Travelers Championship Tips: Bubba can land fourth title

American Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson can challenge for the title again
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Dave Tindall is back to preview the Travelers Championship and has three each-way selections for the action at TPC River Highlands...

"Take the last four champions and their record for the week on the Par 4s: 2019 Chez Reavie (1st, -13), 2018 Bubba (T1st with runner-up Paul Casey, -11), 2017 Jordan Spieth (1st, -11), 2016 Russell Knox (1st, -10). In the PGA Tour's two comeback events, just look at who played the Par 4s best out of all those in the top 25 in the betting this week.... yep, Bubba Watson."

Main Bet: Bubba Watson each-way @ 28/1

Bubba Watson is a triple champion at TPC River Highlands and has a history of winning the same event multiple times.

There we are. Reasoning over. Let's move on to the next tip.

Okay, that's a little too concise so let's build a case around that opening statement.

Bubba, the champion here in 2010, 2015 and 2018, said two years ago: "Everybody builds their schedule around places they've seen, loved, the atmosphere, all of that comes into play. Around here there are a lot of driver holes where I can hit some drivers and shape it.

"It's one of those things where it just fits our eye. You can see the fairway. You can see the shape of the holes and the greens are always in great shape, so it's fun."

Beyond the feeling mentally comfortable aspect - a key component for Bubba - are the numbers.

TPC River Highlands is a sub-7000 yard par 70 on which Par 4 performance is key.

Take the last four champions here and their record for the week on the Par 4s: 2019 Chez Reavie (1st, -13), 2018 Bubba (T1st with runner-up Paul Casey, -11), 2017 Jordan Spieth (1st, -11), 2016 Russell Knox (1st, -10).

The PGA Tour's two comeback events - Colonial (par 70) and RBC Heritage (par 71) - have given players plenty of par 4s to go at and just look at who played them best out of all those in the top 25 in the betting this week.... yep, Bubba Watson.

The left-hander was a combined -18 on the par 4s at Colonial/RBC Heritage which was better than Justin Thomas (-15), Rory McIlroy (-6), Bryson DeChambeau (-14), Webb Simpson (-10), Brooks Koepka (-12), Jon Rahm (-5), Dustin Johnson (-6) and Justin Rose (-11).

River Highlands is short, tree-lined and with smaller than average Poa/Bent greens and, statistically, it's interesting too.

Looking at the last four editions, all the winners were ranked in the top five for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green, highlighting the idea that it's a second-shot course.

Clearly, birdies are needed given the winning scores of -17, -17, -12 and -14 the last four years although those numbers aren't crazy low. The two -17s were Reavie and Bubba, who won by four and three respectively so they're the only two players to have shot better than -14 in the last two editions. Majors are won with lower scores than that.

The emphasis is on Tee-To-Green and Approach and Bubba was 12th TTG at Colonial when T7 a fortnight ago.

A third-round 73 knocked him down the field at Hilton Head but he closed with a 65 there (as he did at Colonial) so has the momentum and stats to put in a big challenge again at one of his favourite tournaments.

Note also that he has a second, a fourth and a sixth as well as those three wins so his form here really is exceptional.

Next Best: Corey Conners each-way @ 70/1

A closer look at the Strokes Gained stats of recent Travelers winners shows that the short game doesn't have to be at sharp as the long game.

Knox was 42nd in SG: Around The Green when winning and Reavie 24th. As for the SG: Putting rankings of the 2016-2019 winners, they aren't earth-shattering - 19th, 31st, 22nd and 10th.

Sure, plenty of birdies are needed but they come via pelting greens on a regular basis and setting up a constant stream of good opportunities.

All that makes it fairly easy to land on Corey Conners, who was T19 at Colonial and T21 at Harbour Town (R2 63).

He ranked 11th for SG: Tee-To-Green last week and 22nd the week before while he's been 17th and 16th respectively for SG: Approach in those events.

Conners hasn't been as good on or around the green but he's been solid enough and better than his season-long figures.

What really jumps off the page though is that he's taken the par 4s apart, playing them in -9 at Colonial and -11 at Harbour Town. That tally of -20 is the best in the field this week.

The Canadian has had one crack at this event and missed the cut but he didn't do a lot wrong in shooting 70-69 and was 339th in the world rankings at the time compared to his current standing of 63rd.

He's poured in 40 birdies over the last fortnight so the stats suggest his game is right to make a challenge.

The 70/1 is twice the price of a couple of others I like - Abraham Ancer and Joaquin Niemann - so the 2019 Valero Texas Open champ (won with -20) offers some value.

Final Bet: Sergio Garcia each-way @ 40/1

Sergio Garcia (720).JPG

Sergio Garcia had some rust to shake off after emerging from lockdown and missed the cut at Colonial, although only just after laps of 69 and 70.

He returned with a 70 at Harbour Town and then really took flight with a trio of 65s to haul himself into a tie for fifth.

In the two categories I place most importance on this week, Sergio was sensational. He ranked 1st for SG: Tee-To-Green (13.873) and 2nd on Approach (9.868).

The timing of this event - it's traditionally been the week after the US Open - has made it difficult scheduling-wise for the top players and Sergio hasn't lined up since 2015.

However, he's clearly shown a liking for the place and, in four attempts, has been runner-up in 2014, T20 on debut and T25 in 2015 when starting the closing round in T8.

"I think that it's got a lot of holes that if you hit a good shot you can make birdie or eagle," he said on his last visit.

"And if the shot is not hit properly you can easily make bogey. I think that it's got a great mix of little holes around the course."

"Any time it's like Sawgrass, obviously a course that I love... and I enjoy playing this course too."

As for the current state of his play, Garcia said at the RBC Heritage last week: "I feel like my game, it's in a pretty good spot. It's probably feeling some of the best that it's felt in a long time.

"I just need to kind of get my short game a little bit sharper. Definitely the chipping and putting needs to improve a little bit."

As discussed, there is some leeway in the short game when trying to build the perfect profile for success here and, let's get this right, Sergio's putting wasn't great last week but he still made a whopping 27 birdies. That was 1st in the field.

Sergio's best putting day came on Sunday (1.764) so the planets could be aligning.

The 40/1 for the 10-time PGA Tour winner looks decent when compared to some of his rivals.

***

Get all the course and form guides for TPC River Highlands here

Staked: £694
Returned: £516.26
P/L: -£177.74

2018/2019 P/L: -£338.25
2017/2018 P/L: +£362.84
2016/2017 P/L: +£1179.89

Dave Tindall,

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