2015 Travelers Championship: Preview, Strategy, Picks
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Now that the U.S. Open with its anticlimactic broadcast by FOX showing its “mickey mouse golf” out at the Chambers Bay greens, we can hopefully get back to some more traditional golf where the bumpiness of the greens won’t play such a significant role. Not to discredit Jordan Spieth who is a very deserving champion and Chambers Bay is a fantastic golf course, but I’m on the side of the players and that the conditions of those greens were completely unacceptable.
Okay, rant ends there. The Travelers Championship is played at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, CT. This is a very scoreable course with the winner usually shooting between 15-and-20-under par. River Highlands is a par 70m only tips out at 6,841 yards and there three holes that will produce a fair amount of eagles.
So. before we dive into the specific strategy, let’s take a look at the golf course.
TPC River Highlands
In comparison to other courses on the PGA Tour, River Highlands provides a fairly easy task. Approximately two thirds of the holes play under par each year, which is a lot considering the par 5s play significantly easy. While there are a few tight holes and a few places where bad misses can cost you, this track for daily fantasy purposes is fairly wide open.
As mentioned before, there are three eagle possibilities – two on par 5s and one on a par 4.
No. 6, 574 yards, Par 5 – The tougher of the two to eagle, mainly because of the extra length required and all the bunkers surrounding the green. Typically there are between three and eight eagles given up here.
No. 13, 523 yards, Par 5 – There is OB left and water to the right of the fairway, but the fairway is wide enough that only very poor misses will result in lost second shots into this green (or an atrocious lie in the bunker). There is also water short-left of the green, but all pros were certainly attack this short par 5. Anywhere from 10-to-20 eagles should be expected.
No. 15, 298 yards, Par 4 – Your classic risk-reward short par 4. It’s definitely drivable for essentially every pro. The 298 yards is also the farthest it’ll play, meaning it could play even shorter on a day or two. There’s water on the left and bunkers surrounding the green. However, a straight tee shot up the right side of the fairway is golden as the fairway leads right onto the putting surface. We usually see about 10 eagles here each season.
This course is fairly standard for daily fantasy strategy. Length and birdie-or-better percentage in terms of going for it is beneficial, but it’s not a requirement. For a short example on last year’s leaderboard – Kevin Streelman and K.J. Choi are at the top two spots who don’t hit the ball very long. but the next three names are Sergio Garcia, Aaron Baddeley and Brendan Steele who do bomb it off the tee.
Fading Players Who Did Well at the U.S. Open
Since this is essentially an average week when it comes to strategy, I’ll be focusing on the following criteria for my picks: driving distance, going for it birdie-or-better percentage and who is playing well as of late.
However, there’s a twist to that last one – who is playing well as of late. If you look at DraftKings’ salaries, you’ll notice a common theme – players who performed particularly well at the U.S. Open have significantly higher salaries. The most obvious examples are Patrick Reed, Louis Oosthuzien, Tony Finau and Branden Grace.
Wisely, Vegas, for the most part, has not overreacted like DraftKings’ algorhythm. One tournament on a golf course is completely different to River Highlands on high-variance greens will not play a significant role this week. If anything, players who hiked that monster track for a week at Chambers Bay will now fly across three time zones to the East coast and be completely exhausted.
While I won’t say all players who played in the U.S. Open are off limits, there is definitely an incentive to not use them.
Take a look at the champions and runners up of the Travelers Championship the last several years and how they did at the U.S. Open the week before.
2014 Champion: Kevin Streelman – 75-77 missed cut
2014 Runner Up: K.J. Choi – DNP
2013 Champion: Ken Duke – DNP
2013 Runner Up: Chris Stroud – DNP
2012* Champion: Marc Leishman – DNP
2012* Runner Up: Bubba Watson – 78-71 missed cut
2011 Champion: Freddie Jacobson – 14th
2011 Runner Up: John Rollins – DNP
2010* Champion: Bubba Watson – DNP
2010* Runner Up: Corey Pavin – DNP
*Indicates U.S. Open was played on the West Coast
If you’re doubting this trend and the small sample size, here are a few bonus points:
- The field is stronger than you think, depth wise
- The eight-most expensive players this week all participated in the U.S. Open. Kevin Streelman, the defending champion, is next on the list, and his salary is way too high. Even so, 16 of the 18 most-expensive players all played at the U.S. Open. This field didn’t all of a sudden magically get stronger.
