TPC River Highlands
TPC River Highlands
Par: 70 (35-35)
Greens: Bentgrass; 5,500 square feet on average.
Rough: 3.5” Kentucky Bluegrass, fine fescue and perennial ryegrass
Water Hazards: 5
Course Architect: Robert J. Ross and Maurice Kerney (1928); Pete Dye (1982); Bobby Weed (1989)
Winner’s Share: $1,116,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Ken Duke beat Chris Stroud on the second playoff hole for his first TOUR victory
Dates: June 19-22
Notes: 156 players will be cut to the top 70 and ties.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 22 of 31 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd and Ben Crane have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Hideki Matsuyama joins Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer has been a one-man-gang for Europe with his two massive victories.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd and Matsuyama are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had nine in 31 events so far in 2014. #onpace Erik Compton gave it a shot but nobody was catching the German last week.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33) and Ben Crane (38) have added to the prime-timers trophy case.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden, 42, won at Tampa Bay for the only W for the “Old Guys” this season. Jim Furyk's T12 was the best at Pinehurst.
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Ken Duke was the fourth, first-time winner in the last four years and sixth in the last eight.
Marc Leishman and Greg Norman are the only Australian winners in 62 previous editions of the Travelers.
Since 2000, only Leishman and Freddie Jacobson (2011) are the only foreign-born winners.
Of the multiple winners, only Phil Mickelson has won both times since the turn of the century. Mickelson is the only player to defend his title as well (2001-02)
J.J. Henry (2006) and Kenny Perry (2008) have the largest margin of victory, three strokes, since 2000. Every other result has been by one shot or in a playoff.
Patrick Cantlay, 60, has the course record.
Kenny Perry, 258 (-22), has the tournament record.
The largest Sunday comebacks are seven shots by Brad Faxon in 2005 and six shots by Leishman in 2012.
Of the last 10 tournaments, five have ended in a playoff including three of the last four. #extragolf
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer are the only players on TOUR with multiple victories in the 2013-14. Only Patrick Reed has a chance to match Walker on three wins this week as the others are idle.
This Will Win You a Bar Bet
The only two players to wire this event (with no ties) are Gene Littler (1959) and Tim Norris (1982).
Past Champions Since 2000
2013: Ken Duke -12
2012: Marc Leishman -14
2011: Freddie Jacobson -20
2010: Bubba Watson -14
2009: Kenny Perry -22
2008: Stewart Cink -18
2007: Hunter Mahan -15
2006: J.J. Henry -14
2005: Brad Faxon -14
2004: Woody Austin -10
Inside the Ropes
Established in 1952, this will be the 63rd edition of the Travelers Championship. It’s the one of the longest-running tournaments in the world and this week will serve as a nice come-down after the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
As I have pointed out before, when the TOUR pros see TPC in front of the course they are playing they usually lick their lips and loosen up the shoes as they know birdies will be the order of the week. After a grueling test for everyone not named Kaymer last week, TPC River Highlands should be a sight for sore eyes.
Over the last 10 years, the average winning score has hovered around 15-under-par 265. Kenny Perry set the standard at 22-under, 258 in 2008 while Woody Austin has the highest winning total of 10-under, 270 in 2004. TPC River Highlands averaged over-par scoring last season for the first time since 2007 so the pros will be happy to be circling bushels of birdies this week for the first time since TPC Louisiana in late April.
The course plays just over 6,800 yards so the big boppers will have no problem getting it down the fairways but the lighter hitters can also prosper. With the rough playing at 3.5” hitting fairways won’t hurt but the greens are only running 10.5’ on the Stimpmeter so even those who are loose with the putter can also contend as three putts will be easier to avoid.
Over the last 10 years a mix of bombers and short-game artists have prospered on this short-ish track and I would expect nothing different this year. I’m looking for players who avoid bogeys and have no problems finding birdies. Those who hit the most greens have had past successes just the same as those who hole plenty of putts on greens where aggressive putting is rewarded.
With only two par fives the pros will have to make birdies on the par fours and par three as well and avoid crooked numbers if they are to make any noise on the weekend. Patrick Cantlay found 60 in his second-ever round on the course and 61s and 62s aren’t exactly rare. The finishing four holes will get the players attention but there are plenty of scoring opportunities to get ahead.
With spring ending and summer kicking off this weekend, it wouldn’t surprise me if weather played a part in the festivities, but, like you, I’ll patiently wait for #WeathermanRob’s forecast Wednesday evening before panicking.
Call to Order
Here they are, ranked for your pleasure.
