Travelers Round 3 Betting Preview and Picks: Fade the Favorites on Saturday
Elsa/Getty Images. Pictured: Mackenzie Hughes
Having lived in the central part of Connecticut for about 15 years, I’m well accustomed to the inconsistent early-summer weather that can lead from perfect temperatures and puffy clouds one day to a steady rain the next day.
Over the last decade-plus, I’ve often joked with the good people who run the Travelers Championship – as I did once again on this week’s Action Network podcast with tournament director Nathan Grube – that they’re the only tournament on the PGA TOUR schedule which welcomes a little precipitation each year.
And no, it has nothing to do with softening up the golf course.
The title sponsor’s logo, in case you hadn’t noticed, just happens to be a red umbrella, which means that when it rains each year – and that’s almost always when, not if – the television coverage turns into a free marketing campaign for the company, as many spectators instantly raise one of those ubiquitous umbrellas, seen in the background of nearly every rain-soaked golf shot.
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With no fans in attendance this year, that free air time will take a hit Saturday, as rain is expected in the forecast, moving up tee times to start at 7:15 a.m. local time in groups of three, with the final trio starting at 9:15.
Let’s get to some head-to-head matchups for the third round – with an emphasis on a few of the later ones, just in case you’re sleeping in.
Mackenzie Hughes (+138) over Phil Mickelson
The biggest question on everyone’s mind right now is: Can Phil win at 50? Just a week past turning half-a-hundred, Mickelson is in sole possession of the lead entering the weekend, coming off his best career round at TPC River Highlands.
While I do believe the answer to this question is yes, he can win at 50, I don’t think it’ll happen this weekend. I expect him to come back to the pack a bit on Saturday and while I would’ve liked a better potential matchup than Hughes or Will Gordon, his two playing partners, I’ll take the plus-money here.
Xander Schauffele (+130) over Rory McIlroy
McIlroy is the current No. 1-ranked player in the world, which presumes he’s also the “best” player right now, but Schauffele isn’t as far off as some people would think.
There was a lot of talk last week at Harbour Town about how Xander – who played as a single during both weekend rounds – mentally checks out when he isn’t in contention, but the opposite is also true: He tends to play his best golf when in the hunt and playing with his fellow elite-level pros.
Expect him to bring his A-game for this one.
Brendon Todd (+163) over Marc Leishman
Sensing a theme yet? I’m taking another underdog in this matchup. When Todd isn’t playing his best, he’s a forgotten man amongst the PGA TOUR masses, but when he is – as we saw during two wins last fall – he’s dangerously good.
Meanwhile, Leishman is a guy who I always like on fast, firm tracks. If it gets wet and muddy, low ball-flight should be detrimental, swinging the advantage back toward Todd.
Viktor Hovland (+130) over Abraham Ancer
Look, there’s no bigger Ancer supporter than me this week. I bet him outright and filled up DFS lineups with his name. But I also bet Hovland and don’t see much of a difference between these two, especially on this course.
At even-money, I’d stay away, but with the plus side toward Hovland, who’s done his best damage during Saturday rounds this season, this feels like a smart play between two fairly even-matched players.