Power Rankings: Travelers Championship
June 17, 2019
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
- Defending champion Bubba Watson seeks to join the late Billy Casper as the only four-time winner of the Travelers Championship. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
One of the rewards for devout fans is rolling out in real time right now. Because school is out for the summer, the best former collegians are splashing onto the scene. They're paying off your patience and passion to witness the next class of supreme talent.
As it has over the years, the Travelers Championship is perfectly positioned to showcase it, and no one will argue that the bumper crop of youth in play this week just might be the best the tournament has ever hosted.
Justin Suh, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff all are in the field of 156 on sponsor exemptions. Suh (Memorial) and Morikawa (Canadian) already have made their professional debuts, while the latter pair of former teammates at Oklahoma State University join the play-for-pay ranks at TPC River Highlands.
Remarkably, of the four, only Wolff, who won a school-record six tournaments for the Cowboys, including the NCAA Division 1 individual title, never ascended to No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He leaves his legacy as the No. 2 (to Hovland).
Former champions Phil Mickelson (2001, 2002) and Russell Knox (2016) will be reviewed in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider with Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood and other notables.
You're excused if you identify with TPC River Highlands as Bubba Watson's personal playground. He's connected for one-quarter of his dozen PGA TOUR victories in the tournament, including last year's three-stroke triumph. It was the first time he didn’t need a playoff to prevail.
To help frame Watson's dominance here, consider that his margin in all-time earnings at the Travelers Championship of $2.111 million over 2007 champ Hunter Mahan in second would rank fourth on the same list.
Unquestionably, Watson's distance off the tee has mattered at TPC River Highlands, a stock par 70 that tips at just 6,841 yards. Over the last six seasons, the only shorter course at which the TOUR has stopped is Pebble Beach (6,816 yards), which is set up as a par 72 for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. (It measured 7,075 yards and played to a par of 71 for last week's U.S. Open.) However, what makes the track in Cromwell, Connecticut, attractive and fun is that all skill sets can contend.
Truth be told, muscle isn't a prerequisite. It's counterintuitive given its history as a scorer's paradise, but course management plays a stronger role. This is revealed in a field scoring average of 69.596 last year. That was in the center of the bull's-eye of expectations.
Hitting greens in regulation never doesn't matter, but its value is multiplied this week. Putting surfaces average only 5,000 square feet, but the Poa grass is prepped to run as long as 12 feet on the Stimpmeter. This combination yields a stingy scrambling percentage every year. Last year's clip of 54.94 percent was 13th-lowest of all courses. It's not quite the challenge of the U.S. Open on Poa at Pebble Beach, but it's closer to that than for which it gets recognition. Oh, and the primary rough is allow to grow to four inches at TPC River Highlands, further emphasizing the objective of finding the shortest grass on approach.
Mother Nature will greet the official start of summer in the heart of the tournament with gradually improving conditions. The likelihood of rain and storms exists through Friday, but terrific weather is expected on the weekend. Moderate winds at worst may influence scoring mid-tournament, while daytime highs will flirt with 80 degrees.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
THURSDAY: Champions One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesdays.