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2021 Travelers Championship: PGA DFS Preview

Hi RotoBallers! I'm Andy Lack and I'm very excited to be with you as a new member of the RB PGA team! In our ongoing attempt to expand and improve our PGA coverage, I will be dropping a 'Tournament Preview' every Monday morning.

I hope this preview will give you a head start on your Travelers research and I'd also like to encourage you to check out my Pick The Pup podcast to hear more of my thoughts on TPC River Highlands. If you aren't already utilizing RotoBaller's amazing weekly PGA content, fix that right now by joining us this week and throughout the rest of the PGA Tour season.

Access to tons of RotoBaller's PGA content is COMPLETELY FREE but we also offer a PGA Premium subscription for those of you that want to take your game to the next level! You can sign up now using Promo Code: ANDY at checkout to receive a discount.

Featured Promo: Get any DFS Premium Bundle for for 30% off using code SUMMER! Win more with expert advice from proven winners and exclusive DFS tools. Get instant access to RotoBaller's Lineup Optimizers, Research Stations, daily picks and VIP chat rooms across 10 sports! Go Premium, Win More!

 

RotoBaller Weekly PGA Article Schedule

Monday

You can find out all you need to know about TPC River Highlands with Josh Bennett's Course Breakdown (Premium) and learn which golfers have thrived at this course in the past with Joe Nicely's Horse For The Course.

Tuesday

We kick your DFS research into high gear with articles from Spencer Aguiar! Spencer will highlight his favorite DraftKings Plays of the week - an article that also includes his popular PGA DFS Rankings Wizard Model - and offer great tips with his Head-To-Head Betting Preview, while Joe Nicely drops some salary savers in his DraftKings Value Plays (Premium) article. We also have you FanDuel fans covered with free PGA DFS picks for every tournament.

Wednesday

Things start getting intense on Wednesday and we've got you covered! You can check out RotoBaller Staff One And Done selections and get inside the mind of our team with our PGA DFS Expert Roundtable (Premium). We also have two of the most popular articles in the PGA DFS industry with Spencer Aguiar's Vegas Report (Premium) and Joe Nicely's DraftKings Core Four (Premium). You can also check out Josh Bennett's DFS Cheat Sheet (Premium) for a quick cram session!

 

Tournament Overview

2021 Travelers Championship 

Recent Winners
2020 - Dustin Johnson (-19)
2019 - Chez Reavie (-17)
2018 - Bubba Watson (-17)
2017 - Jordan Spieth (-12)
2016 - Russell Knox (-14)

Event Details
Purse: $7.2 million
FedEx Cup Points: 500 (Winner)
Field: 156 Players

The PGA Tour travels to Cromwell, CT this week for the Travelers Championship, a mainstay on the PGA Tour since 1952. Despite being held the week after the U.S. Open, many of the world's best will be teeing it up this week in Connecticut. Reigning Fed-Ex Cup champion Dustin Johnson will be looking to defend his 2020 title. Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, current Fed-Ex Cup leader Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Paul Casey, Adam Scott, Patrick Reed, Daniel Berger, Scottie Scheffler, Phil Mickelson, Abraham Ancer, Cam Smith, Justin Rose, and Joaquin Niemann highlight an extremely competent group of challengers. Fantasy managers will be forced to determine how deeply to read into the major championship hangover affect. Players such as Finau, Ancer, Smith, and Rose all missed the cut at the U.S. Open and thus might have fresher legs for this week's festivities. With that being said, U.S. Open contenders such as Johnson, Koepka, Scheffler, and DeChambeau travel to TPC River Highlands in much stronger form. It's worth mentioning that Chez Reavie, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, and Watson again all played in the U.S. Open the week prior to their Traveler's win. Let's get into the course breakdown, some key statistics, and three players that are worthy of further attention.

 

Course Breakdown

TPC River Highlands - Cromwell, CT

TPC River Highlands was originally designed by Maurice Kearney in 1928, but it has undergone multiple renovations over the years. It was first re-designed by Pete Dye in 1982, and then by Bobby Weed in 1989. Although Dye was not the original designer, this course certainly falls into the Dye bucket, as his 1982 renovation signaled a complete overhaul under TPC guidelines with a specific purpose of modifying this course to be best suited for a PGA Tour event. TPC River Highlands now plays as a Par 70, tipping out at only 6,841 yards and thus playing as one of the shortest courses on Tour. Similar to last week at Torrey, it features Poa Annua greens.

As one would expect by a simple glance at the scorecard, TPC River Highlands typically yields low scores and is the home of the of the PGA Tour's lone 58, shot by Jim Furyk in 2017. Patrick Cantlay shot 61 here in 2011 as an amateur, and Dustin Johnson recorded a 61 last year as part of his winning effort. The reason pros tend to feast on TPC River Highlands is not just because of its lack of distance. This course also features generous fairways and greens. Over the last ten years, TPC River Highlands has yielded a driving accuracy percentage of 69% compared to the Tour average of 61%, and a greens in regulation percentage of 68% compared to the Tour average of 65%.

