We’re back to the regular PGA Tour after the thrills and spills of the US Open. Golf tipster Jamie Worsley had another profitable week and he has five more selections for the Travelers Championship.
Travelers Championship 2023 Tips
- 2 pts Collin Morikawa each way (1/5 – 7 places) – 25/1
- 1.25 pts Max Homa each way (1/5 – 8 places) – 40/1
- 1.25 pts Hideki Matsuyama each way (1/5 – 8 places) – 40/1
- 1 pt Aaron Rai each way (1/5 – 7 places) – 100/1
- 1 pt C.T Pan each way (1/5 – 8 places) – 100/1
What a couple of months it has been in the life of Wyndham Clark. Just five starts ago, after a 24th-place finish in the Mexico Open, the ever-improving Colorado native was still winless into his sixth season as a professional.
Fast-forward six weeks and the former Oklahoma State attendee is now a two-time winner, as he followed up his hugely impressive win in the Wells Fargo Championship four starts ago with an even more impressive victory at Los Angeles Country Club in the US Open on Sunday.
After opening with a 6-under 64 to sit 3rd after round one, Clark never left that top 3 for the rest of the week, advancing to 2nd at the end of round two, to tied-1st after round 3 and ultimately as the solo man at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday evening. Seeing off Rory McIlroy by one shot with more major winners in Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Smith in 3rd and 4th.
In truth he was the only one who looked likely during that final round and had built up a three-stroke lead before consecutive bogeys on 15 and 16 left him with a nervy finish. However, he scrambled and putted out well over those closing holes in the style of a regular major contender and celebrated his deserved victory in highly emotional fashion; a fabulous sight to witness.
The man he entered that final round with, Rickie Fowler at last looked like a man who hadn’t been in this position for a few years. He started nervily and never looking like recovering; eventually shooting a 5-over 75 to drop to 5th. Though it was still a really pleasing performance for one of golf’s most-liked players and a further sign that his game is tracking well in the right direction.
The biggest surprise of the final round was the lack of challenge offered up from Scottie Scheffler. At just three back at the start of the day, I expected big things, but he looked off it from the start, producing one of his worst approach displays in recent weeks and at 2-over through 12, never really pressured Clark, despite a couple of birdies late on.
And what of Rory McIlroy? The man second to Clark and ultimately his closest challenger made just one birdie during his final round, the lowest birdie return of any of the top 19 on Sunday. Though his play was solid enough, with just the one bogey made, his lack of spark in the final round of a major when in contention was once again all too evident. Ultimately leading to disappointment for him and his legion of fans, as he let another very winnable chance slide by.
Onto this week and most of last week’s main protagonists are back in action, as we head to Connecticut for the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands.
The Travelers Championship debuted in 1952 (as the Insurance City Open) and has taken place every year since, with TPC River Highlands taking over hosting duties in 1984; at which it’s remained since and is often one of the most well-attended events of the year.
Ted Kroll won the inaugural renewal and then went on to finish second in 1956 and 1961. In ‘56, he lost to Arnold Palmer in a playoff, who would then go on to become the first player to win multiple times in the Travelers Championship; his second victory coming in 1960, once again in a playoff.
Palmer is one of five players to have won the event twice. The others being: Paul Azinger (1987, 1989), Phil Mickelson (2001,2002), Peter Jacobsen (1984, 2003) and Stewart Cink (1997, 2008). Mickelson’s two wins in consecutive years make him the only player to successfully defend the championship.
That quintet are surpassed by a duo of players; one pre-TPC River Highlands and the other prior the move to this venue. Bubba Watson is the player with most wins at River Highlands, taking home the title in 2010, 2015 and 2018; three-time major winner, Billy Casper, the player with the most victories in the event, winning four times in 1963, 1965, 1968 and 1973.
Sam Snead in 1955 is one of a number of the game’s other greats to taste success in Connecticut; his seven-stroke victory is still the biggest winning margin in the tournament’s history. One better than Tim Norris’ six-stroke success in 1982, though his winning score of -25 is still to be bettered; Kenny Perry’s -22 in 2009 the best winning score at TPC River Highlands.
Xander Schauffele returns as our defending champion this week, after getting the better of Sahith Theegala and J.T Poston by two strokes in an exciting 2022 renewal; Theegala’s double-bogey on the final hole from the fairway bunker he should’ve been nowhere near, seeing him throw away his chance of a breakthrough win.
