I told you that the Chambers Bay course would be a major story line at last week's U.S. Open and it certainly was -- until it was upstaged by an incredible ending that saw Dustin Johnson lose the tournament and Jordan Spieth win it to get halfway to the season Grand Slam.
I do think that pro golfers are sissies in a way when it comes to course conditions. I mean, baseball players hit 99-mph pitches in front of screaming crowds of 50,000 fans at night yet you can't even snap your camera when a golfer is in his swing, but that's a story for another day. All the complaints about the greens last week were a bit much, although you could clearly tell from television that they were a bit of a mess.
It still doesn't excuse Johnson three-putting from 12 feet on the 72nd hole to choke away the tournament. And it was nothing less than a choke. Johnson hit two amazing shots to get on the green in two and had that 12-foot eagle for the win. That went about 4 feet long and his comebacker to force an 18-hole Monday playoff just missed. It was quite shocking -- and perhaps no one was more surprised than Spieth, who could be heard on TV thinking he had blown his chance.
Johnson sort of blamed the green: "Whatever the putt did on the last hole, I don't know. I might have pulled it a little bit. But still to me it looked like it bounced left. It's tough. It's very difficult. Whatever the putt did on the last hole, I don't know. I might have pulled it a little bit. But still to me it looked like it bounced left. It's tough. It's very difficult."
I have watched the replay many times and didn't see any bounce. It was sure great theater, though I don't think we will see another U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in my lifetime. I hope Johnson does win one of this season's final two majors because he's getting a reputation as a choker in them, which is overshadowing his nine career Tour wins.
Spieth, meanwhile, became the youngest player to win the U.S. Open since Bobby Jones in 1923. He is also the youngest to reach two majors since Gene Sarazen in 1922 and sixth player ever to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year. The last five majors (two by Rory McIlroy) have been won by players under 30, the first time that has happened since in 91 years.
I didn't have Spieth as my individual winner -- that was McIlroy. He finished T9. So I did get him and Johnson for a Top 10 as well as a Big 4 of Spieth, McIlroy Justin Rose and Johnson at +180 over the field (-240). Also nailed Tiger Woods (-130) and Bubba Watson (+220) to miss the cut. The one guy who disappointed me most was Phil Mickelson as I really thought he would contend and took him on a few props, but he was T64. I don't think he' s ever going to win the U.S. Open now.
So the fact it's the week after a major, especially the most grueling of them all, plus across the country at TPC River Highlands outside of Hartford means a very weak field this week for the Travelers Championship. It got weaker with the withdrawal of Jason Day. If you saw him struggling with vertigo at the U.S. Open, even fainting, no shock he's out. Pretty impressive he even finished four rounds at Chambers Bay. Six of the world's Top 30 are set to play, led by Watson and Sergio Garcia. A little under 40 players who were at Chambers Bay are entered.
The defending champion is Kevin Streelman. He was awesome in the final round last year; well he was after starting 1-over. But he birdied No. 12 -- and the rest of the holes to finish with a Sunday 64 and at 15-under 265 overall. He broke the Tour record for closing birdies by a winner of a tournament of six straight set by Mike Souchak in the 1956 St. Paul Open. Streelman matched the tournament record with a 7-under 28 on the final nine. The only repeat winner here was Mickelson in 2001-02. Streelman is +3300 at Bovada to do so. He's not playing well this season with only two Top 10s in 19 events.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Travelers Championship Favorites
Watson is the +1200 favorite . I actually think missing the cut last week helps him as he won't be as gassed -- just never take him to win a U.S. Open as for whatever reason that tournament doesn't seem built for his game. Watson won here in 2010 (first Tour win) and was second in 2012. He was 31st a year ago.
Brandt Snedeker and Patrick Reed are +1400. Sneds comes off an eighth last week, his third straight Top 10 this year. He was 11th here a year ago. Reed was T14 last week. Sergio (+1600) and Billy Horschel (+1800) round out the favorites. Garcia had that runner-up here a year ago. Horschel has five straight Top-25 finishes on Tour.
PGA Tour Picks: Travelers Championship Expert Predictions
For a Top-10 result, I like Watson at +125, Snedeker at +150 and Garcia at +175. Take Harris English (+165) and Keegan Bradley (+130) for Top 20s. Head-to-head, lean Watson (-125) over Reed (-105), Horschel (-120) over Louis Oosthuizen (-110), Bradley (-125) over Russell Knox (-105), English (-115) over Tony Finau (-115), and Zach Johnson (-115) over Brendan Steele (-115).
I like Marc Leishman (+200) as the top Aussie, Luke Donald (+175) as the top Englishman and Branden Grace (+175) as the top South African.
I really am not high on anyone who played all last week winning. That's a lot to ask. Also, six of the past nine winners here have been first-timers (Streelman wasn't). I'm going to go with Leishman at +3500. He won here in 2012 and was T11 last year. Plus he missed the cut last week so that may help. I am going to back this up with the Big 4 of Watson, Reed, Snedeker and Garcia at +300 vs. the field (-450).
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