Each of the last three and five of the last eight winners of the Travelers Championship were first-timers on the PGA TOUR. However, the last rookie to emerge atop the leaderboard was Stewart Cink in 1997, and the only to win in his first appearance on the current host course was Phil Blackmar in 1985 when the track was known (through 1990) as TPC Connecticut. So, if you're inclined to lean on these trends, consider an up-and-comer whose rookie season is behind him.
At the same time, we can't ignore what Patrick Cantlay did as an amateur in 2011. Not only was his second-round 60 a course record and 25th in TOUR history, but it was the lowest round of the year. Eagles and birdies are out there for this field of 156 regardless of experience. That lays the groundwork for a few surprises. Consider rolling the dice as this is one of those tournaments at which risks pay off.
Look for my choices for PGATOUR.COM's fantasy game in Expert Picks. My one-and-done selection, analysis and season totals will appear in The TOUR Report on Wednesday.
On a Roll
Graham DeLaet ... Has nothing better than a pair of 68th-place finishes in the books at TPC River Highlands, but he arrives this week with nothing worse than a T26 at THE PLAYERS Championship in his last four starts. Overall, the Canadian has posted three top 10s and another five top 25s this season. He's exactly the kind of fit to which I refer above.
Gary Woodland ... Top 20s in his last two starts this month. First time he's turned that trick since the conclusion of the 2011 season. His 64 to close out the FedEx St. Jude Classic was his lowest aggregate and score in relation to par in the final round of a PGA TOUR event.
Camilo Villegas ... Has reemerged as a viable investment with two top 10s and another two top 25s. Tied for 10th in his last start in Memphis.
John Huh ... Appeared to be experiencing a sophomore slump early on, but has rebounded with four top 20s in his last seven starts to rise to 65th in the FedExCup standings.
Nicolas Colsaerts ... Shared 10th place at the U.S. Open to earn an exemption into the 2014 edition at Pinehurst. It was his fifth top 10 of the year worldwide, but he hasn't connected top 10s since September. Making his debut at TPC River Highlands.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano ... First appearance. Recorded a T10 at Merion for his fifth top 10 of the year. Has missed just two cuts anywhere in the last 11-and-a-half months.
Jonas Blixt ... Chased a season-best T11 at Colonial with a solo second at the Nordea Masters. Making his first start at TPC River Highlands. Has missed just one of 427 attempts from three feet and in this season.
Roberto Castro ... His consecutive cuts made streak reached six with a T18 in Memphis. It was the third top 25 in his last four starts.
Horses for Courses
Stewart Cink ... Scuffling a bit following an inspiring first few months, but he's a two-time winner of this event (1997, 2008), has logged another three top 10s and sits fourth in all-time earnings.
Zach Johnson ... Four top 25s among six cuts made in seven appearances. Just three weeks removed from a solo third at Colonial.
Brendon de Jonge ... If he's not in the Power Rankings, this is usually where you'll find him given his game translates just about everywhere. Top 10s in two of his last three appearances at TPC River Highlands with an actual scoring average of 67.33 in his last nine rounds at the venue.
Kevin Streelman ... Great spot for him to get off the schneid having missed his last three cuts. He's 5-for-5 at TPC River Highlands with a pair of top 10s.
Brian Davis ... Four top 20s in eight starts, including a T9 in 2011 and a T4 last year. Recently tied for eighth at the Memorial and ranks 68th in FedExCup points.
J.J. Henry ... Remains without a top 25 in a full-field event since his win in Reno last year, but he won the Travelers Championship in 2006 and has survived 10 consecutive cuts at the event. Five went for a top 25.
James Driscoll ... Made the cut in each of the last four editions, including a solo fifth in 2011 and a T18 last year. Hasn't competed since sharing 13th place at the Memorial three weeks ago.
Not So Fast
Keegan Bradley ... Consider this nothing more than an alert. Your only play against him is not to play him. In his last five starts, he's surrounded a runner-up at the HP Byron Nelson Championship and a T50 at Memorial with three missed cuts. Not quite a home game as much as the Deutsche Bank Championship is for the native New Englander, but the locals in attendance will make him feel like it.
Kevin Stadler ... No top 25s among two cuts made in his last five starts, but the more alarming fact is that his only cut made in seven visits to TPC River Highlands was a T54 in 2007.
Mark Wilson ... Had the week off following a T18 at TPC Southwind, but hasn't played TPC River Highlands since 2006 and hasn't made a cut in three appearances.
Lucas Glover ... Dating back to THE PLAYERS Championship, he's missed three straight cuts. Still 86th in FedExCup points on the strength of a pair of T4s.
Chris Kirk ... On a relative slide. Didn't posted a top 30 in his last four starts. That's his longest such skid since April-May of last year. Also hasn't broken par post-cut since the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Missed the cut at TPC River Highlands in his only appearance in 2011.
Brendan Steele ... Missed the cut in his debut at the U.S. Open. Has now failed to survive a cut in six consecutive starts.
Sean O'Hair ... Enters at 149th in FedExCup points with no top-15 finishes, but he's also missed his last three cuts and hasn't scored better than 72 in his last five rounds, all on par-70 courses.
Ricky Barnes ... His T12 at the HP Byron Nelson Championship is shaping up like an anomaly since he's missed the cut in all three starts since. Has 11 MCs on the season and ranks 138th in FedExCup points.
Aaron Baddeley ... Missed the cut on the number at the U.S. Open, his sixth straight. That drought matches his career long as a PGA TOUR member (since 2003).
Y.E. Yang ... Continues to struggle amid swing modifications. Hasn't survived a cut in his last six starts.
Johnson Wagner ... Since a T18 at Harbour Town, he's 0-for-5. That includes a withdrawal at Muirfield Village during the weather delay where he wasn't going to make the cut anyway. Hasn't missed a cut in his last five appearances at TPC River Highlands, but we've witnessed similar something-with-give moments from him already this year.
Greg Owen ... His only cut made in six starts is a T80/MDF at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Has just one top 25 in 17 starts this season and ranks 152nd in FedExCup points. The Englishman is 0-for-3 at TPC River Highlands.
Troy Matteson ... Six consecutive missed cuts. However, dry spells haven't affected him in the long-term before. As always, he's best suited for deeper, full-season formats. Only cut made in six starts at the Travelers Championship was a T66 in 2006.
Justin Bolli ... Since a career-high solo fourth at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, he's missed three cuts in as many starts. He's 0-for-3 at TPC River Highlands.
Back in the Saddle
Luke List ... Withdrew during his second round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic, but an explanation wasn't released. He's 6-for-16 on the season and ranks 158th in FedExCup points.
Jason Kokrak ... Sits 107th in FedExCup points but has missed three of his last four cuts.