The Punter

Travelers Championship: Burns and Finau fancied to contend again

The 17th hole at TPC River Highlands
The tough 17th hole at TPC River Highlands

The PGA Tour pitches up in Connecticut for its traditional post US Open stop and our man has the lowdown ahead of Thursday's start here...

  • Hot putting the key at TPC River Highlands

  • Will a missed cut at Pinehurst prove to be a plus?

  • Read my KLM Open preview here

Tournament History

Founded as the Insurance City Open in 1952, and formerly known as the Greater Hartford Open, the Travelers Championship has been in existence for more than 70 years.

The tournament was moved to August to accommodate the Olympics in 2016 and in 2020 it followed the Heritage after the disruption to the schedule caused by the pandemic, but in every other year since 2007 it's been played in the week following the US Open.

This event has seen a number of records set lately. It's now 13 years since Patrick Cantlay set the course record with a ten-under-par 60, which is also the lowest round shot by an amateur in a PGA Tour event, in 2014 Kevin Streelman became the first player to birdie the last seven holes to win a PGA Tour event, and Jim Furyk shot the PGA Tour's first ever 58 here in 2016.

The Travers Championship is now a Signature Event so it's a reduced field of with no cut.


TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut.

Course Details

Stroke Index in 2023 - 68.4

Originally designed by Robert J. Ross and Maurice Kearney in 1928, TPC River Highlands was reworked by Pete Dye in 1982 and again by Bobby Weed in 1989. It's not a particularly strong test, low scores are a common occurrence and it's averaged below par in each of the last six years.

The fairways are framed by bluegrass rough that was as high as four inches in places last year and the smaller than average Poa Annua greens, which were set to 12 on the Stimpmeter 12 months ago, are fairly easy to hit. Scoring is always in the double-digits under-par.


Holes 15, 16 and 17, are nicknamed the 'Golden Triangle' and they wind around a lake, creating a dramatic backdrop for what's often a theatrical finish. At less than 300 yards, the short par four 15th is drivable but it's not a straightforward test and last year it only averaged 3.74. The green has tricky roll-offs and water is in play for anyone straying left. The par three 16th is played back over the water and is tricky (last year averaged 3.02) and the par four 17th hole has water to the right off the tee and approach shots to the green are played back over the lake.

Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 17:00 on Thursday.

Last Eight Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices

2023 - Keegan Bradley -23 110.0109/1
2022 - Xander Schauffele -19 22.021/1
2021 - Harris English -13 50.049/1 (playoff)
2020 - Dustin Johnson -19 30.029/1
2019 - Chez Reavie -17 80.079/1
2018 - Bubba Watson -17 32.031/1
2017 - Jordan Spieth -12 (playoff) 11.010/1
2016 - Russell Knox -14 60.059/1

What Will it Take to Win the Travelers Championship?

I've gone back 10 years to work out the average rankings for the last 10 winners in all the traditional stats and we've also got eight years' worth of Strokes Gained data.

Average Rankings - Last 10 Winners

Driving Distance - 28.1
Driving Accuracy - 33.4
Greens In Regulation - 14.9
Scrambling - 22.0
Putting Average - 7.4
Putts Per Round - 9.3

Average SG Rankings - Last eight Winners

Off the Tee - 24.13
Approach - 9.13
Around the Green - 23.75
Tee to Green - 4.13
Putting - 13.63

As Furyk demonstrated in no uncertain terms eight years ago, this is a track that offers up very low scoring, and most winners have a great week with the flatstick.

Last year's winner, Bradley, ranked first for Strokes Gained Putting and although the 2021 winner, Harris English, only ranked 18th for SGP, the man he beat in the playoff, Kramer Hickock, ranked second and the first four in the SGP rankings all finished inside the top-five and ties.

The 2018 and 2019 winners, Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson only ranked 31st and 22nd respectively for SGP so they bump the average ranking up, but the event is very often just a putting competition.

The myriad of putting stats on the PGA Tour website may help but knowing quite who is going to have a good four days with the flat-stick on any particular week is never easy.

Bradley ranked first for Par 4 Scoring last year and the seven winners between 2014 and 2020 all played the par fours better than anyone else, so the PGA Tour Par 4 Performance stats should be worth a look.

Will a good week at Pinehurst be the perfect prep?

Given this event traditionally follows the US Open, I've looked back at the last 14 years to see how the winners of this event had fared the week before, or even if they'd played in the US Open.

The 2020 edition of Travelers Championship was the first tournament on the PGA Tour that wasn't cancelled or rescheduled following the three-month break due to the pandemic, so it didn't follow the US Open, it followed the second event back after the shutdown, the Heritage, where the winner here, Dustin Johnson, had finished 17th.

