With the 2nd major of the year in the books, it is time to continue with the regular Tour season, and this week we are at the Travelers Championship. Justin Rose won the U.S Open last week and although unlike others, I was quite surprised to see him seal the deal, it was great to see an English player win a major for the first time in 17 years. As far as our selections last week, both Morgan Hoffmann and Russell Henley missed the cut, whilst Brandt Snedeker and Dustin Johnson never looked completely comfortable, and as a result finished way off the lead. Two of our players were involved come Sunday, with Charl Schwartzel going into the final round 1 behind leader, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els’ climbing his way up the leaderboard, as he so often does. Els’ eventually finished in a tie for 4th giving hopefully some of you some e/w money, however Schwartzel was nothing short of disappointing in the end. After birdieing the very 1st hole (just!) Schwartzel tied Mickelson for the lead, however that was the last of his challenge, as he went on to shoot +8 on the day. This again was massively disappointing as it was almost identical to Round 4 of the Masters, when Snedeker faded away, but lets move on and try and bounce back straight away.
The Travelers Championship is an event that was founded in 1952, and is played in Cromwell, Connecticut, a suburb south of Hartford. Up until 1984 the tournament was held at Wethersfield Country Club, but ever since then it has been hosted by what is now known as TPC at River Highlands. In 1991 the course underwent a huge facelift, where the whole front 9 was re-designed, and since then it’s been played there every year. The Travelers is the 2nd most attended event on the PGA Tour schedule, behind the Waste Management Open, and they set a record when 400,000 people attended over the week. In more recent times the event has seen some big name winners, including Bubba Watson, Freddie Jacobson, Hunter Mahan and Stewart Cink, with big hitters often noted as doing well at the course. In fact Bubba Watson hit a 396 yard drive on the 18th hole, after getting a somewhat fortuitous bounce, on the way to winning his first PGA Tour event back in 2010. Let’s look at how the course sets up, and who will be coming back here in 2013 to defend their title.
The Course: TPC River Highlands, Par 70, 6884 yards. I mentioned earlier that big hitters have thrived at this event, and that might seem strange considering this is the 3rd shortest course on Tour, however the facts are there to be seen, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and Stewart Cink have all won, however shorter hitters aren’t at a disadvantage. Most importantly I think it’s just key not to look at the yardage and assume it’s a short game specialist course. This course has also been good to first time winners, with 5 of the last 7 winners , winning for the first time. The par 4 15th is an interesting hole, as not only is it the 2nd shortest par 4 on Tour (296yds) it also ranks 3rd in the “going for the green” percentage. This suggests that players are confident of taking it on but its also ranks 5th in “holes with toughest green-side bunkers”. In short this can be a risk-reward type course, hence the likes of Bubba and Mickelson winning and that type of player will definitely be worth a look. Second shots at this course are more important than ever, so Greens in Regulation and Proximity to the Hole will be the key stats to take into account this week in my opinion.
Defending Champion: Marc Leishman went into round 4 in 2012 six shots adrift, shooting -8 on the last day to win the Travelers Championship. He had to wait over two hours to find out his fate, after Charley Hoffman finished double bogey/bogey on the last two holes. Leishman’ highest round of the week was 70, so going round in level par as your worst day doesn’t do too much harm. This was his first win on Tour, and ever since impressing at this years Masters, a lot more is expected of him. After coming T4 at Augusta, Leishman followed it up with a T9 at the Heritage, a T8 at the Players’ and a T12 at the HP Byron Nelson. After that run of three great results, Leishman has finished T46, T41 and then missed the cut at the U.S Open, so although he hasn’t managed to hold on to his wonderful form, he may just pick it up here at the course where he enjoyed his first taste of PGA Tour success. He’s 66/1 with Ladbrokes if you think he can do it again.
There are some great story lines at the Travelers this year, with newly crowned U.S Open champion Justin Rose, committing to player, just a week later, as well as Travelers Championship specialist and US Open contender Hunter Mahan, who played extremely well last week. Something that might not of grabbed everyone’s attention is two players that are in the field this week, one being Chris Williams and the other Justin Thomas. Williams’ has been World No.1 Amateur for a total of 46 weeks, 45 consecutively since 8th August and is turning pro here this week, after 4 years at the University of Washington. He played at Merion last week, and is the recent winner of the prestigious Hogan Award, awarded to the top amateur of the year and previously won by the likes of Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler. He shot 74,79 at Merion, but this is not a true reflection of this lads abilities considering how hard the course was playing. He is one of the most decorated amateurs of all time and he will look to prove that this week. Justin Thomas is here on a Sponsors Exemption , and he has just led Alabama to their first NCAA title. Both will be keen to impress and are available at odds of 300/1 (StanJames,PaddyPower) and 400/1 (Coral,StanJames) respectively.
Here are my tips for the 2013 Travelers Championship:
Bubba Watson 20/1 (General): 3pts win: Bubba is win or bust for me this week, and I truly believe he has a great shot of winning this event for a 2nd time. Bubba has now won 4 times on the PGA Tour, when including his Masters win at Augusta, and I really do like his game. He is much more than just a long hitter, his wedge game is often creative, similar to that of Phil Mickelson and at a course he is clearly comfortable with, I’m happy to take him as my headline pick. Bubba has 6 top-25 finishes this season, including two top 10s earlier in the year, and I feel he can really kick start his season here at TPC River Highlands. He finished in a tie for 2nd last year, after coming T38 in 2011. 2010 was the year he got his first win on Tour, and this is where it happened, before that happened he’d already had a top 10 and a further top 20 here, so it seems to me he is the standout player in the field, along with Hunter Mahan. I’ve picked Bubba purely because he wasn’t involved in the intensity of the final day at Merion last week, and to me he can win at almost any time. At 22/1 he is one of the value picks at the top of the field, and I can’t see him not featuring this week.
