Sobel’s Travelers Championship Picks & Predictions: Why Bryson DeChambeau Is My Favorite Outright Bet
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Bryson DeChambeau
- Jason Sobel breaks down his betting preview for the 2020 Travelers Championship, which starts Thursday at TPC River Highlands in Connecticut.
- Find out why Bryson DeChambeau (+1200) is Sobel's favorite outright bet, which finishing position bets he likes and more.
Roy McAvoy was talking specifically about the U.S. Open when he delivered his famous speech in Tin Cup, calling it “not just the biggest golf tournament in the world — the most democratic.”
Kevin Costner’s character wasn’t wrong in that assessment, even if he didn’t have the foresight to consider a global pandemic which would shut down the qualification process this year.
In reality, though, every golf tournament is democratic, once the field is set.
Just because a player like Rory McIlroy or Brooks Koepka is the type who sponsors and TV rights holders want to have contending for titles on Sunday afternoons, they obviously can’t be staked with a lead or offered tangible advantages.
(In the betting game, manipulating results is, you know, sorta frowned upon.)
The point is: In its return from a three-month schedule hiatus due to COVID-19 concerns, the PGA TOUR couldn’t have asked for much better than what we’ve been treated to over the past two weeks. In an optimal scenario, with very few other major American sports taking place, the TOUR needed a little juice to get jumpstarted.
It needed to not be so democratic.
Don’t get me wrong: If a nondescript journeyman type had won each of the first two comeback events by five shots, robbing them of drama and much entertainment value, we all still would’ve watched, because, well, we didn’t have any other options.
Instead, what we’ve been treated to is a pair of events which have been wildly captivating, with plenty of big names battling for a title and great shots easily outnumbering the disappointing ones.
(In related news, I don’t have specific data on this, but I’m not sure I can recall a recent PGA TOUR event where it felt like so many bettors were on the outright winner. Webb Simpson likely has even more fans now than he did before.)
With a field that includes nine of the world’s top-10 players and 15 of the top-20, I fully expect this week’s Travelers Championship to match the excitement level of its two predecessors. The closing stretch at TPC River Highlands is not only as good as any course — it can judiciously dole out birdies and bogeys, meaning some big leaderboard swings late Sunday afternoon.
As a former longtime Connecticut resident, this has always been one of my favorite weeks of the year for about 100 different reasons — from the course itself to the generous tournament staff to the local fans who are so proud to have a big-time sporting event in their backyard. I can’t wait to get back there next year, but like so many others, I’ll be locked in to the action all week.
Let’s get right to the picks, starting with one of the pre-tourney favorites for the win.
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One player to win the tournament.
Bryson DeChambeau (+1200)
The biggest — pun intended — talk in golf over the past few weeks has been Bryson’s beefiness, as he bulked up another 20-25 pounds during the break. The most impressive part of this, though, isn’t the new physique or the ungodly driving distances. It’s the fact that he’s contended for titles during the past two weeks on courses which neutralize his entire distance advantage, finishing T-3 and T-8.
After the latter of those results, he said, “If you want to be the No. 1 player in the world, you’ve got to learn how to adapt and I think that’s what I’m starting to learn.”
Granted, TPC River Highlands isn’t exactly a 7,800-yard behemoth, but at times he’ll finally be able to “Unleash the Kraken” as he says, using his increased swing speed to his advantage.
As I’ve said multiple times recently, I’m expecting a monster second half of the year for DeChambeau and I believe it will start this week at a venue where he owns top-10 results in each of the past two years.
Potential selections for one-and-done options.
Bubba Watson (+3300)
It might not have been to the same extent as I wrote for DeChambeau above, but Watson has similarly played well over the past few weeks on a couple of courses which suit him about as poorly as possible.
Now he heads to one of his favorites, a place where he’s claimed one-quarter of his dozen career victories. Of course, this isn’t exactly privileged information.
As I’ve written before, making OAD selections is a strategic practice, especially at this point in the season. If you’re playing catch-up, then Bubba might not be the best choice, since he’ll be a popular pick. If you’re on top and just want to tread water, though, he should be a safe play in these formats.
