Straight Outta Cromwell โ˜‚๏ธ


Signature season

CROMWELL, CT

Seriously, what more can be said about the 124th US Open that hasn't been summarized by Johnson Wagner and reposted 10,000 times across social media. Much like Valhalla, we received an epic ending between two titans of the game. The result caused Rory to withdraw from the Travelers Championship, while the champion has been on a media tour worthy of a historic major championship winner. Whether you like back, to back, to back elite tournaments or not, we have one more signature event this season and it takes place at TPC River Highlands.

In the northeast, we call it the Greater Hartford Open or the GHO! One of the few older small market PGA TOUR events that has evolved and remained on the modern-day schedule. A credit to Travelers for their treatment of the players, media, volunteers, and fans, they built a truly signature week and have been rewarded for their efforts. With Rory's withdrawal, we now have 71 players in Cromwell, Connecticut competing for $20 million and a first-place check of $4 million. There is no cut this week, so even if players are feeling a little fatigue on Thursday, I believe the best will be in contention come Sunday.

The Travelers starts in...

Count down to 2024-06-20T11:00:00.000Zโ€‹

TPC test

The lovely weather from Pinehurst must have been on the next flight up the east coast. The forecast calls for triple digit heat indexes again this week. Even up here in New England, the highs will be in the mid-90s with very little wind. The breeze won't get over 10 mph, and this walk is far from flat. Two straight weeks of intense heat and pressure will test these guys again both mentally and physically. Humidity and heat also bring along the chance for thunderstorms each afternoon. Should they arrive, the guys will also need a little patience.

With very little rain in June, the course feels and looks firm and fast through the practice rounds. That should keep the winning score closer to the 10-year average of 17 under par. If you remember, Keegan Bradley won at 23 under par a year ago. That course was drenched and the TPC test was more scoring than anything else. Those same 10 winners averaged +5100 for their pre-tournament odds. Tournament officials have also studied the data and felt a need to counter Rory's comment from a year ago that the course was "obsolete." A couple of the landing areas have been reduced and obstacles have been added to the rough along both par 5s. Overall the changes are nice, but I do NOT believe that will deter these guys from bombing away.

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Course conditions

โ€‹TPC River Highlandsโ€‹

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โ€‹Cromwell, CTโ€‹

This golf course is a par 70 layout covering 6,835 yards. That's 753 yards less than #2 a week ago. There is literally nothing you can do to stop these men from scoring here. If it remains firm and fast, then it's possible to keep in under 20, but overall, I would rather see the TOUR embrace the scoring and give us a Valhalla like finish. Three of the last 10 events have ended in a playoff. Just like last week, the par 70 scorecard makes a huge difference. Certain players are just better at scoring without those two extra par 5s. As you look into the best strokes gained players at TPCRH, also consider other par 70 venues and their results. A comp doesnโ€™t always have to be a course!

  • Top par 70 scorers in the field: Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland, Tony Finau, Hideki Matsuyama, and Patrick Cantlay.

Many of those names make perfect sense. Considering the competitive course history, this is one of those weeks where fit and recent form are the two keys you need to build a competitive card. Ten of the 12 par 4s are under 450 yards. Again, this is a 6,800 yard course. I'll explain the skill set more in the outrights preview, but 69 bunkers and five holes where water comes into play won't slow anyone down. Forty-five percent of the approach shots are hit between 125-175 yards. That's a scoring club for this field and proximity really matters when creating real birdie chances.

The course has 12 holes where the birdie rate is over 15%. In contrast, only seven holes have a bogey rate over that value. Greens averaging 5,000 sq/ft are small targets, but these guys are coming in from close range. I'm going to enjoy our last signature event of the season. I don't care for the small field or no cut feature, but the last two have been really good on Sunday. Much like Rory, after this week we won't see these guys together again until Scotland. Enjoy the show and if you are with me in Connecticut... drink some water!

Read The Line recap ๐Ÿ—ž๏ธ

Keegan Bradley captured his dream victory last year winning in New England. He used the archetype blueprint for beating TPC River Highlands. He gained a combined 14 strokes on the field putting (7.0) and on approach (7.3). Follow his lead if you want to be in the conversation come Sunday afternoon this year.

Throwing darts ๐ŸŽฏ

The last 10 winners of the Travelers have shared some very specific traits. The first falls under the strokes gained par 4 category. Those 10 Travelers champs have gained an average of 11 strokes on the field the year that they won in par 4 scoring. With 12 par 4s, or 48 over four days this is a considerable advantage. To dive in further, the 400-450 yard par 4 range was the length bucket where they gained the most strokes. Believe it or not, a 425-yard par 4 is a medium sized birdie hole. The players who routinely score in this range have a huge advantage this week.

