GOLF analyst Lewis Blain (@LewisBlainSport) shares his betting thoughts ahead of the Travelers Championship on the US Tour from the TPC River Highlands in Connecticut.
Travelers Championship | 20th-23rd June 2019 | Sky Sports
The PGA Tour rolls into Cromwell, Connecticut for the Travelers Championship, a regular destination on tour.
A very decent field makes the trip with many swapping the East coast for the West following the US Open at Pebble Beach.
- TPC River Highlands
- Par 70 – 6,841 yards
- A Pete Dye redesign that has been a regular venue since 1984.
- It’s a very short course with just two par-5s.
- Protected by bunkers and dog-legs.
- The bentgrass greens are slow and slightly smaller than usual.
- Usually a wedge and birdie fest.
- It’s a fair test for all skillsets as reflected when looking at the winners here – Bubba, Spieth, Knox, Streelman, Leishman etc.
- Greens in Regulation the ultimate key; premium ball-striking.
- Par-5s offer easy scoring despite only two of them.
- There are eight par-4 holes between 400 and 450 yards, emphasising a players’ wedge game.
- I will look at Total Driving which weights both driving accuracy and distance. Long and straight ideal but the wayward won’t be too disasterous hence Bubba winning here.
- As mentioned, it’s a birdie fest so birdie or better percentage is useful.
- Correlated courses include TPC Sawgrass, Firestone, TPC Boston, Sheshan, TPC Kuala Lumpar, Colonial, Copperhead, Riviera and Harbour Town.
Kevin Streelman (50/1 SkyBet)
I’m happy to forgo the front of the market though Paul Casey and Bryson DeChambeau appeal the most. I’ll begin with the Greens in Reg monster himself, Kevin Streelman.
The 40-year-old has been simmering nicely over the past two months with a fourth at Memorial last time out and a sixth at the RBC Heritage (Harbour Town), one of Pete Dye’s courses. He often plays well there. He ranks 10th in this field for GIR over the past 50 rounds and has gained serious strokes on approach in five consecutive tournaments.
Streelman has two PGA Tour wins to his name – one around here and one at the Valspar (Copperhead) so that lines up quite nicely. His off-the-tee game has been consistent so him continuing to hit greens shouldn’t be an issue. The putter is an issue but every time he’s gained strokes putting since March, he’s followed it up with another positive number in that area. He should go well this week.
Emiliano Grillo (50/1 SkyBet)
Here we are again Mr Grillo. I won’t rabbit on about him yet again but he’s got to win sooner rather than later!
In short, the Argentine is in the top-15 over the last 50 rounds for ball-striking, GIR, par-4 400-450 yard scoring, and proximity between 125 and 175 yards. His form is encouraging, he made the cut last week at the US Open but before that he was trending upwards with form of 62-33-22-19-9.
As always it comes down to putting with Grillo, he’s the most frustrating player on the greens but one day it will click.
Jason Kokrak (66/1 SkyBet)
Jason Kokrak may have missed his opportunity according to some but I think he’s worth siding with here. In terms of season stats he rates out superbly, 18th for ball-striking; 11th for SG: Approach; 13th for Total Driving. Over the last 50 rounds he is second for GIR, ninth in the field for BoB% and 11th for scoring on that important par-4 zone.
It’s not all about stats however, he made four top-10s inside five straight events back in February through April – that isn’t that long ago. He’s lost strokes on approach in just two of his last eleven events and his finishing position reflected his skewed iron play that week. Unlike the previous two, he is more reliable putting on this type of surface.
His second place finish at the Valspar (Copperhead) is particularly appealing as it is a venue he has often scored a top-10 in. Jordan Spieth has won that and this event, as has Streelman. Paul Casey is a back-to-back winner there too and he often contends here. If Kokrak can refind a little bit of his game from a few months ago then I expect his name to be up in the leaderboard come Sunday.
Mackenzie Hughes (150/1 Betfair)
I’m going to throw a dart at Canadian longshot Mac Hughes. This is a combination of form and also his finish at the Valspar this year. He ended a run of four straight missed cuts with a T13 out of nowhere at Copperhead and more recently he has gone T8-T14 at Colonial and then in his home country for the Canadian Open.
Delving deeper into the 28-year-old we find that he has gained strokes on approach in five straight events while his off-the-tee game is steadily improving. The ball-striking is there and hopefully he stays hot. Over the last 24 rounds he ranks 2nd in the field for par-4 scoring in the 400-450 yard range whilst his GIR and short-game numbers are encouraging too.
Unlike a number of players in this range, Hughes as actually won an event on Tour in the RSM Classic back in 2016 – a place where Kevin Kisner has won. Kis pops up often on these Dye designs, he has too won at Colonial and lost in a playoff at TPC Sawgrass. The link here is very thin but we’re talking about a longshot.
Hughes has a top-20 at Sawgrass and as mentioned did very well at Colonial this calendar year. So I will speculatively side with the Canadian this week hoping the upward trend in form can be converted into a win.