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  • Writer's pictureNate (@WeKnowFantasy)

Out of the Rough: The Travelers Championship (2023)


The PGA TOUR moves from the third Major of the year in the U.S. Open to the complete other side of the country for an elevated event in the 71st playing of the Travelers Championship.


Held annually at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut, this event draws the second largest crowd of any course on Tour - second to only TPC Scottsdale.


The electric crowd will be a warm welcome following the corporate feel of last week’s U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club.


The Travelers Championship was first played in 1952 as the Insurance City Open before moving to the Greater Hartford Open in 1967. It took on Travelers Companies as the tournament sponsor in 2007.


TPC River Highlands has hosted the event since 1984


Along with the change in the atmosphere brought on by the fans, this course offers ample birdie opportunities and truly rewards the best ball strikers on Tour.


The Field

Last year’s installment of this tournament welcomed the strongest field in its long standing history. This was largely in part to the U.S. Open playing a week prior at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts - a mere two hours from TPC River Highlands.


With the new elevated status and a $20 million purse up for grabs, this year’s field will surpass last year’s field and become the event's best field to date.


Each of the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) top-eight will be in attendance this week in Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele, Max Homa and Matt Fitzpatrick.


On top of that, 31 of the OWGR top 40 too will be teeing it up this week. Of the healthy PGA TOUR members inside the top-40, Jordan Spieth, Tyrrell Hatton, Sam Burns, Justin Rose and Chris Kirk are the only players opting to skip this event.


Former winners of the Travelers Championship in this year’s field include Xander Schauffele who looks to defend his title from a year ago as well as Harris English, Chez Reavie, Russell Knox, Kevin Streelman and Stewart Cink.


These are the grounds that we first saw Patrick Cantlay break onto the scene in 2011 when he shot the course record of 60 as an amateur as he was still in college at UCLA. That record did not last long as Jim Furyk fired a 58 in 2016.


Mackenzie Hughes shot a 60 in the opening round of the 2020 Travelers Championship as well.


As previously mentioned, this course offers ample birdie opportunities when the irons and putter click.


However, although we’ve seen some really low scores, the winning mark has not been pushed beyond -20 over the last ten years.


This too is a course where course history is a factor.


Ten players have multiple T15 finishes over the last five years with Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Chez Reavie, Kevin Streelman, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Kevin Kisner, Scott Stallings, Beau Hossler and Kevin Tway making that list.


Additionally, nine players have avoided missing the cut in each of the last five years with at least three appearances. That list includes Cantlay, McIlroy, Hughes, Ryan Armour, Tyler Duncan, Seamus Power, Mark Hubbard, Martin Laird and Andrew Putnam.


Another note worth mentioning, seven-of-the-last-eight winners have previously posted a finish of T31 or better prior to their victory.


The Course

TPC River Highlands plays as a par 70 at 6,841 yards. What is unique about this course is that it features just two par fives, so any hopeful winner will have to take advantage of the ample par fours this course has to offer.


The fairways and greens are Bentgrass as the rough is a thick Bluegrass.


It was founded in 1928 as the Middletown Golf Club before becoming the Edgewood Country club in 1934. The PGA TOUR bought the venue in the early 1980’s.


Upon acquisition by the PGA TOUR, the course was redesigned by Pete Dye and shortly after opened as the TPC of Connecticut in 1984.


Further remodeling took place in 1989 by Bobby Wood in consultation with Howard Twitty and Roger Maltbie and then took on the name of TPC River Highlands.


The most recent modifications came in 2016 as the bunkers were restyled throughout the course which incorporated a new drainage system with new sand to improve the play-ability.


The 17th green too was rebuilt to increase the number of potential pin positions and small changes were made to the putting surfaces on holes ten, 13, 15 and 16.


Some leveling work was completed on some of the tee boxes that year as well.


TPC River Highlands is known for its three hole strength, nicknamed the “Golden Triangle” that includes holes 15, 16 and 17.


The 15th is a driveable par 4, the 15th a 170-plus par three over water and the 17th is a 420-yard par four with water in play. These three holes all combine for great drama and spectator views coming down the stretch.


TPC River Highlands plays as one of the shortest tracks on the entire PGA TOUR schedule.