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Bubba Watson (A): If gamers worry about a U.S. Open hangover with Watson, please don’t. In five of the last six years Watson has followed his U.S. Open with a loop around the TPC River Highlands. His only year in that stretch he didn’t play the U.S. Open the week prior he won. The other five times have seen him finish T6, T14, T38, T2 and fourth. I’m going to stop typing now.
Matt Kuchar (A): His worst finish in his last eight events (out of nine) where he has made the cut is T17. He has four top sevens in that stretch including a win at the RBC. He’s a legit threat every time he tees it up because he has the best scoring average on TOUR. His T12 at the U.S. Open would have been T9 if he hadn’t have bogeyed the last hole so there are no worries here. #simples
Dustin Johnson (B): The ONLY concern from the player currently second in the all-around ranking (this is a recording) is his lack of experience around this track. I’m riding the class is permanent angle this week because he overpowers every course he sees and makes birdies for fun. Any week he’s in the field he’ll be on this list and his T4 last week isn’t exactly scaring me off either.
Keegan Bradley (B): This will be his fourth year in a row teeing it up and the three previous years have just kept getting better. He evolved from T63 to T29 to T18 last year and has placed 12 of 15 rounds at par or better. After closing with 67 on Sunday at the U.S. Open it’s hard for me to be skeptical of how he’s hitting it currently. It’s still hard for me to believe that he hasn’t won since August of 2012. That could change this week.
Ryan Moore (A): With four top 10s in eight consecutive starts, Moore obviously likes the way TPC River Highlands fits his eye. He has just as many rounds of 64, three, than he does over par in 30 loops around this joint so his current form can be excused.
Jason Day (B): In a vacuum, he should be an automatic selection because gamers should have plenty of starts left and, when healthy, he’s really, really good. After knocking the rust off his thumb injury at Memorial (T37) he jumped right back into the deep end of the pool and racked up another top finish (T4) at the U.S. Open. My only concern is that he seems to play the non-majors/non-WGCs indifferently but if he’s healthy, I see no reason why he can’t contend. Oh, and he’s made 31 consecutive cuts, second-best to Adam Scott on TOUR.
Charley Hoffman (C): With 12 of 13 weekends played on the bounce in 2014, Hoffman’s form is certainly not in question this week. It will be interesting to see how he manages the skeletons in his closet after finishing T2 in 2012 after a late double bogey and not capitalizing on an opening round 61 last year en route to T7. He’s sixth in birdie average and destroys par fours so it’s not a huge surprise that he’s been in the mix here.
Freddie Jacobson (B): He’s only missed one weekend in his last 11 and seven of those have gone for T20 or better. He backed up his 20-under victory in 2012 with eight rounds of par or better the last two years that resulted in T8 and T30 finishes. Anybody who has won here on 20-under deserves a hard look and anybody who putts as well as Jacobson should be salivating on greens like these.
Sergio Garcia (C): He’s made eight weekends from nine starts this season with five top 10s. His only two finishes outside of the top 16 are MC at the Masters and T35 last week at Pinehurst. I’m encouraged that he completed all 72 holes last week on an uncertain knee but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he is a last-second WD this week. If he’s in the field and healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pick this track apart.
Graham DeLaet (B): His T7-T14 Texas Swing at Byron Nelson and Colonial, respectively, knocked him out of a MC-T29-MC funk that preceded a decent run of form. He’ll have positive thoughts stepping on the first tee this week after his solo third here last year. His putter has been the dead weight in his bag but he won’t have to worry about running them five feet by this week if the greens are only running 10.5’ on the Stimpmeter. He fits the profile to a T of a first-time winner on this track as most of them had at least three starts under their belts before claiming victory here.
Hunter Mahan: After showing signs of life early at Memorial Mahan faded on the weekend with 73-73 so his streak of eight tournaments of T28 or worse finishes continued. I can’t dismiss him completely this week because his course form here is incredible. In six of the last seven years he’s fired 63 or less in a round on this track. From 2006 through 2009 he finished T2, WIN, T2 and T4. He closed with 61 to finish T11 in 2012 and opened with 62 last year en route to T24.
Brooks Koepka: After finishing in T4 at the U.S. Open and all but securing his 2014-15 card, the 24-year old should be playing as free as a bird this week. He’s a lights-out putter that could join the stable of first-time TOUR winners this week if he keeps his Pinehurst moment going. His T19 the week before in Memphis shows gamers that last week was NOT a fluke.