The second skill I have my eyes on is putting. Eight of the last 10 winners have gained over three strokes against the field en route to winning. Pete Dye's design allows you to make putts. The challenge comes more in just getting there. Some greens do have sections, shelves, and specific plateaus, but overall, the approaches are coming in from so close most will be putting from inside 25'. The winners average 22 sub-par scores; to get there a player must hit 30+ approaches in birdie range. Of course, approach play is just one part of the test, converting them is what leads you to the winner's circle.

TPC River Highlands is a proximity contest. Over the last five winners, the approach average is five strokes over the field. We already know they are hitting a wedge, nine, eight iron in. The PGA TOUR's best are great from this range and after the last two long approach weeks, I am certain they welcome an easier challenge. Especially one where the results are far more positive. Don't lose complete sight of long iron play as one par three is over 225 yards and the two par 5s will require accurate long-range approaches.

Missing the fairway carries a heavy price tag on this course. Those design changes I mentioned earlier are only going to make this course characteristic even more problematic. I still think the guys will bomb and gauge, but playing from the fairway will help you separate and score. Comps like Valspar, Sedgefield, Sea Island and others are a race to grabbing as many sub-par scores as possible. The more approaches played from the fairway the better. I like accurate drivers here. Pay attention to the par 3s as well. The leaders gain considerably more on the 3s than the par 5s. Mainly because everyone birdies the par 5s effectively cancelling out most gains. Play the par 3s under par each day and you'll really be ahead of the curve.

I'm looking for fast starters this week. Keegan went out in 125 (62-63) in the first two rounds. On moving day, he carded a 64! Most of the field will be feeling a fatigue factor from Pinehurst. They will start slowly and try to build birdies over four rounds. This course is too easy for that strategy. You must attack early and often. I didn't just look at BoB%. I also considered round one and two scoring averages. In track meets like the Travelers, it is important to take aggressive players. Guys who can go deep repeatedly in the early rounds. Put a large part of the field out of reach and then close come Sunday.

After two US Open like weeks at the Memorial and Pinehurst, we don't have to overthink this. The best putters and approach players from around 150 yards will contend. They must be in great form to win a signature event and have shown they can compete in an elite field before. Wrap those skills into a nice player profile and you'll have the four names listed below.

Outright Winners - The Travelers Championship

The Kid, Ludvig ร…berg has 14 top 15 finishes since his first PGA TOUR start right here at the Travelers one year ago.

  • Over his last five starts, Ludvig is gaining an average of 8 strokes total against the field.
  • ร…berg has five top 25 results in seven signature events this season.
  • He is elite with the driver, wedge, and putter. The same recipe that won him the RSM Classic back in November.

Russell Henley is having his most consistent season ever. In 14 starts, he has eight top 25 finishes.

  • Seventh at the US Open, he led the field in putting at Pinehurst #2.
  • In six starts at TPC River Highlands, Henley has four top 20s.
  • Russell is gaining an average of six strokes total in his last five starts.
  • An incredible positional golf course player, Henley always contends where accuracy counts the most.

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Inside the ropes at the 2023 Genesis Invitational


Sahalee showdown

Na Rin An (+7000) held the lead on Sunday at the Meijer with three holes to go. For the second week in a row, we have witnessed another unfortunate ending. At least we didnโ€™t lose like someone else on Sunday. Another week is here, and this one presents us with another major championship. The KPMG Women's PGA Championship will take place in Sammamish, Washington at Sahalee Country Club. A fabulous forest club, the 27-hole facility is populated by over 7,500 trees. Sahalee has hosted the LPGA before for the KPMG. Brooke Henderson defeated Lydia Ko in a playoff to take the 2016 title at six under par.

Brooke was 18 at the time and this was her first major and second win on tour. Her closing Sunday 65 and fabulous approach on the first playoff hole made the women's golf world take notice. If you get a moment, take a look at Sahalee on Google Maps. Notice the width of each fairway. This course is like no other major championship venue. "Narrow" does not even come close to defining these hallways. I can't imagine how they even fit a field of 156 players on this course. Just kidding, these ladies are the best in the world as all 25 of the top 25 in the Rolex World Ranking are playing this week.

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KPMG Womens PGA starts in...

Count down to 2024-06-20T13:30:00.000Zโ€‹

The top 70 and ties will make the weekend. The first two majors have been won by well-known names. Can Nelly Korda or Yuka Saso add a second major trophy this year? Or will it be another major name? Did you know, 12 of the 15 winners this season hold at least one major trophy. It has been a year of big names taking down the titles. I believe it will be another well-known name here again. Following the LPGA every week, I see trends in the results and have a very good feel for the direction of this season. Sahalee CC is a par 72 layout covering 6,731 yards. Those who remember this venue from 2016 will notice the final hole has been changed from a par 4 to a par 5.

