The latter third of the PGA TOUR schedule always presents a flurry of curveballs, but this season's conclusion has served up more benders than usual.
Beginning with the RBC Canadian Open two weeks ago and extending all the way through to the TOUR Championship, only six of the last 14 events will be contested on the same course as last year. And that includes the Barbasol Championship, which will be held for just the second time at Keene Trace Golf Club.
Yes, there are two new stops coming up – the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club and the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities – but they're offset by the RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf & Country Club and the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind, two events that typically don't migrate.
All of this is to say that Future Possibilities is thin both due to the reduction of tournaments remaining and by the unfamiliar courses used for their customary contests. This week's Travelers Championship marks the middle of a five-week stretch as the only event held at a recurring site – TPC River Highlands.
Bubba Watson has done it all in the Travelers, so he's the no-brainer for all pacers. Even though his form upon arrival isn't terribly inspiring, the stymie is in play. There aren't going to be but maybe two or three of these left. Zach Johnson at the John Deere Classic and Webb Simpson at the Wyndham Championship rush to mind, but we may have reached the end of ZJ's domination – certainly his season has left a lot to be desired – and Brandt Snedeker's record at Sedgefield Country Club actually is a little better than that of Simpson, who loves the place so much that he named one of his children after the title sponsor.
For those in pursuit and for front-runners who already have burned Watson or want to zag, Paul Casey is sitting on the tee. The 41-year-old Brit wasn't bashful about acknowledging his spot atop my Power Rankings when scrumming with the media on Tuesday. You can watch and listen to his comments within the first 15 seconds of this video:
Of course, when he prevails, we should anticipate that he'll cite the positive reinforcement harnessed from the imagery of seeing his name slotted No. 1 in the Power Rankings. It's too bad that he's already off my board or I'd go along for this ride, but it's not bad at all that he hung up a T4 at the Wells Fargo Championship when he was my selection.
Patrick Cantlay is No. 2 in the Power Rankings. He's best associated with TPC River Highlands as having spun a 60 on the course as an amateur in 2011, but that's fact over friction today. Instead, lean on his terrific recent form that includes a win at Muirfield Village where he galloped through the tape and punctuated a run of three consecutive podium finishes. The value in last week's T21 at the U.S. Open was that it was a stress-free weekend after he survived the cut on the number. While it seems like he's been busy, it's only because of the attention he's earned. In fact, he's competed in only three of the last eight weeks.
This is as good a time as any to throw Jordan Spieth out there. If he didn't recently connect with some success, the four-inch primary rough at TPC River Highlands would be cause for pause. If you're chasing and you're considering holstering him for the FedExCup Playoffs, particularly the TOUR Championship, keep in mind that he still has to qualify. If he doesn't, then that plan is foiled. If he does, then it's likely due to a strong performance at TPC River Highlands. Now is the time.
Charley Hoffman could be the real game-changer no matter your position. So much of the formula that projects his showing screams top 10. If I hadn't holstered Watson for this week, I wouldn't hesitate another second on Hoffman.
Along that same vibe but better suited for two-man gamers is Kevin Streelman. We could go an entire season and leave him shelved by default, but veterans like the 40-year-old can be dynamic when they're playing well. Timing is everything. Two-man gamers also should consider Chez Reavie, Aaron Baddeley, Danny Lee and Emiliano Grillo.
Usual suspects Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day and even Louis Oosthuizen and Bryson DeChambeau need to be reserved either for The Open Championship or the Playoffs. The best tend to perform their best on the biggest stages.
Marc Leishman is a tweener. If I was trailing, I may have been tempted to overrule my long-range plan, but my lead allows me to bump him into position for Royal Portrush, especially if the wind is a-howlin' in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Rank Expert Pick Comment 25th
Bubba Watson Not gonna make the same mistake as last year and ignore what he can do to the place regardless of recent form. 53rd
Bubba Watson He’s a creature of habit and this is one of his happy hunting grounds. 108th
Bubba Watson Now that his annual U.S. Open warm-up is out of the way, it's back to a track he absolutely loves. He'll be searching for his fourth win this decade at TPC River Highlands at one of his happiest places on TOUR. Sign me up! 126th
On the Mark
Patrick Cantlay I vacillated between Marc Leishman, Patrick Cantlay and Bubba Watson. In the end I decided on Cantlay given pure form. My only concern is potential fatigue after a couple of emotionally draining weeks in a row. 237th
Patrick Cantlay Sorry Patrick. My picks lately seem to be a curse and you’re next on the chopping block. 734th
Jordan Spieth This is the right course at the right time for the 2017 Travelers champion.
NOTE: Select golfers committed to the tournament are listed alphabetically. Future tournaments are sorted chronologically and reflect previous success on the courses on which the tournaments will be held in 2018-19. The numerical values in parentheses represent the order of relative confidence of where to use each golfer if multiple sites are listed (e.g. 1 for strongest, 2 for next-strongest and so on). To present weighted confidence in real time, numerical values will not change all season no matter how many tournament remain listed for each golfer. All are pending golfer commitment.
Daniel Berger … Travelers (1)
Keegan Bradley … Travelers (4)
Paul Casey … Travelers (1); TOUR Championship (3)
Jason Day … Open Championship (9)
Bryson DeChambeau … Travelers (4); John Deere (7)
Adam Hadwin … John Deere (5)
Brian Harman … Travelers (5); John Deere (4)
Charley Hoffman … Travelers (1)
Brooks Koepka … Open Championship (8)
Martin Laird … Barracuda (2)
Marc Leishman … Travelers (3); Open Championship (8)
Phil Mickelson … Open Championship (9); WGC-St. Jude (3)
Francesco Molinari … Open Championship (1; defending)
Ryan Moore … Travelers (6); John Deere (8); Wyndham (2); TOUR Championship (9)
Patrick Reed … Travelers (7)
Cameron Smith … Wyndham (3)
Brandt Snedeker … Travelers (9); Wyndham (1; defending)
Jordan Spieth … Travelers (9); Open Championship (6); TOUR Championship (8)
Brendan Steele … Travelers (4); Barracuda (3)
Kevin Streelman … Travelers (7)
Justin Thomas … TOUR Championship (3)
Bubba Watson … Travelers (2; defending); TOUR Championship (8)