Patrick Cantlay (+2500)
I’ll be completely honest here: I went from listing Cantlay as my Big Fade this week, considering he skipped the previous two events and there have been murmurs that his notoriously balky back is bothering him again, to putting him here.
After all, why else would he eschew Harbour Town, where he had two third-place finishes and a seventh over the past three years? At the Travelers, though, where he once nearly shot 59 as an amateur and finished T-15 the last two years, I couldn’t neglect the history.
He also gives us a nice potential OAD pivot from some more popular plays, as others might pass him over due to recency bias. Unlike with Bubba, this could be a shrewd pick for those trying to make up a little ground.
Viktor Hovland (+5500)
Another week, another young gun contending for a title. At Colonial, it was Collin Morikawa; at Harbour Town, it was Joaquin Niemann. Let’s not forget about Hovland, though.
Last year, he opened with a 67 here in his first career professional round, eventually finishing T-54. Fresh off 68-66 this past weekend, he’s trending in the right direction and could be the next young twenty-something to be near the top come Sunday afternoon.
Keegan Bradley (+10000)
The good news: The New England native has never missed the cut in nine starts at this New England-based event. The better news: He owns four top-25s, including a share of runner-up honors last year. The bad news: That result remains his most recent top-10.
It’s not as if Bradley’s game has precipitously fallen off since then, but the results should start improving soon. This one isn’t exactly home cooking, but he does tend to play better when he owns a certain comfort level and that should be apparent this week.
Ryan Moore (+12500)
Yet another horse for the course here, as Moore owns a successful history at this tourney. How successful? He ranks fifth on the all-time money list here, joining Paul Casey (who’s seventh) as the only non-winners inside the top-10.
All told, Moore has played this event 12 times, making 10 cuts, with eight top-25s, five top-10s and a pair of second-place finishes. He’s the type of guy who often gets overlooked in the betting market — perhaps because he consistently plays well, but rarely wins — yet there’s plenty of value on him for this one.
Joel Dahmen (+7000)
Am I going deep with a six-pack in this category just because I want to provide the best analysis for you, dear reader? Or is it because I’m so indecisive when it comes to all of these potentially strong selections? I’ll never tell.
I will allow, though, that I simply couldn’t leave Dahmen’s name off this list, because his numbers across all major statistical categories are just too strong to ignore. A final-round 75 on Sunday — when the scoring average was 68.72 – should have some jumping off the Dahmen Train, but that was his first total higher than 70 since the restart.
His course history isn’t anything to get too excited about — two made cuts in three starts, nothing inside the top-40 — but he’s a much improved player from the one who posted those results. That should show this week.
One player to finish top-five.
Patrick Reed (+700)
There’s more than one way to play a golf course, as we’ve seen plenty of lately. And we’ll see it again this week, with players attacking TPC River Highlands in different ways.
The best way, though, if we’re being frank, is by drawing the ball on most of these holes — or a fade for the lefties, which explains Watson’s success here over the years.
There might not be anyone better at consistently hitting right-to-left shots than Reed, who’s gone 30-MC-5-11 in his last four starts here. I’ve also been thinking about the notion that perhaps nobody is helped by the current no-spectator rules than Reed, who was consistently getting jeered for last year’s bunker mishap, even up to the opening round of The Players Championship, just before the schedule was suspended. Without hearing those catcalls, he should be ready to contend this week.
One player to finish top-10.
Well, that was an historic ball-striking performance by Ancer this past week, including hitting every green in regulation during the final round — a feat which is impressive at any event, but even more so at Harbour Town, with those small greens.
With nine holes to play Sunday, I was convinced that Ancer was going to win that tournament and while that didn’t happen, I’m still convinced that he’s going to win sometime soon. Why not this week? Last year, he was one of six players to share the FRL with an opening 64, eventually finishing in a share of eighth place.
I don’t mind an outright play on him this week, but I love a top-10, as he’s clearly hitting the ball really well right now.
One player to finish top-20.
