Travelers Championship Contenders
Harris English returns here as the defending champion, though it’s a tough ask for him to repeat this feat with over four-months out recovering from hip-surgery. He’s featured just twice since the Sony Open back in January with a missed cut and a T61st at the Memorial and US Open, respectively and we’ll certainly be avoiding him here until he shows the kind of form that led to that play-off victory last time out.
Despite the quality of the field last week, the Travelers has still attracted some of the biggest names in the sport, with world number one Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy leading the betting here, and PGA Champion Justin Thomas slotting in behind them.
The events around the majors often throw up a couple of surprises, and this looks no different this year. While Scheffler and McIlroy are in tremendous form, it’s been a draining period for them and they’d be forgiven for having one eye on St Andrews coming up, while Justin Thomas doesn’t have a prolific enough record here to justify his price tag, effectively competing just once in seven visits, and the value looks further down the market for us on this one.
Marc Leishman has been plodding along nicely this year, though he’s slowly stepping up his game as he looks to go one better than his runner up performance at St Andrews from back in 2015. While his results haven’t seen a drastic upturn, a tie for 14th last week at Brookline is no mean feat, especially at a championship that has never really suited his game.
A long track with testing roughs is the antithesis of what we have on show here this weekend. River Highlands plays less that 6,900 yards making it one of the shorter courses on the tour, and those without the advantage off the tee, like Leishman, can go low when finding the short stuff regularly.
He’s proven his worth around here too with a victory back in 2012, while he’s made 10 of his 11 cuts, which has included another top-10 in 2016 and a third placed finish last year, narrowly missing out on the play-off. In a week where some of the market leaders will have one eye into the future, Leishman is certainly worth getting behind at his price.
Another Aussie catches our eye this week in Jason Day. The former world number one has showed glimpses of getting back into form, and this event poses the perfect opportunity for him to showcase that.
He’s made five successive cuts now, including a top-10 alongside Jason Scrivener at the Zurich Classic, and a top-15 at the Valspar when leading at the half-way mark at Innisbrook, a course that statistically lends itself very nicely to River Highlands.
He had a top-10 finish here last year when in worse form having missed three of his previous four cuts, and winning or placing here would make it three top-10s at this event in the last four years for Day despite not nearly being at his best.
What’s more, par-4 scoring has proven to be key in finding winners here, and Day currently ranks 22nd on tour in that regard, so at his price we’re happy to back him to find his best golf at a course he’s very much suited to.
Finally, we can’t ignore the rise of Davis Riley who is simply going from strength to strength at the moment. His form over the last few months reads 2-63-MC-4-5-9-13-4-13-31, with two of those coming at Majors.
He’s making his debut here, and while he’s yet to win on the PGA Tour there’s no reason why a player of his quality can’t make his mark here. His approach and short game have been the staple of his form, and while he can be somewhat wayward off the tee, a shorter course like this may serve to negate that, and he could prove to be an excellent fit for this Pete Dye design.
We’ve mentioned already how well Innisbrook lends itself here, and that’s exactly where Riley picked up his best Tour finish to date (2nd) earlier this year. He’s slowly but surely looking more and more experienced with every event, and coming through in 31st at an extremely tricky Brookline last week will only do him the world of good.
Despite some elite players in this field, Riley will be quietly confident he can mix it with the very best here, and the American is our third and final pick for the week.
DAVIS RILEY E/W
MARC LEISHMAN E/W
JASON DAY E/W
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