Scoring here is hard enough as everyone hits from the woods at some point in their round. I guarantee every player has hit their fair share of low runners to get ready for this week. You just cannot help it, the walls of trees down each side are THAT close. Regular readers know I love alliteration, but seldom use hyperbole. Especially when it comes to the course breakdown. Just wait until you see these tee shots. They literally are golf bowling alleys. The PGA of America will announce the official purse on Wednesday just prior to the start of round one. KPMG has been an incredible partner and continues to support the event beyond expectations. I personally will be forever grateful for the data. That's right, all of the strokes gained data we use to handicap the LPGA is provided to RTL by KPMG!

The forecast looks dry and pleasant for golf in Washington. Temperatures are expected to reach 80 in the first three rounds and the wind should blow right around 10 mph. Sunday will be a little cooler for the conclusion of the year's third major championship. The feel of this site on television is very cool. Take a moment this week and check it out, I promise the scenery will blow your golfing mind.

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Course conditions

โ€‹Sahalee Country Clubโ€‹

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โ€‹Sammamish, WAโ€‹

Bowling for dollars

The simple place to start would be strokes gained off the tee (SG:OTT). The problem is, SG:OTT favors length over accuracy. Since accuracy off the tee is our number one, two, and three priority at Sahalee, I have combined the SG:OTT list with fairway accuracy. In doing so, I have come up with a better list of the most accurate and long drivers on tour. These women will have such an advantage over 72-holes. We always talk about how to separate from the field. Usually, those margins are microscopic when it comes to winning and predicting outrights. This is one of those outlier weeks where I believe selecting any players not on this combined list will definitely cook your betting card.

When I compared these two driving categories, I also noticed our outrights were all in the top 18 for strokes gained T2G. That level of validation for the initial research further helps us should our excellent drivers miss a couple of GIRs. Of course, it also implies these women can strike an iron with incredible aplomb. Much like TPC River Highlands, most of the approach shots are played from 125-175 yards. Here is where Sahalee really starts to wear you out. Should you find yourself in the fairway WITH A CLEAR SHOT, then you must take advantage because there will be many holes where even the most accurate in the field will be blocked out.

This course is crazy. The greens are average in size, further placing pressure on each approach. They average 6,000 sq/ft and are covered with Poa Annua. Fifty-six bunkers pop up in all the most unwanted places while six holes bring water into play. Should you reach those putting surfaces, players must be careful not to three-putt. These greens proved tricky in 2016 and even in the 1998 PGA Championship, won by Vijay Singh. His winning total of nine under par proves again how easy it is to make a bogey from the trees or add an extra putt.

Once you punch out, full scramble mode takes over. I have weighed a fair amount of scrambling savvy into my player model. Our outrights are great T2G, so it implies they have around the green acumen. The average par 5 is 516 yards in length. This is the spot to attack. Our outrights are also par 5 birdie machines. To contend come Sunday you will need to be. Too many shots will be lost on the 3s and 4s while players find ways to play pinball through the forest.

Many of the elite LPGA players were rattled at the US Open. In fact, Nelly Korda not only missed the cut at the US Open, she also didn't play the weekend in Michigan at the Meijer as well. With the break before the US Open, Nelly has not played on a weekend day since May 19! Three of our four outrights have played with great results since Lancaster CC. I think it is important to build confidence and keep your game sharp. Sahalee will be a mental grind much like Pinehurst, but in a totally different way. The weather will be cold in the border hours. Tee shots will be supremely tested and remaining patient amongst a number of bad luck bounces will try to test the strongest of resolves.

Maintain your focus for five hours from tee through green and you have a good chance. I really like this card because each woman can REALLY drive the golf ball. Creating chances consistently will definitely put us in the right place to contend again for the third week in a row.

Outright winners - KPMG Women's PGA Championship

Ayaka Furue was first in my custom model. Considering course fit alongside her recent run, she's the favorite this week.

  • In her last three starts, Furue has finished US Open (T6), ShopRite (T2!!!!), and Meijer (T8).
  • Fourth in fairway accuracy on tour. Ayaka will be in the fairway all day.
  • Top 18 T2G and eleventh on approach she is an incredibly well-rounded player.

Same style course, the exact same odds, we all remember Megan Khang's first win last summer in Vancouver, Canada at RTL.

  • Khang is ranked FIRST in strokes gained T2G on the LPGA tour.
  • Megan can thread a needle with her driver. You cannot believe her level of accuracy off the tee even when you see it in person.
  • Ranked twelfth ARG and third on approach, she was T3 at Baltusrol and runner-up at ShopRite two weeks ago.
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