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PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - Travelers Championship


How about that U.S. Open? Gary Woodland held off Brooks Koepka to win the first major championship of his career. Woodland won at 13-under-par, not exactly the type of score we were expecting for a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

The unpredictable weather that we've seen at Pebble in years past never showed up and these powerful modern-day players were able to take advantage of the relatively-short layout as a result. Woodland powered his way to the win with his length and surprisingly-good short game, and finally delivered on the potential that we always knew he had. Even in defeat, Koepka continued to prove that he is a force to be reckoned with in major championships.

With the PGA Tour's new jam-packed schedule, we don't have much time to catch our breath, as we roll right into a Travelers Championship that boasts a surprisingly-strong field.

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Travelers Championship Overview

We go from one coast to another this week, as the PGA Tour heads to Connecticut and TPC River Highlands for the 36th time. When I first started digging into this field I was pretty shocked by both how deep it is and also by how many players will be making the loooong trip from California on the heels of last week's U.S. Open.

Three-time Travelers champion Bubba Watson returns to one of his favorite courses to defend his title. Bubba will be joined by some high-profile names like Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, and Jordan Spieth. We'll also see the professional debuts of two extremely talented amateurs, Oklahoma State teammates Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland.

One thing we might want to be mindful of this week is the "major championship hangover" some of these guys might be dealing with. Obviously, we don't want to blindly ignore anyone that played last week, but you have to wonder how motivated a guy like Brooks Koepka will be this week after a runner-up finish in the U.S. Open.

I try to make HFTC more than just a "picks" column (though you can certainly use it that way if you are in a hurry) by digging deep into each highlighted player. Obviously, our weekly jumping off point is a player's course history, but there isn't a firm set of rules when it comes to who is featured in this article. My goal is to help you succeed as a PGA DFS player. Period. I will touch on different GPP and cash-game strategies throughout the column each week and hopefully have some useful info for both beginners and experienced DFS players. Thanks for joining me here at RotoBaller, let's tee it up!

You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.

 

The Course: TPC River Highlands

Par 70 - 6,841 Yards, Greens: Poa Annua

TPC River Highlands is a course with Pete Dye's fingerprints all over it. Its most famous stretch of holes (#'s 15-17) are played AROUND a huge 4-acre lake. While the course is tricky, we will still see plenty of birdies this week, as TPC River Highlands relinquished the only 58 in PGA Tour history to Jim Furyk a couple of years ago. At just over 6,800 yards this is one of the shortest tracks on the schedule, but players won't necessarily be able to overpower this course, as the layout requires less than driver off the tee in multiple spots. I'll be targeting sharp ball strikers that can pile up birdies this week.

 

The Horse

Paul Casey (DK - $9,500 & FD - $11,300)

Notable Course History: T2 ('18), T5 ('17), T17 ('16), 2nd ('15)
Recent Form: T21 (U.S. Open), W/D (Charles Schwab), T29 (PGA), T4 (Wells Fargo)

Yeah, I know...Paul Casey is kinda boring, but so is Connecticut (Just kidding Connecticut, you have a lovely and exciting state!). He doesn't generate as much buzz as some of the other names in this week's surprisingly-stout field, but the Englishman brings a strong track record of success and under-the-radar-good form with him to TPC River Highlands.

Casey hasn't won the Travelers, but he's been dominant over his last four appearances on this layout, with two runner-up finishes, a T5, and a T17 since 2015. He leads this week's field (including three-time champ Bubba Watson) in Strokes Gained: Total at the Travelers (39.57).

His solid ball striking and overall tee-to-green game is a terrific fit for this track. Casey stands second in the field in SG: Ball Striking and third in SG: T2G over his last 24 rounds. We know he's a pretty terrible putter (88th SG: Putting), but he's actually gained strokes with the flatstick in three of his last four starts at TPC River Highlands.

 

The Ponies

Bubba Watson (DK - $8,900 & FD - $10,200)

Notable Course History: Three-time Winner
Recent Form: M/C (U.S. Open), T63 (RBC Canadian Open), M/C (PGA), T12 (Masters)

Well, we're playing a 'Bubba course' this week, so let's talk about the three-time Travelers champion for a moment. A look at Watson's game log is gonna reveal some pretty hideous recent form. While I hate to say I'm completely dismissing his recent form...I'm basically completely dismissing his recent form. Bubba won this tournament last year after coming off a missed cut at the U.S. Open. Bubba won this tournament in 2015, you guessed it, after coming off a missed cut at the U.S. Open. So in short, I have no problem taking last week's outing a Pebble Beach with a grain of salt when it comes to how he will perform in Connecticut this week.

I've mentioned in the article in the past how 'course specific' Bubba is. He has his happy places where he plays well and also courses that we can pretty much take him totally out of consideration. TPC River Highlands ranks high on the 'Bubba scale', as it is truly one of his safe zones. I don't know if it's the tricky layout, the clubhouse, the greens, or the restaurants in town...but whatever it is, Watson likes it here and as a result usually plays really well.

