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Read The Line

Weary travelers ☂️

Published 8 months ago • 12 min read

Bring your umbrella

Less than 24 hours after the completion of the 123rd US Open, we are in Cromwell, Connecticut getting ready for another designated PGA TOUR stop. The Travelers Championship has been hosted by TPC River Highlands since 1984. The Pete Dye design is not only located on the opposite coast, but it will feel like another planet to those players who competed last week in the US Open.

The two venues share the same purse ($20 million dollars, $3.6 million for first), and the same par (70). Past that, these two courses are about as close to one another as they sit geographically. TPC River Highlands is approximately 600 yards shorter than the North Course at LACC. The second shortest course on the TOUR, it has a more traditional par 70 layout with two par 5s, four par 3s, and 12 par 4s.

Ten of those challenging par 4s measure under 450 yards. A stark contrast to LACC where the average par 4 was 458 yards! Due to its length, TPCRH sets up to be a much more positional golf course. Please don't mistake "positional" for power doesn't matter. In the last ten years, Bubba Watson (twice), Dustin Johnson, Harris English, and Xander Schauffele have all won. When Xander won last year, he gained twice as much with the putter as he did with the tee shot.

Another change this week will be felt with the weather. Los Angeles was dry and mild. Connecticut plans to be warmer and wetter. Temperatures are predicted for the low 80s each round and we have rain in the forecast. There is a 15% chance of the wet stuff during round one, and then a minimum 50% chance for each of the final three rounds. The dry conditions in California made the greens play firm. If TPCRH gets wet, this tournament will turn into target practice. The average winning score over the last 5 years is 17 under par.

Much like we didn't expect Wyndham to win, Travelers has given us a couple surprises on Sunday afternoons. Yes, Xander, DJ, and Bubba are popular players, but Ken Duke and Russell Knox? Chez Reavie won by four strokes in 2019, but who is he? Reavie like the rest all share a couple of common skills we will discuss in further detail. Nine out of the top 10 OWGR (31 of the top 40) can expect a true Pete Dye test. Dye's designs always make you think risk versus reward. Whether it is the reachable par 4 fifteenth, or tee shot on seventeen this course gives you options.

Pete has always used angles effectively. With 69 bunkers and five holes where water comes into play, he always gives you an easy and hard side to land your ball. The harder target gives you the best angle to the green. Watch for that relationship as the event unfolds. The fourteen tee shots all bend either right to left (6) or left to right (8). By testing equal amounts of strategy and performance the Travelers winner is always a pure ball striker.

The risk-reward holes reflect Dye's intent. Twelve of the holes have a birdie rate over 15% and seven have a bogey rate over 15%. The combination creates incredible drama down the stretch. The average cutline over the past ten years is -1.4 under par. The top 65 and ties will need to get inside that mark or lower based upon this elevated field after 36-holes.

LACC had longer holes, but the final four at TPCRH have created some of the most electric endings on TOUR. Throw $20 million dollars onto that stage and this edition may be the most memorable of them all.

Travelers on TV:

  • Thursday - Friday 7:15am - 6:00pm (ESPN+), 3:00 - 6:00pm (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday 7:30am - 6:00pm (ESPN+), 1:00 - 3:00pm (Golf Channel), 3:00 - 6:00pm (CBS)
  • Sunday 7:30am - 6:00pm (ESPN+), 1:00 - 3:00pm (Golf Channel), 3:00 - 6:00pm (CBS)
  • Complete details on PGATOUR.com​
  • All times EDT.

Travelers starts in...

Count down to 2023-06-22T10:30:00.000Z

No matter your journey, we'll be here to help protect it

On-site again watching the players practice it becomes quite clear what it takes to win the Travelers. Each session has a strong concentration of wedge and short iron work. With so many short par 4s and medium length par 5s, the secret to making 20 birdies this week is in the scoring clubs.

