After an exciting, but odd, week at Erin Hills it is time to get your umbrellas out and head east for the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut.
Big props to anyone that successfully faded Rory, DJ, Day, Rahm, Scott, Charl, and Rose last week. I did not see that coming, but overexposure to Brooks certainly helped salvage what could have been a disastrous week.
This week’s course is TPC River Highlands. It’s a par 70 that plays at just 6,841 yards… a bit shorter than last week’s venue that stretched out past 7,800 yards. River Highlands is a Pete Dye Design with bentgrass greens. There are two holes where the field averages less than 260 yards off the tee (423-yard par-4 17th and 341-yard par-4 2nd). Other than that, it’s not extremely restrictive off the tee.
From a layout perspective, seven of the par 4s land between 410-to-450 yards. Golfers that score well from this range include: Paul Casey, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, William McGirt, and Daniel Berger. We are looking for golfers that can thrive with their wedges and short irons this week. Chris Stroud had this to say about the course in 2015, “I’m not a bomber, so it’s nice to be able to have a lot of short irons into the greens. I even have a note in my yardage book, as long as I’m sharp from 100 yards to 165 this week.”
There is some water in play off the tee here, but it’s nothing extreme like the St. Jude Classic or TPC Sawgrass. With driving relatively easy here, I am looking primarily at strokes gained approach for my key stat. Paul Casey laid it out nicely a few years ago, “they’re tucking the pins away and putting them on some funky little slopes. If you short side yourself, especially if you get over these greens, you’re going to be in a world of hurt.” For that reason, any stat that looks at iron play should be very important this week (SG Approach, GIR percentage, Proximity, etc.).
Looking for similar courses, I found the following to be closely correlated: Sheshan International, Riviera CC, Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course, TPC Boston, and TPC Sawgrass.
Check out the Fantasy Golfanac for more information on course setup, tournament angles, and golfer quotes.
Players to Watch
Paul Casey… Was right in the mix at Erin Hills before losing the battle with the fescue one too many times. Has gained 5 or more strokes over the field in 8 of his last 10 starts. Really strong form and he’s finished runner-up and T17 in two appearances here.
Emiliano Grillo… Never got it going at Erin Hills, missing his first cut since January at the CareerBuilder. Speaking of cuts made, the Argentine is a perfect 12-for-12 in making cuts during the summer season. Summer Soltice begins Wednesday, so I guess it’s the perfect time to hop on the Grillo bandwagon and see if he can keep it rolling in the heat.
Rory McIlroy … Returned from an injury and instantly missed the cut. Had to be some rust in that long game, right? Not exactly. He gained 2.98 strokes off-the-tee and 1.18 strokes approach, but gave back nearly 6 shots with his putter! It was the first time he was using the fancy Spider putter that Day/DJ/Sergio/Rahm/Harman/Half the TOUR uses. I don’t think he’d make the switch if he was putting that poorly ahead of time. Should get it corrected, and should be right back in contention this week.
Jason Day… While Rory had an awful week putting at Erin Hills, Jason Day continued to struggle with his iron game. Day lost 4.63 strokes approaching-the-green. He hasn’t gained strokes on approach since the Farmers back in January. I don’t think the slump lasts forever, but I’m also not ruling out a serious problem in his swing that may take even longer to fix. I owned ZERO shares of Day last week, and I’m debating on whether I should do the same thing this week. Right now I’m leaning toward a fade and waiting until he has at least one week of gaining strokes on approach.
Bubba Watson… Another potential big-name fade for anyone looking to cut down their player pool. But is that the right move? Over the last five years he’s racked up 87 birdies at TPC River Highlands and he’s won here twice (2010, 2015). The T6 at the Memorial is nice to see but it’s also important to remember that is his only top 30 of the season (excluding SBS Tourney of Champs where he finished 25th of 32). Right now he’s still on my list of playable golfers, but I’m keeping my expectations low.
Jim Furyk… Sticking to golfers that fell off the map this year, Furyk finally snapped a slide of six straight MCs when he finished T23 last week at Erin Hills. Now he returns to the site of his infamous 58, consider me slightly interested.
Webb Simpson… Some of the recent winners here include Bubba Watson, Russell Knox, and Ken Duke. Not exactly a list of golfers you’d paid to give you a putting lesson. That bodes well for someone like Webb who has struggled with the flat stick but actually found some putting form recently. It would not be surprising to see him keep the hot putter rolling on these greens.
Bud Cauley… Much like Webb, Cauley has been a pretty bad putter over the last few years but seems to be rolling a few more in lately. That has resulted in top 25s in four of his last six starts, three of those doubling as top 10s. He’s never the safest play to earn a paycheck but I like him as a boom-or-bust GPP option on FanDuel or DraftKings.
Wyndham Clark… This kid could be the real deal. His Sagarin Rating for his senior season was 68.41 which is worse than Rahm’s senior year but better than Rahm’s junior season. That also grades out better than plenty of other top-tier talent that we’ve seen flash some PGA TOUR success (Ollie Schniderjans, Bryson DeChambeau, Lee McCoy, Robby Shelton, Aaron Wise, et al). I’m not diving into the deep end with him this week, but I will dip my toes in the pool. Same goes for Brett Coletta who recently showed he can hang with a T25 at the Memorial.
Patrick Reed… I talked about Day’s approach game being in shambles. That was Reed just a few months ago but he’s really rounding into form with top 25s in four of his last five starts, gaining strokes on approach in four of the five. Wouldn’t be a shock to see him pick up his sixth career victory before the summer is over.
My Top 25 for the 2017 Travelers
1. Paul Casey
2. Rory Mcilroy
3. Jordan Spieth
4. Marc Leishman
5. Justin Thomas
6. Patrick Reed
7. Jason Day
8. Brandt Snedeker
9. Webb Simpson
10. Bubba Watson
11. Brian Harman
12. Byeong Hun An
13. Daniel Berger
14. Tony Finau
15. Emiliano Grillo
16. Bud Cauley
17. Jim Furyk
18. Brendan Steele
19. Charley Hoffman
20. Zach Johnson
21. Graham DeLaet
22. Russell Knox
23. Kevin Na
24. Ryan Palmer
25. Kyle Stanley