We can look at his DK price of $8.9k and think that it's a pretty stiff salary for a guy that's went M/C-T63-M/C over his last three starts, but I kinda take the view that I'd be very happy to roster a player that can reasonably win the tournament for less than $9k. Bubba is never a cash-game play for me, but I'll happily pop him in GPP lineups this week.

 

Kevin Streelman (DK - $8,200 & FD - $9,500)

Notable Course History: T33 ('18), T8 ('17), M/C ('16), Win ('14)
Recent Form:4th (Memorial), T31 (Charles Schwab), T45 (Wells Fargo), T6 (RBC Heritage)

It's not often I find myself talking about Kevin Streelman, but he definitely deserves some attention this week. He took down the 2014 Travelers and notched a top-10 in 2017. The course history by itself is solid, but we're also getting a player in Streelman that hasn't missed a cut since March.

The 40-year-old Streelman isn't the type of player you would expect to pop statistically, but his numbers are pretty darn impressive. Over the last 24 measured rounds, he stands fifth in this field in SG: Ball Striking, sixth in SG: T2G, and fourth in SG: Approach. Solid stuff when you consider he ain't being compared to the Corales Puntacana field, but stacks up well statistically against what's a good Travelers lineup.

Streelman's $8.2k DK salary is a little disappointing and somewhat tough to swallow when we take into account that he hasn't been priced above $7.7k all season. That said, he's still a solid building block this week. His price over at FD is much more palatable.

 

Russell Knox (DK - $7,700 & FD - $9,700)

Notable Course History: T38 ('18), T62 ('17), Win ('16)
Recent Form: T27 (Memorial) T8 (Charles Schwab), M/C (PGA), T43 (Byron Nelson)

If you are considering Streelman at $8,200 then Russell Knox looks like a bargain at $7,700. Knox is a former winner of the Travelers (2016) and he heads to Connecticut with his form trending in the right direction.

Knox has struck his irons beautifully this season, ranking ninth in the field in SG: Approach and 10th in SG: Ball Striking. He has unfortunately been held back by a rather balky putter (80th in SG: Putting), but there have been some positive signs for him on the greens lately. Knox has gained strokes putting in his last two starts - 5.1 Charles Schwab & 2 Memorial - and his results have greatly improved as a result. If (and it's always an if when talking about Knox and putting) he can keep rolling the ball well this week, his sharp ball striking make him a legitimate dark-horse contender.

Knox is typically a 'GPP Only' play for me, but man...I do like this price tag this week. He will bring his irons, I don't have much doubt about that, but we're keeping our fingers crossed for another decent putting week.

 

Mackenzie Hughes (DK - $7,100 & FD - $8,300)

Notable Course History: T42 ('18), T17 ('17)
Recent Form: T14 (RBC Canadian Open), T8 (Charles Schwab), M/C (Byron Nelson), M/C (Wells Fargo)

We might be bringing a little volatility into play here with Mackenzie Hughes. The Canadian has a good enough track record at TPC River Highlands to bring him into consideration for me, but his recent form is what really catches my eye.

Hughes has played his best golf in his last two starts, a T14 in what was basically a home game at Hamilton G & CC and a top-10 outing at the Charles Schwab. The Canadian gained 5.1 strokes T2G at the Schwab and 6.7 T2G at the RBC. Those numbers have been powered by his sharp iron play. Hughes ranks 19th in the Travelers field in SG: Approach over his last 24 rounds and has gained strokes with his irons in five consecutive tournaments. He also stands 19th in the field in 'Good Drives Gained' and 29th in GIRs gained over the same time frame.

A lot of folks will gravitate to the fresh blood of Matthew Wolff in this price range - and while I'm definitely intrigued by Wolff - Hughes is a nice pivot in GPPs. His price is reasonable on both sites and rostering him opens up a lot of high-end options when building lineups.

 

Colin Morikawa (DK - $6,900 & FD - $8,700)

Notable Course History: None
Recent Form: T35 (U.S. Open), T14 (RBC Canadian Open)

I'm gonna veer off the course-history path with our last Pony of the week. The freshly-turned-professional-pair of Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff are going to garner a lot of hype and publicity this week (as they should), but I want to shine a little light on another young guy that just started cashing checks a few weeks ago.

Colin Morikawa from the University of California turned pro before the Canadian Open with a little less fanfare than the aforementioned Hovland & Wolff will receive this week, but he perhaps has as much star potential. The 22-year-old spent his college days battling it out with the boys from OK St. and managed to reach the #1 spot in the amateur rankings for a few weeks. He's been impressive in his first two outings as a pro, logging a T14 in Canada and a solid T35 at the U.S. Open last week.

We don't have many statistics to analyze Morikawa's game at this point, but he's gained strokes tee to green and on approach in both the Canadian & U.S. Opens. His short game has been rock-solid and he's one of those guys that just looks like he belongs on the PGA Tour. Morikawa is a great value on both DK & FD, and should be lightly-owned in GPPs.

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