2023 Travelers Championship Preview: Everything To Know About TPC River Highlands
The Travelers Championship returns to TPC River Highlands for another Elevated event in the 2023 PGA Tour season. Find bigger golf odds at the best sports betting sites to increase your potential payouts. Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, and Patrick Cantlay project as the favorites for this year’s Travelers Championship.
It has been a week full of travel for me personally, in a West Coast Swing that spanned from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe. The traveling is only just beginning, however, as the players and I prepare to return to the east coast for the 2023 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut. Sportsbooks have already dropped Travelers Championship betting options for this weekend.
The electric crowd atmosphere never disappoints in Connecticut – the perfect response to a subdued and largely corporate setting at last week’s U.S. Open. TPC River Highlands offers ample birdie opportunities and true tests that reward the best ball strikers and prevent a winning score from eclipsing -20. With that in mind, I’m looking for players who best generate birdie opportunities, have pre-existing course history, and enter in good ball-striking form, particularly on comparable positional layouts.
Let’s run through the key facts and info about TPC River Highlands ahead of the 2023 Travelers Championship.
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TRAVELERS CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS: THE FAVORITES
Scroll to the bottom for complete outright odds. Here are the favorites with odds shorter than 20-1, as of Monday morning at BetMGM.
THE FIELD AT A GLANCE
Last year’s Travelers Championship welcomed one of the strongest fields in its longstanding history. This year, it’s improved even further despite the cross country travel from LA, helped by its Elevated Event status and $20M purse.
All of the OWGR top-8 players committed to play this week. That field is loaded with Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele, Max Homa, and Matt Fitzpatrick, all set to headline this popular event. That makes the 2023 Travelers Championship one of the strongest fields of the PGA TOUR season, setting a compelling stage for a course which is attackable for the field at large.
In addition to the headliners, 31 of the OWGR top-40 are set to tee it up this week. Of the healthy PGA TOUR members inside the top-40, Jordan Spieth, Tyrrell Hatton, Sam Burns, Justin Rose, and Chris Kirk are the only players who elected to skip.
Past winners of this event in the field this week include Xander Schauffele, Harris English, Chez Reavie, Russell Knox, Kevin Streelman, and Stewart Cink.
INTRODUCTION TO TPC RIVER HIGHLANDS
Bit less speculation and guesswork lies ahead for the Travelers Championship than the last two weeks. Unlike L.A. Country Club and Oakdale, which made their debut on the PGA TOUR schedule in successive weeks, the confines of TPC River Highlands bring plenty of familiarity. This year marks the Travelers’ 71st year on the schedule with TPC River Highlands hosting since 1984.
If we affectionately refer to the WM 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 each year. That adds a stadium atmosphere and makes for an exhilarating viewing experience down the final stretch. The Travelers doesn’t have the pedigree of the Genesis, but it’s done an excellent job of attracting the game’s best players – a credit to the energy created each year. With newfound Elevated Status and something to prove after a flat atmosphere at L.A. Country Club, the crowd’s presence should be far more noticeable this year.
Playoffs have been a mainstay at The Travelers, with five contests extending beyond regulation over the last 12 years. In addition to the marathon between English and Hickok in 2021, the 18th sets the scene for many infamous “walk-off” hole outs, notably from Spieth in 2017.
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 and fired a 58. Mackenzie Hughes also opened the 2020 Travelers with a Thursday 60. This course can be a birdie maker’s 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.
For TPC River Highlands course specs, hole-by-hole breakdown with yardages, and past Travelers Championship winners with their pre-tournament odds, visit our Travelers Championship odds page.Editor’s Note
COURSE HISTORY AND COURSE COMPS
Course History is stickier at TPC River Highlands than the average TOUR course. I’m beginning my research by striking through any players who failed to post a top-40 finish in their prior starts. Course specialists used similar game plans each year to produce consistent results and find themselves in contention.
Looking at the recent Travelers results, 10 players have multiple T15 finishes over the last five years. That list includes: Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Chez Reavie, Kevin Streelman, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Kevin Kisner, Scott Stallings, Beau Hossler, and Kevin Tway. Generally speaking, strong iron play prevails, judging from this group, but the varying profiles of players who found repeated success here suggests that there are many different ways to attack this course.
Nine players avoided missing the cut in each of the last five years (min. three appearances): Cantlay, McIlroy, Mackenzie Hughes, Ryan Armour, Tyler Duncan, Seamus Power, Mark Hubbard, Martin Laird, and Andrew Putnam.
The top 10 players in terms of overall course history at TPC River Highlands are: Ryan Moore, Brian Harman, Xander Schauffele, Charley Hoffman, Kevin Streelman, Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, and Jason Day.
Short positional courses are a dime a dozen on the PGA TOUR. They tend to bring the most correlation from a comp standpoint, with similar emphasis on position off the tee and separation with short-to-middle irons. In the case of TPC River Highlands, many other courses of a similar profile 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. 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 serves as a solid reference and has been a strong indictor earlier in the season.
Other Course Comps
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.
Given the recency, positional emphasis, and same Bent-Poa northeast greens, Oakdale Golf & Country Club – host of the RBC Canadian Open two weeks ago – also serves as a reliable comp course.
Combine performance across this list and the top 10 players in Comp Course History here are: Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Viktor Hovland, Tommy Fleetwood, Xander Schauffele, Russell Henley, Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Matt Kuchar, and Matt Fitzpatrick.
