After a scintillating and high-scoring finish to the RBC Heritage last week in Hilton Head, in which Webb Simpson captured his 7th Tour victory, this week the PGA Tour heads to the Northeast for the Travelers Championship- another tournament known for its penchant to give up high scores. This track has surrendered a 58 to Jim Furyk, a 60 to Patrick Cantlay (as an Amateur!), and a bevy of 61s over the years. So break out the red numbers and get ready for a birdie fest, because we are in for some scoring this week!
TPC River Highlands is a typical parkland course near the banks of the Connecticut River, and the original Robert Ross designed was re-worked in 1982 by Pete Dye. The overhaul still stayed true to the original layout, so this doesn’t exactly have that typical Pete Dye feel like a Sawgrass.
This is one of the shortest courses on Tour, as it’s Par 70 only comes in at 6,841. Length won’t be a strength to lean on here, as Accuracy and second shot process will be where the players make their bones. This is a shot-shapers course, as evidenced by Bubba Watson being a 3-time champion here. There indeed may be a “lefty” narrative in play here as well, as Phil Mickelson is also a two-time winner here. As with most parkland courses, are there are tree lines and doglegs to navigate – but missing in the right place is absolutely fine with rough on the thin and friendly side.
There are 12 Par 4s that all come in between 400-450 yards, except for three, and one of those is a drivable 296 yard Par 4. With only two Par 5s, Par 4 Scoring is going to be Key. Larger Bentgrass greens will be receptive to close Approaches, and pinpoint accuracy will definitely lead to low scores.
There is water in play on only four holes, with three of those coming at a stretch of holes called the ‘Golden Triangle’ (15-16-17). These holes feature approaches hit over or adjacent to a lake, but it’s tough to find the water unless an unruly wind is blowing.
In what is likely to be a shootout, we are looking to guys this week with pinpoint accuracy off the tee and on approach, and guys who are capable of scoring in bunches.
Must-Have #1: Matthew Fitzpatrick
This Englishman and pride of Northwestern University has arguably played some of the best golf of his career as of late, coming into this week having made a perfect 10/10 cuts on this weird and winding season.
Since the lay-off, he has come back in truly stellar form, finishing 32nd at the Charles Schwab Challenge two weeks ago, and following that up with a T14 at the RBC Heritage this past week. It is clear that his game is in a good spot, as evidenced by 8 straight rounds in the 60s coming off the lay-off (68-68-66-66-69-68-69-68). At a course known for giving up numbers, this is an encouraging trend.
He has never played this course before, but that T14 last week at another Pete Dye course should offer some guidance on how “Matty Fitz” should be in good stead this week in Connecticut.
He ranks 21st in the field in Birdie or Better % coming off the break, as well as 13th in Fairways gained and 47th in Approach. With his ability to go low, we like his chances for another high finish this week.
Must-Have #2: Joaquin Niemann
This youngster was soooo close to his second career Tour victory last week at the RBC Heritage, but succumbed to an on-fire Webb Simpson who simply couldn’t miss down the stretch.
His all-around game has been masterful to watch, as he ranks 10th in the field in Approach coming off the break, 7th in Ball Striking, 7th in Birdie or Better %, 4th in Par 4 Scoring, and 19th in Opportunities Gained. With his game seemingly clicking on all facets he is in a really good position to do well here this week.
It is also apparent that he is comfortable with this layout, as evidenced by his 5th place finish here at the Travelers last year in his debut performance. All these signs point to what should be another exciting week for the young Chilean.
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