A number of last week’s competitors will be teeing it up this week, joined by those who failed to qualify for the US Open. The tournament is the Travelers Championship, and the host course is TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.
An encouraging stat for many of those teeing it up this week is that this event seems to favour players still searching for their maiden wins (Jacobson, Watson, Mahan, Henry) and those who have endured long spells without a win (Cink, Faxon, Austin).
As an old-style course that demands knowledge of where best to approach the greens from, previous course experience definitely pays dividends. In recent years (with the notable exception of last year), winners have previously posted good finishes here, so we should keep an eye on course form & experience.
Being one of the shortest tracks on tour, TPC River Highlands tends to yield pretty low scores (Freddie Jacobson’s winning total last year was -20), so we want to look for good wedge players who can go on long birdie streaks.
Here are my 7 selections for this week:
Padraig Harrington – Harrington has been showing real signs of a return to form in recent weeks, and a very strong performance at the US Open sees him back towards the top of the market this week. The three-time major winner finished tied for 5th in his penultimate visit to TPC River Highlands, opening and closing with excellent 64s. Although last year’s tie for 63rd was nothing to write home about, this came amidst much weaker form than he arrives in this time around. Harrington ranks 8th on tour in Scoring Average, which is arguably the most telling stat when all is said and done, and he’s one of the finest wedge players in the game.
4.5pts win only (22/1 widely available)
Ryan Moore – This may seem somewhat of an obvious selection this week, but all my research keeps coming back to Ryan Moore and I can’t bring myself to leave him out. Moore has three top-10 finishes to his name in 2012, the best of which came at the tough Bay Hill Invitational where he finished tied for 4th. Moore is a good driver of the ball, loves shot-makers courses, and, most of all, loves TPC River Highlands. Moore’s course form here in the last three years reads 4-13-2, and he has shot a cumulative 46-under par in these three starts. Having not qualified for the US Open for the first time in four years, Moore will be eager to get back out there and compete, and there’s no track better suited to his game.
3pts each way (30/1 Stan James)
Bryce Molder – The worry with low scoring tournaments such as the Travelers Championship, is that they can sometimes begin to descend into something of a putting contest. If this does happen this week, there’s not many players better placed to go well than Bryce Molder who ranks 2nd on tour in Stokes Gained – Putting. Having opened up his PGA tour account at the end of last year at the Frys.com Open, 2012 has been a solid, if unspectacular season for Molder. However, he’ll be looking forward to teeing it up this week on a course where he’s finished 19th and 6th in recent years. Last year’s tie for 6th came off the back of a missed cut in his previous start, at the Fedex St Jude Classic, whereas this year he finished just outside the top-20 in the very same event.
1.5pts each way (66/1 Ladbrokes)
Michael Thompson – After a stunning 66 in his opening round last week at Olympic Club, there were moments where all golf fans wondered if Michael Thompson could pull off the unthinkable amongst the world’s elite. It wasn’t to be sadly, but the 27 year-old finished in a tie for 2nd which opens up all sorts of exemptions for years to come. Thompson will have something of a weight off his shoulders and confidence will be riding high coming into this week’s Travelers Championship where he finished 4th last year. There’s no question that Thompson can go low either, having shot a stunning 62 in the final round in last year’s event.
1.5pts each way (70/1 Bet 365)
Blake Adams – Having made his last five cuts and posted top-20 finishes in both the Players Championship and Memorial Tournament, Blake Adams is starting to look a rather consistent player. He makes the trip to Cromwell this week on the back of a very solid tie for 21st at a very tough US Open track, so something is working in his game at the moment. Adams also has some handy course form, having turned in an impressive tie for 9th here last year whilst leading the field in putts per round. A strong finish this week could see Adams qualify for next month’s Open Championship.
1.5pts each way (75/1 Bet 365)
John Merrick – Taking encouragement from the recent history of maiden winners at TPC River Highlands, 30 year-old John Merrick will be looking to open his account this week. 2012 had been a pretty disappointing year for Merrick right up until his last start, at the Fedex St Jude Classic, where he narrowly missed out to a resurgent Dustin Johnson, finishing in a tie for 2nd. Merrick’s record in his last three Travelers Championship appearances reads 11-34-9, so he clearly likes something about this track. During these three starts, he has posted two 65s and a 64, and in last year’s event he shot no worse than a 67 all week. Merrick hits plenty of greens, is a solid wedge player, and looks to have all the necessary tools to become a PGA tour winner.
1pt each way (80/1 Stan James)
James Driscoll – Twice a runner-up on the PGA tour, James Driscoll is another player still looking for his maiden win. Although the 34 year-old has missed his last two cuts, he has two top-10 finishes to his name in 2012, and makes his way into my selections this week on the basis of excellent progressive form in this event. Driscoll has teed it up four times at TPC River Highlands and his form reads C-34-27-5, so he’s getting better every time he plays here. Driscoll has a very tidy short game and currently ranks 15th on tour in Strokes Gained – Putting.
0.75pts each way (125/1 widely available)