Before we dive into the Travelers Championship’s outstanding field, a hearty cheers to Matt Fitzpatrick and his steady caddie Billy Foster for a phenomenal performance in an epic U.S. Open.
Foster is a legend, one of the best to ever carry a bag. Anyone who could work for Seve Ballesteros for as long as he did had to have all the right ingredients. It’s only fitting he was able to finally land a major championship flag to cap a career filled with close calls.
UNDER THE STRAP PODCAST: Caddie Billy Foster
While Foster is celebrating at home and maybe digging out his Old Course yardage book, the PGA Tour descends on TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. The circuit’s shortest course—6,841 yards and a par-70—attracts massive galleries and produces exciting finishes, with six of the last 15 tournaments requiring sudden death playoffs to crown a champion and six others decided by one shot.
As we work towards the Travelers Championship fantasy golf picks, here are a few keys to success and course notes:
- The winning score has landed between 12 and 20 under since 2010.
- Water swallows errant attempts on holes 15-thru-17 while the 18th presents a birdie opportunity if the fairway is found.
- A hot putter is necessary, which makes for a tricky forecast. We’ve focused on golfers who excel on shorter courses and 400-450-yard par-4s (there are eight on the layout) and have a sharp short game as 90 percent of the top-10 finishers the last five years gained shots in that area.
- It could be a shootout because an inch of rain is forecast to fall on Cromwell mid-week. Light winds, soft greens and wedges in hand create birdies in bunches.
Fantasy Golf Picks: Longer Shots
25. Brendan Steele. Has three top-25s and two missed cuts in the last five Travelers. Ranks 17th in proximity from 150-175 yards over the last 100 rounds and 29th in Opportunities Gained on courses measuring less than 7,200 yards. Top-10s in his last two starts in strong fields (Memorial and PGA).
24. Cameron Davis. Thrives on the shorter courses, ranking fifth in the field in Shots Gained: Off the Tee and 15th in SG: Tee-to-Green when the card measures less than 7,200 yards. Top-10s at Colonial and Harbour Town in the last two months and gained more than three shots on approach in his last two starts.
23. Brendon Todd. Held the 36-hole lead in the 2020 Travelers, finishing T-11. Arrives in his best form in two years, finishing third at Colonial and 13th in Canada, gaining shots throughout his bag. Elite putter is 17th in the field in scoring on 400-450 yard par-4s.
22. C.T. Pan. Always an interesting choice on the shorter placement courses. Has made the cut in nine of his last 10 starts and gained shots on approach in eight consecutive tournaments. Finished T-8 in the 2017 Travelers.
21. Harold Varner III. A case of tonsillitis wrecked his shot last week at Brookline but he’s worthy of consideration here, considering he’s top 10 in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green on shorter courses, SG: Around the Green and SG: Approach over the last 36 rounds. Played the weekend in the last three Travelers.
20. Marc Leishman. The ultimate course horse (won here in 2012, third last year, two other top-25s in the last five years) looked sharp at Brookline, gaining 4.5 shots on approach and nearly two more around the green in a T-14.
19. Xander Schauffele. Has finished inside the top 20 in two of his three Travelers appearances and he also lands in the top 20 in the key metrics at River Highlands.
18. Tommy Fleetwood. Putted horribly to miss the cut at Brookline but ballstriking stats were respectable. Tied for 13th in his only appearance here in 2019 and his short game and acumen on 400-450 yard par-4s should allow him to hang around the leaderboard again this week.
17. Davis Riley. Metrics not fond of the talented rookie this week but the recent results outweigh the model. A T-31 in the U.S. Open snapped a string of five consecutive top-15s but his T-4 on a shorter layout at Colonial is encouraging.
16. Brian Harman. He loves River Highlands, landing in the top 10 three of the last four years and four times overall. Gained 2.1 shots on approach in a T-41 in the U.S. Open. Excels on 400-450 yard par-4s (fifth in the field).
15. Webb Simpson. Despite a disappointing short week at Brookline, we’re backing Simpson again as he finally falls into a rhythm of playing a regular schedule. Creates a ton of scoring opportunities on shorter courses with his wedges and ranks seventh in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green on those under 7,200 yards.