In a vacuum, elite ball-striking is not rewarded here the way that it is at more difficult tour stops, and thus, this tournament often turns into putting contest. Over the last ten years, top ten finishers at the Travelers have gained an average of nearly four strokes putting that week. That is more than they have gained on approach, around double what they have gained off the tee, and well more than double what they have gained around the green.

Does this mean we should weigh putting more heavily this week? Yes and no. Putting is a volatile statistic, and while there are certainly "good" putters and "bad" putters over a large sample size, the winner of the Travelers is quite simply just the player that gets the hottest that week. Bubba Watson isn't necessarily known as an elite putter, yet he has three victories at TPC River Highlands. Dustin Johnson is known for his driving and iron play, yet that had nothing to do with why he won the Travelers last year. In fact, in Johnson's winning effort, he gained zero strokes off the tee and six strokes putting. There were zero player's in last year's top ten that lost strokes putting, yet multiple players that lost strokes off the tee and on approach. For example, Mackenzie Hughes finished third last year while losing three strokes on approach. Rarely ever do we see a player be that dreadful with his irons and still possess a chance to win a PGA Tour event, but it's possible at the Travelers.

Ultimately, everyone is going to hit fairways and greens here. This tournament will simply come down to who can sink the most putts. That makes for a tricky handicap, as one could argue that nearly every single player in the field can win this week if their putter cooperates. Putting is extremely difficult to predict. The idea of a "trending putter," is a bit of a fallacy. By my research, putting is more likely to zig-zag than it is to build over time. Often, PGA Tour pros will follow up good putting weeks with bad ones, and vice versa. A theory to this might be that after a poor putting week, players spend more time focusing on that aspect of their game the next week. Despite spending far too much time digging into the numbers, I still contend that it is nearly impossible to predict putting. With that being said, I do believe there are still many edges to be found this week. Let's get into a few of the key metrics that I believe will determine our winner this week.

 

Key Statistics 

Outside of the obvious four major statistical categories (strokes gained off the tee, strokes gained approach, strokes gained around the green, and strokes gained putting), here are a few ancillary statistics that should prove pivotal, as well as the top-5 players in the field in these statistics over their last 24 rounds.

  1. Opportunities Gained 
    1. Emiliano Grillo
    2. Charley Hoffman
    3. Stewart Cink
    4. Adam Scott
    5. Kevin Streelman
  2. Weighted Proximity from 125-175 yards
    1. Kyle Stanley
    2. Chez Reavie
    3. Emiliano Grillo
    4. Tom Hoge
    5. Tony Finau
  3. Birdies or Better Gained 
    1. Charley Hoffman
    2. Patton Kizzire
    3. Scottie Scheffler
    4. Sam Burns
    5. Brooks Koepka
  4. SG: Total Pete Dye Courses
    1. Abraham Ancer
    2. Bryson DeChambeau
    3. Paul Casey
    4. Patrick Cantlay
    5. Brian Harman
  5. SG: Putting Poa Annua Greens 
    1. Bryson DeChambeau
    2. Maverick McNealy
    3. Patrick Rodgers
    4. Patrick Reed
    5. Brian Stuard
  6. SG: Total Courses under 7,200 yards
    1. Daniel Berger
    2. Bryson DeChambeau
    3. Matt Jones
    4. Si Woo Kim
    5. Dustin Johnson

While those six statistics are a great place to start, I am also looking at Par 4 Scoring (400-450 yards), strokes gained par 5s, and proximity from 200 yards plus.

 

Players To Target

High-Price Tier

Bryson DeChambeau 

On first glance, some might contest that DeChambeau's length advantage might be mitigated at such a short course like TPC River Highlands, where all types of players can compete. Yet upon deeper investigation, this is the perfect spot for the big-hitting eight-time PGA Tour winner. In five career appearances at TPC River Highlands, DeChambeau's has never finished worse than 47th, with three consecutive finishes in the top ten. The SMU product actually ranks second in this entire field in strokes gained total on courses measuring under 7,200 yards, averaging a robust 2.2 strokes on the field per round. DeChambeau also ranks second in this entire field in strokes gained total on Pete Dye courses, as well as first in strokes gained putting on Poa Annua Greens, over his last 24 rounds. In a model simply weighing course history, Pete Dye history, Poa putting, and performance on correlated courses, DeChambeau was number one by a mile!

