Travelers Championship Betting Preview

Justin Rose 2007 MASTERS

Justin Rose 2007 MASTERS (Photo credit: pocketwiley)

One week after winning his first major championship at the U.S. Open, Justin Rose is back in the field this week as the PGA Tour heads to the TPC River Highlands for the 2013 Travelers Championship.
2013 Travelers Championship Fact Sheet

  • Course: TPC River Highlands
  • Location: Cromwell, Connecticut
  • Yardage: 6,841 yards, par 70
  • Defending Champion: Marc Leishman
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan, Lee Westwood, Jason Dufner and Bubba Watson

TV Schedule:

  • Thursday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Friday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 PM ET to 6:00 PM ET (CBS)
  • Sunday –  1:00 PM to 2:30 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 PM ET to 6:00 PM ET (CBS)

Key Storyline This Week
Everyone will be watching to see how Rose performs after finally breaking through to win his first major championship, and rightfully so. Rose committed to the event before winning the U.S. Open, and usually after winning a major, the guy who wins will pull out of the next event on the schedule if it’s being played the following week. Nathan Grube, who is the tournament director for the Travelers, said that his heart dropped when he received a phone call on Sunday night, fearing that Rose, who was one of his big draws this week, was going to pull out. Justin’s wife Kate was on the other end of the line and confirmed that Rose would still be coming, which means a lot for these mid-level PGA Tour events. Outside of that, my focus will be on Bubba Watson this week, who hasn’t had a top-10 in a stroke play event since the first tournament of the year at Kapalua. He won here back in 2010, and was the runner-up to Marc Leishman last year, so this could be a breakout spot for him.
TPC River Highlands
Originally designed by Robert J. Ross and Maurice Kearney in 1928, the course was given the name Middletown Golf Club and since then, it has seen several name changes and redesigns, most recently by Bobby Weed in 1989 when it was officially given the name of TPC River Highlands. The course features a tough stretch of four finishing holes, which Stewart Cink called “four of the most exciting finishing holes in a group anywhere in the world.”

  • Par-4 15th: It’s drivable at 296 yards, but depending on the wind, players tend to opt for an iron off the tee and play for an easy birdie. Stroke average of 3.69 over the last five years.
  • Par-3 16th: Just 171 yards, but it’s all carry over the lake and the bunkers behind the green prevent players from taking an extra club.
  • Par-4 17th: One of the toughest holes on the PGA Tour schedule, as the lake from 16 comes into play again, taking up the entire right side of the fairway. Go left and you run the risk of being on a sidehill lie, or landing in the bunkers. The green is tough too, with undulations that can roll the ball back into the pond if the approach isn’t high enough. Hardest hole on the course last year, playing to an average of 4.26.
  • Par-4 18th: The closing hole doesn’t look like much from the tee, but the fairway is pretty narrow, with bunkers guarding both sides in the landing area. Putting the ball in the fairway might not even mean much considering how it slopes, as players will most certainly find an uneven lie with their approaches. Huge undulations on the green too, which has made this a swing hole in previous tournaments.

In general, the course isn’t long, playing under 7,000 yards and the players usually take advantage. The winning score here hasn’t been in single digits since Nick Price won in 1993, and since the course started hosting back in 1984, the winner has been at least 10-under par in all but three years. Not surprisingly, rain is expected on Sunday, which could cause tee times to be moved up for the final round. Otherwise, the weather is looking great for the event.
Thoughts On The Favourites

  • Justin Rose: Rose has a good history here, with four top-20 finishes in seven starts, but you always have to be wary of the major championship hangover. He’s too consistent to fall completely out of it, but I’ll be staying away this week, especially at the number.
  • Hunter Mahan: If Hunter Mahan had any kind of a short game, he’d have a couple major championships at this point. Watching him blow another chance on Sunday at the U.S. Open wasn’t a surprise, but someone who’s as talented as he is needs to figure that out. Fortunately for him, he’s coming to a place of comfort, with four top-4 finishes here in his career, including his first PGA Tour win in 2007 when he defeated Jay Williamson in a playoff.
  • Lee Westwood: Speaking of guys who haven’t won a major because of their short game…Westwood has only played here once before, ending up tied for 51st back in 2005, and on a course where putting tends to be of the utmost importance, I don’t think it’s wise to be laying any money down on him.
  • Jason Dufner: Dufner is hoping that his Sunday round at Merion is a sign of things to come, as he’s had a dreadful 2013. His T-4 at the U.S. Open was his first in America all season, which was definitely not what was expected of him after his breakout of 2012. He could be worth a shot here, but considering his track record of T44-T67-MC, I’m staying away.
  • Bubba Watson: I mentioned it above, but it’s going to be interesting to watch Watson this week, who much like Dufner, has been very underwhelming in 2013.

Suggested Plays
Hunter Mahan (Best Odds 18-1 at Stan James)
Mahan is one of the streakiest players in the world, and he’s on one of those good runs right now. After missing four consecutive cuts from Houston to the Wells Fargo, he’s had top-30’s in each of his last four events, culminating with his T-4 at Merion. Combine that with his track record here and it’s easy to see him near the top of the board on Sunday.
Rickie Fowler (Best Odds 28-1 at SkyBet)
Finished tied for 13th the last time he was here in 2010, and much like Mahan, he’s coming off of a good week at the U.S. Open. The much maligned putting of Fowler has been pretty much a non-issue in 2013 and he’s pretty much always in the middle of the fairway. 28-1 seems like a no-brainer to me this week.
Ian Poulter (Best Odds 50-1 at bet365)
Poulter has had the same kind of season that Dufner and Watson have had, which is surprising a lot of people after his dominant Ryder Cup performance at the end of 2012, but I think this is a good spot for him. He gave himself a chance to win last week at Merion until a 76 on Sunday derailed his chances, and I think he’s going to be motivated by Rose’s win.
Nicolas Colsaerts (Best Odds 55-1 at Stan James)
Colsaerts has been relatively quiet this year after he committed to playing on the PGA Tour instead of in Europe, but things have been turning around in recent weeks. He’s the longest hitter in the game and is coming off of a T-10 at the U.S. Open. I still think he’s going to win a tournament this year, and even though he’s never played the course before, this could be the spot.
Graham DeLaet (Best Odds 66-1 at Coral)
We’ve talked about DeLaet before. He’s a tremendous ball striker who can’t seem to figure out how to putt, but he’s been close in recent tournaments, finishing inside the top-25 in each of his last three starts. 66-1 just seems like a nice price on a guy who is trending in the right direction, despite his poor track record at the venue.
Mike Weir (Best Odds 455-1 at Betfair)
The fact that we’re even in a position to talk about Weir in a betting preview is a good thing after the last couple of seasons he’s had. His lone appearance here saw him miss the cut in 1998, but I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen out of Weir in the last couple of weeks, having to qualify in sectionals for the U.S. Open and then actually playing well on a tough track. He’s made three consecutive cuts for the first time since 2010, and even though I don’t think he wins this week, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that he finishes high on the board. Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking, but at 455-1, why not, right?

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