2022 Travelers Championship Preview: Everything To Know About TPC River Highlands

Written By John Haslbauer on June 19, 2022 - Last Updated on June 21, 2022
Travelers championship odds

After consecutive weeks on courses we hadn’t seen in over a decade, the TOUR heads to familiar grounds in Cromwell, Conn. We gear up for one of the most boisterous, fan-friendly events of the year, the 2022 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands. That means a look at the Travelers Championship odds.

After THE NORTHERN TRUST relocated, the Travelers remains the sole PGA TOUR event in the tri-state area. I’ve punched my ticket to be there this weekend for the first time. If you find yourself at TPC River Highlands cut-sweating in person on Friday too, come say hi! Find me near the Pereira group.

This event always seems to deliver a climactic finish. Five of the last 11 Travelers Championships have gone to playoff. Last year’s marathon infamously lasted to sundown, as Harris English outlasted a resilient Kramer Hickok in eight holes. Jordan Spieth also famously took a playoff win over Daniel Berger, holing out from the green-side bunker for birdie. Both players and fans have fun. The course offers ample birdie opportunities balanced with true tests that will reward the best ball strikers and prevent a winning score from eclipsing -20.

With all that said, I’m looking for players who best generate birdie opportunities, have pre-existing course history, and enter in good ball-striking form.

We’ll run through the key facts and info about TPC River Highlands ahead of the 2022 Travelers Championship.

THE TRAVELERS CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS: THE FAVORITES

Scroll to the bottom for complete outright odds and to compare prices across legal sports betting in your state.

S. Scheffler
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+900
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+1000
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+1000
R. McIlroy
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+900
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+1000
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+1000
J. Thomas
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+1000
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+1000
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+1100
P. Cantlay
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+1400
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+1500
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+1600
S. Burns
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+1800
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+1700
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+1800

THE TRAVELERS CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD AT A GLANCE

This year’s Travelers Championship feels like an invitational. Perhaps that stems from Jay Monahan encouraging the PGA TOUR’s brightest stars to continue on from the fireworks we last saw at the RBC Canadian Open. More likely, however, it’s the result of a fun, storied event where diverse skillsets have found paths to success.

Scheduling may play a role too. Cromwell sits less than a two-hour drive from Brookline, Massachusetts. The world’s best can easily hang around. The Scottish Open also makes its debut on the PGA TOUR schedule in two weeks, and it’s a much easier trip to make from New England for those already qualified to play in both the Scottish and British Opens in successive weeks. Unfortunately that plus the growing LIV roster leaves the field for the John Deere Classic dead. But that’s next week’s problem.

Five of the top-six OWGR players are here this week, highlighted by No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and including Sam Burns, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay.

The field has plenty of depth, too. Tony Finau, Sungjae Im, Brooks Koepka, Joaquin Niemann, Mito Pereira, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson and Will Zalatoris will all tee it up.

Past winners of this event in the field this week include Harris English, Chez Reavie, Jordan Spieth, Russell Knox, Kevin Streelman, Marc Leishman, J.J. Henry and Stewart Cink. Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson have six wins between them at the Travelers but will each miss this week. Phil and DJ have their LIV allegiances and Bubba nurses an injury (also rumored to be jumping to LIV).

INTRODUCTION TO TPC RIVER HIGHLANDS

Finally a bit less speculation and guesswork lies ahead for the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands. Unlike The Country Club and St. George’s, which each made returns to the TOUR schedule after over a decade, the confines of TPC River Highlands bring plenty of recent history. The Travelers celebrates its 70th anniversary this year with River Highlands hosting since 1984.

If we affectionately refer to the Waste Management Phoenix Open as “The People’s Open,”  then we may want to dub the Travelers “The People’s Championship.” Attendance ranks second only to TPC Scottsdale’s each year. That adds a stadium atmosphere and makes for an exhilarating viewing experience down the final stretch. The Travelers doesn’t exactly have the pedigree of the Genesis or Arnold Palmer Invitational, but it’s done an excellent job of attracting the game’s best players, a credit to the energy created each year.

Playoffs have been a mainstay. Beyond English and Hickok, the 18th has set the scene for infamous “walk-off” hole outs from Spieth, Notah Begay in 2000, Olin Browne in 1998 and Paul Azinger in 1989.

Patrick Cantlay’s breakout moment came on these grounds in 2011 when he shot the course record (60) as an amateur, still in college at UCLA. That record did not last long, however, as Jim Furyk came back in 2016 to fire a 58. Mackenzie Hughes also opened the 2020 Travelers with a Thursday 60. All this to suggest that this course can be a birdie-makers dream when the irons and putter click. Despite all the low single-round scores, the winning mark has still not pushed beyond -20 over the last 10 years.