Brian Harman: If you had money on him at the beginning of the season to be the next Georgia Bulldog to hit the winner’s circle you’ll be slightly disappointed that Brendon Todd beat him to the punch. Gamers won’t be disappointed that he has made 15 cuts (from 21 starts) and has racked up five top 10s and seven top 25s including T6 last time out in Memphis. The next step for Harman is finishing off tournaments as he was in contention at both Colonial and Memphis before 73-72 finishes knocked him back in the final round. He’s ninth in total birdies and makes plenty of them on par threes and fours. That’s helpful on par 70 layouts like this one!
Morgan Hoffmann: After MC at FESJC and the U.S. Open last year, Hoffmann posted his second top 10 of 2013 at the Travelers with T9. He enters this week off two MCs as well but as well as he putts I believe he’ll be in the thick of it again this year.
Marc Leishman: The 2012 champ closed with 62 and waited patiently in the clubhouse for those around him to fall apart. And they did. He was cruising along here last year as well before a Sunday 73 knocked him back to T30. The Aussie backed his course form at Byron Nelson with T3 last month and with seven rounds from eight at par or better in his last two here that he’ll fire again.
Brendan Steele: With a pair of T13 in the last three years at TPC River Highlands Steele has shown that his steady ball-striking and par-four performance plays on this track.
Kevin Chappell: After a streak of T34, T11, T26 and T10 was broken up with a MC at Memorial, Chappell might be off the radar this week for some. Not me. He currently sits 15th in the all-around and is 11th in ball-striking. With greens running this quietly this would be an excellent week for the putter to wake up (156th total putting). He’s also in the top 30 in birdie average.
J.J. Henry: The Fairfield, Conn., native won here in 2006 and has made 11 straight weekends. He has six top 25s and two top 10s that includes his win. He’s also made the cut in four straight on TOUR and the best of that run was his last time out in Memphis with T13. He could be a very nice TOAD this week in front of the home-town fans.
Chris Stroud: He thought he would be joining the first-timers club this time last year after chipping in to force a playoff but Ken Duke stole the thunder on the second playoff hole to join that club instead. After a blistering start to 2013-14 Stroud has cooled with only one top 10 in calendar 2014. I like him this week because 14 of his last 16 rounds here have been in the 60s and if a guy is going to break out, it’s going to be on a course where he’s had past success. He’s made six weekends on the bounce at TPC River Highlands and is 41-under par.
Andrew Svoboda: The last time a birdie-fest was required on TOUR Svoboda make 21 of them en route to his T2 finish at Zurich. He went quiet for three events after essentially securing his card for next year but picked it back up with T19 at Memorial after a Sunday fade and T6 at FESJC his last time with a Sunday stall (70). He’ll hit every fairway and green this week and should probably be listed higher than this.
Long Shots/Sleepers/Course Horses
Brian Davis: He’s eight of nine in his career and two of the last three have been T9 and T4 (T30 last year) so it’s obvious he’s down with the 6,800 layout.
James Hahn: After MC in three straight Hahn was T5 at Byron Nelson, MC at Colonial and T6 at FESJC. Only two of those last 10 rounds were over par. #knockknockknock
Nick Watney: He’s only played four events here and has finishes of T9, T9 and T13. Remember, he has one top 10 in his last 16 starts on TOUR so this will qualify as a long shot.
John Rollins: He finished T2 in 2011 and T4 in 2012 before a 78 on Saturday last year saw him MDF. Rollins has KILLED gamers this year as he’s posted ONE top 25 in 21 events. #longshot
Patrick Cantlay: He holds the course record. There are worse places to stretch this week.
Bo Van Pelt: With six top 25s in 11 starts and six of his last seven made on TOUR, BVP is excellent to fill deep rosters this week.
Brendon de Jonge: You need birdies. I need birdies. He makes birdies. He has T8 and T9 in the last four years to go along with MC and T63. That’s so de Jonge! Remember, two of his best three finishes in 2014 have come in his home state of North Carolina, including his only top 10.
Robert Streb: I’ll never run from a youngster that has made 11 of 12 cuts in his rookie season on TOUR, especially one who feasts on par-four scoring holes (second on TOUR). Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Mike Glasscott: A player from the fade list has hit the top five for like three weeks in a row. Keegan Bradley hit last week and Webb Simpson was T3 in Memphis. You might want to fade my fades. Do two fades make a play? What kind of math is this?
Zach Johnson: CONGRATULATIONS ZACH! You will be right back into the top 10 this week for the first time since the last weekend in March! After last week, that made it six tournaments out of seven WITHOUT at top 25. His best finish here in eight tries is T3 in his first attempt in 2004. His next best is T18.
