Sticking around on the East Coast, the PGA TOUR takes a short 110-mile trek from The Country Club to TPC River Highlands for this week’s Travelers Championship.
The close proximity appears to have helped with recruiting for the field because there are loads of big names lining up to play this week. that includes World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, recent winners Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, and fan-favorite Jordan Spieth.
It’s a full field of 156 golfers, similar to last week, but the cutline rules will return to PGA TOUR standards which is top 65 and ties following two rounds of action.
The PGA TOUR heads to a familiar venue this week, TPC River Highlands.
This Pete Dye design has been hosting the event since 1984 back when it was TPC of Connecticut.
While driving distance continues to rise, this course has stood the test of time while playing as a par 70 that plays under 6,900 yards.
It’s one of the shortest courses the PGA TOUR visits. Looking at the par 4s, there are just two holes that play over 460 yards. As a result, you see lots of wedges and short irons in hand this week.
Off the tee, there are generous landing areas but lots of trouble in the form of penalty strokes lurking for golfers missing too far offline.
Driving is not the main test this week. Instead, smart and steady iron play is required because the main defense of the course is tricky pin positions. They try to hide the pins and force golfers into making risk-reward decisions on whether to attack or not. Knowing where to miss (or not to miss) is key because you don’t want to be short-sided here.
For turf talk, golfers will see typical Northern grass with bent/poa fairways, kentucky bluegrass rough, and poa annua greens which have some bentgrass in them, as well.
The greens are not quite as small as last week’s but at 5,000 average square feet, they are still on the short side of the equation. They are usually prepped to run 12+ feet on the stimp which is speedy.
The overall scoring environment is pretty average by PGA TOUR standards but a bit easier than most par-70 stops. The course isn’t particularly easy but with lots of short irons and wedges, we inevitably see a few low scores roll in each day. Most notable being the ’58” fired by Jim Furyk back at the 2016 edition.
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Quotes on the Course
Bubba Watson: “I think the golf course is just so fair. You’re always moving the ball forward. No matter where you hit it, the ball is always going forward. There are some trees in some places, but the rough is always fair. You can always advance it. That’s all we ask and all I want in a the golf course. I want to be able to advance it forward. That means I can use my creativity and try shots and do things.”
Chez Reavie: “If you get the ball in play off the tee, there are a lot of holes you can make birdies on, and then there’s a few tough holes you’re just trying to play smart and make some pars. It’s a great golf course. You’ve got to shape it both ways. If you hit the ball off line it can punish you, so it’s just a lot of fun to play.”
Paul Casey: “This is a golf course where the green is relatively small, but they’re tucking the pins away and putting them on some funky little slopes. If you short side yourself, especially if you get over these greens, you’re going to be in a world of hurt.”
Chris Stroud: “This course is great for me. I’m not a bomber, so it’s nice to be able to have a lot of short irons into the greens. I even have a note in my yardage book, as long as I’m sharp from 100 yards to 165 this week, I can make a lot of birdies.”
This is not a course that is easy to overpower. It’s a fairways and greens type of course where smart and steady iron play and a hot putter gets the job done.
We don’t have historical data to use for Brookline but we can look at recent U.S. Open courses as a pointer since the USGA has unique setup philosophies and certain targets a specific caliber of course. On top of recent U.S. Opens we can also consider the following which have a big penalty for missing the fairway.
PGA WEST Rota
Quail Hollow Club
Muirfield Village GC
Pebble Beach Pro-Am Rota
The general theme gravitates toward shorter courses with lots of wedges and short irons. Courses with a big penalty for missing offline but birdies available for steady play.
Thursday: Storms likely with a high of 75 degrees. Winds 5 to 10 MPH.
Friday: Cloudy with a high of 79 degrees. Winds at 6 to 12 MPH.
The threat of rain remains constant for the entire week. It could be a sloppy track at times this week.
Golfers to Watch
He faded after a strong start at The Country Club but has still gained at least 2.5 strokes over the field in 10 of his last 17 rounds played. His record at TPC River Highlands is surprisingly disappointing with a 3-for-7 record with just one finish better than T30, which was a T3 during the 2016 edition.
Is McIlroy going to play every week now in order to showcase the PGA TOUR being the place to play? This will be four weeks in a row for the Ulsterman. I had to go back to 2019 to find the last time he did that. The good news for McIlroy fans is that he posted a runner-up finish at that fourth event, the 2019 Omega European Masters.
It’s Jim Furyk who gets all the recognition for go-low evidence at TPC River Highlands thanks to his ’58’ back in 2016. Before that, it was Cantlay who was holding onto bragging rights with his 10-under 60 as an amateur which he fired way back in 2011 en route to a T24 finish. “I do like the golf course. I feel like it suits my game really well and rewards driving the ball in the fairway and hitting smart iron shots.” The stat sheet backs that up with four straight top 15s on his tournament resume.
The Texan has lost strokes to the field in just two rounds since the start of the RBC Heritage, six starts ago. Now he heads to a course where he is a past champ (2017). It’s a course that his caddie and some of his peers have said is tailormade for him. He’s settled for finishes outside of the top 40 in each of his three return trips, though.
If you want to drum up a narrative you could say that Day might be motivated to contend after having to watch the U.S. Open from home. He’s fallen to 132nd in the Official World Golf Ranking and could use some happy hunting ground. TPC River Highlands has provided that in recent years with top 12s in three of his last four trips.
He missed the cut in his 2020 Travelers Championship debut and settled for a T47 last year. Is the third time the charm? With the way he’s playing right now, the course doesn’t matter.
The local angle paid off last week for weekly fantasy gamers. Bradley had this to say about the Travelers in the past, “We only get two events in New England all year. This one of them. So this is a big event for me and my family and one that I would love to win some day.” From a rare pitstop in New England to having back-to-back events in the region? Bradley is loving this spot on the schedule. Will there be an emotional letdown after last week’s emotional ride?
Ranking the Field
1. Scottie Scheffler
2. Rory McIlroy
3. Justin Thomas
4. Patrick Cantlay
5. Xander Schauffele
6. Sam Burns
7. Jordan Spieth
8. Joaquin Niemann
9. Sungjae Im
10. Tony Finau
11. Keegan Bradley
12. Tommy Fleetwood
13. Seamus Power
14. Webb Simpson
15. Mito Pereira
16. Brooks Koepka
17. Marc Leishman
18. Aaron Wise
19. Brian Harman
20. Davis Riley