Well, I didn’t pick Webb Simpson as the winner of last week’s US Open, but then again I’m guessing pretty much no one did. Otherwise, it was a pretty solid week. Tiger looked like he would be a lock to finish in the Top 10 after sharing the lead heading into Saturday, but he struggled on the weekend and finished outside of that group.
That was a miss, but Phil Mickelson (-175) and Luke Donald (-150) finishing outside the Top 10 – missing the cut – both paid off, as did Lee Westwood finishing inside it at +115. My value pick as the winner was Sergio Garcia and he finished T38.
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This week the Tour goes back across the country to outside of Hartford for the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands, and as is usually the case most of the biggest names in golf are taking the week off after a major. So no Tiger, Lefty, McIlroy, Donald or Westwood in this field.
But Simpson surprisingly is playing. There are reports, however, that he will now not play the British Open because he doesn’t want to be so far away in case his wife goes into labor with their second child. Simpson follows Lucas Glover, who won the US Open in 2009 and played in the Travelers Championship the following week. Current Masters Champion Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan, Matt Kuchar also are here. Last year’s Masters winner, Charl Schwartzel, withdrew and won’t be seen until the British Open.
But perhaps the most intriguing name this week is Patrick Cantlay. The UCLA star is the world's top-ranked amateur and announced Tuesday he was turning pro and will play for money the first time this week. The two-time All-American at UCLA finished tied for 41st at the US Open last week as an amateur. He was low amateur at the Masters after a tie for 47th there and was the low amateur with a tie for 21st in the 2011 US Open. He was runner-up in the US Amateur last summer.
Wondering why he is going pro here? In the second round of this tournament a year ago, he shot a course-record 60, which is also the lowest round ever by an amateur in a PGA Tour event. Cantlay had a one-shot lead through 36 holes but finished outside the Top 25 after shooting 72-70 on the weekend. He’s 80/1 to win his first tournament. The most recent amateur to win on Tour was Phil Mickelson in 1991.
While scores ballooned as expected last week at Olympic, look for the winner to be well into the double-digits under par at TPC River Highlands. Last year the par-70 course ranked 41st out of 51 in terms of difficulty and it’s one of the shorter courses on Tour at 6,841 yards. With a scoring average of 68.567, it was the easiest of 16 par 70s in all of 2011 when Fredrick Jacobsen (25/1 to repeat) won at 20-under. Each of the last 18 winners of the Travelers has completed 72 holes double digits under par.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Travelers Championship Favorites
Kuchar, Simpson and Mahan are the co-favorites at Bovada at 14/1. You know Kuchar will make the cut – he has done so in a Tour-high 20 consecutive events after a T27 last week. But his record isn’t good here. Kuchar hasn’t played this tournament since 2008 and has four missed cuts and a best finish of T36 in six appearances. He is a much different player now, however.
I wouldn’t touch Simpson with a 10-foot pole this week to win or finish in the Top 10 (‘no’ is -165). He is going to be gassed with all the hoopla surrounding his first major championship a week ago and he’s already focusing on his new baby. I wish there was a prop on Simpson making the cut or not.
Mahan, the only multiple-tournament winner in 2012 in this field, used to love this course but things may have changed. He won his first Tour event here in 2007 and was runner-up in 2006 and ’08 and T4 in 2009. Since then? A missed cut two years ago and a T43 in 2011.
Zach Johnson (16/1) and Padraig Harrington (20/1) round out the Top-5 favorites. After a runner-up at the Players and winning at Colonial, Johnson missed the cut in Memphis and was T41 a week ago. He has just one Top-10 finish here in six tries. Harrington very quietly is putting together a nice season. He was a solid T4 last week at Olympic, his third straight finish of Top-15 or better on Tour. Harrington has played here three times previous, with one Top-10 finish.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Travelers Championship Predictions
Watson (22/1) got his first Tour win here in 2010 but his head doesn’t appear in the game since the Masters win. I would take him at -350 to finish outside the Top 10 as I would Johnson at -200. I do like Mahan at +125 to finish inside the Top 10 as well as Kuchar (also +125). Unfortunately, there’s no prop on Cantlay doing so, but I highly doubt he will.
John Merrick is worth a look to get his first victory at 66/1. He didn’t play last week but was runner-up in Memphis the week before. Merrick has finished in the Top 11 two of the past three years in Hartford.
Bo Van Pelt at 25/1 is intriguing. He had three straight Top-20 finishes before at T59 last week. He has three Top-13 finishes here in the past five years. In his last 13 rounds at the course, his actual scoring average is 67.08.
But I think Ryan Moore (22/1) is the guy. He will be fresh after having not played since the Memorial. He has finished runner-up twice in his career at Hartford as well as fourth. In his last 12 rounds at TPC River Highlands, his actual scoring average is 66.17.
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