Expert picks: Travelers Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2012, 8:00 pm

This week the PGA Tour heads to Connecticut as the Travelers Championship takes place across TPC River Highlands. Fredrik Jacobson defends his title against a strong field, including U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson. Each week a panel of experts will offer up their picks from four groups of players based on Golf Channel's new fantasy game, Fantasy Challenge. We will also keep track of their scores and standings. The panel consists of: senior writers Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel; contributors John Hawkins and Win McMurry; editorial director Jay Coffin; RotoWorld.com's Rob Bolton; 'Morning Drive' host Gary Williams; and Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.


Gary Williams

Group 1: Hunter Mahan: Mahan has nothing but great memories of this event as the Travelers offered him one of his first sponsor's exemptions, and then in 2007 was the site of his first career Tour win. From 2006-2009, he went runner-up, win, runner-up, T-4 in this event. He has a pair of wins in 2012 and I think TPC River Highlands could be the site of his third of the year.

Group 2: Ryan Moore: Moore is another player who was invited to play the Travelers Championship early in his career and has since returned year after year. He finished runner-up in his first appearance in 2006 and in the last three years has finished T-4, T-13 and T-2. He has made the cut in each of his last seven Tour starts and while he has three top-10s, he would certainly like another and this could be the place to get it.

Group 3: Blake Adams: The Georgia native has had a quiet year except for notable performances in two events: The Players and the U.S. Open. Adams was T-4 entering the final round last week before shooting a Sunday 75 to finish T-21. Having finished ninth here last year, momentum could be on his side this week.

Group 4: Chris DiMarco: This 3-time PGA Tour winner has not won since 2002 but he has played well in the Travelers Championship, making the cut in each of his last ten starts. After an encouraging start to 2012, DiMarco has been struggling of late but this could be the place where he puts up a strong finish to change his momentum for the season.


Win McMurry

Group 1: Hunter Mahan: Strongly considered Jacobson here but give the edge to the 2007 champion to pick up his third win of the season. While not impressive he did have a solid showing last week, tying for 38th. Couple that with his victory at TPC River Highlands and his two runner-ups here as well and he has the resume to contend.

Group 2: Michael Thompson: In addition to his runner-up finish at the U.S. Open (seemingly out of nowhere) he also finished fourth at the Travelers a year ago. He's been cashing some decent checks in 2012 with five top-25 finishes and ranks fifth on Tour in strokes gained putting.

Group 3: Blake Adams: The Georgia boy made a little noise at the Open before carding a 75 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 21st, one of four top-25s this year. He tied for ninth at last year's Travelers so he comes in with form as well as past success at TPC River Highlands.

Group 4: Kevin Kisner: He tied for 13th at the FedEx St. Jude Classic the week before the U.S. Open and I look for him to continue that form after his week off. 


Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Hunter Mahan: His breakthrough victory (2007) came at TPC River Highlands and his recent short-game work with Mark Roe has already started to pay dividends.

Group 2: Michael Thompson: Bookend rounds of 66-67 at the U.S. Open were no flukes and he played well in Hartford last year, finishing fourth.

Group 3: John Merrick: Was on the bench last week after a runner-up showing in Memphis and according to his swing coach Jamie Mulligan, his results are finally starting to catch up with his game.

Group 4: Brad Faxon: A rare cameo for the senior on the PGA Tour but good putting is ageless and the New England native has had success at TPC River Highlands, winning here in 2005.


Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Hunter Mahan: Hard not to like the 2007 champion here, who boasts a solid overall track record. The problem comes with his lackluster performance the last two years.

Group 2: Ryan Moore: Moore has a pair of runner-up finishes in this event and was T-4 in 2009. He likes the place and is quietly enjoying a good season.

Group 3: Kevin Streelman: Streelman was T-6 here last year and T-10 in 2008. He's never missed a cut here and seems like good value.

Group 4: Mark Anderson: It's a shootout this week and Anderson makes plenty of birdies as he is T-21 on Tour in birdie average. He's missed four cuts in a row, but TPC River Highlands should suit his eye.


Rob Bolton

Group 1: Matt Kuchar: Now that I'm back on top of the Experts leaderboard (for the third time), I'm not going to get cute. Taking the chalk here. He hasn't missed a cut in 20 starts and serves as the most consistent and valuable talent in this group.

Group 2: Ryan Moore: Seemingly always reinventing himself, he's logged four top-15s in six appearances at TPC River Highlands, thus illustrating an infrequent constant over the years. Co-runner-up twice, including last year. 

Group 3: Kevin Streelman: Though he's struggled in recent starts, TPC River Highlands has presented itself as a comfort zone of sorts. He's 4-for-4 with a pair of top-10s, including a T-6 finish in 2011.

Group 4: Vaughn Taylor: Flies in under the radar having missed his last four cuts, but he's cashed in seven of eight visits to TPC River Highlands with a personal-best T-9 two years ago.