14. Mito Pereira. Another player who feasts on the 400-450 yard par-4s (2nd in field) because he’s accurate from 125-150 yards (13th over the last 100 rounds). Also gained shots around the green in six consecutive tournaments before missing the cut at Brookline.
13. Aaron Wise. Faded to a T-27 on the weekend at Brookline but it doesn’t take much to lose momentum in a U.S. Open. Going to have to make putts and what was once his weakness has become a strength since he switched back to an old putter. Ranks 34th in SG: Off the Tee and 2nd in SG: Approach on shorter courses over the last 36 rounds.
12. Denny McCarthy. Here’s a fun nugget: In 2019 and 2021 the Travelers was held the week after the U.S. Open. The player who finished third in the Open won the Travelers. McCarthy finished T-7 last week for his second consecutive top-10 but should ride the success to a solid week on an easier course.
11. Scottie Scheffler. Have to question the gas in the tank after he came within a whisker on the 72nd hole of forcing a U.S. Open playoff. Ranked second in the field in SG: Approach (9.21) at Brookline and he’s clearly the best player in the world at the moment.
Fantasy Golf Picks: Best Bets
10. Sam Burns. Didn’t have the Sunday he wanted at Brookline but he’s still fearsome on a Sunday leaderboard. Finished top 25 at River Highlands each of the last two years. Top 20 in SG: Off the Tee on shorter courses and SG: Approach anywhere over the last 36 rounds.
9. Si Woo Kim. Hasn’t finished in the top-10 since October but has been steady in 2022, making 13 of 15 cuts. Ranks third in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green on courses less than 7,200 yards and has a T-11 and T-26 in the last four years at River Highlands.
8. Sungjae Im. I was never completely on board with the pre-tournament hype around Im last week but he’s shown the ability to rebound from a missed cut in a major with a high finish the following week. On a short list of players who are top 15 in this field in SG: Off the Tee and SG: Around the Green and iron game was sharp until last week.
7. Jordan Spieth. Sidetracked by a stomach issue prior to the U.S. Open, started slowly and was never a factor. Still gained shots in every area except the quarter stroke he lost on the greens in a T-37. Won here in dramatic fashion in 2017 but a T-42 is his best effort in three starts since.
6. Justin Thomas. Been a busy man and looks to bounce back from putrid putting at Brookline that buried him in the middle of the pack. Leads the field in SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 36 rounds on courses less than 7,200 yards and is second in 400-450 yard par-4 scoring. T-36, T-56 and two missed cuts in four Travelers starts.
5. Keegan Bradley. Proved again last week that he’s always a wise play in the Northeast, leading the field in SG: Approach at Brookline and cracking the top 10. Has putted better of late, gaining shots in three of the last four starts. Ballstriking numbers are impeccable.
4. Patrick Cantlay. Fired a 60 at River Highlands as an amateur and has finished in the top-15 each of the last four years. Never a factor in the U.S. Open but scrapped out a T-14, shooting 139 over the weekend. Top 10 in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green on courses less than 7,200 yards and bentgrass/poa annua putting.
3. Rory McIlroy. Watching him roll the ball the last two weeks sent me snooping around for Brad Faxon’s phone number. Have to wonder about energy level and motivation after two exhausting weeks but winning tournaments in the weeks before and after a major would fit the Rory narrative. Leads the field in SG: Off the Tee on shorter courses and slots top-20 in every other meaningful statistic.
2. Seamus Power. Yet another short course specialist, he’s top-10 in scoring on 400-450 yard par-4s, an excellent wedge player and putts his best on bent/poa. Gained nearly five shots on approach at Brookline. Made the last three Travelers cuts, posting a T-19 last year.
1. Joaquin Niemann. Can understand the correlation to Riviera, where he won earlier this year and believe he’s the best value in the fantasy and betting markets this week because of his prowess off the tee, around the green and on 400-450-yard par-4s. Was on a roll with the putter before Brookline’s slippery surfaces befuddled him last week. He’ll find the touch on a course where he finished T-5 in 2019 and has made the cut each of the last two years.
Fantasy Golf Picks: Bargain Bin
Joseph Bramlett, Hayden Buckley, Lucas Glover
John Huh, Russell Knox, Hank Lebioda, Alex Smalley
Austin Smotherman, Adam Svensson, Erik Van Rooyen.