Charley Hoffman 40/1 (Ladbrokes) 1.5pts e/w: Not only does Hoffman have a reasonably good record at this course in recent times, but is also one of the in form players on Tour. He already has 4 top 10s to his name so far this year, including a T3 finish at the Valero Texas Open and there’s nothing to suggest he can’t carry it on here. Apart from his final round at the U.S Open he looked really impressive, and he could be on track for his 3rd PGA Tour win. He hasn’t won since 2010 and he will be looking to draw confidence from his T2 finish here in 2012. Apart from that he has come T43 in 2011 and T27 in 2010, so couple that with his current form and he may just be in for a big week,. He is looking comfortable with his game, highlighted by his 11th place in the All-Around Ranking and at 40/1 he is definitely worth a bet. Hoffman was 50/1 earlier in the week but due to my preview being out late I’ve put him up at his current price, he still seems a good pick for me at this price and he should go well.
Nicolas Colsaerts 55/1 (StanJames, BetVictor) 1.5pts e/w: Unlike Charley Hoffman, Colsaerts has not exactly had the best start to the year, so at 55/1 you might be wondering why he is getting a mention. I have given Colsaerts a chance this week for a few reasons, but the deciding factor was his week at the U.S Open last week, where he came T10. On top of that he is well positioned in the two key stats that I mentioned, as he currently sits 18th in Greens in Regulation and 40th in Proximity to Hole. On top of that he is up there in two “bonus” stats for me, 9th in Greens in Regulation from other than Fairway and 3rd in Driving Distance. Now you didn’t need me to tell you that Colsaerts is a big hitter, but the fact then when he’s getting into the rough, more often than not he is recovering well, hitting greens and this course may just suit him. He is a talented player in all areas of the game, not just driving, which he shows on some of the biggest stages, like the U.S Open and the Ryder Cup and hopefully he can find something here. He fits the “1st time winner” bill as he is yet to win in America, and this could be an event he considers as one of his best chances. He’s not played here before, but with someone like Bubba Watson winning here, who is very similar in terms of power, it might give him the confidence to give himself a shot. This bet is mainly down to instinct, as I thought he found some of his best golf at Merion, and has played reasonably well when back in Europe this year, so his game is far from out of shape. His putting will need to improve to get the job done here, as he has been off in that department on the PGA Tour.
Chris Williams 10/1 (Top 20 Finish) (BetVictor) 2pts: I’ve given Chris Williams a fair mention above and at time of posting, he has just signed a full gear deal with Nike, including both clothing and equipment. Nike seem very keen on him, and they are often looking to the future when picking their players. This is his first professional start, and although it may be too soon for him to win, I do feel he could go well here. He played in the U.S Open last week, shooting +9 and missing the cut, although he was -1 through the first 10 holes on Thursday, so he does seem to have bags of talent. He may take confidence from the likes of Russell Henley, who won on his very first start, and Harris English who has just got his first win on the PGA Tour. This is a more speculative bet, and I felt that a top-20 finish was the most likely route to go down. You can back him at a huge 800.00 (799/1) on Betfair Exchange, if like me you think he can surprise people. As mentioned above, the course does produce 1st time winners, and who’s to say one of the game’s future talents can’t feature this week. This is my first top-20 tip of the season, and if successful, it may become a more regular feature.
BMW International Open Tips
Thomas Bjorn 33/1 (General) 1.5pts e/w: Bjorn is a two-time winner of this event, at this very course in Munich and has also recently found some superb form, ever since his T8 finish at the Volvo China Open. Since then he has form figures of, T40, T4 and 2nd, when Joost Luiten won the Lyoness Open, so he seems the most obvious choice this week. His recent form at the event is sketchy, but with his two wins coming in 2000 and 2002, coupled with his current form I feel he’s a player that will be involved come Sunday.
Miguel Angel Jimenez 45/1 (Betfred) 1pt e/w: Jimenez has played four times since returning from injury, missing the cut at his home event the Open De Espana, but then since has posted three top-20 finishes and certainly looks ready to win again. His last three outings have gone, T4, T14 and T19, which is brilliant from someone returning from injury. His last three outings at this course have resulted in finishes of T48, T49 and T4 so although he doesn’t set the world alight here, he certainly can get round, and in the form he’s in and happy to have him onside.
David Lynn 66/1 (General) 1pt e/w: David Lynn is back this week after a well earned break from the PGA Tour. After losing in a play off to Derek Ernst at the Wells Fargo, Lynn returned to England, where he played at Wentworth before going on his pre planned vacation. After making 1o of 15 cuts this year on the PGA Tour, which includes, 3 top-25s, two of them in them being in the Top 10, Lynn looks set for one of his best years as a professional. He has finished in the top 20 of this event in the past, and considering the fields he’s played in, in America this year, he may just look at this tournament as a real chance of winning. He will want to add to his lone victory on Tour in 2004 and hopefully he can this week.
Total Points staked this week: 18
Profit/Loss for 2013: +136.3
My tips are up late this week, and this won’t be a regular occurrence, I hope some of you do get involved with my bets this week and all enjoy two good tournaments. After the disappointment of the U.S Open, similar to that of the Masters, I’ll be looking to get us straight back in the winners circle this week. As ever you can ask me anything on Twitter @TomJacobs8.
One last note… Come on Chris Williams!