The fairways and greens alike historically rank as some of the easiest to hit on the PGA TOUR. Driving accuracy numbers sit around 70-percent, which is roughly ten-percent higher than the PGA TOUR average.


As previously mentioned, this event is the second highest attended event on the PGA TOUR schedule. This adds a stadium atmosphere to the course and makes for an exhilarating viewing experience, especially down the final stretch of holes.


With last week’s U.S. Open being far from a fanfare, we can expect the atmosphere to be much more noticeable this year.


Playoffs too have been of the norm here at TPC River Highlands with five of the last 12 events resulting in one.


Hole 18 has set the scene for many infamous “walk-off” hole outs over the years, most notably Spieth in 2017.


This course, in all, is a classic parkland setting that does have some man-made water hazards that come into play on five of the holes.


There’s much less speculation on what to assume this week opposed to the last two weeks in the Los Angeles Country Club for the U.S. Open and Oakdale Country Club that played host to the RBC Canadian Open that both hosted their first PGA TOUR event in consecutive weeks.


The Weather

As of the time of writing this, weather could be a factor this week. Rain is set to hit the area for all of Friday through Sunday. Friday is set at a 60-percent change, Saturday a 50-percent chance with Sunday currently holding a 60-percent chance of precipitation. Highs are set to range from the high 70’s to low 80’s across all four days. Wind will peak at ten miles-per-hour on Saturday with the rest of the days featuring winds from eight-to-nine miles-per-hour. Golfers not accustomed to the humidity could face some issues with the humidity levels peaking at 78-percent on Saturday and 76-percent on Sunday.


Key Stats

  • Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (SG: TTG)

  • Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)

  • Proximity to the Hole From 125-175 Yards

  • Bogey Avoidance

  • Birdie or Better Percentage

  • Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass (SG: PUTT Bentgrass)

  • Par 4 Average Scoring

  • Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT) / Hit Fairway Percentage

  • Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)

  • Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)

  • Scrambling / Scrambling from the Rough


DFS Suggestions

$10,000+

Again, Scottie Scheffler ($11,300) comes out on top of my model and likely will every week. That shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise. He’s tops on TOUR in all of SG: TTG, SG: APP, bogey avoidance, par four average scoring, SG: OTT and GIR%. He’s also third in birdie or better percentage, fourth in scrambling from the rough, fifth in scrambling, sixth in SG: ATG and 17th in both proximity to the hole from 125-175 yards and hit fairway percentage. His downfall, of course, comes on the greens. He did gain a little over a stroke on the field when it came to putting a week ago at the U.S. Open, which is not the norm for him. He ranks 168th on TOUR in SG: PUTT Bentgrass. Again, on the season, in 13 tournaments, his worst finish has been T12th at the Genesis Invitational. He’s placed top ten in ten of those tournaments, top five in eight and has two victories (WM Phoenix Open and THE PLAYERS Championship.) As for past results at the Travelers Championship, he placed T13th a year ago, T47th in 2021 and a missed cut in 2019. The missed cut doesn’t concern me as this is Scottie Scheffler. He has a top 15 here and is the World #1 for a reason. I won’t have an outright on him this week as his odds are super slim at +600. Also consider Patrick Cantlay ($10,200.) Cantaly opened with the second lowest odds to win but is the fifth highest priced golfer on DraftKings. He opened at +1000 and I already placed three units on him. Let me explain why. He is currently second on TOUR in both birdie or better percentage and par four average scoring, third in SG: OTT, sixth in GIR%, seventh in SG: TTG, tenth in bogey avoidance, 11th in hit fairway percentage, 30th in SG: PUTT Bentgrass, 35th in SG: APP, 48th in scrambling, 64th in proximity to the hole from 125-175 yards, 89th in scrambling from the rough and 98th in SG: ATG. He’s above average in each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week. Dating back to the Genesis Invitational, his worst finish has been a T30th at The Memorial and outside of that was a T21st at the Wells Fargo Championship. He has seven top 20’s in those nine tournaments, four top tens and three top fives. We already talked about some of his success here, setting the then course record of 60 as an amateur, but he also has a ton of success since. He’s played this event the last five years and has placed in top 15 in each of those installments. His best finish over that span of events was a T11th in 2020. He’s due for a victory and is playing some great golf.