  • It does start from the tee. TPCRH is the seventh toughest course to score on from off the fairway. Like so many positional courses, accuracy is favored over distance. If you can combine both like the best SG:OTT players you will have a considerable advantage.
  • Nearly fifty percent of the approach shots come from 125-175 yards. That is about ten percent more than the PGA TOUR average. The contenders will create a ton of birdie putts from inside 20' with their scoring irons. Getting there off the tee is one thing, but hitting these shots close is where players will differentiate themselves.
  • A strong birdie or better percentage (BoB%) takes a couple of steps. The first two, I outlined in the above bullets. The third part is converting on the greens. Strokes gained putting is the largest average gain by the winners over the past decade. It is nearly an entire stroke more than SG:APP.
  • Double bogeys can be a concern on any Pete Dye course and TPCRH is not different. Bogey avoidance is crucial, but to win make sure you steer clear of the double mistake. Many holes have hazards in play to test you down the final nine. The front has several out of bounds opportunities. Keeping it control for 72-holes can be difficult. Be safe and Sunday you'll be close.
  • Most par 70 courses are a par 4 test. Lead the field in par 4 scoring and you'll possess the complete Travelers package. From the 294 yard fifteenth to the 481 yard fourth, TPCRH will examine all your proximity potential. Since this is entirely a game of score, getting the best of 48 of the 72 holes creates tournament contenders.

The US Open is a complete mental and physical grind. Most players won't be focused on the task at hand. I don't blame them; we just won't pick them. Our card exhibits a level of caring that goes beyond fatigue. Our guys need to win soon. They are playing great and must take advantage. These guys aren’t desperate, they're highly motivated. What better way to capture a quick win than when over half the field is still operating on pacific time.

Outright winners - Travelers Championship

Patrick Cantlay continues to cruise along. Unlike the rest of the elite US Open field, Cantlay has not won this season. He looked focused and determined in the media center yesterday. He's ranked second SG:OTT, and eighth in SG:P. Combine those two skills with a world class wedge game and Patrick's ready to shoot 60 here again. Winning the Travelers takes plenty of firepower, and Cantlay's got it.

Tommy Fleetwood has three top 5s in his last five starts. Some worry if he can win? Fleetwood has six career wins on the DP World Tour. Contending in Canada taught him a more recent lesson. Very few are playing complete golf as well as the Englishman. He's gained an average of nine strokes total in his last five starts. Just when you think he's going to slow down this run, he fires a closing 63 at the US Open. Strike while the putter is hot and lets tail Tommy to the winner's circle.

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Baltusrol is a killer course

Baltus Roll was the owner of the farmland where Baltusrol Golf Club currently sits. In 1831, two men snuck onto his property and murdered him. I know, a dark for the start weekly LPGA narrative, but I think it adds a little perspective to the amazing history of this global golf institution. When you here the name this weekend you'll know the origin story... The club was later founded in 1895 and in 1911 AW Tillinghast came in and designed 36-holes for the members. Since those early days, BGC has hosted 18 championships. The KPMG Women's PGA Championship is number 19 and begins on Thursday.

The field of 156 players will be cut down to the top 70 and ties for the final 36-holes. Much like so many major championships, we don't know the purse and prize money prior to publishing. Ten of the KPMG past champions are in the field alongside all 11 winners from this season. The second major championship of the year on an iconic venue is the perfect setting to start the remainder of the LPGA's major championship run. The women will play four majors in the next eight weeks.

The Lower Course is the host venue for the KPMG. Developed by Tillinghast over 100 years ago, Gil Hanse and his team renovated the championship layout in 2021. Measuring 6,621 yards and playing to par 7 for the Women's PGA it has so many amazing tournament options. Water comes into play on six holes and across all eighteen there are 122 bunkers! One other unique aspect of this layout is the famous finish. The final two holes are par 5s covering 1,000 yards.

I think Mr. Roll must have upset Mother Nature because the forecast this week looks miserable. Rain is expected in each of the four rounds totaling nearly two inches of precipitation. This big course won't get any smaller. Temperatures are predicted in the 80s and winds should remain relatively calm topping out in the low teens during rounds one and two.

The PGA of America and their Championship Committee run the KPMG. In recent years they have elevated the venues and Baltusrol just might be the best one yet. Host to 11 major championships, Hall of Famers such as Mickey Wright and Jack Nicklaus cover their walls in history. The average winning score of the last five KPMG's is 11 eleven under par. Once we consider the weather and venue, I think a score in the high single digits gets it done.