How It Breaks Down

At just 6,841 yards, TPC River Highlands stands as the second-shortest course on TOUR, just edging past Port Royal by several yards. While a short course does open it up to the plodders like Chez Reavie, Brian Harman, and Kevin Streelman, just as many bombers (Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Bryson DeChambeau) have found success. Distance is always a nice to have on the PGA TOUR, and it does allow players to take more aggressive lines. However, we should expect a tight dispersion of driving distance on a majority of holes this week with many forced layups on shorter par 4s.

The scorecard this week includes the standard mix of four par 3s, two par 5s, and 12 par 4s that we would expect on a par-70 layout. The two par 5s on property bring the easiest scoring opportunities, followed by the two par 4s which measure under 350 yards. TPC River Highlands’ identity lies in its short par 4s, with 10 holes measuring under 450 yards. That brings forward a concentration of mid-irons from the 125-175 range, and very few approaches from beyond 200. The drivable 296-yard par-4 15th hole is one of the more memorable ones on TOUR, tempting all players to go for the green with water surrounding left and a giant hill right. It’s one of my favorite risk-reward holes on TOUR, in which eagle and double bogey both beckon.

Traits And Recent Notable Facts

Looking over the stats that make TPC River Highlands unique, the rough stands out as the course’s best defense. Fairways measure wider than TOUR average and players have historically dialed back their driving distance to ensure playing from the short grass. That has resulted in about 70% of fairways hit compared to TOUR average closer to 65%. Penalty for misses is steep, however. The course ranks top seven in each of the last six years in strokes lost from off fairway. Things don’t get much easier around the green, from where TPC River Highlands routinely ends among the top five most difficult courses to gain strokes.

With that in mind, this week should all come back to ball striking. Players can reach the fairways and greens in regulation more easily than average, so those who can repeatedly hit precise shots from Point A to Point B should do just fine. Although the greens complexes may bring challenging scrambles, we should expect contenders to hold a high percentage of these greens anyway.

TPC RIVER HIGHLANDS COURSE SPECS

  • Yards: 6,841
  • Par: 70 (4x 3s / 12x 4s / 2x 5s)
  • Greens: Bent & Poa Blend
  • Architect: Pete Dye (with renovations from Bobby Weed in ’89)
  • Historic Cut Line: -1 to +1
  • Median Four-Round Score: -4 (’21), -9 (’20), -4 (’19), -6 (’18), -4 (’17)
  • Comp Courses: Colonial CC, TPC Deere Run, Sedgefield CC, TPC Sawgrass, Harbour Town, Riviera CC,  Innisbrook Resort, Waialae CC
  • Recent Past Winners: Harris English -13 (’21), Dustin Johnson -19 (’20), Chez Reavie -17 (’19), Bubba Watson -17 (’18), Jordan Spieth -12 (’17)
  • Hole-by-hole Breakdown:
TPC River Highlands (6,841 Yards)

COURSE HISTORY AND COURSE COMPS

Course History is stickier at TPC River Highlands than the average PGA TOUR course. I’m beginning my research by striking through any players who have failed to post a top-40 finish in their prior starts. Course specialists have used similar game plans each year to produce consistent results and find themselves in contention.

Looking at the recent Travelers results, 11 players have multiple T15 finishes over the last five years. That list includes Brian Harman, Kevin Streelman, Patrick Cantlay, Jason Day, Brendan Steele, Rory McIlroy, Charley Hoffman, Kevin Tway, Keegan Bradley, Danny Lee and Kevin Kisner, 

Eleven players have avoided missing the cut over each of the last five years (min. three appearances): Cantlay, McIlroy, Mackenzie Hughes, Brooks Koepka, Sam Burns, Hank Lebioda, Tyler Duncan, Joaquin Niemann and Lanto Griffin.  

The top-10 players in terms of overall course history at TPC River Highlands are Charley Hoffman, Harman, Marc Leishman, Steele, Day, McIlroy, Chez Reavie, Cantlay, Bradley and Streelman.

Brian Harman

Bubba Watson and Paul Casey are the two active PGA TOUR players with the best career course history at the Travelers. With both on the mend from injury this week, Brian Harman carries the top course history honors.

Harman has finished top 10 in three of his last four trips to this event. If you’re willing to throw away the 2020 COVID-impacted event, he’s riding a clean streak of three straight T10s. Harman has still yet to convert a victory here, but he piled up an impressive eight made cuts and four top 10s in 10 years.

Course Comps

Short positional courses are a dime a dozen on the PGA TOUR, and they tend to bring most correlation from a comp standpoint. In the case of TPC River Highlands, many courses have proven themselves indicators of success. 

Colonial CC seems the top comp in my eyes. It features the exact same average green size and rough length, plays under 7,200 yards, and uses heavy tree lining to force positional layups off the tee. Jordan Spieth has won at both events, and Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson, Harris English and Brooks Koepka have each also found repeated success at both.