He’ll be hoping to gain some redemption this week and joins Schauffele in an excellent field in this newly Designated Event.
Redesigned by Pete Dye for opening in 1982, and then renovated by Bobby Weed in 1989, TPC River Highlands is one of the shortest courses on the PGA Tour and will this week play as a 6852-yard par 70.
With two reachable par 5s and ten par 4s below 450 yards, including the drivable 296-yard 15th, the course is full of gettable scoring opportunities. Though due to the defences at the course, the average winning score (over the last ten renewals) of -15.4 at this innocuous little course shows a venue that provides a good test and suits creativity.
Though there are a couple of exposed holes, the course is largely tree-lined and densely so in places, with sloping, occasionally doglegging fairways that whilst generous – ranking amongst the ten easiest to find on the PGA Tour – are well protected by challenging, strategic bunkering and 4-inch-thick Kentucky bluegrass/fescue rough.
Despite being relatively small, the bentgrass/poa mixed greens are usually receptive and quite easy to find, ranking as the 12th easiest to hit on tour over recent years. However, they possess much the same protection as the fairways, with that rough and sand well in-play, along with countless tricky run-offs; which makes TPC River Highlands rank inside the top 20 for scrambling difficulty.
Water – in-play on five holes – provides the course with one last line of defence and plays a pivotal part in deciding the destination of the trophy; well in-play on holes 15, 16 and 17.
Ultimately, the course is very fair and providing you’re in control of your ball-striking you should be able to create plenty of birdie chances over the course of the week.
- SG: Approach
- Proximity from 150-175 yards
- SG: Putting (bentgrass/poa)
- Par 4 Scoring
With the array of scoring opportunities around TPC River Highlands, it’s of little surprise that approach play and/or putting often prove the most decisive factors.
2022 gave us a prime example of this, as Xander Schauffele’s win here was engineered by quality on the greens, ranking 4th and in approach, ranking 5th. The runners-up, JT Poston and Sahith Theegala ranked 2nd and 10th in approach; whilst were 12th and 15th on the greens.
The putter was also vital in 2020 and 2021, with six of the top 10 in each of those editions ranking top 10 on the greens. This includes Dustin Johnson being the 4th best putter when winning in 2020, where he also ranked 6th in approach.
Chez Reavie was the top-ranked iron player in the field when winning in 2019, whilst Jordan Spieth ranked 9th when winning in 2017 and Russell Knox was 5th in approach when taking the title in 2016.
Approaches from 150-175 have been comfortably the most common around TPC River Highlands over the last eight years, particularly in the last two renewals where over 27% of approaches have come in this range and it’s also a distance in which last year’s champion, Xander Schauffele ranks 1st on the PGA Tour.
Additionally, with twelve par 4s on the course, I’m keen to get players who score best on those hole on side.
- SG: Off-the-Tee and/or Driving Accuracy
- SG: Around-the-Greens
The course largely negates power off the tee, though there has been a recent trend with driving accuracy proving important, as despite the fairways being easy to hit, they’re pretty penal should you miss.
Xander Schauffele was 4th in driving accuracy when winning last year, whilst in 2021, Harris English ranked 8th when winning; Kramer Hickok and Marc Leishman coming next on the leaderboard, ranked 2nd and 8th respectively. Chez Reavie ranked 7th in driving accuracy in 2019.
All of those players also ranked high in strokes-gained off-the-tee at no worse than 15th, whilst in his two most recent wins, Bubba Watson was good with driver, ranking 2nd in 2015 and 9th in 2018.
Finally, the small greens and difficulty in scrambling at TPC River Highlands has me leaning somewhat on quality around-the-greens. Five of the last six winners ranked 26th or better ATG, with Spieth in 2017 ranking 3rd and English in 2021 ranking 8th.
Correlating Events (Courses)
My shortlist for correlating courses this week was as long as any I can remember. Though I liked others, such as: the Valspar Championship, RSM Classic and Pebble Beach Pro-Am, these following five events appealed most this week.
RBC Heritage (Harbour Town Golf Links)
Harbour Town Golf Links is another short, strategic Pete Dye design with small greens and ranks closely to TPC River Highlands in driving accuracy % and penalty for missing fairways. Both courses possessing much of that typical Dye bunkering.