Dylan Frittelli (+550)
On Friday last week, I was speaking with a professional golfer buddy of mine who also happens to be friends with Frittelli. “Watch out for Dylan next week,” he said without solicitation for advice. “Told me he loves River Highlands.”
I thought that would be a nice sneaky play for this week, considering the South African missed the cut last year in his first start at this tournament. Well, there’s nothing sneaky about him now, after he tied an RBC Heritage final-round record with a 9-under 62 on Sunday. Expect him to carry plenty of momentum into this one.
One player to finish top-30.
About a month ago, I filled in for Colt Knost for an hour on “Gravy and the Sleeze” on SiriusXM PGA TOUR radio. During that time, we had Hossler on the show for a segment and even got in a few golf questions.
One of them was: “If we’re betting on you or playing you in fantasy, what tournament should it be?” He didn’t hesitate, immediately offering up the Travelers Championship, where he finished in a big group that tied for second place two years ago. He hasn’t been playing his best golf this year, but top-30 should be a smart play.
One player to finish top-40.
This one is less about course history — he MC’d in his only appearance last year — and more about momentum, as he posted 67-67 on the weekend at Harbour Town. Straka is a guy who tends to be all-or-nothing, with 13 MCs in 24 starts since last year’s Travelers, but three top-five finishes, as well.
So, a top-40 result might be too conservative here, but his skills should match up well for this track.
DFS Free Bingo Square
A safe plug-and-play option for DFS.
- Rory McIlroy ($11,200)
- Justin Thomas ($10,800)
There’s not much I can do right here to convince you to invest in either of these players this week; you already either like ‘em or you don’t. Even though Rory hasn’t played nearly his best golf the past few weeks, it only feels like a matter of time before he puts it all together and boat-races a field.
Results of 17th, then 12th, in his first two Travelers starts suggests he’s got any necessary learning curve down now. As for JT, I do think that some DFSers will read too much into his record here — only one top-25 (a T-3 in 2016) in a half-dozen career starts — and fade him.
My thinking here is that he’s come so close the past few weeks that he’s probably steaming over a few missed putts here and there — and as I mentioned last week, he’s perhaps the best mad golfer in the world, meaning he plays better with a little chip on his shoulder.
A lower-priced option for DFS.
Jamie Lovemark ($6,400)
During the break, Peter Jennings and I had Keegan Bradley and Luke Donald as guests on separate Action Network podcasts and each of them listed Lovemark — a frequent practice-round partner for both — as a player who’s primed to break out with some big results soon.
After MCing in a Korn Ferry event and taking last week off, I expect Lovemark to have very low ownership this week, which could result in some original lineups.
One player to post the low score Thursday.
Brendan Steele (+12500)
Story time: Six years ago, prior to the opening round of the Travelers, I was speaking with Steele about some Thursday evening plans in the 860 and how I needed to get done early enough to start enjoying my evening. So, I made a suggestion. “Give me something to write about early,” I told him, “and I’ll be able to get done.”
Well, he listened. Playing in one of the first groups of the day, Steele posted a 62 and claimed sole possession of the first-round lead. He loves this course and even if you don’t love history to repeat itself here, don’t be scared to play him for top-10/20 wagers and in DFS.
One player who should beat comparable players.
At some point very soon, Higgs is going to set the golf world on its ear with another serious title run. He’s already become a cult hero, a guy who rocks bushy sideburns and a dad bod, but whose ball-striking is better than average against his peers. I especially like him in matchups, because he almost always at least gives you a chance, having reached the weekend in 11 of his last 12 starts.
The Big Fade
One top player to avoid at this tournament.
Jordan Spieth (+4500)
What can I say? This is hardly an original fade, but the 2017 champion of this event is still searching for something with his game. Even if you’re not totally against betting him, the wild scoring swings might be enough to keep you from entertaining the idea.
In the opening round at Harbour Town, he carded an early triple-bogey, then battled back with six consecutive birdies on the back-nine. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got enough problems with my wagering anxieties that I don’t need to sweat the high highs and low lows of Spieth right now.