- While there are a few noteworthy names who did place in the top 10 over this time period, there are several others who also fit this trend of doing poorly after playing at the U.S. Open.
So, when I say go for someone who is playing well as of late, that means over the last couple months. not coming off one tournament. A lot of the players who are coming off strong Open performances will likely be heavily used in the Travelers. Choose the right guys to fade of those bunch and you have a solid edge.
If you missed it last week, Daily Fantasy Winners has started a golf forum. Note that while I do list a fair amount of picks here and you can look at odds per dollar, if you’re looking to do a ton of lineups and have variety in order to increase your chances at winning big cash or qualifiers to the PGA 3M Millionaire Maker, check that out for more picks. If there are no picks listed yet, give us your questions about certain golfers, strategy or anything daily fantasy PGA related.
Bubba Watson $11,800 – He is the most expensive, but considering he missed the cut at the U.S. Open and all the players right below him were in contention to some degree at the Open, his usage will be low. Bubba is obviously long off the tee (T4), this course is open enough for him to shape his creative shots and his great record here makes sense as a result.
Brandt Snedeker $10,900 – I was hoping I wouldn’t like Snedeker this week since his odds are fantastic and that he has seven top 10s this season. Plus, he is a bit pricey, but at the end of the day, it’s really tough not using him. Not only has he finished no worse than T8 in his last three events, Snedeker has an amazing history of playing really well in events the following week after a major. Interestingly enough, Snedeker has played an event the following week of a major each opportunity since 2012. He’s only missed one cut in 13 opportunities, won the RBC Canadian Open (particularly impressive since he played in Europe the week before) and finished fifth at last year’s Travelers Championship. Snedeker simply has been on fire striking the golf ball recently and if the putting falls his way (historically a great putter), he could easily win this week.
Keegan Bradley $9,800 – 16th in driving distance and T7 in going for it birdie or better percentage. Keegan has been very consistent all season, and he’s been particularly strong on the courses that don’t weigh heavily on driving accuracy.
Branden Steele $8,800 – Long ball hitter (12th) who didn’t participate at the Open. Steele has thrived on the easier courses that are a little more open this season. He’s in the dark horse category to win this week.
Jason Bohn $8,100 – Despite not being a longer hitter, Bohn has been on a crazy hot streak, he’s been particularly aggressive when going for the green as of late and has converted six eagles since The Players Championship. A ton of people will use Russell Knox since his odds per dollar are really good (watch exposure there, but he’s a good play too) along with Justin Thomas in a similar price range, so Bohn will be particularly strong with likely low usage.
Justin Thomas $7,900 – By far the best odds per dollar play, he didn’t play in the Open, is first in going for it birdie or better percentage and is T17 in driving distance. He has everything for him, and unlike the Memorial, driving accuracy isn’t as crucial so he won’t post another 76. He will be used a lot so be careful how much exposure you give him.
Matt Jones $7,400 – 53rd in driving distance and T25 in going for it birdie or better percentage. Jones has been crushing it as of late, including a T3 at the St. Jude Classic two weeks ago, and he didn’t play at Chambers Bay. This should be another low usage play with Gary Woodland’s and Brendan Todd’s odds per dollar values so great at $7,300.
Jerry Kelly $7,100 – It’s funny how DraftKings’ algorithm, works, huh? Finally after performances of 73, 92.5, 71, 73 and 73 FPTS (T18. T22, T17, T10, T30), DraftKings launched Kelly from the 6k price range to the 8k range. Now that Kelly missed the cut by one shot at the St. Jude Classic thanks to increased wind and one bad bounce for two double bogeys on his Friday back nine, his salary is down to $7,100? Oooookay then.
Hudson Swafford $6,200 – Solid odds per dollar, 25th in driving distance and 29th in going for it birdie or better percentage. He’s made seven of his last nine cuts (both missed cuts only by two shots) and is particularly strong on the more open courses.
Fade of the Tournament
Cameron Smith $6,500 – Smith has insane odds per dollar and it all points to one reason – his T4 at the U.S. Open. However, he has only made five of 10 cuts this year, his other top-10 finish was his T5 at the CIMB Classic (the what?) back in October and is not a particularly aggressive player. On top of the U.S. Open producing a lot of random results, Smith is definitely worth fading.View all posts by Nick Juskewycz