Wedged between Major Championships and The Olympic Games, The PGA Tour finds itself in Cromwell, Connecticut this week for The Travelers Championship.
Travelers indeed. From Royal Troon in Scotland less than three weeks ago, to Ontario for The Canadian Open, to The PGA Championship at Baltusrol in Springfield, New Jersey just last week, and now to Connecticut for The Travelers Championship - and all of this before heading to Rio for The Olympic Games. I do believe the weather played a big factor but with all of this golf going on and Major Championships being squished too close together, I think The PGA Championship lost some luster that it normally wouldn't have seen dissipate. It felt big but it didn't quite feel "Major" big and I believe part of that is the players not having their normal month between Majors to prepare both physically and mentally for the next one.. and the fans not experiencing the normal build up to a climactic event. The year 2020 will be the next time that The Olympics, The British Open, and The PGA Championship clash on the calendar. I hope the adjustments are such that each of golf's four Major Championships receives the isolation and the uninterrupted, stand alone stage that they each deserve. Not only is it best for golf to have its four marquee events given an opportunity for the spectacular but that is what sports fans want as well.
Speaking of The Olympics, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, and Matt Kuchar will all be representing The United States in Rio but will miss the opening ceremonies as they are in the field this week at The Travelers Championship. However, the rest of the field is not overly star-studded as just 34 of the Top-100 ranked players in the world are in attendance. It is a tough event to get a handle on as far as what it takes to win here as we have seen both long and short hitters have success. Pete Dye redesigned the golf course in the early 80's and Bobby Weed made some more tweaks in 1989 to what is now known as TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut. The golf course is very forgiving. It ought to be a birdie fest and whoever can get hot with the putter ought to fare well.
Bubba Watson (12-1) Bubba is a horses for courses type of guy as we have seen him have repeated success at The Masters, The L.A. Open, and here at The Travelers where he has also won twice before. He is the defending champion and his tournament pedigree reads as follows the last eight seasons. 6-14-1-38-2-4-31-1. No wonder he is the betting odds favorite.
Branden Grace (15-1) Grace was our pick to win The PGA last week and we saw him make a run on Sunday only to end up finishing 4th. His form is certainly good but he missed the cut here last year in his first and only appearance.
Brooks Koepka (15-1) The recent ankle injury did not seem to hamper Koepka in the least last week at Baltustol as he contended admirably and finished 4th. However, in his only appearance at The Travelers, he finished 51st in 2014.
Patrick Reed (20-1) Reed has been a Top-10 machine this year on Tour and is coming off of a 13th place finish at The PGA Championship and a 12th at The British prior to that. This will be his fourth try at The Travelers and he has missed the cut in the last two.
Matt Kuchar (20-1) Kuchar is an absolute cash machine as he seems to play well just about everywhere. Despite just seven career wins on Tour, he has amassed over 37-million dollars in career earnings. Not necessarily true to form here though where he has missed four cuts in eight appearances.
Zach Johnson (25-1) Zach has been in good form as of late with a 33rd at The PGA and four straight Top-20 finishes prior to that. He can contend at any course and proved that by finishing 6th here last year.
The Long Shots
Jon Rahm (25-1) The odds have gotten a lot lower lately on the young Spaniard as people have taken notice of his tremendous talent. In just six events played this season, he has already posted three Top-10 finishes. 25-1 is not necessarily a "long" shot but with his relative inexperience and still without a win, he remains a bit of a chance rather than a sure thing.
Tyrell Hatton (50-1) Like Jon Rahm, the young Englishman has been turning heads quite a bit recently. He has three straight Top-10 finishes; The Scottish Open, The British Open, and last week at The PGA. This will be his debut at The Travelers.
Aaron Baddeley (60-1) A pleasant resurgence recently for the now 135th ranked player in the world who has finished 17th, 12th, 1st, and 49th in his last four events. Baddeley was 48th here last year but finished 4th at The Travelers in 2014.
Webb Simpson (30-1) Simpson has been playing very well, turning in two Top-10's and an 11th place finish in his last six events. He is coming off of a 13th at The PGA Championship and has never missed the cut here at The Travelers, most recently finishing 5th in 2013. He ranks very high in Strokes Gained Tee To Green, he makes a lot of birdies, and he is an excellent scrambler. His putting can be very average but on slower than normal greens this week, he is my golf pick to win it all.