With Justin Rose’s win at the U.S. Open fresh in our minds, it’s time to take a look at who the best options are teeing it up at the Travelers Championship. One thing we know for sure about TPC River Highlands is that you better make birdies.
When I looked at stats this week, I focused on scoring stats and really didn't even look at other metrics because there are a number of ways to be successful on this short track. How a player makes birdies is a bit irrelevant, but that he does is a requirement. Avoiding bogeys is a priority, but an aggressive player can likely make enough birdies to erase a few blemishes along the way. In that sense, this is a completely opposite mindset of the U.S. Open.
With that as the backdrop, here are this week’s Dandy Dozen:
- Justin Rose – This is, of course, assuming he doesn't decide to withdraw. His history here is fine, 5/7 with four top 25s and a third-place finish to go with two other top 10s. His current form is well documented. How heavily you invest in Rose this week depends completely on what you need out of him. I’m not suggesting he’s going to go back-to-back, but there isn't a player in the field that feels less pressure this week. A relaxing top 10 is entirely likely.
- Hunter Mahan – Kind of threw up on himself when he had a chance to win the U.S. Open after 68 holes, but comes to his best historic spot on the PGA TOUR to try and get well. He’s twice been a runner-up and won his first TOUR title here in 2007 as well. If you detach the heartbreak of losing the U.S. Open, he’s trending nicely (T26, T16, 4). Probably the toughest question this week will be in regards to Mahan and the one-and-done if you have him available.
- Bubba Watson – Another stalwart at TPC River Highlands, and another guy who launched his career here with win number one in 2010, Watson hasn't cracked a top 10 on TOUR since the Match Play. He hasn't exactly been hacking it around, though. He’s 5/6 here, and had a T2 last year to go with his 2010 win. He also ranks 5th in Birdie or Better and 1st in Par 4 Birdie or Better, which is important since there are 12 par 4s this week.
- Rickie Fowler – Fowler’s biggest challenge this year has been avoiding the big number. The layout of TPC River Highlands may reward his aggression without penalizing him too badly for blunders. He’s only played here twice, with a MC in 2009 and a T13 in 2010. Enters off a T10 at Merion.
- John Rollins – I could make a case for him to carry the top spot, entering off back-to-back top-six finishes. While those are his only two top 10s this year, they are among 10 top 25s. He’s only 4/9 at TPC River Highlands, but that includes T2 and T4 in his last two starts. Form is meeting recent course history in a big way this week.
- Harris English – Only one trip here in the past, and that resulted in a mediocre T64 last year. He’s only eight days removed from his first PGA TOUR win, so we’ll see what happens now that the lid has been lifted.
- Charley Hoffman – Not unlike Rollins, Hoffman enters in good form after making his last five cuts. He spent some time on the leaderboard at Merion before a final-round 79 dropped him out of contention. In four starts at TPC River Highlands, he’s 3 of 4 with a T2 last year.
- Freddie Jacobson – Course history buffs will be all over Freddie Jac this week, winning in ’11 and sharing 8th in 2012, and for good reason. I’m a tad chilly on his form, as he’s missed the cut in his last two starts and doesn't have a top 10 since the Match Play. He’s good at avoiding bogeys, but isn't always a birdie machine.
- Ryan Moore – He’s also a very tough call this week. History includes two runner-ups and a T4, having missed just one of seven cuts. He’s been very inconsistent recently, missing three of his last four cuts with a T13 at Memorial the bright spot.
- Brendon de Jonge – He’s going to win one day, isn't he? He’s made four of his last five cuts including a T15 at THE PLAYERS. He’s also 3/5 here, with two top 10s. We’re going to spend a little more time talking strategy later in the week, but if you’re chasing in a league he’s not a bad pick.
- Webb Simpson – He’s 5/5 here, with one top 25. Of note, he lost in a playoff at the RBC Heritage the week after the Masters. Perhaps he likes coming down from the majors by playing. I see his value this week potentially in the Yahoo! format, but he’s a reach in most other games.
- Bo Van Pelt – He’s lurking just outside the obvious right now. He’s made his last seven cuts, with four top 25s (including a T6) among them and finished T21 at the U.S. Open. Similarly, he’s 7/10 with six top 25s and two top 10s in this event.
Next 5 (alphabetical): Brian Davis, James Driscoll, Jason Dufner, Cameron Tringale and Lee Westwood
- Nicolas Colsaerts – He’s never played here, but it’s a course where Bubba Watson has thrived and their strengths are similar to say the least. Enters off a T10 at the U.S. Open that would have been much better were it not for a triple bogey on the 18th in the third round. There aren't too many triples lurking at TPC River Highlands.
- Ben Curtis – A nod to course history, 6/7 with 5 top 25s and two T4s, he hasn't done much this year to warrant inclusion in any category other than a calculated flier.
- Patrick Reed – This was one of the events he got into last year, tying for 47th. He’s also coming in off a fifth-place finish at the St. Jude.
- Kyle Stanley – I’m not sure this is even that risky. He’s got three top-six finishes in his last six starts on TOUR and a moderately good record in this event.
We’ll be back tomorrow to check out some games and dive a little deeper into strategy than we have in the past. We will offer a few scenarios based on where you stand in your games.
Until then, best of luck!