Power Rankings: Travelers Championship

June 18, 2012
Rob Bolton, Fantasy columnist

For the third time in five years, the golfers that competed in the U.S. Open will have embarked on a cross-country trip from the West Coast to TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn., site of this week's Travelers Championship.

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By definition, the PGA TOUR migrates, but you can usually count the number of times it crosses more than one time zone in consecutive weeks in a single season on one hand. To make this week's excursion more manageable, the tournament arranged for a charter flight, always a welcome option for those competing in both events.

Those coming off an exhausting week in San Francisco will find nirvana at TPC River Highlands; that is, if you measure happiness in circling eagles and birdies all week long. Most do.

To wit, the host track is a par 70 that stretches 6,841 yards, third-shortest on the schedule. With a scoring average of 68.567, it was the easiest of 16 par 70s in all of 2011. Each of the last 18 winners of the Travelers have completed 72 holes double digits under par. In the second round a year ago, Patrick Cantlay recorded the low round of the year on TOUR, signing for a 60 to establish the course record at TPC River Highlands.

The fairways and greens are among the easiest to hit, and the course has ranked inside the top half easiest in putting in each of the last four years. The primary objective is to avoid unforced errors. In every sense of the cliche, go low or go home.

If you encounter any commentary on holes 15-17, otherwise known as "The Golden Triangle," keep in mind that it doesn't pack the same kind of punch that other dubiously named three-hole stretches elsewhere deliver. The par 4-3-4 averaged 0.365 strokes under par last year.

A gradual cooling will occur throughout the tournament. After a high in the mid-90s under a sunny sky on Thursday, the threat for inclement weather could creep in on Friday, then again on Sunday when it might not hit 80 degrees. Winds are forecast to be calm to moderate.


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Power Rankings: Travelers Championship
Rank Player   Comment
First appearance since 2008. Placed T27 at the U.S. Open to extend his consecutive cuts made streak to a TOUR-high 20 straight starts. Currently 13th on TOUR in greens hit, 23rd in birdie average and second in adjusted scoring.
Twice a co-runner-up here, including last year. In his last 12 rounds at TPC River Highlands, his actual scoring average is 66.17. He's had the last two weeks off following a T38 at the Memorial. Posted a trio of top 10s in early spring.
Closed out his grind at The Olympic Club with a 68 to share fourth place, his third top 15 in as many PGA TOUR starts. Ranks a distant 158th in greens hit but a lofty eighth in adjusted scoring. Tied for fifth at the 2010 Travelers Championship.
Always on the short list of guys most expected to go low, he's 12th on TOUR in birdie average. In his last six starts at TPC River Highlands, he's posted four top 25s. In his last 13 rounds at the track, his actual scoring average is 67.08.
From 2006-2009, this tournament often opened the floodgates to his summer. However, in the last three years, he's done more damage earlier in the year. Still, the 2007 champ currently ranks sixth in greens hit and 24th in adjusted scoring.
The defending champ suffered one bogey at TPC River Highlands last year despite missing 20 greens in regulation. Faded to a T15 at last week's U.S. Open with a Sunday 75, but it was his third top 20 in his last six starts including the Masters (T19).
He's missed consecutive cuts (Memorial, U.S. Open) for the first time since July 2010, but TPC River Highlands figures to offer a soft landing. Secured his first PGA TOUR victory here in 2010. Prefaced it with a pair of top 15s in 2008 and 2009.
Since winning at Colonial, he missed the cut in Memphis and tied for 41st at the U.S. Open. Nevertheless, he ranks 26th on TOUR in birdie average and ninth in adjusted scoring. Four top 25s in six appearances at TPC River Highlands.
Led the field in birdies (25) en route to a co-runner-up here last year. Also ranked T3 in both fairways hit and greens in regulation. Of nine cuts made this season, he has eight top 25s (including four top 10s). Sits 18th on TOUR in birdie average.
Hedging down given his unchartered territory as a major champion. Backdoored a victory at The Olympic Club with a pair of 68s on the weekend. Ranks 21st on TOUR in greens hit and leads the circuit in putting and birdie average.

In 2012, our expert will be publishing his list of players who didn't quite make the top 10 for that particular week. Here are five other players Rob Bolton likes at TPC River Highlands:

11. Andres Romero ... Co-runner-up at the Memorial three weeks ago, finishing T4 in greens hit and sixth in Strokes Gained-Putting. In his debut at TPC River Highlands last year, ranked fifth in putting, T2 in birdies and T6 on the leaderboard.

12. Michael Thompson ... His T2 at the U.S. Open is a career-best finish on the PGA TOUR. He bookended the major with a 66 and 67, respectively. Fierce with the flat stick, he closed out a solo fourth here last year with a nine-birdie 62. Ranks 49th in birdie average.

13. John Huh ... Continues to enjoy a breakout season, with four top 10s and another four top 25s, including in his last two starts (T5, Colonial; T19, Memorial). Ranks 36th in birdie average, 22nd in adjusted scoring and ninth in average distance of putts made.

14. John Merrick ... Finished alone in second place at the FedEx St. Jude Classic two weeks ago where he was one of just two golfers with four rounds in the 60s. Ranks 23rd in greens hit and 43rd in birdie average. Tied for 11th here in 2009; shared ninth last year.

15. Aaron Baddeley ... An unconventional choice here given he ranks 170th in birdie opportunities and has just one top 25 in seven appearances. However, he leads the TOUR in Strokes Gained-Putting, ranks 32nd in birdie average and finished T24 here last year. Also placed T9 at the Memorial earlier this month.