The Most Important Metrics at TPC River Highlands for the 2020 Travelers Championship
Photo credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images. Pictured: TPC River Highlands
Golfers who prioritized the big stick at the driving range in their COVID-19 layoffs probably aren’t too happy right now. We’ve had two ball-striking courses in a row in Colonial and Harbour Town, and what do you know … we have ourselves yet another this week at the Travelers Championship.
This event is held at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut, where it’s been since 1984. It’s a par-70 and is one of the rare courses on tour that plays under 7,000 yards. Distance off the tee will be de-emphasized yet again, with ball-striking, iron play and second shots reigning supreme.
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Of course, that doesn’t mean longer golfers can’t get into contention here: Bubba Watson has won three times (he’s a weird golfer who clearly has favorite courses, and River Highlands is one of them), and two years ago we saw J.B. Holmes and Beau Hossler — more off-the-tee than iron players — grab shares of second place.
Still, on average, the ball-striking metrics will be the most important to look at this week. Let’s get down to the specifics.
The Most Predictive Stats at TPC River Highlands
Using FantasyLabs data, we can look at how golfers in the 90th-plus percentile for each stat entering Colonial have historically performed. It measures their performance against a salary-based expectation. And while that might seem like a weird way to go about it, note that DFS salaries in golf are highly correlated with odds to win.
That means we can lean on DFS data and the baseline it provides to measure stats.
The question, as it’s been the last two weeks, is how to deal with current form and recent data. And I’ll emphasize those are two distinct matters, especially if you’re dealing with creating a model based on past data like I did this week.
Current form is important to some degree — whether it’s really important given the current situation or less so is a matter of a debate — but whether it will predict success at River Highlands is another issue. The number of recent tournaments a player has been in — being in good, consistent form has been important here — has historically been the most predictive stat at this track.
But note that the Travelers Championship is usually at a much different part of the schedule this year due to COVID than in years past, which muddies the data on how predictive current form has been.
Last year, for example, the schedule in April went the Masters, RBC Heritage and then Zurich Classic. The Travelers is typically played in June around the same time, but last year it was played right after the U.S. Open. These things matter.
Long-term metrics will naturally include recent results, but in terms of breaking those out separately as super important is a decision you’ll have to make yourself as a bettor and DFS player. I didn’t factor it in at all the last two weeks; I’ll likely change that a bit this week, personally.
Anyway, back to the metrics. Hitting greens in regulation has been important. The golfers who have done it the best long-term and specifically at River Highlands have historically fared the best. Driving accuracy was also important, which makes sense because this course sets up as a ball-strikers track.
What didn’t backtest well was something that has the last two weeks: the short game. Golfers who were in the 90th-plus percentile in long-term and recent putting coming into River Highlands actually severely underperformed expectations. Scrambling was also a negative.
All in all, I would treat this course as a ball-striking track and perhaps lean even more into that than the last few weeks given that distance and the short game seem to be either negated in the former instance or more random than usual in the latter. I’ll also depend on course history data more than usual, too, and I’ll likely try to find situations to fade guys who’ve run over expectation with their putters lately.