And the Travelers followed the US PGA Championship in 2016, where the winner here, Russell Knox, had finished 22nd but in every other year it followed the US Open so here's how the last 13 winners had finished in the US Open, or if they didn't play in the US Open (DNP), how they're figured in the previous start.

2010 - Bubba Watson - DNP US Open - 33rd Memorial Tournament
2011 - Freddie Jacobson - 14th US Open
2012 - Marc Leishman - DNP US Open - 58th Memorial Tournament
2013 - Ken Duke - DNP US Open - MC FedEx St Jude Classic
2014 - Kevin Streelman - MC US Open
2015 - Bubba Watson - MC US Open
2016 - Russell Knox - 22nd USPGA Championship
2017 - Jordan Spieth - 35th US Open
2018 - Bubba Watson - MC US Open
2019 - Chez Reavie - 3rd US Open
2020 - Dustin Johnson - 17th RBC Heritage
2021 - Harris English - 3rd US Open
2022 - Xander Schauffele - 14th US Open
2023 - Keegan Bradley - MC US Open

It's a bit of a mixed bag but last year's winner, Bradley, is one of four to miss the cut in the US Open the week before they won here.

Keegan Bradley wins the Travelers.jpg

This week's test is very different to the one faced at Pinehurst and anyone in-contention last week must surely be mentally drained so I'd lean towards those that didn't play last weeked but a high finisher last might be worth chancing if they're a decent price.

Harris English and the 2019 winner, Chez Reavie, both finished third at the US Open before winning here at a juicy price.

Is There an Angle In?

It's old form but the now defunct WGC Champions event at Sheshan has been a tournament that's correlated excellently with this one.

Bradley led after round one there on debut back in 2011, he finished 11th in 2013 and sixth in 2018 and Xander Schauffele, Russell Knox, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson have all won at both venues.

And Justin Rose should have won at both. The 2017 Sheshan winner led this event by three strokes with a round to go in 2010, before a sorry 75 on Sunday saw him finish ninth.

Is There an Identikit Winner?

Taking on the fancied ones from the start and building a book from there used to be a great way to trade this tournament and it would have paid off handsomely 12 months ago, but the fields have been getting stronger of late and the profile of the winners has changed as a result.

Bradley was the first triple-figure priced winner in nine years - although 1000.0999/1 chance, Kramer Hickock, came very close three years ago. He was matched at a low of 1.11/10 in the playoff.

Historically, outsiders, PGA Tour maidens, and old-timers all have a good record at TPC River Highlands. Despite his strong showing at Pebble Beach the week before, Reavie was an 80.079/1 chance five years ago, Russell Knox went off at around 60.059/1 in 2016 and we've seen a number of really big-priced winners fairly recently.

Kevin Streelman was a 220.0219/1 shot before the get-go ten years ago and 12 months earlier, 45-year-old PGA Tour rookie, Ken Duke, won having been matched at 680.0679/1 before the off!

Most of the winners over the last decade have been prolific types but Reavie in 2019, like the 2014 winner, Streelman, and the 2016 winner, Russell Knox, had won only once before, and six of the eight winners before Streelman were all winning on the PGA Tour for the very first time.

A decade after he'd won the title for a second time, 45-year-old, Stewart Cink, finished tied for second in 2018 and Jerry Kelly finished runner-up at the age of 49 eight years ago. At 37, Bradley was no spring chicken and five of the 20 Travelers winners before him were over 40.

Had KJ Choi, who traded at just 1.728/11 in 2014, held on, that would have read six from 20, and a number of other vets have come close fairly recently.

At the age of 42, Bubba was matched at a low of 1.528/15 before a poor finish two years ago and when he won here for the first time he beat veterans Scott Verplank and Corey Pavin in a playoff so with a small twist of fate the aged pros could have won seven, eight or even nine of the last 21 renewals.

Schauffele was only 28 when he claimed the title two years ago but the four winners before him were all in their 30s. English was 31 when he won in 2021, DJ and Reavie were both 36 and Bubba was 39 when he won this for a third time in 2018. DJ and Bubba have power in abundance, but this short test does give the older guys a chance although it's worth highlighting that Lucas Glover and Justin Rose are the only two entrants in their 40s and we may struggle to get an outsider contending again this year now it's Signature Event.

Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four

2023 - Keegan Bradley - led by one 1.9420/21
2022 - Xander Schauffele - led by one 2.1211/10
2021 - Harris English - tied sixth, trailing by two 15.014/1
2020 - Dustin Johnson - solo second, trailing by two 3.185/40
2019 - Chez Reavie led by six strokes 1.282/7
2018 - Bubba Watson - tied sixth, trailing by six 36.035/1
2017 - Jordan Spieth led by a stroke 1.768/11
2016 - Russell Knox tied second, trailing by three 6.25/1

In-Play Tactics

Although four of the last seven winners were leading after 54 holes, being in front here isn't always a plus.