Stewart Cink has recorded multiple wins in both events, whilst Jordan Spieth has also tasted victory in both; Webb Simpson and Carl Pettersson each with wins in the Heritage and strong records at River Highlands.
Russell Knox has a 2nd-place finish in the Heritage to compliment his win here; 2014 Travelers Champion Kevin Steelman has finishes of 3rd and 6th at the Heritage. An abundance of extra form-ties are on offer, including JT Poston, who was 2nd here last year and has finishes of 3rd and 6th at the Heritage, and Brian Harman with a plethora of top 10s across both.
THE PLAYERS Championship (TPC Sawgrass)
Next up is another Dye design and I’m hoping TPC Sawgrass can provide more clues to this week. Though narrower off-the-tee, it possesses similarly sized greens and ranks particularly closely to this week’s venue in short-game difficulty.
2018 PLAYERS Champion, Webb Simpson beat last year’s Travelers winner, Xander Schauffele into 2nd that year. Kevin Streelman has finished 2nd there, whilst Brian Harman has finishes of 3rd and 8th at Sawgrass.
Additional form-lines can be found from Paul Casey, who has multiple top 5s there to go with two runner-up finishes here and Kevin Kisner, who has 2nd and 4th-place finishes there whilst recording two top 6s here.
World Wide Technology Championship/Mayakoba Classic (El Camaleon)
There’s plenty of form to tie both El Camaleon and TPC River Highlands together. Add in how closely matched the two courses are in GIR percentages and penalty for missing the fairways and this heavily tree-lined course looks a good comp this week.
Harris English has won both events, whilst Charley Hoffman and Russell Henley are former Mayakoba winners with good records here. Hoffman in particular, who has finished 2nd and 3rd in Connecticut; whilst Kevin Streelman has finishes of 3rd and 4th there.
Brian Harman and Russell Knox have each finished 2nd there, as have Danny Lee and Vaughn Taylor, who have finished 3rd and 4th here respectively; Will Gordon has a 3rd at both venues and 2013 Travelers runner-up, Chris Stroud has 3rd and 4th-place finishes in Mexico.
Wyndham Championship (Sedgefield Country Club)
With similar averages to this week’s host course in GIR, penalty for missing fairways and short-game challenges, the traditionally tree-lined Sedgefield Country Club has plenty in its favour to act as a good comp this week.
Carl Pettersson, Webb Simpson, JT Poston and Kevin Kisner have all won there to match their good records here. 2011 Travelers winner, Freddie Jacobsen has finished 2nd there, whilst Brian Harman, Russell Henley and Kevin Streelman all appear again, with multiple top 10s between them in the Wyndham.
John Deere Classic (TPC Deere Run)
The generous fairways and smallish but easy-to-hit bentgrass greens compare very closely to here at TPC River Highlands. As does difficult in scrambling around both courses and with further similarities on offer from the length of the Kentucky blue/fescue rough that we also find here, the John Deere Classic can act as an excellent comp this week.
Jordan Spieth and Kenny Perry have won each event, whilst Brian Harman and JT Poston are former John Deere winners with good finishes here. Russell Henley has a 2nd there; Danny Lee has a 3rd and Chris Stroud has several top 5s.
It’s set to be a warm and humid week in Connecticut, which could bring about thunderstorms over the weekend. Though with no more than a mild breeze, there’s little else that should cause the players too many problems this week. Hopefully the storms fail to materialise, and we have an uninterrupted event.
These Designated Events are supposed to bring together some of the best fields in golf and that is certainly what we’ve got this week.
Jordan Spieth is the only eligible member of the world’s top 10 not in attendance this week, as each of the top five are set to tee it up at TPC River Highlands; headed by world #1 Scottie Scheffler.
Our newest major champion, Wyndham Clark is in attendance, now at a new high of #13 in the world and is joined by a further ten of the world’s top 25; the injured Will Zalatoris, along with Sam Burns and Tyrrell Hatton the three not here.
Hideki Matsuyama makes a belated first start in the event, whilst there are also debuts for Tom Kim, Cameron Young, Kurt Kitayama and Min Woo Lee among others.
Former #1 amateur Ludvig Aberg is back in action, as is Sam Bennett, who is looking to make it 4/4 made cuts since turning pro; whilst current #2 amateur Michael Thorbjornsen makes his return after an excellent 4th in the event last year.