Recent winners of the KPMG have been a who's who in modern professional women's golf. I expect another name to grab the trophy again on Sunday at this historic site. The funny thing is most of the LPGA "names" haven't played much or well this season. Nelly has been recovering, Minjee putting poorly, Jin Young won earlier and then very little afterward. Probably the biggest enigma is last year's KPMG runner up Lexi Thompson. The LPGA superstar has only played four tournaments in 2023 and missed the cut in three times.

That name we are looking for might just be a new one. Rose Zhang looks ready to take charge and sophomore Atthaya Thitikul contends week after week. Much like the venue, the LPGA is witnessing a little renaissance. History has a funny way of showing up in Springfield, New Jersey. BGC never disappoints once the golf starts. For the fourth time in seven weeks. the LPGA will crown a winner in the Garden State. Based upon my research, I believe the last one is going to be a "major" name.

KPMG Women's PGA on TV:

  • Thursday - Friday 11:00 - 3:00pm (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday 3:00 - 6:00pm (NBC)
  • Sunday 2:00 - 6:00pm (NBC)
  • Complete details on LPGA.com
  • All times EDT.

KPMG Women's PGA starts in...

Count down to 2023-06-22T10:30:00.000Z

One big stage

The Lower Course at Baltusrol Golf Club is big in every way. If there was a Webster's definition for major championship venue, BGC would be pictured. Set just 20 miles from New York city, this venue epitomizes all that we love about northeast championship golf. Forget the handshake first hole of George Thomas' LACC, the women will be starting with a par 4 the members play as a par 5. That sets the tone for an 18-hole test right from the start. Power is the number one priority for contending on the Lower.

Add in the forecast, and the course will really play long. Remember, the last two holes alone cover 1,000 yards!

  • Finding fairways is the first step. Most championship level LPGA stars hit a ton of fairways. Those who do miss, will be severely penalized. I spoke with several members and the rough is dense and ready. Missing the short grass will keep you from making par and more importantly making the weekend.
  • You are going to have to hit the ball with some height on approach. BGC has a sub-air system under the greens. They will be firm at the start and possibly even with the rain. This skill is imperative to stopping the ball on the putting surfaces. Since most LPGA players cannot just increase their trajectory, we will be favoring those who already do hit it high.
  • Eleven of the 18 approach shots will be from over 150 yards. Sounds close, but when you see these green complexes, the women will have their hands full. The greens are surrounded by 76 bunkers, mounds and raised in many cases. This repels even the average approach shot.
  • The course has 122 bunkers, sand skill is not only needed, but imperative.
  • Hanse and his team recreated many of the forced carries Tillinghast originally envisioned. Whether it is a creek or a bunker, if you're in the rough you may need to lay up. Shot after shot will be wasted by those who aren't accurate.

The Lower Course has tremendous history and size. It can make you feel very small as a player. I have played Tillinghast’s test many times. Throw in the pressure of a major championship and it is easy to be swallowed by the moment. The members of BGC take great pride in their history. Partnering with the PGA of America is very important to them. Together they will create a world class event. One worthy of an amazing champion. I have selected four women who possess the characteristics and charisma needed to tackle this beast. Look at this major list...

Outright winners - KPMG Women's PGA Championship

In her last three KPMG PGA's, Hyo Joo Kim has finished fifth, third, and seventh. Kim's elite ball striking is a perfect fit for each venue the PGA keeps choosing. Baltusrol will be won by an elite player and Hyo Joo is currently third on tour T2G, sixth on approach, and fourth in par 4 scoring. She has one major to her resume, so she knows how to close a big event. This season she's averaging over 4.5 sub-par holes per round. Kim's REALLY good and come Sunday the whole world will know when she captures major number two.

Jennifer Kupcho plays big in big events. Winner of the Chevron Championship and the first ever Augusta National Women's Amateur, Kupcho can close. When Jen is on, she makes a ton of birdies and can overpower any LPGA setup with her driver. One of the longest and most accurate off the tee, she won three times last year. In her last two starts, she lost in a playoff and finished sixth at the Meijer where she was defending. Jen finished sixteenth at the KPMG last year and like Hye Jin had a poor final round. Look for a strong return at Baltusrol with a lot of recent momentum.

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Last week: LPGA 3rd, US Open 4th

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