TPC Deere Run is another great comp course. It also plays as short and positionally on similar Bentgrass greens with a layout which rewards a combination of SG: OTT and Birdies or Better Gained. TPC courses bring plenty of design consistency, and the philosophy of a fan-friendly atmosphere with ample scoring opportunities should translate. 

Of all the Pete Dye comps, the presence of penal rough and ample hazards has me lean towards TPC Sawgrass as the top one. Harbour Town also looks like a solid reference and has been a strong indictor earlier in the season. If we use Bubba Watson as a barometer for course fit (he has three wins here) then Riviera CC, Innisbrook Resort and (to a lesser extent) TPC Scottsdale also stand as interesting reference points.

Combine performance across this list and the top-10 players in Comp Course History here are Cantlay, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Maverick McNealy, Lucas Glover, Ryan Palmer, Niemann, McIlroy, Webb Simpson and Carlos Ortiz.

KEY STATS TO CONSIDER

  • SG: OTT / Driving Distance
  • SG: APP
  • Birdies or Better Gained
  • SG: ARG
  • Prox 125-175
  • SG: T2G (<7,200-Yard Courses)
  • Par 4: 400-450 / Par: 4: 0-350
  • SG: TOT (Pete Dye Courses)
  • SG: Putting (Bent & Poa)
  • Course & Comp Course History

It’s easy to look at a 6,841-yard par-70 Pete Dye course and deduce that accuracy will have high import. That holds true as Chez Reavie and Brian Harman have shown us time and time again that a lack of distance doesn’t leave a player at a huge disadvantage. But having distance does actually set up players for success more so than you might expect at the other positional courses on TOUR.

At The Country Club last week, I put a huge emphasis on Total Driving (Driving Accuracy + Driving Distance) in lieu of SG: OTT. This week, however, I’m going heavy on SG: OTT. The top-10 players in SG: OTT entering this week are Rory McIlroy, Brendan Steele, Keith Mitchell, Joaquin Niemann, Mito Pereira, Will Zalatoris, Cameron Champ, Justin Thomas, Sungjae Im and Luke List.

Any short Pete Dye course puts an emphasis on iron play. Just behind SG: OTT for me this week is SG: APP. The top 10 entering this event are Zalatoris, Scottie Scheffler, Russell Henley, Aaron Wise, Jordan Spieth, Pereira, Thomas, McIlroy, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele and Sam Burns.

Given the tricky green-side complexes, SG: ARG still ranks highly despite the high volume of birdies expected. Just 10 players rank top-30 in both SG: Ball Striking and SG: ARG: Thomas, Scheffler, Joaquin Niemann, McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Henley, Schauffele, Spieth, Im and Si Woo Kim.

Birdies And Specific Distances

We don’t normally find so many holes at one course concentrated to one range. But this week, we’ll see eight holes funneled to 400-450 yards. Those who excel from this range should have a leg up. The top 10 includes Scheffler, Pereira, Thomas, Niemann, Im, Lanto Griffin, Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Finau and Sepp Straka.

With so many low individual scores posted over the years, TPC River Highlands has become a birdie-maker’s delight. It presents a great opportunity for streaky players to separate themselves if the irons and putter click. The top-10 players to keep an eye on for Birdies or Better Gained are Scheffler, Niemann, McIlroy, Thomas, Davis Riley, Burns, Zalatoris, Cantlay, Henley and Schauffele.

To sum, I’m looking for players consistent in SG: OTT, SG: APP, and Birdies or Better Gained, who possess above average history at TPC River Highlands as well as other comp courses. Nine players meet that criteria: Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Joaquin Niemann, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Keegan Bradley and Brian Harman. 

Positional Pedigree

Whenever we head to the shortest courses on the PGA TOUR which force less than driver regularly, I like to reference SG: OTT on short courses. That helps gauge which players position themselves best with layups off the tee. The top-10 in that area heading into this week are Im, Champ, McIlroy, Finau, Emiliano Grillo, Keith Mitchell, Schauffele, Paul Barjon, Maverick McNealy and Bradley. Notables outside the top 50 in total SG: OTT who jump inside the top 30 on shorter courses include Charley Hoffman, Cam Davis, Henley, Burns, Troy Merritt, and McNealy.

Pete Dye courses tend to share a risk-reward nature, tempting players to hit towards hazards on both their drives and approach shots. This ultimately rewards those with precise control. The top-10 Pete Dye players entering this week are Cantlay, Bradley, Brian Harman, Webb Simpson, Tommy Fleetwood, Koepka, Niemann, Harold Varner III, Im, and Zalatoris.

Correlations

Looking at the correlation charts this week, we see quite a few stat categories that profile TPC River Highlands as a unique test compared to the average PGA TOUR course. Par-3 Scoring, Par-5 Scoring, and P4: 450-500 have proven less consequential at this event, and each falls from the usual place in the top 10.

