with his T2. He needs just nine FedEx Cup points to gain unlimited exemptions for the rest of the 2015 season.
Colonial: Finau returned to the scene as he backed up a good week at Quail with another at Colonial. T19.
ATT&TBNC: Pinckney, T2, best finish ever on TOUR; Berger and Finau T10.
Memorial: Finau, T8. He won't be in this column for long, I feel...
U.S. Open: Smith made eagle on the final hole to finish T4. That gave him a trip to Augusta next year and STM for the rest of this season. Finau continues his fantastic run with T14.
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 4ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at 12 ET. We 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. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/MikeGlasscott) on Twitter.