The Travelers Championship is not your normal post-major championship golf tournament. The week after the Masters almost always looks like a barren wasteland of top-tier talent, but this week’s event at TPC at River Highlands in Hartford, Connecticut, has the biggest dogs in the sport in attendance.
Let’s take a look at this week’s contest.
What: Travelers Championship | Where: Cromwell, Connecticut | When: June 21-24
Field and odds
- Justin Thomas: 12-1
- Rory McIlroy: 12-1
- Jordan Spieth: 14-1
- Brooks Koepka: 16-1
- Patrick Reed: 16-1
- Jason Day: 16-1
- Paul Casey: 20-1
- Webb Simpson: 20-1
Field strength: A
Goodness! That’s 13 major championships among the favorites, and we haven’t even gotten to guys like Bubba Watson, Bryson DeChambeau and Marc Leishman.
Three stories to watch
1. Brooks is back: It’s not often we see a major champion play the week after his recent triumph, but Koepka will be at TPC at River Highlands this week looking to add to his non-major total.
Brooks Koepka, in the field for @TravelersChamp, is the 1st player to tee it up the week after winning the U.S. Open since Justin Rose 5 years ago.
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) June 18, 2018
It’s incredibly interesting to me that Koepka only has one non-major win (Phoenix Open), and Andy Johnson of The Fried Egg opined on that a bit recently.
Brooks Koepka’s success isn’t limited to the U.S. Open. He hasn’t finished outside of the top 21 in a major since the 2015 Masters. Two years in a row at the game’s greatest test, he’s proven himself as the best player in the field. In 77 non-major PGA Tour starts, he has one win. Something seems amiss…
It points back to course setup. The USGA is criticized for crossing the line with setup occasionally, but at least they see the line. The PGA Tour’s weekly setup isn’t about testing players’ golf games. It’s about providing entertainment.
In a way, the Tour misses the mark on golf. What makes the game great is that it is hard. If it was easy, it would be boring. Golf tragics like myself wouldn’t exist if the game was simple. The complexity and challenge is what makes the game entertaining. While the USGA gets indicted for occasionally overstepping the line, the PGA Tour deserves scrutiny for never even approaching that same line.
The majors want a setup for championship golf. The majors will always have more weight, and the manufactured entertainment feel you get from PGA Tour setups only widens the gap. If the PGA Tour set up golf courses properly, Brooks Koepka would have a lot more trophies in his closet.
2. One-year mark: Jordan Spieth went on one of his mini-tears starting this time last year with a hole-out victory at this tournament and a subsequent victory at The Open a few weeks later. It’s been since February 2015 that Spieth didn’t hold at least one PGA Tour tournament trophy, but he’s in danger of holding none at all if he comes up empty over the next month. His putting continues to be an issue. He’s 188th on Tour in strokes gained putting compared to 4th in strokes gained from tee to green (although he was 19th in the field last week in putting through two rounds). That’s kind of incredible.
3. Photo finish? We have seen eight consecutive Travelers Championships end in either a playoff or a one-stroke victory. There have been some classics, too — Watson, Kevin Streelman and Ken Duke victories among them — but none more entertaining than last year.
- 2017: Jordan Spieth
- 2016: Russell Knox
- 2015: Bubba Watson
- 2014: Kevin Streelman
- 2013: Ken Duke
What a crew!
Travelers Championship picks
Winner: I can’t help myself here. I think he’s generationally great, and I think that generationally great players always find it at some point. He wasn’t awful last week at the U.S. Open (that always engenders great confidence, I know), and he’ll enjoy coming back to a place where he’s never trailed.
Top 10: Easy pick here. He’s finished in the top 10 in three of the last five years, and I was at a dinner at Augusta where he talked about this place like it was truly the fifth major championship. Semi contended at the U.S. Open as well.
Sleeper: Made four straight cuts overall and six of seven at this tournament. Has a scoring average at TPC at River Highlands well below 70 (which it will take to win this week).