$9,000-$9,900

Leading off this price range is Viktor Hovland ($9,900.) I was all over Hovland a week ago and am taking a step back in terms of betting but will be playing him in DFS. He hasn’t missed a cut in 12 tournaments on the calendar year. Dating back to the PGA Championship, he is one of the hottest golfers on Tour. In those four tournaments he has gone T2nd at the PGA Championship, T16th at the Charles Schwab Challenge, he won The Memorial and placed 19th last week at the U.S. Open. Hovland has played this event twice before (2019 & 2020,) making the cut in both and placing T11th in 2020. He is also currently sixth on Tour in SG: OTT, seventh in proximity to the hole from 125-175 yards, ninth in par four average scoring, tenth in birdie or better percentage, 11th in SG: TTG, 15th in scrambling from the rough, 17th in SG: APP, 23rd in scrambling, 31st in bogey avoidance, 35th in SG: PUTT Bentgrass, 40th in hit fairway percentage and 56th in GIR%. His score this week in our model is hindered slightly by a 114th placement in SG: ATG. That number is slightly below average but nothing to be concerned about. He’s one of the hottest golfers on TOUR and has a T11th here previously. Also consider Rickie Fowler ($9,100.) What concerns me about Fowler is what his ownership will be. He’s fresh off a T5th at the U.S. Open where he tied the record of the lowest round at an U.S. Open with a 62 on Thursday. Fowler is already one of the most popular golfers on TOUR and his performance last week will only excel that. However, he is worth noting for how he matches up this week. He comes in, like Hovland, as one of the hottest golfers on TOUR. In his last three tournaments he has placed T6th at the Charles Schwab Challenge, T9th at The Memorial and of course, T5th at the U.S. Open. In 13 events played in the calendar year, he has missed the cut once and that was at Oak Hill for the PGA Championship. In the 12 tournaments where he did make the cut, he has nine top 15’s, five top tens and one top five. When it comes to course history, there isn’t much there for Fowler. He’s played the event four times as a professional and placed T13th in both of 2013 and 2010. He has played here the last two years but missed the cut in both. It’s worth mentioning that he has made a resurgence in his career this season however. Fowler is currently seventh on TOUR in SG: APP, eighth in birdie or better percentage, 12th in SG: TTG, 25th in both bogey avoidance and SG: ATG, 30th in par four average scoring, 31st in GIR%, 34th in scrambling from the rough, 38th in proximity to the hole from 125-175 yards, 53rd in SG: PUTT Bentgrass, 57th in scrambling, 64th in SG: OTT and 92nd in hit fairway percentage. He’s above average in each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week.


$8,000-$8,900

It wouldn’t be an Out of the Rough article if I didn’t include Tom Kim ($8,100.) He’s priced very well this week and once again, models extremely well. He will be making his debut here at TPC River Highlands this week. On TOUR he is currently fifth in hit fairway percentage, eighth in SG: APP, ninth in both proximity to the hole from 125-175 yards and GIR%, 11th in bogey avoidance, 14th in par four average scoring, 17th in SG: TTG, 20th in SG: PUTT Bentgrass, 30th in birdie or better percentage, 54th in SG: OTT, 64th in scrambling and 76th in SG: ATG. His score in our model is brought down by a 137th placement in scrambling from the rough but being elite in hitting the fairway, he shouldn’t find himself there too often. He’s fresh off a T8th at the U.S. Open after shooting a 29 on the front nine on Sunday. Also consider Jason Day ($8,400.) Day has played this event eight times since 2008 and seven times since 2014. In those eight tournaments he has missed the cut twice, including last year, but also placed T8th in 2019, T10th in 2021 and T12th in 2018. Like Fowler, he has recently made a resurgence in his career. He won the AT&T Byron Nelson but has since missed three cuts since. I like to be on these golfers off multiple missed cuts because like so many, Day is too good of a golfer to make it four straight and his ownership will be low. He also has results on the season such as a fifth at the WM Phoenix Open, T7th at the Farmers Insurance Open, T9th at the Genesis Invitational and T10th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Day is currently second on TOUR in bogey avoidance, third in both par four average scoring and scrambling, 15th in all three of SG: TTG, birdie or better percentage and GIR%, 23rd in SG: ATG, 28th in SG: OTT, 41st in SG: APP, 52nd in hit fairway percentage, 53rd in scrambling from the rough, 77th in SG: PUTT Bentgrass and 85th in proximity to the hole from 125-175 yards. In other words, he’s above average in each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week.


