The Travelers Championship: It's time to get the laying boots on, says The Punter

The 18th green at TPC River Highlands

Steve's having a change of plan this week in Connecticut, where a winner from off-the-pace is perfectly possible and where the main contenders may be fatigued. Read his comprehensive preview here...

"A lot can change around the ‘Golden Triangle’ and as Hoffman showed twelve months ago, it ain’t over until it’s over. Leaderboards tend to be bunched, winners rarely win by more than a stroke and playoffs occur regularly."

Tournament History
This will be the 62nd staging of the Travelers Championship.

Venue
TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut

Course Details
Par 70 -6,841 yards
Stroke Index in 2012 - 69.84

Anyone that endured the extreme test of Merion at last week's US Open will feel as though they've been cut loose this week. The TPC River Highlands is a very different test indeed where low scoring is the norm. As an indication of how low you can go at River Highlands, amateur Patrick Cantley, set the course record of 60 two years ago.

It's a second shot course, where the key to success is often finding the tricky, smaller than average, upturned-saucer like greens, which will run considerably slower than last week's, at around 10.5.

Nicknamed the 'Golden Triangle', holes 15 to 17 is the most famous stretch of the course. Players have a very good chance to score at the short par 4 15th, which measures less than 300 yards, but they're tested at the next two. The par 3 16th usually averages over-par for the week and the par 4 17th ranked as the hardest on the course last year.

Useful Sites
Event Site

Twitter Link
Course Details
Tee Times
Weather Forecast

TV Coverage
Live on Sky all four days, starting at 8.00pm on Thursday

Last Five Winners
2012 - Marc Leishman -20
2011 - Fredrik Jacobson -20
2010 - Bubba Watson -14 (playoff)
2009 - Kenny Perry -22
2008 - Stewart Cink -18

What will it take to win the Travelers Championship?
Driving accuracy is largely unimportant. The last two winners ranked inside the top-15 for fairways hit but the seven winners prior all ranked outside the top-20 and six of those ranked 37th or worse.

You don't need to be long off the tee to succeed but getting your ball as close to the green as you can is clearly more important than finding the fairway. The last two winners have ranked 12th and 46th for driving distance but six of the seven before 2011 ranked 13th or better for DD.

When Bubba Watson won three years ago, he ranked 1st for driving distance and 58th for driving accuracy.

There are just two par fives at TPC River Highlands but they often have a baring on the result. Three of the last five winners (Marc Leishman, Bubba Watson and Stewart Cink) all played them in 8-under and all three topped the par five scoring stats for the week.

Is there an identikit winner?
Outsiders have a decent record and first time winners have an even better one. Five of the last seven were all winning their first PGA Tour event, including the last three. And if they're not a first-timer, they're likely to be a veteran - four of the last ten winners were in their 40's and when Bubba won three years ago, he beat old-timers, Scott Verplank and Corey Pavin, in a playoff.

In-Play Tactics
Freddie Jacobsen converted a 54-hole lead here two years ago and so did Stewart Cink in 2008 and JJ Henry two years before that but some of the winners have come from absolutely miles back.

Marc Leishman trailed by six with a round to go last year and when Bubba won in 2010, he did so from the same third round deficit, and the two he beat in the playoff (Verplank and Pavin) also came from six and eight shots back respectfully. When Brad Faxon won in 2005 he was trailing by 12 at halfway and by seven after three rounds. Phil Mickelson won from five back with a round to go in 2002 and Notah Begay and Woody Austin have both won the event this century from three off the pace.

With low scores out there, anyone that gets on a roll from the pack is dangerous and therefore, third round leaders are vulnerable.

It's also possible to come from off the pace and mess it up at the end, as Charley Hoffman did last year. Having trailed by three at the outset of day four, Hoffman stood on the 17th tee with a two-shot lead but he managed to make such a mess of his finish, that Leishman didn't even need a playoff.

A lot can change around the 'Golden Triangle' and as Hoffman showed twelve months ago, it ain't over until it's over. Leaderboards tend to be bunched, winners rarely win by more than a stroke and playoffs occur regularly.

Market Leaders

Brand new US Open champ, Justin Rose, is going to honour his commitment to play this week and it's somewhat ironic that he does. In stark contrast to his performance on Sunday at Merion, when he showed nerves of steel to win, he completely blew his chance to win here when he last played in the event three years ago - leading by four at halfway and by three through 54 holes, before collapsing on day four to finish tied 9th. And it wasn't the first time! He also traded at odds-on in the event in 2005 when he also led by four at halfway.

That tells us a few things. Firstly, as if we didn't know already, it tells us that he's learnt the art of winning and secondly, that this course really suits him. As it does second favourite, Hunter Mahan...

Hunter finished with a scintillating 61 twelve months ago to finish tied 11th and that followed an uninspiring 43rd in 2011 and a missed cut in 2010 but before that, his record was sensational, with his previous four outings producing form figures that read 2-1-2-4.

The big question is... how will either player cope with playing so soon after such a gruelling event last week? Rose will have the bulk of the media attention and Hunter will have to lift himself after the disappointment of major defeat.

It has to be a negative and although I wouldn't be entirely surprised to see either or both contend, it would take a herculean effort for either man to win and they'e both worth swerving, despite the solid course form.

Lee Westwood, Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner all vie for third favouritism but again, the doubt is whether a tough week in Merion will leave its mark. I think they're well worth swerving - although it was interesting to note how brilliantly Dufner played on Sunday and of the three, he's the one that may do best.

Selections
In a change from the norm, I haven't actually got a selection this week. After a long and tiring week following the US Open, I haven't gone through the field in the usual detailed fashion and that's not just because of fatigue. I've had a plan for this event for a few weeks now and I'm quite looking forward to it.

In much the same way I did at the Zurich Classic at the end of April, I'm going to change tack and lay instead of back.

Given that the market-leaders could feasibly struggle with US Open fatigue, that this event has produced more than its fair share of outsiders, that it has a propensity to produce a first-time winner, that we've seen plenty of late stumbles a la Hoffman, and that the winners can come from miles back on day four, this looked an ideal event to get my laying boots back on.

At the time of writing I've layed a total of 22 players and the only player I've not layed, of those currently trading at less than 65.064/1, is Zach Johnson. I haven't finished laying yet and I've a few I want to get that aren't yet matched.

The plan is to tweak my book as the week goes on and to try and get into a position by the end whereby I really don't care who wins.

I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog and I'll update it as the week goes on, as I did at the Zurich.

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