Travelers Championship Fantasy Preview

A lot of players and golf fans were complaining about how hard Merion was set up last week. Okay, it was mostly players that were complaining. Zach Johnson spoke out against the USGA and we heard Phil on Sunday angrily yelling at a USGA official “274 yards, we can’t even get it there” when talking about Hole 3, the 274 yard Par 3. Phil Double Bogeyed this hole on Sunday. In the end, just look at the leaderboard, the Top 10 is full of everyday golf names (Rose, Mickelson, Day, Els, Stricker, etc.) I can’t remember the last time the Top 10 at a tournament was this well-represented and deserving. That has to say something about the course setup. When all was said and done, Justin Rose made the least amount of mistakes and won with a whopping score of 1-over-par. Now we move on to a much easier course, TPC River Highlands.

Justin Rose PGA US Open Winner

TPC River Highlands is located in Cromwell, Connecticut. It is a very short track, just 6,844 yards. With the lack of length, it’s no surprise that great irons players have had success here in the past. This tournament has had various names over the years, but has been played at TPC River Highlands since 1991, so feel free to use course history when researching your picks. The Travelers Championship has immediately followed the U.S. Open since 2007. Only two U.S. Open Champions have gone on to play this tournament. Webb Simpson did it last year and finished 29th. Lucas Glover also did it back in 2009, where he finished 11th.

In this weeks Stat Rundown we want to spotlight two stats. Stroke Differential over Field and Par 4 Scoring Average. Stroke Differential is a way of comparing a golfers round-by-round performance compared to the field. This is a good way of taking course difficulty and weather conditions into account instead of going solely off Scoring Average. Seven of the last eight Travelers Champions have finished the season inside the Top 45 Stroke Differential over Field. There are always going to be the random outlier, like Marc Leishman last year, but looking at the Top 50 in this category is a quick way to eliminate the entire field down to 20 possible winners.

The second stat is Par 4 Scoring Average. Six of the past eight winners were inside the Top 50 in this category. There are the obvious names at the top of this list like Justin Rose and Freddie Jacobson but golfers like Chris Kirk, Graham DeLaet and John Rollins are all in the Top 10 as well. Using these key stats and course history, lets take a look at potential Yahoo! picks this week:

Group A

J.J. Henry: You’d have to go back to 2002 to find an event at TPC River Highlands where J.J. Henry didn’t make the cut. He even won it back in 2006. His all-around ranking was 79th that year. Compare that to 2012 and 2013 and you can see that Henry is not the man he once was. His all-around ranking last year was 150th and he sits at 145th so far this year. He’s still one of the top iron players on the Tour though, which is why you should expect a made cut.

Bubba Watson: His history is well-documented here. He had two top 15 finishes before winning in 2010. Then he took a step back and only finished 38th before bouncing back last year with a runner-up finish. If you werne’t counting at home, that’s four Top 15 finishes in the last five years.

Group B

Hunter Mahan: Mahan has the momentum from his Top 5 finish at Merion last week. After conquering Merion, this course might be too easy for him. It will be interesting to see if he goes into full attack mode or if he gets stuck in conservative mode that helped him so much last week.

Bo Van Pelt: BVP has a ton of success here at River Highlands. He has five Top 25 finishes since 2008. He’s been off his game this year but this could be a course that gets him going again. Might be worth a gander.

Justin Rose: Picking a golfer after winning a Major since isn’t my style. It’s so easy to have a letdown after such a big win like the U.S. Open. All the stats point to Justin Rose being one of the Top 5 picks this week but every Rose has it’s thorn and this week Rose will be a real thorn in the side of all his fantasy owners.

Webb Simpson: Webb has all the criteria to win here: he has decent course history (five for five making cuts), he is a solid iron player, and his putter is serviceable. Mahan and Bubba have already won here so I drop them a little in my rankings, and Justin Rose is in a letdown spot. That puts Webb Simpson in great position to snag a win.

Keegan Bradley: Another golfer that has all the tools to win on this course. Plus, he’s got home course advantage, kind of. Home Region advantage might be a better way to put it.

Group C

Kevin Streelman: Real Streelman is somehow getting overlooked this week. Streel has made the cut all five times playing here, including two Top 10 finishes. Now he is actually swinging a hot club this season. I expect him to continue his hot play, and finish inside the Top 15 this week.

Lee Westwood: Westy has the pedrigee to win on any course but why should I pick someone that hasn’t played the course since 2005? Seems like there are a lot safer options out there this week.

John Rollins: John Rollins might not be a safe play but he is a nice high-risk, high-reward. Rollins is a great iron player, and River Highlands rewards good iron players. So, it’s no surprise that Mr. Rollins has finished 4th and 2nd over the last two years.

Stewart Cink: You also can’t overlook Stewart Cink. He won as a rookie in 1997 at this course, and then won again 11 years later. He’s been playing much better golf this year, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he hoists his third trophy here at TPC River Highlands.

Ben Curtis & Ryan Moore: They both have the course history but don’t let that fool you. Both are playing way below their true skill level this season.

Yahoo Picks Travelers Championship

Keepers

ExpertKeeperWhy the Pick?YTD
The 19th HoleJustin RoseI don’t expect a letdown from Justin after winning the US Open. He is a solid all-around golfer and definitely has momentum coming into this week.Avg Finish: 48th
Future of FantasyKevin StreelmanHis all-around game makes him dangerous. His pair of Top 10 finishes at this course makes him dangerous THIS week. Avg Finish: 36th
Jake GaerBubba Watson6800 yard course? Not very difficult? Don't have to keep it in the fairway? Hey there Bubba, welcome to the team!Avg Finish: 36th

Sleepers

ExpertSleeperWhy the Pick?YTD
The 19th HoleChris WilliamsThere aren’t many better places to make your professional debut than TPC River Highlands; a course that has been friendly to newcomers. He has a strong skillset that should ‘pay dividends’ here.Avg Finish: 61st
Future of FantasyGraham DeLaetMight be the best iron player on Tour this year. All it will take is a decent week of putting for DeLaet to compete. Avg Finish: 54th
Jake GaerJohn RollinsDon't Sleep on John "Locke" RollinsAvg Finish: 44th

Top 15 for the 2013 Travelers Championship

1. Hunter Mahan
2. Bubba Watson
3. Kevin Streelman
4. Justin Rose
5. Webb Simpson
6. Keegan Bradley
7. Freddie Jacobson
8. Brendon De Jonge
9. John Rollins
10. Chris Kirk
11. Graham DeLaet
12. Charley Hoffman
13. Camilo Villegas
14. Harris English
15. Rickie Fowler

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