$7,000-$7,900

The first name in this price range is Corey Conners ($7,700.) Conners is currently eighth on TOUR in GIR%, 16th in SG: TTG, 18th in SG: OTT, 20th SG: APP, 22nd in proximity to the hole from 125-175 yards, 34th in SG: PUTT Bentgrass, 41st in birdie or better percentage, 48th in par four average scoring, 64th in bogey avoidance and 76th in hit fairway percentage. His score in our model is hindered by an 126th in SG: ATG, 139th in scrambling from the rough and 161st in scrambling. A bit concerning when it comes to the scrambling numbers but with his ranking in GIR% and SG: TTG, I’m not too concerned there. Conners does have a victory on the season, winning the Valero Texas Open back in April. He also has results such as T8th at the Wells Fargo Championship, T12th at the PGA Championship and T20th at the RBC Canadian Open. The course history however, is not there for Conners. He’s played this event twice (2019 and 2020) and missed the cut both times. With a victory on the season and modeling well, I believe he makes the cut this week, and that’s what we’re looking for. Also consider Russell Henley ($7,800.) Henley is currently top on TOUR when it comes to hit fairway percentage, 12th in scrambling from the rough, 21st in bogey avoidance, 30th in SG: TTG, 33rd in scrambling, 39th in SG: APP, 45th in proximity to the hole from 125-175 yards, 48th in par four average scoring, 54th in SG: ATG, 68th in SG: PUTT Bentgrass, 75th in GIR%, 92nd in SG: OTT and 110th in birdie or better percentage. He very quietly placed T16th at the Charles Schwab Challenge, T16th at the Memorial and T14th at last week’s U.S. Open. He also has finishes such as T4th at The Masters and T19th at the RBC Heritage. Henley too has some great results here. He placed T6th in 2017, T11th in 2016 and T19th in 2021. This is an amazing value play here in this price range.


$6,900-

Kevin Yu ($6,600) constantly pops in my model and I finally get to play him. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but here we are. The last time Yu played on TOUR was back in February at the AT&T Pebble Beach where he placed T7th. He also placed T21st at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He has played four events on the calendar year where he missed the cut in just one. He will be making his debut this week at the TPC River Highlands. Yu is currently second on TOUR in GIR%, fourth in SG: OTT, fifth in par four average scoring, seventh in both bogey avoidance and birdie or better percentage, ninth in SG: TTG, 27th in SG: APP, 48th in proximity to the hole from 125-175 yards, 58th in hit fairway percentage, 110th in SG: ATG and 111th in scrambling. He is 170th in SG: PUTT Bentgrass and 178th in scrambling from the rough. Take these stats as you will, as he hasn’t played on TOUR in four months. Also consider J.J. Spaun ($6,900.) Spaun has missed just two cuts dating back to the Valero Texas Open. In those seven tournaments, he placed top 30 in four of them. Making the cut is half the battle in this price range and a top 30 would set your lineup over the top. Spaun has played in the Travelers Championship the last five years where he made the cut in three of them. His best finish was T30th in 2019. He is also currently tenth on TOUR in scrambling, 15th in bogey avoidance, 30th in par four average scoring, 45th in SG: TTG, 53rd in SG: ATG, 57th in hit fairway percentage, 60th in SG: OTT, 64th in GIR%, 79th in scrambling from the rough, 85th in SG: APP, 88th in proximity to the hole from 125-175 yards, 118th in birdie or better percentage and 124th in SG: PUTT Bentgrass.


Betting Card

  • Patrick Cantlay (+1000) - 3u

  • Rickie Fowler (+3500) - 1u

  • Russell Henley (+4000) - 1u

  • Tom Kim (+4000) - 1u

  • Corey Conners (+7500) - 1u

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