The week after a major can be a time of mental letdown for some of the contenders or a chance to build on the momentum from playing well in one of the four most important events of the year. Brandt Snedeker came off the pace in the US Open last Sunday but never looked like winning and he can take the form and confidence from a top ten finish into this week’s Travellers Championship on the US PGA Tour.
Bubba Watson missed the cut at Chambers Bay and will be more comfortable this week on the TPC River Highlands course that has hosted this tournament in several guises since 1991. The course in Connecticut is best known for its bentgrass greens, which are like upturned saucers. They are also below average size, which inevitably makes them difficult to find. Together those factors place a premium on accuracy.
The ideal profile is a player who can produce accurate iron play, sound scrambling and above all the potential and ability to putt the lights out. In other respects the course is a fairly straightforward test so low scores are usually the order of the day. The average winning score over the last six years has been slightly above 16 under which is lower than average for a par 70 course. Long hitters don’t have an advantage on what is basically a second-shot course.
The layout has 119 bunkers and five water hazards but twice since 2009 the winning score has been at least 20 under. The quality of the greens should be much better than the ‘broccoli’ at Chambers Bay. Several types of players have won this tournament but excellent putting has been a common theme so the winner will probably have a hot week on the greens. That profile brings Snedeker and Watson into the mix.
At 6,841 yards TPC River Highlands is the second shortest course played this year. Only Pebble Beach is shorter but that has a par of 72. The tournament often develops into a birdie fest shootout so hitting many greens and then holing lots of putts is the key to good scoring. Last year’s winner Kevin Streelman was third in strokes gained putting and second in average distance of putts made and was the joint best player on the par 4s.
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Streelman birdied the last seven holes in the final round so players can play catch-up golf over the back nine. No player had won on the PGA Tour with such a run and the winner ended a streak of first time champions over the previous four years. A forecast for clear skies and moderate temperatures will facilitate low scoring and thunderstorms from the start of the week will be absent at the weekend. Our two picks will relish the release of tension after the demands of the US Open.
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Brandt and Bubba
Each of the last six winners of this tournament have been in the top 12 for putting average and Snedeker is one of the best putters in the game. He has recorded three successive top-ten finishes and four birdies around the turn last Sunday allowed him to maintain that run in one of the most important championships of the year. Snedeker is ranked fourth in scrambling and sixth in strokes gained putting and that is an excellent profile in the context of this week’s course.
Watson is the favourite this week and has the best overall form at River Highlands of the entire field. Missing the cut last week was disappointing but on reflection could be a blessing as he is unlikely to win the US Open and this week provides a better winning opportunity. A two times US Masters winner must be a great putter and Watson’s scrambling skills can compensate for any inaccurate approach play and along with Snedeker he is the most likely winner.
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