2021 Travelers Championship Preview and Picks: What Stats Matter at TPC River Highlands?

2021 Travelers Championship Preview and Picks: What Stats Matter at TPC River Highlands? article feature image
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Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Paul Casey.

The PGA TOUR’s third major championship did not disappoint as Jon Rahm capped off an excellent Sunday with a U.S. Open victory. The season rolls along to Cromwell, Conn., where the 2021 Travelers Championship will be played at TPC River Highlands.

TPC River Highlands is a 6,841-yard par 70 and has been a TOUR stop for 38 years. Home of the only 58 in TOUR history, it is possible to go extremely low at this Pete Dye design. However, TPC River Highlands does feature a difficult closing stretch with holes 16-18 all historically averaging scores over par.

The Travelers Championship will play host to 156 golfers this week including five of the top ten golfers in the world. Notables in the field include defending champion Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Reed, Tony Finau, Paul Casey and Joaquin Niemann.

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Past Winners at The Travelers Championship

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

6 Key Stats For TPC River Highlands

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for TPC River Highlands to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach regains the top spot in the stat model this week. The course is relatively short, and golfers with multiple types of skillsets compete here. Iron play is often the great equalizer allowing the shorter hitters to compete and that should be the case again this week.

SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Emiliano Grillo (+34.1) (+7000)
  2. Paul Casey (+30.0) (+1800)
  3. Stewart Cink (+25.1 (+10000)
  4. Brooks Koepka (+23.3) (+1800)
  5. Russell Henley (+20.5) (+5500)

2. Strokes Gained: Par 4

With only two par 5s on the course, the importance of par-4 scoring cannot be understated. Whoever plays the par 4s most effectively this week will put themselves in the driver’s seat.

Strokes Gained: Par 4 Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Patrick Cantlay (+34.6) (+1600) 
  2. Abraham Ancer (+31.3) (+2800)
  3. Cameron Tringale (+30.3) (+9000)
  4. Emiliano Grillo (+26.7) (+7000)
  5. Patrick Reed (+25.3) (+2200)

3. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking

Ball striking combines off the tee and approach, and will be the stat I use to incorporate off the tee play this week. The over-emphasis on approach play will incorporate golfers who give themselves plenty of birdie looks in an event that should be pretty low scoring.

SG: Ball Striking past 24 rounds:

  1. Brooks Koepka (+41.0) (+1800)
  2. Paul Casey (+35.8) (+1800)
  3. Patrick Cantlay (+34.7) (+1600)
  4. Abraham Ancer (+34.4) (+2800)
  5. Emiliano Grillo (+33.3) (+7000)
Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images. Pictured: Brooks Koepka.

4. Strokes Gained: Putting (POA)

The Northeast Poa greens we see this week will be different from the grass we saw last week at Torrey Pines, but it should be an indicator of who could putt well on the green surfaces at TPC River Highlands.

Strokes Gained: Putting (Poa) Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Bryson DeChambeau (+20.5) (+1200)
  2. Maverick McNealy (+19.7) (+13500)
  3. Patrick Rodgers (+18.8) (+20000)
  4. Patrick Reed (+18.8) (+2200)
  5. Brian Stuard (+17.2) (+27500)

5. Course History

Course history has proven to be a major factor at TPC River Highlands. With seven golfers that have multiple wins at the course, familiarity could be the key at the Travelers Championship.

Strokes Gained: Total at TPC River Highlands per round over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Paul Casey (+2.3) (+1800)
  2. Bubba Watson (+1.8) (+5000)
  3. Charley Hoffman (+1.6) (+4500)
  4. Brendan Steele (+1.5) (+11000)
  5. Bryson DeChambeau (+1.3) (+1200)

6. Strokes Gained: Total Pete Dye Designs

TPC River Highlands is another prototypical Pete Dye track where many of the same golfers play well consistently.

SG: Pete Dye Over Past 36 Rounds

  1. Abraham Ancer (+74.5) (+2800)
  2. Bryson DeChambeau(+65.3) (+1200)
  3. Dustin Johnson (+63.6) (+1300)
  4. Patrick Cantlay (+60.9) (+1600)
  5. Paul Casey (+57.9) (+1800)

Boehmer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images. Pictured: Abraham Ancer.

The Travelers Championship Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the six key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (25.5%), SG: Par 4 (20.8%), SG: BS (17.2%), SG: Putting Poa (12.3%), Course History (10.2%), and SG: Pete Dye (14%).

  1. Abraham Ancer (+2800)
  2. Kevin Streelman (+3000)
  3. Patrick Cantlay(+1600)
  4. Paul Casey (+1800)
  5. Patrick Reed (+2200)
  6. Bryson DeChambeau (+1200)
  7. Brooks Koepka (+1800)
  8. Si Woo Kim (+3500)
  9. Charley Hoffman (+4500)
  10. Keegan Bradley (+4500)

2021 Travelers Championship Best Bets

Paul Casey (+1800, BetMGM): There are a multitude of factors that point to Paul Casey being an excellent bet to win the Travelers Championship this week.

For starters, the Englishman absolutely loves TPC River Highlands. In his past six starts at the course, he has four top-five finishes with two of those being runner-ups.

It’s no surprise that Casey plays well here when you consider his strengths. It is a shorter course, so his relative lack of distance off of the tee won’t hurt him, and his approach play has been fantastic of late, ranking second in the field in his past 24 rounds.

The 43-year-old has also had indisputable success on Pete Dye course, ranking fifth in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on Dye tracks.

Admittedly, we are paying a premium this week to bet a golfer who doesn’t win all that often, but coming off of back to back top-10 finishes at major championships Casey is knocking on the door looking to add to his three PGA TOUR wins. There is no doubt that TPC River Highlands is the right course at the right time for Casey to bust through and hoist the trophy.

[Bet Paul Casey at BetMGM.]

Si Woo Kim (+6500, FanDuel): Let’s keep this one simple: Si Woo Kim wins on Pete Dye tracks.

Of Kim’s three PGA TOUR victories, two have been at Dye designs. With an 11th-place finish last year at TPC River Highlands, the South Korean showed this course suits him well, especially considering that the field was stacked and superior to the field we will see this week.

Si Woo seems to be rounding into form at the right time to challenge for another victory. He has gained 6.0 strokes tee to green in each of his past two starts including a ninth-place finish at the Memorial Tournament, where he gained strokes on the field in every statistical category. Kim offers win equity this week and has a reasonable price on the odds board.

[Bet Si Woo Kim at FanDuel and get a $1,000 risk-free bet.]

Rickie Fowler (+7500, FanDuel): Let’s get this out of the way: Rickie Fowler is a fan favorite who is often over valued in the betting market. However, I don’t believe that is the case this week.

Fowler has shown flashes of returning to form of late with finishes of eighth (PGA Championship) and 11th (Memorial) in two strong field prestigious events. In those two starts, he has gained an average of 4.4 strokes from tee to green. More importantly, Fowler has seemed to regain his exceptional putting stroke, which historically has been the predominant strength of his game.

With most golfers, I would look at gaining a significant amount of strokes on the green as a potential reason to avoid betting them, but not Fowler. This is a golfer who wins a golf tournament with his hot putter, and it’s back.

This is a reasonable number on a golfer who can absolutely contend at TPC River Highlands.

[Bet Rickie Fowler at FanDuel and get a $1,000 risk-free bet.]

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