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TRAVELERS CHAMPIONSHIP: Though the week-after-major hangover can be very real for players and fans alike, the Travelers Championship has carved out a nice little niche in what is usually considered an awkward place on the schedule, routinely drawing top-shelf talent despite a decidedly relaxed vibe and a golf course that is almost quaint in its simplicity.

That course, TPC River Highlands, has played host to this event for nearly 30 years and has produced an impressive list of champions, including Greg Norman, Nick Price, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, and Bubba Watson, who etched his name on the trophy for the third time last year, becoming only the second player in the tournament’s 67-year history to do so (the other, Billy Casper, won it four times). Clearly, Bubba has unlocked the “cheat code” for River Highlands, so he can’t be ignored this week despite recent struggles that include two missed cuts in his last three starts and zero top-10s since the Valspar Championship in March. He’s currently trading at 36.0 at BETDAQ.

River Highlands is a short course, measuring just 6,840 yards, and it has yielded some really low numbers, like Jim Furyk’s record-setting 58 in 2016. But the greens are small and speedy and can be difficult to hold from the rough, so players who have trouble finding the fairway won’t be joining in on the fun. As you would expect from Bubba’s dominant record here, the longer guys are able to take advantage of the course in spots, but it’s certainly not a “bomber’s only” type of track– Furyk took it apart the old-fashioned way, and in the last six years alone this event has been won by the likes of Ken Duke, Kevin Streelman, and Russell Knox.

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka (9.8) heads BETDAQ’s Win Market, and with five of the world’s top-10 players in attendance, there are plenty of marquee names to choose from this week. One player who has snuck up there with surprisingly short odds is Patrick Cantlay (11.0), who fired a 10-under par 60 in this event back in 2011 and is coming off a big win at the Memorial. Cantlay is undoubtedly in great form and profiles as a real threat this week, but it’s tough to get too worked up about him at 11.0, isn’t it? I think I’ll try my luck with these three instead:


Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Paul Casey (20.0)- Sometimes certain guys just take to certain courses, and Paul Casey has proven that at TPC River Highlands, he’s the surest bet this side of Bubba Watson. Last year’s runner-up finish was Casey’s third top-5 here in the past four years, and according to the golf analytics site datagolf[dot]ca, he leads all players in strokes gained tee-to-green at River Highlands over the past nine years. He’s in the midst of a great season, with five top-10s in 16 starts, including a win at the Valspar Championship in March and, more recently, a 4th-place showing at last month’s Wells Fargo Championship. He finished 21st at Pebble last week, closing with a 67, so the good vibes should be in full effect as he tees it up at a place he always devours. At nearly 20/1, Casey is a live one this week.

Ryan Moore (56.0)- The website mentioned above, datagolf[dot]ca (an excellent resource, by the way), lists hundreds of players’ statistics at this tournament and others. Over the last nine years, only Paul Casey and Bubba Watson are ahead of Ryan Moore in strokes gained tee-to-green at River Highlands, so if Moore’s sterling record in this event, which includes six top-20s and four top-10s in the past ten years, doesn’t convince you, maybe the advanced stats will. Bottom line: Moore has been a veritable cash register at this event over the years, and nothing about his recent form should scare you off, as he’s coming off a T33 at the Memorial and is only four starts removed from a 3rd-place showing at the Valero Texas Open. He’s a bargain at a price like 56.0.

Peter Malnati (164.0)- Though Malnati does have a PGA Tour victory under his belt, winning the Sanderson Farms Classic in 2015, he’s currently in the midst of the most successful stretch of golf of his career, with five top-25 finishes in his past eight starts. Despite being raised in Indiana and playing collegiately in Missouri, he said last year that the Travelers is his favorite event on Tour– “it’s a major for me.” I’m not sure exactly why he feels that way, and he didn’t offer any further explanation in the clip I saw, but he did have a solid week here last year, finishing 26th, and he seems to excel on the shorter courses– Malnati is not a bomber, by any means, but he is a great putter, ranking 5th on Tour in putts per round. We’ve seen players with a similar profile to Malnati jump up and win this event before, so why not take a chance on a guy in good form who proclaims his love for the tournament… particularly when he can be had at a price like 164.0.

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