The 2020 U.S. Open winner's fit makes even more sense when considering the fact that he gives himself tons of birdie looks, ranking first in this field in Opportunities Gained, and he converts on those chances at an elite level, ranking fourth in Birdies or Better Gained. DeChambeau has also vastly improved with his wedges, ranking 12th in proximity from 125-150 yards over his last 36 rounds. The Modesto, CA native is indubitably percolating, and his 26th place finish last week at the U.S. Open is a bit misleading, as he was right in the mix until a Sunday back nine 43 saw him plummet down the leaderboard. At Torrey Pines, DeChambeau recorded the worst short-game week of his entire career, yet his best ball-striking week in over a month. DeChambeau's struggles around the green should not scare fantasy managers, as a lot of his -7.1 strokes around the green came on one hole where he made a quadruple bogey. The trending ball-striking however, should not be overlooked. DeChambeau is a great anchor of fantasy lineups this week at the Travelers Championship.

 

Mid-Price Tier

Emiliano Grillo 

Sticking with the Berger mold of excellent iron players that rack up birdies in bunches and consistently perform on shorter courses, Grillo is a fantastic option at a discounted price. Over his last 36 rounds, Grillo ranks fourth in strokes gained approach, sixth in proximity from 150-175 yards, first in par four scoring (400-450 yards), fifth in opportunities gained, and seventh in birdies or better gained. The former Frys.com Open winner is actually the only player in this entire field to rank inside the top ten in proximity from 150-175 yards, opportunities gained, and birdies or better gained over his last 36 rounds. With finishes of second at Harbour Town and eighth at Colonial already this year, Grillo should be right at home this week at TPC River Highlands.

The Argentina native's current approach run is nothing short of phenomenal, as Grillo has gained over six strokes on approach four times this season. Yet the improvements he has made with his putter are even more impressive. Often maligned for his struggles with the flat-stick, Grillo has actually gained over 1.3 strokes putting in four of his his last six starts. He is coming off a missed cut at the Memorial where he lost 1.8 strokes putting, but I actually view that as a positive. Grillo has lost strokes putting five times this season, and gained an average of 1.54 strokes putting in the following week. When he does lose strokes putting, it is not as much of a disaster as it used to be either, as he has only had one tournament all season where he has lost over two strokes putting. This has significantly improved Grillo's floor, and he is so elite with his irons that if he continues to gain marginally with the putter, he should be firmly in the mix come Sunday afternoon.

 

Value-Price Tier

Talor Gooch 

While Gooch has missed the cut in both of his appearances at TPC River Highlands, the volatile nature of this event does not have me overly concerned with course history this week. Gooch has all of the tools to succeed here. Over his last 36 rounds, the Oklahoma State product ranks 11th in strokes gained approach, 19th in opportunities gained, and 19th in birdies or better gained. He gains strokes on the field on Pete Dye courses, courses under 7,200 yards, and on Poa Annua greens as well.

Taking a look at what Gooch has already accomplished this season, he is undoubtedly close to a breakthrough. Since the calendar flipped to 2021, the Oklahoma native has made 12 of 14 cuts, including five in a row. He finished 21st at the American Express on a short Pete Dye Course, 12th at Riviera on Poa greens, fifth at the Players Championship on another short Pete Dye Course, and 14th at Colonial on a shorter approach and putting course. The strength of his game remains his irons, as Gooch has gained over 4.5 strokes on approach four different times this season, including in his two most recent starts. He can get hot enough with the flat-stick to compete here as well, as Gooch has gained over two strokes putting on six separate occasions this season. He is a cut-making machine that possesses the rare combination of a high floor and elite upside due to how hot he can run with his irons and putting. Gooch will be a fixture of my fantasy lineups this week.

 

Win More With RotoBaller

Win more with expert tools and advice from proven winners! RotoBaller's PGA Premium Packages feature several savvy analysts and proven winners for DFS and betting.

Our very own Joe Nicely took down a big DraftKings DFS tournament for the Travelers Championship. And as an encore, RotoBaller subscriber @tenndolly2 won $100K on FanDuel with the help of Joe and the rest of our Premium PGA team: Between all the incredible Premium PGA DFS and Betting content and tools we put out each week, and our Premium Slack Community where we chat with our subscribers before lineups lock, RotoBaller PGA subscribers are armed with the tools, analysis, and advice to win more.

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Sadly and sweetly, we have reached the conclusory game of the 2024 UFL season. I am already yearning for the start of the 2025 season and eager to follow along as the draft happens, the rosters change, and 2024 stars get their NFL opportunities. There is plenty to reflect on: the great attendance numbers for... Read More


Sneaky QB1 Candidates? 2024 Fantasy Football Quarterback Sleepers

The NFL season is right around the corner, which means that fantasy football drafts will soon take place. Drafting your fantasy team is one of the most exciting times for managers. But it also is one of the most stressful times, especially when making certain decisions like when is the best time to draft a... Read More