Scottie Scheffler heads the betting at 6/1 and it seems like just a matter of time before the world #1 wins again this year. He’s followed by the trio of Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay at 10/1, with Xander Schauffele next at 12s.
Rahm appealed most of these, with his sneaky backdoor top 10 at the US Open last week likely to have taken much less out of him than Scheffler, Rory and Schauffele; who all spent much of last week in or around the leading positions.
However, these weeks following a major can be a little unpredictable, so I’m not keen on going so high up the board.
We don’t have to go much further down to find my first selection of the week tough, as I’m taking Collin Morikawa to claim his first PGA Tour win in almost two years this week.
2 pts Collin Morikawa each way (1/5 – 7 places)
Morikawa arrives here off the back of a 14th-place finish in last week’s US Open; his best performance since finishing 10th at Augusta over two months ago.
The signs of a return to form for the two-time major champ were evident on his previous start at the Memorial, where he’d gotten himself into 9th and just 2 off the lead heading into the final round, before having to withdraw ahead of that 4th round due to back spasms. Though he did state ahead of last week’s US Open that he didn’t have any ongoing back pain and we should be confident in his fitness ahead of this week.
Morikawa has been hitting the ball as good as ever so far this season, ranking 2nd on tour in approach and 27th off-the-tee; whilst he’s also 5th in driving accuracy and 17th in proximity from 150-175 yards.
As ever, the short game has been his weakness, though his much-improved performances on those two most recent starts have coincided with gains on the greens, as he ranked 28th in putting last week and before withdrawing at Muirfield Village, was gaining close to one stroke per round. Always looking more at home on bent/poa greens, he should be confident in keeping that uptick in form with the putter going on these surfaces.
Morikawa’s precision ball-striking has always made him a big player on these Pete Dye designs for me and he’s often one of the first names on the shortlist at Harbour Town or Sawgrass for that reason alone, though the putting surfaces here make him an even more attractive proposition.
Having said that, he hasn’t set the world alight on two visits to TPC River Highlands, finishing 36th on debut in 2019, though he hasn’t played since missing he cut in 2020 and I’m certain he can improve massively on that this week.
A 4th in the John Deere Classic; a generally strong record at Harbour Town, with a best of 7th in 2021; a 13th at this year’s PLAYERS Championship and 15th-place finish on his one-and-only visit to Mayakoba increase my confidence in regard to his chances here and if maintaining his new-found form with the putter, he’ll be a big player in Connecticut.
1.25 pts Max Homa each way (1/5 – 8 places)
Max Homa’s repeated failure to perform in majors is a constant source of confusion for many and he’s sure to be disappointed in missing the cut at home in our West-Coast major last week. He hit the ball solidly enough there though, with his touch around the greens his undoing and I’m hoping he can turn that disappointment into determination to perform this week, much like he did when 9th at Colonial two starts ago, which followed an underwhelming effort in the PGA Championship.
That 9th at Colonial was Homa’s second top 10 in his last four events after finishing 8th at Quail Hollow and I do think that he looks a big price this week, as a player who has recorded five wins on the PGA Tour since 2021 – though no doubt his four missed cuts in this event play a part in that.
That doesn’t concern me though as his game is there to tackle this test. His ball-striking is a little less consistent than earlier in the year but there is still plenty of quality in there, particularly in approach, where he ranks 13th on tour this season.
Additionally, Homa continues to be one of the very best putters around, ranking 4th in this field over the last six months and looking particularly at home on bent/poa surfaces; his ability on the par 4s, where he ranks 9th in scoring average is another plus for this test.
Three of his four missed cuts here came before he was the consistent, prolific winner that he has become over the last couple of years, and he has plenty of correlating form to suggest he can improve vastly on those efforts this week. He’s started to find some really strong form at TPC Sawgrass, finishing 13th and 6th there the last two years, and though not making my final list, top 10s at Pebble Beach and the Valspar are added positives.
Homa can lean on this, as well as his disappointment in last week’s missed cut, to spur him on to a seventh PGA Tour title this week.
1.25 pts Hideki Matsuyama each way (1/5 – 8 places)
Despite his struggles on the greens, Hideki Matsuyama continues to show plenty of promise in the rest of his game. Arriving at TPC River Highlands after a field-leading and best-of-the-year approach performance in last week’s US Open, he has the arsenal to take to this event on his first try.