KEY STATS TO CONSIDER WITH TRAVELERS CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS
- SG: OTT
- 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 holds high importance. That holds true at a surface level, as players like Chez Reavie, Ryan Moore, and Brian Harman showed us many times that a lack of distance doesn’t leave a player at a huge disadvantage here. But having distance does set up players for success, more so than you might expect at the other positional courses on TOUR.
In recent weeks, there’s been an emphasis on the importance of Total Driving (Driving Accuracy + Driving Distance) in lieu of SG: OTT. This week, I’m going heavy on SG: OTT. The top-10 players in SG: OTT entering this week are: Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Brent Grant, Cameron Young, Luke List, Gary Woodland, Hayden Buckley, and Garrick Higgo.
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: Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Wyndham Clark, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Viktor Hovland, Sepp Straka, and Aaron Rai.
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 – Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Thomas, Stephan Jaeger, Byeong Hun An, and Jason Day.
Birdies And Specific Distances
We don’t normally find so many holes at one course concentrated to one range. This week, we see eight holes funneled between 400-450 yards. Those who excel from this range should have a leg up. That top 10 includes: Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Jason Day, Aaron Rai, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Thomas Detry, Stephan Jaeger, and Tommy Fleetwood.
Coinciding with this funneled hole distribution, there is a significant concentration of approaches from 125-175 yards, with nearly 50% of approaches coming from this range. The top 10 mid-to-short iron players in this week’s field are: Viktor Hovland, Scottie Scheffler, Aaron Rai, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Hideki Matsuyama, Ben Martin, Cameron Young, Ryan Moore, and Charley Hoffman.
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: Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Wyndham Clark, Sahith Theegala, Max Homa, Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley, Rory McIlroy, and Si Woo Kim.
To summarize, I’m looking for players who excel in Prox. 125-175 and Par-4: 400-450 scoring, and also possess above average history at TPC River Highlands as well as other comp courses. Eight players meet that criteria: Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Keegan Bradley, Viktor Hovland, Tommy Fleetwood, Cameron Young, Aaron Rai, and Tom Kim.
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 their 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 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 6,800-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.
Twelve players in the field rank above average in each of the above 10 key stat categories: Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Collin Morikawa, Corey Conners, Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Shane Lowry, Adam Svensson, Si Woo Kim, and Sepp Straka.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: TOMMY FLEETWOOD
Yes, I am still naïve enough to believe Tommy Fleetwood can win this week’s golf tournament. That’s in spite of all evidence to the contrary in the closing stretch of the RBC Canadian Open.
Golf is a funny sport, though. Everyone’s an unproven winner… until they’re not. Nobody expected Wyndham Clark to pick up his first career win at the elevated Wells Fargo Championship. Many speculated whether Viktor Hovland could close in difficult conditions before the Memorial Tournament. Even at this event last year, Xander Schauffele entered the final round with so many critical of his ability to close.
In addition to the playoff loss at the Canadian Open, Fleetwood posted seven top-20 finishes over 13 starts this year. That includes four top 5s and just two missed cuts. A vast turnaround on the greens has been the biggest difference for Fleetwood this season, as he entered the U.S. Open on a streak of eight consecutive positive putting events.
His approach at Oakdale G&CC should translate well to TPC River Highlands, with similar agronomy and an emphasis on accurate ball striking. Fleetwood ranks No. 4 in the field in Comp Course History with additional top-20 finishes at the RBC Heritage, Valspar Championship, and Genesis Invitational this season. There’s no question he has the game to contend at TPC River Highlands, ranking No. 10 in my model.
From a betting perspective, it’s not a great strategy to chase a short outright number on a player with unproven win equity, but with such a loaded field in store, I expect to see a fair price on Fleetwood despite his tremendously consistent form in 2023. I’m comfortable chasing his first career PGA TOUR win to come this week if his odds surpass 40-1.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT THE 2023 TRAVELERS CHAMPIONSHIP
I got my first look at TPC River Highlands in person this time last year. It really is an incredible fan atmosphere, and one of the few events outside of the majors where you can tell the players really want to put on a show and win in front of massive crowds. The timing is interesting, juxtaposing with the subdued U.S. Open crowds at LACC. Judging from what I’ve witnessed at both events, these players should expect a much more energized atmosphere at TPC River Highlands.
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 2023 Travelers Championship odds as well. I’ve broken the list down by projected pricing/odds tier for DraftKings.
2023 Travelers Championship Model Breakdown
In my model, I’m emphasizing SG: APP, Prox 125-175, SG: OTT, Birdie or Better Gained, and Comp Course History, followed by a more balanced mix of P4: 400-450, SG: T2G (<7,200 Yard Courses), Doubles Avoided, SG: TOT (Pete Dye Courses), and SG: P (L36, Bent/Poa).
Jon Rahm claimed the top overall spot in my model this week, separating from the field with his consistency on comp, short courses, in addition to the all around tee-to-green prowess. Interestingly, he’s never finished better than T37 at this event over three tries, so he may come with a very slight discount this week despite the optimal course fit.
After Rahm, the rest of my model’s top 10 is rounded out by: Viktor Hovland, Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Corey Conners, Max Homa, Keegan Bradley, and Tommy Fleetwood.
I’ll have a wide pool of outrights in consideration when 2023 Travelers Championship odds release Monday. I’ll likely take a reactionary approach and jump on the best numbers available with so many types of players capable of winning here, but Tommy Fleetwood, Corey Conners, Russell Henley, and Tom Kim are the names I will look to first.
Check back in later this week for more updates, and best of luck navigating the 2023 Travelers Championship odds!
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