Travelers Championship 2014: A preview and best bets for this week's PGA Tour event
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 18/06/14 12:28pm
The Travelers Championship in Connecticut once again occupies the post-US Open slot and provides some welcome relief after the pressure of Pinehurst.
While just three players managed to break par for the week at Pinehurst No 2, no less than 57 ended in red figures in this event last year.
Ken Duke was the unlikely hero 12 months ago as he beat Chris Stroud in a play-off, with Canada's Graham Delaet a shot back and Bubba Watson in fourth.
Bubba, who missed the cut in the US Open, is the clear favourite with Sky Bet this week and that's not just a reflection of his 2014 form which has brought him two wins including the Masters Green Jacket. It's also down to his superb course form which shows a victory in 2010, a second in 2012, last year's fourth and a sixth in 2008.
Watson's victory four years ago was his first on Tour and this has been a good tournament for those trying to get off the mark.
Duke was the latest to make TPC River Highlands the scene of his first win and that extended the streak to four after victories for Aussie Marc Leishman (2012), Swede Freddie Jacobson (2011) and Watson. Going a little further back, Ryder Cup players Hunter Mahan and JJ Henry also made the big breakthrough here.
Mahan once gave this explanation why relatively inexperienced players can thrive in this event: "You’re going to make a lot of birdies out here. It’s not like an Augusta-type golf course where you have to learn it over time. You can come out here right off the get-go and play well.”
As for the next five in the betting below Watson, their course form is mixed:
Matt Kuchar: 8th last year (his first top 10 in seven tries)
Dustin Johnson: Played here just twice. T34 on debut in 2008 and withdrew after opening 69 in 2009.
Jason Day: T27 on only appearance in 2008.
Keegan Bradley: 18th last year, 29th in 2012, 63rd in 2011.
Sergio Garcia: 43rd in 2009 and 20th in 2002 are only two starts.
Johnson, Day and Bradley all tied for fourth at Pinehurst last week while Kuchar was tied 12th and Garcia tied 35th.
TPC Highlands in Greater Hartford will be hosting the tournament for the 31st straight year. After the grind at Pinehurst, birdies will be back on the menu in a big way here. This is one of the Tour's rare sub-7000 yard courses (it measures 6,854) and the leaders' scorecards will be peppered with birdies and the odd eagle. Winning scores for the last six years read -12, -14, -20, -14, -22, -18.
Temperatures are due to be in the mid to high 60s with sun forecast on Thursday and Friday and sharing the skies with some cloud over the weekend. The winds are set to be light while there is a minimal chance of rain on Thursday (20%) and Saturday (10%).
Given the event's reputation for producing first-time winners, one obvious name is Graham DeLaet.
The Canadian was just one shot out of the play-off here last year after carding 65s on days one and three so it's a course on which he can thrive.
He can be easily forgiven a missed cut at Pinehurst and instead it's better to take note of his pre-US Open form which showed a 14th at Colonial and a seventh in the Byron Nelson.
DeLaet tops the Tour's Greens In Regulation sats so he should give himself numerous looks at birdie and this could be his week after three previous second places.
Take him at 33/1.
James Hahn didn't play in the US Open so is fresh and before that had shown some excellent form.
He was sixth on his last start at the FedEx St Jude Classic and two tournaments prior to that was fifth at the Byron Nelson.
Hahn's puttings stats are vastly improved over the last few weeks and that could be the key to him flourishing here.
Take a punt at 100/1.
Next up is another American - Brooks Koepka.
The 24-year-old, who expanded his golfing education by playing in Europe last year, was an excellent fourth in the US Open and that followed on from a top 20 at St Jude.
It suggests he's really finding his feet on the PGA Tour.
Last year on Europe's Challenge Tour he posted three wins in seven starts so once he's hot, he's hot and the last two came in June so maybe this is his time of year.
He's clearly extremely talented and the 50/1 could just be an excellent price.
Finally, I'll go with another player who chalked up a hat-trick of wins in quick succession except his were done at full PGA Tour level.
Patrick Reed captured the Wyndham Championship last August but, far from that being a one-off, he won January's Humana Challenge and stepped it up again by landing the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March.
He then got himself into bother by claiming he was a top five player and was the subject of much mocking afterwards.
Not suprisingly his form dipped but there was also the welcome distraction of his wife giving birth to their first baby.
A tied 35th at Pinehurst last week suggests he's turning the corner again and this could be a big week for him as he has some strong course form.
On debut in 2012 he closed with rounds of 66-68-69 and last year he opened with a pair of 66s to sit second at halfway. Hinting at his future confidence/arrogance he said back then: "I really don't see any courses that don't fit my game anymore."
Although Reed only finished tied 18th it was still a good effort and now, of course, he knows how to win.
2pts e.w. Graham DeLaet at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. James Hahn at 100/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Brooks Koepka at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Patrick Reed at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)