Harris English: Man, I love me some Modern English but he’s been in quite a slump this spring. He’s MC in four of his last seven since T14 at API. His best finish of those three weekends is T30. I hope the FADE JINX breaks him out for summer!
Brandt Snedeker: He was quite helpful last week if you took a chance on him like I did. Making pars is one thing; making a ton of birdies with a bad back is another. He didn’t pick up the ball out of the hole on Sunday because his back flared up. Like Jason Day, there seems to always be something bothering Snedeker physically. Like English, Snedeker’s last top finish (T8) was at API as his putter and game never thawed this spring.
Kevin Stadler: After a surprising T8 in his first Masters, Baby Walrus is just four from seven with T28 being his best finish. I’d look elsewhere this week as well because in eight events at the Travelers he’s MC five times, WD once and has finishes of T54 and T51.
The Man with His Own Column
Erik Compton: Coming off is best-ever finish, let alone T2 in a U.S. Open, Compton provides an interesting look this week. I love the fact that at Zurich he made NOTHING on the greens, his strong suit, and finished T5. I love the fact that he made nothing at the U.S. Open on the greens and yet still was T5 in birdies made. I can see him basking in his best finish and having a decent week or I can see his putter catching fire on these slow greens and his magical year continuing. Now, gamers have to choose their own adventure!
Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week
The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.
Frys.com: Hideki Matsuyama, T3; Brooks Koepka, T3; Max Homa, T9.
SHCO: Ryo Ishikawa is only 22, don’t forget, T2; Chesson Hadley, T5.
CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!
WGC-HSBC: Jordan Spieth was 17th. Tommy Fleetwood (T18) is only 22 and plays in Europe. Matsuyama WD with a bad back.
McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek
OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.
HTOC: Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.
Sony: Hudson Swafford and Will Wilcox both finished T8. Both played on the Web.com Tour last year and are rookies on TOUR this season.
Humana: Patrick Reed won. He’s 23. You need to pay attention.
FIO: Ryo Ishikawa, 22, bagged another top 10 finish. That’s his sixth in his last 10 events on TOUR or the Web.com Tour. He’s an alternate this week as of Monday afternoon.
WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama is 21. In 11 events the last two years, he’s hit the top 25 in NINE of them, including T4 last week. #ALLRIGHTYTHEN
Pebble Beach: Er, Jordan Spieth, T4. Patrick Reed, 23, finished T13 and he’s won twice since August. Golf is good hands, again.
Riviera: Harris English won’t be 25 until July. He was T10; Spieth was T12.
WGC-Match Play: Victor Dubuisson is 23 and was second. Jordan Spieth was T5. #youthmovement
Honda: Russell Henley is now the fourth player on TOUR under 25 with two wins. He joins Patrick Reed, Harris English and Rory McIlroy in this very elite club of pups.
WGC-CC: Patrick Reed is 23. He’s now won three times in eight months on TOUR.
Puerto Rico Open: Rookie Chesson Hadley, 26, took home his first title on the big boy circuit.
Valspar: Chesson Hadley backed up his first win with T14 on a tough, tough Copperhead Course. Scott Langley, a second year player from Illinois (see above) was third.
API: The young Japanese lad Ishikawa racked up another top 10 (T8) this week. Yep, he’s still just 22.
Valero: He’ll be remembered for all of the wrong reasons but Andrew Loupe, 25, finished T4 in only his eighth start on TOUR. #slowgolfclap
Shell Houston: Russell Henley’s T7 shows him heating up before heading back for another crack at Augusta.
Masters: That Jordan Spieth guy was T2.
RBC Heritage: John Huh, T3, is a TOUR winner but is only 23 years old. Remember?
Zurich: The winner was 22-year old Seung-Yul Noh. He fits this column to a T.
Wells Fargo: Defending champ Derek Ernst was T30. He’ll turn 24 on May 15.
THE PLAYERS: That pesky Spieth was tied for the 54-hole lead and finished T4.
HPBNC: T16 was the best the youth could muster with John Huh, who turns 24 on Wednesday.
Colonial: Second-year player David Lingmerth poked his head up again with T5 to lead the youngsters. Hideki Matsuyama, who co-led after 54-holes, finished T10.
Memorial: Matsuyama must be a quick study. He was the 54-hole leader at Colonial yet finished T10. He took it deep this week with his first victory on TOUR, in a playoff, nonetheless. #impressive
FESJC: Brooks Koepka continues to rack up non-Member points and his T19 this week added to that.
U.S. Open: For the second consecutive week Koepka has the spotlight and deservedly so after T4. With Matsuyama, Spieth and Koepka, the future looks quite bright for the TOUR.
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 6ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Travelers and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.