Having led by five at halfway and by a stroke through 54-holes, Schauffele converted two years ago thanks mainly to a poor finish by Sahith Theegala. The 10/111.00 pre-event favourite, Jordan Spieth, who'd led by a stroke in 2017, beat Daniel Berger in a playoff thanks to a remarkable bunker shot on the 18th and Reavie successfully converted a six-stroke lead three years later but the third-round leader or co-leader has gone on to win only seven times in the last 20 years and Bradley, Schauffele, Spieth and Reavie are the only four of 16 54-hole leaders or co-leaders to go on to win in the last 12 years.

We nearly always see plenty of drama here and most years we witness at least two or three players trading at long odds-on. Theegala was matched at a low of just 1.341/3 two years ago and there was even more drama in 2021. Bubba was matched at 1.528/15 and Hickock 1.51/2 before English went on to win - and he was matched at 1.011/100 in regulation play before Hickock birdied the last to take it into extra time!

It's hard to get the job done here and it's a trader's paradise most years.

Paul Casey led by four with a round to go six years ago and he was matched at a low of 1.182/11 in-running before going on to get beat by three. Knox won from three adrift after the clear odds-on leader, Daniel Berger, shot a disappointing 74 to finish tied fifth eight years ago but many a winner has come from even further back.

Marc Leishman trailed by six 12 years ago, as did Bubba in 2010, and again six years ago, and the two veterans Watson beat in the playoff 14 years ago (Scott Verplank and Corey Pavin) came from six and eight shots back respectively!

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, like Knox, have both won the event this century from three off the pace. Duke sat in a tie for 6th and was trailing by two 11 years ago and Streelman was four back and trading at 55.054/1 in 2014.

We nearly always get a dramatic tight finish and eight of the last 20 renewals have gone to extra time. And finally, don't give up if your picks start slowly. Bubba sat tied for 77th and seven off the lead six years ago and DJ came from even further back four years ago. He sat tied for 79th and nine adrift after round one!

Market Leaders

After a run of form that produced figures reading 1-1-2-1-1-8-2-1, Scottie Scheffler's tied 41st at the US Open last week came as a bit of a shock. Is it a blip or has his touch on the greens deserted him again?

Having ranked inside the top-10 for Putting Average in seven of his last 10 starts, the world number one ranked 73rd at Pinehurst and 70th for Strokes Gained: Putting and that's not ideal given how important putting is at TPC River Highlands.

Scottie Scheffler at Muirfield Village 2024.jpg

There's every chance last week was a one-off and I'll be scratching my head at halfway and asking myself why I'm not on the odds-on favourite at 9/25.50 before the off. But in a ridiculously competitive tournament, I'm going to swerve him this week, although his improving course form figures, reading MC-47-13-4, suggest he's ready to add this venue to his growing list of conquered courses.

A 72 on Sunday cost Xander Schauffele any chance he had of recording back-to-back major victories, but the 2022 winner could very easily contend again this week at a venue that clearly suits.

Collin Morikawa commands respect too. He's on a run of form since his third at Augusta that's produced figures reading an impressive 3-9-23-16-4-4-2-14 but Morikawa's River Highlands CV is less impressive.

He finished 36th on debut in 2019 and he's missed his last two cuts, but he's played better here than the figures suggest.

Morikawa sat second after round one and sixth at halfway before a poor weekend saw him slip to 36th on debut and, after a woeful 74 on Thursday last year, he fired a 63 on Friday to miss the cut by a stroke.


I'm not a fan of these Signature Events from a betting perspective. They're just too competitive for us to find an edge. Candidates are plentiful and it's difficult to spot any value so I'm taking it easy before the off.

Given he hacked up at Sheshan by seven strokes in 2016, and that he played very nicely at Pinehurst last week, I was very tempted to play Hideki Matsuyama but he's just short enough at 30.029/1.

So I've backed only two before the off - Sam Burns and Tony Finau.

Burns really caught the eye at Pinehurst last week where he could and probably should have been a factor on Sunday evening.

He finished the week in a tie for ninth, beaten by six, but playing his first six holes on Thursday in five-over par certainly didn't help his cause and neither did his 73 on Sunday. His 67s on Friday and Sunday were fabulous knocks though, and he could go well here at a juicy price.

Tony Finau is tough to get across the line but his current form is difficult to ignore and he too looks too big at 42.041/1 after his fabulous third place finish on Sunday.

Finau doesn't have a great River Highlands CV but he's looking to emulate Reavie and English and he was beaten by Schauffele in a playoff at Sheshan.

Read my KLM Open preview here

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


New customers only. Bet £10 on the Betfair Sportsbook at odds of min EVS (2.0) and receive £50 in FREE Bet Builders, Accumulators or Multiples to use on any sport. T&Cs apply.

Prices quoted in copy are correct at time of publication but liable to change.