He eventually finished 32nd in the US Open, as he entered the final round on the periphery of the top 10 and it’s easy to see where he went wrong, as along with leading the field in approach, he ranked 6th tee-to-green but was 65th out of 65 players on the putting surfaces over the week.
This has very much been the story of his season barring the odd spark of life with the putter. Although, the quality of that approach and T2G game, that sees him rank 5th and 4th respectively in this field over the last twenty rounds, has enabled him to build up a strong series of recent results; with zero missed cuts in his last seven starts and hasn’t finished any worse than 32nd.
Combine this with his excellence around-the-greens, in which he ranks 8th this season and his strength in approach from 150-175 yards, ranking 28th, we have evidence of a player who has the game – T2G at least – to take it to TPC River Highlands.
His excellent PLAYERS Championship record can provide another big pointer as to his potential performance this week. In eight visits to TPC Sawgrass, Matsuyama has missed just two cuts and finished inside the top 25 on each of his other six starts, turning three of them into top 10s, with the best coming this year when 5th.
In addition to this are some strong finishes at the Wyndham Championship, including a best of 3rd in 2016 and if his irons are as on-fire as they have been over recent starts, the Japanese star can finally get rewards for his recent promising play with a win this week.
1 pt Aaron Rai each way (1/5 – 7 places)
Aaron Rai’s unassumingly strong, accurate ball-striking game fits the profile of many who have performed well around here. Coming into this week off the back of his best PGA Tour finish to date, when 3rd in Canada two weeks ago, he should be full of confidence and can use that to find a top performance this week.
Rai is currently playing his best golf of the year, with his 3rd in Canada coming just two starts after his previous best performance of the year, when 12th in the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial. Prior to that, his 19th in THE PLAYERS Championship had been his best result of 2023.
Rai has been hitting the ball well all year, ranking 6th in driving accuracy, 40th in approach and 48th OTT, though has stepped that up another level over those recent better finishes. Looking particularly good in approach when ranked 2nd in his 12th at Colonial and 4th last-time-out in Canada.
A solid player around-the-greens too, which helps Rai to rank as the 18th best player in this field T2G over the last three months; rankings of 14th in par 4 scoring and 32nd in proximity from 150-175 yards completes a compelling statistical case for him.
Rai was a solid enough 40th here last year, where he put his precise ball-striking to good use; ranking top 10 in GIR and top 20 in approach. Though he’s only had limited starts in correlating events, top 20s at Mayakoba and in THE PLAYERS offer further encouragement, as does a top 20 in the RSM Classic.
The softly-spoken Englishman made his DP World Tour breakthrough at a similarly short, tree-lined course in Hong Kong at the end of 2018 and he looks nicely priced to make his PGA Tour breakthrough at a similar venue this week.
1 pt C.T Pan each way (1/5 – 8 places)
I was tempted by Billy Horschel at huge odds after finding his best ball-striking performance of the year at last week’s US Open. Though will need a little more evidence of him having turned that corner due to how far away he’s looked all year. Instead, I finish with Taiwan’s C.T Pan, who looks a decent price on current form.
As mentioned when putting him up in Canada, Pan made his return from a four-month absence due to a wrist injury back in March. Though he missed his first three cuts on return, signs of life were there, and he has duly delivered on those signs over his next two starts, finishing 4th in the AT&T Byron Nelson and then 3rd in Canada on his last start two weeks ago.
Every area of Pan’s game has fired over those two top 4s. He ranked 8th tee-to-green in the Byron Nelson – gaining strokes in each area – and ranked top 30 on the greens. It was a similar story in Canada, as he ranked 7th tee-to-green, once again gaining strokes in each area but this time produced an improved putting display, ranking 9th, that saw him to that slightly higher finish; in an event where he entered the final round with a two-shot lead and after starting slowly, flew home with a late rally to almost get himself into the playoff.
Due to his precise ball-striking game, that short tree-lined course in Canada is very much the type that Pan has made his career performing best on, including here at TPC River Highlands.
He finished 8th here in 2017, two years after finishing 25th on debut. As a past winner at Harbour Town in 2019, he has an excellent piece of Dye form, whilst his 2nd in the Wyndham in 2018 is another big plus; as is his strong record at Mayakoba, where he’s only missed one cut and recorded 11th and 16th-place finishes.
This is just his kind of track and with the excellence he’s shown over those two most recent starts, I just had to have another go at Pan this week.