PGA Tour Odds and Predictions: The Travelers Championship Field
by Alan Matthews - 6/22/2011
It’s the week after a major and only a few weeks before the British Open, so this week’s PGA Tour stop at the Travelers Championship in TPC River Highlands in Connecticut definitely has a bit of a watered-down field.
You won’t find U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy this week – he is planning to not play again until the British Open. Tiger Woods remains sidelined with an injury, as he already has pulled out of his own tournament, the AT&T National, next week. Overall, the field this week includes just six of the Top 25 in the latest world rankings (but none from the Top 10): Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter, Nick Watney, Jim Furyk, Hunter Mahan and Martin Laird.
I’m a bit surprised that Watson isn’t the favorite this week, according to PGA Tour odds – he’s No. 3 on Bodog’s odds at 18/1 – as he is the defending champion, having beaten Scott Verplank with a par on the second playoff hole last year. Distance really appears to matter at this tournament as the last nine champions have been in the Top 13 of the driving distance statistic while the same six have broken into the Top 10 of fairway accuracy stat just once. Last year Watson was first in driving distance and T58th in accuracy.
According to my PGA Tour predictions, this is a good tournament to bet on a long shot. It was Watson’s first PGA Tour title last year as he was the third player in five seasons to break through at this tournament. Watson is looking to become the first back-to-back champion since Phil Mickelson in 2001 and 2002. Watson had Top-14 finishes in this tournament the two prior visits before last year. Plus, it would be awesome if he won after that epic Golf Boys music video (search it on YouTube).
Mahan is the favorite at 14/1 this week even though he missed the cut at this tournament last year. However, before that he had four straight years in the Top 4. His 2007 victory here was bookended by a pair of runner-up finishes. His first career Tour event was the 2000 Travelers, when, as an 18-year-old amateur, he was given a sponsor's exemption. Mahan shot 74-73 to miss the cut last week at the U.S. Open.
Nick Watney is the second favorite at 16/1, but he doesn’t seem like a good bet. He shot 75-73 to miss the cut at the U.S. Open last week and putted horribly, needing 61 in his two rounds to go with only four birdies. He did have back-to-back Top-10 finishes before last week, however, and has seven Top 10s this year. Brandt Snedeker is a favorite of many experts at 25/1. He enters with three straight Top 20s, including a T11 at Congressional last week.
How about Vijay Singh at 40/1? Five of the seven times Singh has played TPC River Highlands, he's finished in the Top 20. Only four times in 28 rounds has he failed to shoot even par or better. And he didn’t play last week, so he should be rested (if that matters).
I particularly like Ben Curtis at 40/1. Of all players that have played this tournament more than twice, he has the best average finish at 18.2. He hasn’t finished worse than 13th in the past three years.
Whomever wins, look for some low scores this week as this course tends to reward players after having to deal with the tough U.S. Open the week prior (the Travelers has been the week after the Open since 2007). At 6,841 yards, the par-70 TPC River Highlands is the third-shortest course on the Tour schedule, and its scoring average has been sub-69.50 for the last three years,
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