Travelers Championship Betting Picks, Preview: 3 Potential Live Plays for Round 2
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images. Pictured: Jordan Spieth.
Of the 16 lowest scores on the Round 1 leaderboard at the Travelers Championship — and yes, the low scores were exceptionally low, led by a 10-under 60 by Mackenzie Hughes — 12 were posted by players with morning tee times on Thursday.
There are two potential conclusions from this information.
One is that the early wave was simply loaded with guys trending in the right direction, leading to a coincidental imbalance of better scores from this half of the field.
The other, of course, is the correct one.
When in doubt, turn to the data, which tells us TPC River Highlands was playing softer and easier on a beautiful, wind-less Central Connecticut summer morning. The scoring average for the early wave was an equally sublime 67.96, compared with 69.10 in the afternoon.
That’s a fairly distinct differential, though hardly uncommon on the PGA TOUR, as so many host venues tend to firm up and sustain stiffer breezes in the afternoon.
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The weather in Cromwell is forecasted to be similar for Friday, which means we should expect a similar differential, with the advantage now going to the other half of the field.
What does this mean for handicapping purposes? Well, even if you might not want to bet anyone in the late/early draw as a live outright, considering Rory McIlroy appears back to hitting it like a god and Bryson DeChambeau is hitting it god-like distances — and I can hardly blame you for that decision — that’s where the smart money should go right now, as these players will ostensibly enjoy the easier morning conditions for their second rounds.
Among the options: Xander Schauffele, who fired a 63 in his opening afternoon round and should be licking his chops at the potential to battle a few more heralded superstars on the weekend; Viktor Hovland, whose scoring average has decreased this season nearly a full stroke from the first to the second round and nearly another full stroke from the second to the third; and (gulp) Jordan Spieth, who somehow defied everything we’ve seen from him in the past two weeks and currently ranks 11th in strokes gained tee-to-green and 123rd in putting.
Again, you’ve really gotta like ‘em — or be hedging — to be confident in a play against Rory or Bryson through one round, but they do have a built-in advantage with their tee times.
Round 2 Matchup Bets
Jordan Spieth (+115) over Collin Morikawa
At some point, the bubble has to burst for Morikawa. (No, I’m not talking about the one Jay Monahan is trying to maintain right now.) Since turning pro at this event last year, the phenom still hasn’t missed a single PGA TOUR cut.
Following a 2-over 72, it’s understandable if that streak comes to an end, as he’s still gotta be wiped from that title contention at Colonial two weeks ago. I extolled the virtues of Spieth above, who could ride a hot putter to another solid score.
Joel Dahmen (-106) over Ryan Moore
Although he owns a strong career record at the Travelers, Moore hasn’t shown much recently, before his opening-round 67.
Meanwhile, Dahmen is a guy I absolutely loved at this event pre-tournament. He made some mistakes in the first round — a double and two bogeys, including one on a par-5 — but he made up for those with a 67 of his own.
I expect Dahmen to rid himself of those big numbers Friday and go low in the morning — at least low enough to win this matchup.
Chez Reavie (+200) over Jon Rahm
Call it your classic David and Goliath tale – and I’d take David at +200 every time. The defending champ, Reavie opened with an even-par 70, but it’s not hard to believe he’s got a low one in him for Friday.
He and Rahm run in the same circles at their home club, Whisper Rock, and we’d have to imagine they’ve played plenty of head-to-head matches against each other. If anyone knows how to beat Rahm, it’s a guy like Reavie whose lack of distance doesn’t hurt him on this golf course. It’s worth a play for the big plus-money.
Abraham Ancer (-134) over Ryan Palmer
Palmer opened with a solid 3-under 67 on Thursday, but there’s reason to believe he won’t go lower. In his last nine starts, he’s totaled the same number or higher in the second round on seven of those occasions.
This isn’t just a Palmer fade, though. The entire world was on Ancer prior to this tournament and even though he needed a 16th hole ace to match Palmer’s number in the opener, it’s hard to believe he won’t improve upon his ball-striking numbers on Friday.