**Join Fantasy Expert Rob Bolton for a live golf chat Wednesday at 12:00p ET at www.rotoworld.com**

Tune in to Golf Channel Thursday-Friday from 3P-6P ET for live coverage of the Travelers Championship.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


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“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

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Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”

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Day (66) only star to shine Saturday at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:01 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – With an early rain softening an already vulnerable course, there were plenty of birdies to be had during the third round of the Travelers Championship. They were few and far between, however, for some of the biggest names in the field.

On the same TPC River Highlands layout where Paul Casey took control of the tournament with an 8-under 62, the decorated quartet of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka combined to shoot 1 under with no single score better than a 1-under 69.

Spieth’s dim hopes of back-to-back titles were effectively ended with a 1-over 71, while McIlroy’s second straight 69 dropped him from three shots off the lead to outside the top 10.


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Thomas (70) and Koepka (69) are now 11 and 12 shots back, respectively.

Among the top-ranked contenders, the only player to make a modicum of a move was Jason Day, who shot a 4-under 66 and heads into the final round in a tie for sixth, six shots behind Casey. The Aussie made four birdies over his first nine holes, but he stalled out on the more gettable inward half.

“I’m happy with the way I’m playing right now. I played well today from tee to green,” Day said. “Tomorrow it all depends on how Paul plays.”

Day has won twice already this season, but facing a significant deficit against a seasoned veteran he realizes that a quick start will be necessary to retain any hopes for a third title.

“This course can yield some birdies, which is quite nice,” Day said. “Get through tomorrow in a couple under on the front side, and then try to let things go a little bit on the back side if you can.”

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Monkey off his back, Casey freed up to win again

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 10:49 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Paul Casey is flushing his irons, rolling in putts and no longer fielding questions about a lengthy victory drought. For the remaining players looking to chase him down at the Travelers Championship, it adds up to a terrifying combination.

The Englishman felt right at home on a gray and dreary afternoon at TPC River Highlands, vaulting to the top of the leaderboard with an 8-under 62. It was the lowest round of the week, two shots better than the next best effort Saturday, and it turned a two-shot deficit into a four-shot lead heading into the final round.

After enduring an afternoon logjam, with as many as five players sharing the lead at one point, the tournament is now Casey’s to lose – and he’s not shying away from the burden.

“You’d always rather have a lead,” Casey said. “When you’re behind, there is no room for error. No, I’m excited. I’ve got confidence in my game. I’ve got confidence with the man standing next to me (caddie John McLaren), confidence in the gameplan of how to get around this golf course.”

That approach is undoubtedly aided by the magic act Casey pulled off in March at the Valspar Championship. Teeing off well before the tournament leaders, he shot a final-round 65 and watched as the likes of Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed were unable to match his number.

Without having to field a single question about the weight of the burden he shouldered, about ending a PGA Tour victory drought that extended back to the 2009 Houston Open, Casey launched the monkey off his back and into the trees lining the 18th fairway at Innisbrook.

While Casey has won 13 times on the European Tour, including five times from 2009-14, his dry spell on this side of the Atlantic had become a point of discussion and one that wore on the affable veteran. But one sublime round in Tampa rendered it moot, and it will also grant him an extra sense of calm heading into the final round outside Hartford where only Russell Henley will start the day within five shots of his total.

“If I hadn’t won in a while, then yeah, there would be more pressure. I sit here right now with no nerves,” Casey said. “I’m sure there will be tomorrow, but no nerves now. I’m very happy with what I’ve done. In years past maybe that wouldn’t have been the case because there hadn’t been enough wins.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

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Granted, this is an event that often doesn’t follow the script. Birdies will be there for the taking on a course softened by light rains, and low scores shouldn’t be hard to find. This is, after all, where Jim Furyk shot a 58 two years ago and where Kevin Streelman ended his comeback victory in 2014 with a run of seven straight birdies.

Trailing by six, Bubba Watson floated the notion of needing a 60 to catch Casey without any hint that the score is out of reach. Jason Day, who like Watson trails by six at 10 under, quickly sniffed out Casey’s long-term track record like a shark seizing on a droplet of blood.

“Tomorrow it all depends on how Paul plays,” Day said. “I know that he in the past hasn’t quite got over the line with some of the wins that he possibly could have won, and that’s kind of a positive in my mind knowing that.”

But the look of calm confidence that emanates from Casey is that of a man who no longer has to answer questions about when The Win will come. His next victory will be just that, the next one. Another trophy to add to the decorated credentials of a player who has re-established himself in the game’s upper echelon over the past three years.

He’s back on a course he has thrived on from the very first time he set foot on the property, losing in a playoff to Watson in 2015 in his tournament debut. He has returned each year since, finishing T-17 and T-5.

His final-round 71 in 2016, carded the same day Furyk shot his 58, is proving more and more to be an aberration since each of his other 14 competitive rounds in Cromwell have ended up in the 60s. That includes three straight this week, capped by Saturday’s effort where he hit every green in regulation and tied his career low score on Tour.

Yes, the tournament is Casey’s to lose. But liberated by a recent win and playing some of his best golf at one of his favorite venues, there’s little reason to expect him to do anything but lift the trophy he barely missed out on three years ago.

“If I go out there tomorrow and I hit it the way I normally hit it, and I putt it well,” Casey said, “then I’m fairly confident.”