Travelers Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis
AND so we move on to TPC River Highlands for the Travelers Championship as this extraordinary PGA Tour season continues its return. And, once again, the tournament has attracted a star-studded field, with the world’s best players all in attendance, with the notable exception of 15-time major champion Tiger Woods and England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who has chosen to wait for the resumption of the European Tour season before picking up his clubs in anger once again.
That means Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson and Justin Rose will all be battling it out.
DeChambeau continues to attract an enormous amount of attention given the transformation in his physical appearance. The American shocked TV viewers at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial when he emerged after the lockdown resembling the Incredible Hulk. He has piled on around three stones in weight. He claims most of it is muscle but he has certainly developed a stomach as well as a six-pack. And he has gained a mind-boggling amount of extra distance and clubhead speed. Even his practice swing is now an act of violence.
The jury is still out on whether he is going to see long-term benefits because it seems pretty obvious that somebody who has clearly spent so much time in the gym is going to be more susceptible to injury given how hard he now swings the club. And the one thing that struck most onlookers at Colonial is that while his long game has improved, he did struggle on the greens with a putting stroke that still looks incredibly unnatural.
He has no doubts that he is doing the right thing, saying that he felt he needed to find extra distance if he was to compete on level terms with the likes of McIlroy, Koepka, Rahm and Johnson. He was paired with McIlroy in the final round at Colonial and routinely outdrive the world number one by 20 yards. NOBODY hits the ball 20 yards past Rory. But DeChambeau did.
The only members of the world’s top 10 who will be missing from the field are Xander Schauffele and Australia’s Adam Scott.
Rahm, 25, has four top-10 finishes in just six starts since 2020 began, including a solo second place at the Farmers Insurance Open. He has three PGA Tour victories and six wins on the European Tour, including three last year, helping Rahm win the European Tour’s season-long Race to Dubai title.
Rahm remained in second place in the rankings despite missing the cut at the Charles Schwab Challenge. That was the first tournament in three months after the COVID-19 pandemic halted play at the Players Championship in March.
McIlroy will be looking forward to playing here as the course suits his game rather more than did Colonial and Harbour Town, which hosted the RBC Heritage. It is a course where he will be able to reach for his driver and not worry too much about missing fairways. He went into the final round at Colonial just three shots off the lead but had a miserable front nine, requiring 41 blows after starting with a bogey. To his credit, he dug deep on the back nine and finished the tournament with a birdie. But it was not the week he wanted or expected.
Keep an eye on Bubba Watson. The big-hitting left-hander is a two-time champion who has also finished runner-up and simply loves this place.
There will also be a great deal of focus on Thomas, a 12-time PGA Tour winner. This will be Thomas’s seventh appearance at the Travelers Championship — he played in 2013 as an amateur and has competed in the tournament each of the past five years with a best finish in Connecticut being a tie for third in 2016.
“We’re thrilled that Justin has decided to playand support the tournament again this year,” said Travelers Championship Tournament Director Nathan Grube. “He’s a great addition to the field and the calibre of player our fans can expect to see in 2020. With the commitments of Rory McIlroy and now Justin Thomas, that gives us a pair of players ranked among the world’s top five.”
With his most recent victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and a win earlier this season at the CJ Cup, Thomas has achieved at least one PGA Tour victory in five straight seasons. He won last season at the 2019 BMW Championship, helping him finish third in the FedExCup points race.
Thomas’s best year so far was 2017, when he won five PGA TOUR tournaments, including the PGA Championship for his first major title. He had 12 top-10 finishes that season and was named PGA TOUR Player of the Year. He helped the United States win the Presidents Cup and made his Ryder Cup debut in 2018.
“We met Justin when he was still an amateur and have watched him become one of the most successful professional golfers in the world,” said Andy Bessette, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at Travelers. “We know that to have a successful tournament, we need the best players. Justin is off to a great start this season and I’m sure he’ll be one to watch this year at TPC River Highlands.”
The Travelers Championship donates 100% of its net proceeds to charity every year. Since 1952 it has generated more than $42m for charity and last year raised in excess of $2.1m for 150 charities.
It was won in 2015 and 2018 by Bubba Watson, in 2016 by Russell Knox, in 2017 by Jordan Spieth and last year by Chez Reavie.
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Rory McIlroy. Should be a perfect layout for him
Bryson DeChambeau. Could bring this place to its knees
Dustin Johnson. Dustinator is overdue a BIG week
Rory McIlroy. Time to start turning good finishes into more victories
Bryson DeChambeau. Much depends on whether he arrives wearing his putting boots
Dustin Johnson. Shaking off the rust
Jon Rahm. Should suit his game
Justin Thomas. A serial winner
Patrick Cantlay. Goes about his business quietly and efficiently
Rickie Fowler. Too good to keep struggling
Jordan Spieth. He is finally on the way back to his best
Webb Simpson. Has become a really consistent performer
Bubba Watson. Adores this venue, and is in form
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