Travelers Championship Betting Guide: Finding Value in the Mid-Tier
Emiliano Grillo comes into the U.S. Open in decent form. Credit: USA Today Sports
After a grueling week at Shinnecock, you’d figure the stars would take some time off, but many are back in action this week at the Travelers Championship.
U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, along with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth open as co-favorites on Bovada at +1200. So it’s just another week on tour where the books are letting the bettor decide who should be favored.
Just outside those top four, we have Masters champ Patrick Reed at +1600 and Jason Day at +1800. So considering we are one week removed from a major championship, this really is a loaded field at the top.
TPC at River Highlands represents an entirely different test than last week did. The players will face one of the shortest tracks on tour with the par-70 course checking in at 6,841 yards.
Unless the wind picks up, there really isn’t too much to keep the players from going low here. Jim Furyk shot the first 58 in PGA Tour history on this course in 2016. Kevin Streelman birdied his final seven holes to win in 2014 — a tour record. Patrick Cantlay shot 60 playing as an amateur here when he was 19. You get the point: Guys can rack up birdies here. If they keep the ball in the fairway, this course will give them nine or 10 wedges per round; someone will get hot and take advantage.
In two of the past three years, the pre-tournament favorite has taken down the title, with Bubba Watson in 2015 and Jordan Spieth last year both coming out victorious in playoffs.
Over the past couple of seasons, the Travelers field has definitely improved in strength. It used to be an event to target long shots and see who would get hot. With so many star players teeing it up and getting so many chances to attack with a wedge in hand, it makes it difficult for the players farther down the betting sheet to hold them all off.
At the top, Thomas and Paul Casey stick out most to me among the favorites. Thomas has been hit or miss here the past three years with a third-place finish surrounded by a pair of missed cuts. But I think his game is in a better place than Spieth’s or McIlroy’s among the favorites, and I can’t imagine this tournament having Koepka’s full attention after the U.S. Open triumph.
Casey hasn’t finished outside the top 17 in the past three years, including a playoff loss to Watson. But at +1800, there just isn’t much value here. I’ll pretty much steer clear of this range and focus my bets on a handful of guys in the next range.
I do like Webb Simpson and Bryson DeChambeau this week as well, but not at the +2500 number. If either drifts into the +3000 range, I’ll be in. Simpson has a couple top-10 finishes here in his past three appearances, while DeChambeau has been striking the ball well all season. I don’t think he’ll be satisfied with winning only the Memorial and will pop up again at some point this year.
Two players stick out to me in this range. It’s two guys I’ve backed quite a bit this year and still think they’re both in position to come out with a win in the near future: Cantlay at +4000 and Emiliano Grillo at +6600 will both be on my card this week.
I mentioned earlier that Cantlay already shot a 60 in this tournament as an amateur, so even though he has no top-20 finishes in three starts here early in his career, I have no concerns about his ability to play this course.
Grillo is coming off a missed cut at the U.S. Open, but he was just one shot from the weekend playing on the more difficult side of the weather draw, so I won’t hold that against him. Grillo’s ball-striking and putting have really come together this year, so giving him a bunch of looks with the wedge to set up that hot putter could be a recipe for victory.
A little farther down, I’m going with J.B. Holmes, who is +9000 on Sportsbook. Holmes’ ball-striking has been much better in recent weeks, leading to a couple top-15 finishes at the Memorial and St. Jude Classic. The putter holds him back at times, but he’s been better on Poa and Bentgrass surfaces such as those at River Highlands.
Finally, I’m targeting Ryan Moore at +3500 on Sportsbook. I’m not excited about this number, but Moore is too good on this course. He’s finished inside the top 10 in five of his past 10 starts here, including a pair of runner-up finishes. He’s also been in the top 30 in five of his past six tournaments this year, so he’s got some decent form. The course suits Moore’s style of play: He’s better on shorter tracks where his lack of length isn’t an issue. He then gets to attack with his approach game that has gained strokes in six straight events. And, like Holmes, he’s better with the putter once he gets off Bermuda greens and back on the Bent/Poa mixes.
For all them, I’ll be adding top fives on each, ranging from +700 on Moore to +1200 on Holmes and Grillo.
The Long Shots
It’s been a few years since we’ve seen someone way down the board win the Travelers Championship, but from 2012 through 2014 we had three straight winners cash at over 100-1.
I’m backing Chesson Hadley at 100-1 on Bovada and Ryan Armour at 250-1 on Sportsbook as my two long shots this week.
Hadley has been great all season with his approach, ranking fifth on tour and gaining ground in every tournament but one this season. On a second-shot golf course such as River Highlands, Hadley’s game should translate here.
Armour is also a guy who is at his best when length becomes less of a necessity. He had struggled recently but gained strokes in his last two events with the irons and was able to finish in the top 25 in each.
I’ll add Hadley as a top 10 and Armour as a top 20 in the +800 range.