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Course Spotlight: TPC River Highlands has a proven track record for success

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Course Spotlight: TPC River Highlands has a proven track record for success

    Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga

    CROMWELL, CT – One advantage of walking the course the week of a PGA TOUR event is seeing where the players compete from. I take that knowledge to the practice areas and watch the world’s best prepare to confirm my observations. Once the players figure out the formula, it never ceases to amaze me how they all follow the exact same game plan.

    The Travelers Championship has been contested at Pete Dye’s TPC River Highlands since 1984. The designated field of 156 players competing for $20 million dollars have all designed a strict blueprint for success. Yesterday, I watched several player practice rounds on the front nine. As they played “positional” golf it became obvious what it would take to contend on this Dye design.

    The guys hit to a similar position off the tee on most of the par 4s due to bunkering or doglegs. From there, it was a proximity contest to the hole. Approximately 50% of those approach shots were played from 125-175 yards out. We know 31 of the top 40 in the OWGR are competing, but who is the proximity king with his iron game.

    • PGA TOUR proximity leaders in the field are Viktor Hovland, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Lucas Glover, and Russell Henley.

    Russell Henley’s (+4000 BetMGM) proven track record for success on positional Pete Dye layouts catches my attention. Knowing Henley has finished top 20 in seven of his last eight starts confirms he is in great form. Fourth place at the Masters, 14th last week at the U.S. Open, and 19th at THE PLAYERS Championship also proves he may be in store for a two win season (Henley won at Mayakoba in November).

    Russell Henley wins World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba

    The Travelers challenges these competitors with 12 unique par 4s. They cover a full spectrum of shot making ranging from 296 to 481 yards. Par 4 scoring is one of those cumulative analytics that measures a combination of skills. I’m going to take my research to another level since scoring is vital to contending at TPC River Highlands. The average winning total of the past 10 winners is 17 under par. Sub-par scores on the par 4s is the key to contending.

    • Par 4 Birdie or Better % leaders on the PGA TOUR in the field are Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Kevin Yu, Ben Martin, and Thomas Detry.

    Ben Martin is amazing from the fairway with a wedge in hand but looking at that list Patrick Cantlay (+1100 BetMGM) pops off the page. Cantlay is top five in the field for career Strokes Gained: Total and Tee-to-Green at the Travelers. With no wins in 2023, he is one elite player who will certainly be focused the week after a major championship.

    The last ten Travelers winners have gained more strokes against the field on average with the putter than any other major strokes gained category. Fine men with the flatstick can differentiate themselves on these green complexes. The champion on Sunday will need 20+ birdies to win. The last step to Travelers success comes when you convert that proximity into scoring.

    • The PGA TOUR putting average leaders in Connecticut are: Max Homa, Jon Rahm, Sam Ryder, Eric Cole, and Sahith Theegala.

    Sahith’s story last year makes him a sentimental favorite, but Eric Cole (+15000) has distinguished himself on TOUR. Since the playoff loss in the Honda Classic, Cole has six top 30 finishes and is gaining over a stroke (1.5) on approach in his last five starts and three strokes with the putter. The combination of iron play and birdie conversion keeps Eric in the conversation.

    Not all golf courses give us such a clear game plan. Last week, we saw how complicated a par 70 layout can be. What Wyndham Clark needed to win was more complicated than Los Angeles traffic patterns. Keep it simple; apply the hit it close and convert strategy at Travelers and you will collect on Sunday.

    Keith Stewart is a five-time award winning PGA Professional who covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Founder of Read The Line, he is also published by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Follow Keith Stewart on Twitter.

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