Sobel: The Reasons to Fade Travelers Championship Favorites Brendon Todd, Dustin Johnson
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images. Pictured: Brendon Todd
Sunday’s final pairing at the Travelers Championship will serve as Reminder No. 87194 that there’s no single right way to succeed in professional golf.
The twosome will be comprised of Brendon Todd (+175) , who’s missed exactly one — yes, just one — fairway through 54 holes, and Dustin Johnson (+200), who’s taken a, uh, slightly different approach, hammering the ball an average of 307 yards off the tee and peppering the greens to the tune of more than 80% so far.
Todd and Johnson will seemingly play the role of the odd couple at TPC River Highlands, two perfect strangers playing different games on the same holes.
There are some similarities, of course. They’re currently running 1-2 on the leaderboard, each fresh off third-round scores of 61 to blow past a bevy of other high-profile contenders, and will be trying to back those numbers up on the final day.
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Oh, and that’s not the only commonality. Here’s one more: I wouldn’t bet either of them to win right now.
Separated by a handful of strokes against the likes of Kevin Streelman (+700), Mackenzie Hughes (+2000), Kevin Na (+2800) and Bryson DeChambeau (+900), Todd and Johnson will undoubtedly find it difficult to chase their super-low totals from Saturday.
That’s not the only reason to fade them, though.
When it comes to Todd, it just feels a bit difficult to believe that he’s going to win three times in a single season, especially an abbreviated one.
In the past decade, here’s the list of everyone who’s won at least three titles in one PGA TOUR season: Rory McIlroy (three times), Tiger Woods (twice), Dustin Johnson (twice), Justin Thomas (twice), Jason Day (twice), Jordan Spieth (twice), Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Bubba Watson, Hideki Matsuyama, Jimmy Walker and Jim Furyk.
Nothing against Todd, whose career comeback story is fantastic, but putting his name on this list should leave you humming the tune: One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong.
History has a way of keeping these things amongst the upper echelon of players and while he’s converted two of his three previous 54-hole leads, I can’t help but think this one feels a bit tenuous.
All of which brings us to DJ. It’s tough to witness his offensive firepower and believe that he can’t duplicate Saturday’s low one. “Every hole,” he said afterward, “I felt like I was giving myself an opportunity to make birdie, and I feel like I’m rolling the putter well, so I just need to get myself in a position where I’ve got a chance to make a putt.”
There’s no doubt: When he’s on, Johnson is tough to beat – and he’s a proven winner who has shown he can close at a major, let alone this event. That said, in his last two Sunday final pairings, he’s posted scores of 77 and 74. For a guy who never looks too nervous or anxious, those are some pretty nervy numbers.
Couple that with the fact that it’s so tough to follow a low number — especially your lowest ever, which it was for DJ on Saturday – and I’d prefer to fade him, as well.
So, who does that leave?
Streelman is the next closest competitor and he’s won this event before, but he, too, is chasing a low number after a third-round 63. Right behind him is Hughes, who started off with a 60 on Thursday, but has looked ordinary since then.
That leaves us with my pre-tournament pick to win, DeChambeau, who’s likely going to need something in the 62 or 63 range to come from behind, but is as capable of doing that as any of the contenders.
Considering he posted a 65 on Saturday with Strokes Gained numbers that looked fairly pedestrian across the board, Bryson could be primed for the low one to win on a Sunday that we’ve been expecting from him for a while now.
If you really believe it’s unlikely that a leaderboard can be flipped so much during a single round, well, go check out what this one looked like before Saturday’s third round. (Hint: Not exactly like it does now.) Plenty can happen in 18 holes and too often we make the mistake of believing that the status quo will endure.
That could certainly be the case this time — Todd and Johnson have both shown they can win — but I’m in favor of looking a bit further down the board for the one player with value who hasn’t yet had an unfathomably low round this week.