The number of short par 4s means we instead see a premium concentrated on P4: 400-450 and P4: 0-350. Ten holes will play between these two ranges, so players who take advantage should position themselves to stockpile the most birdie chances.

Just outside the top 10, we notably see Driving Distance and Doubles Avoided bringing historical success. Distance does not come to mind on a 6.8K-yard course, but it’s proven a very good “nice to have” for players like Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau, Jason Day and Charley Hoffman. Doubles Avoided also feels like a tertiary stat. But on a course that baits you into taking shots over hazards and forces layups from tee shots that fall out of position, it makes sense that we want players who keep big numbers off of their cards.

Top-10 Correlated Stats with SG: TOT

 

Top-10 Correlated Stats with SG: TOT at TPC River Highlands

Ten players in the field rank above average in each of the above 10 key stat categories: Justin Thomas, Scottie Scheffler, Joaquin  Niemann, Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Brian Harman, Tommy Fleetwood and Aaron Wise.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: KEEGAN BRADLEY

Keegan Bradley, the victim of a penalty kick in the Players Championship

I write this on Sunday morning. I can only assume in just a few hours, Keegan will have done something dumb to eject himself from U.S. Open contention in front of the local New England faithful. Vying for a major in front of friends and family on your native turf brings massive pressure, so I’m putting no stock behind Bradley’s Sunday form. I’ve seen enough from the first three rounds to have confidence he can bottle the same game plan and continue to find success this week.

Looking down the list of Travelers winners over the last decade, all check at least one of three boxes: good form at the U.S. Open in the week prior, strong course history, or proven results on a comp course earlier in the season.

In Bradley’s case, we get all three. In addition to how he’s looked at Brookline (No. 14 SG: T2G, No. 7 SG: P), Bradley has played Travelers each of the last 11 years. He has nine made cuts and six top 30s over that span. He peaked with a T2 in 2019, and he has two top 10s since 2017. He’s gained strokes from T2G all but once, suggesting he knows how to attack this course. In terms of comp courses, top-15 finishes at this year’s Sony Open, PLAYERS Championship and Wells Fargo Championship leave little doubt that he can hold his own on positional tracks which reward elite ball striking.

AimPoint has treated Keegan well. He’s flipped the putter from a liability to an asset, gaining 1+ stroke putting in five of his last eight starts, an unfathomable thought this time last year. Bradley’s ball striking has never wavered, and with the putter now reaching consistent levels, he should soon pick up his first win since 2018. 

WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT THE 2022 TRAVELERS CHAMPIONSHIP

Elite players in good form have littered the top of this leaderboard over its storied history. I would side with the select few at 25-to-1 or shorter over the entire rest of the field this week. I’m tempted to build out a longer card with more players to track in person. But, I think the prudent play is to build a shorter card around a couple of top names who have shown they can thrive in the limelight in front of massive crowds. It should prove another fun event to watch, one which hopefully continues to restore the public’s faith behind all that is good about the PGA TOUR.

With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool. Naturally, I’m looking their way in the 2022 Travelers Championship odds as well. I’ve broken the list down by projected pricing/odds tier for DraftKings.

In my model, I’m emphasizing SG: OTT, SG: APP, Birdie or Better Gained, and Comp Course History, followed by a more balanced mix of P4: 400-450, Prox: 125-175, SG: T2G (<7,200 Yard Courses), Doubles Avoided, P4: 0-350 and SG: Short Game.

Model Favorites

Justin Thomas takes top model honors this week, looking to bounce back from a lackluster showing at the U.S. Open. He rates top 15 in every category I fed into the model, highlighted by ranks of No. 1 in SG: T2G (<7,200 Yard Courses), No. 2 in Comp Course History and top five in BoB Gained, P4: 400-450 and P4: 0-350. It’s another great course fit for Thomas, and we should expect him to hang around as long as his putter allows.

After Thomas, the rest of my model’s top 10 features Scottie Scheffler, Joaquin Niemann, Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy,  Patrick Cantlay, Russell Henley, Xander Schauffele, Keegan Bradley and Jordan Spieth.

When odds open on Monday, I’ll target Cantlay, Niemann, Bradley and Pereira, hoping we see some palatable numbers.

Check back in later this week for more updates, and best of luck navigating the 2022 Travelers Championship odds!

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John Haslbauer Avatar
Written by
John Haslbauer

John Haslbauer writes about golf betting and advanced golf metrics for TheLines.com. He is a passionate golf fan, golf writer, and (casual) golfer. A graduate at Syracuse University, John works out of Jersey City as a Director of Media Strategy for HBO and HBO Max. He created the website thepgatout.com at the start of 2021 and is active on Twitter (@PGATout). No, he is not a tout. The Twitter handle is a joke. Touts are lame. We hate touts.

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