2021 Travelers Championship
One of the most exciting Major finishes in quite some time, with Jon Rahm finding two putts of the highest calibre on the closing two holes, to claim his maiden Major title. One gets the feeling it won’t be his last. The Spaniards 9th hole on Sunday highlighted just how much luck can play in the outcome of a tournament. It seemed sure that his ball had gone out of bounds off the tee, and a reload was apparently inevitable. He was matched at 60 at this point. Fortunately for big Jon, his ball somehow stayed in, he played the next 3 shots perfectly, and he had turned a potential 7 into a 4. A 60/1 shot was now 9/2.
I had said when leaving Rahm out of the staking plan, how all winners will have had a few slices of luck on their side, and that maybe Rahm had used all his up for no gain at Muirfield. He saved a big slice for Sunday at Torrey, but one would have to say deservedly so. He really went and won this title over the closing two holes, and it made for excellent viewing.
Obviously viewing is embellished when one has a few bets in the melting pot, and unfortunately from this column’s perspective, our interest was pretty minimal by that stage. Chez Reavie did also finish birdie birdie to snaffle a small share of a Top 40, but that was a disappointing return for a bet that had seemed likely to collect for much of the week. Xander playing the closing two holes in +1 meant he only delivered a small share of the place money, and DJ really wouldn’t have had to do much over his closing 18 holes to land Top Former Winner. Unfortunately we didn’t get the same roll of the ball that Rahm enjoyed. It’s been a poor run since the US PGA, but I remain confident the year can be turned around.
The week after a Major can often produce a very sub standard field, but this week comes at a time of the season when a lot of the big names are keen to keep their shoulder to the wheel, and this week’s Travelers Championship sees a host of the games elite line up. Held as ever at TPC River Highlands, the course is nearly 1000 yards shorter than last week’s layout. At just 6840 yards, and one of the shortest on Tour, it clearly gives those of less power from the tee a more level playing field on which to ply their trade. To combat that though, it must be said that 4 of the last 11 renewals have been won by players of prodigious power. Accurate length will be an asset anywhere.
Plotting rather than bombing is typically the way to get it done around here though, and even when Dustin Johnson was successful last year, he did so by leaving the driver in the bag for much of the week. He made his winning score courtesy of some excellent approach play and putting. Contrary again to last week when par was your friend, making birdies will be key here, and bogeys will be a big setback to a scorecard. Jim Furyk produced a 58 here in 2016, and if the flatstick is hot, there is certainly a low one out there. It has also been a venue which seems to welcome the same names back to the leaderboard on a regular basis, and course form is definitely a plus.
Players of Interest:
I generally have very few bets the weeks after a Major as they are typically low grade events, where it is hard to gauge the motivation of those bigger names who have just been in contention the previous week. This week though, I do have a couple of bets that I feel are very good value.
At the head of the market, I don’t see this week as floating the boat of Brooks Koepka, and am somewhat surprised he is lining up. I would prefer to get with Bryson DeChambeau on a tougher test than this, even though he has performed very well here in each of the last 3 years, and at 12/1 I have little interest.
Paul Casey has some sexy form figures around here, but he’s only 16/1, and that’s about as sexy as Mo Mowlam.
I will generally skip the top of the market in weeks such as this, but the 12/1 on DUSTIN JOHNSON has drawn me in. He was disappointing on Sunday at Torrey, but a positive that has to be taken from the week was he putted better than he has been. He was excellent in how he plotted his way around here 12 months ago, and given I feel his motivation will be higher than others at the head of the market, the 12/1 on offer was big enough to warrant a bet. Interviews then were of a very confident nature, where he felt he just had to place the ball anywhere in the fairway to be in with a chance of making birdie. That, along with it leading to a victorious week, is a nice mindset to be bringing in. After a poor run at the Masters, Valspar and US PGA, the world number 2 is now back trending in the right direction. On a course he can clearly tame, in a field that may not be as stern as it looks on paper, I like the chances of DJ going back to back. In his last 6 outings the week directly after a Major, he has won once and never finished outside the top 30. He clearly doesn’t just be out for a jolly up. He hasn’t won since that brilliant Masters victory last November, and he will surely view this as an excellent opportunity to get back in the winners circle.
Though I have DJ as the most likely winner, the best bet for me is definitely the recommendation sent out yesterday evening, BUBBA WATSON. A 3 time winner around here, the mercurial left hander clearly loves his time at River Highlands. A US Open test at Torrey Pines is never likely to see the best of Bubba, but over the opening two days, there were more than enough positives on display to suggest that bets may not be far from the surface. Where better to produce it than at this week’s venue. Bubba has a terrible record as a defending champion everywhere, so if you exclude his performances here the year after a victory, his record since 2010 reads, 1/2/4/31/1/MC/1/MC. On a layout where it does pay to side with previous course form, I was very surprised to see him chalked up as big as 60/1 yesterday.
Major tests maybe don’t quite do it for a now 42 year old Watson anymore, but his play prior the US PGA suggested there was plenty of life in the old dog yet. 18th at the Wells Fargo, 13th at Valspar, 8th in Zurich and just missing out on a quarter final berth in the Matchplay all read very well. Indeed he was unlucky that a cold putter on a few of those occasions deprived him of a serious shot at glory. The green shoots of promise shown early last week will have Bubba quietly confident that he can bag title number 4 here this week. 3 times the price of Paul Casey?? Yes please.
CHEZ REAVIE may not quite have got the job done for us last week, but I am very keen to persevere with him here. His long game was once again excellent in the main, and having had the big disadvantage of lack of length there, he can now really strut his stuff around a layout he conquered in emphatic fashion in 2019. There were plenty of shots left out on the Torrey Pine greens, and it can only be hoped that he shows the improvement required in that department to be a factor here, but when playing at 125/1 I am more than prepared to take that risk. After 7 consecutive missed cuts, Reavie really found something at Congaree two weeks ago, and he continued that resurgence with a better than the result display last week. He produced a superb Friday 68 to make the weekend, and like Bubba he will fancy his chances of getting involved here on a track where he has had previous success. He’s much too big a price in my opinion.
It will have hurt RICKIE FOWLER to have been sitting on the sidelines last week, and that could be a weapon he can use to his advantage here. River Highlands is a track where you need to do everything well, and a peak form Fowler is that player. To my eye Rickie is closer to rediscovering that best than the betting suggests. An excellent 8th at the US PGA was his first top 10 in 18 months, and he backed that up with an excellent 11th at The Memorial. That will have the confidence flowing through the veins of the soon to be father, and he will be keen to keep the revs up this week. I was surprised to see him put in as big as 66/1 off the back of those two fine efforts, and given how well River Highlands sets up for his game. A fall from grace can add fire to a player’s belly, and I get the feeling Rickie is now back in fight mode. I like his chances here.
Brian Harman and Kevin Streelman were very much on the list of players I wanted to be with this week. Unfortunately they must have been on nearly everyone else’s too, and at just 28/1 and 33/1 respectively, I will have to let them go.
As such, the last man onto my outright team sheet is SI WOO KIM. The Korean has been in very good nick from tee to green in his last couple of outings. Like Reavie, he will need to be more prolific on the greens to churn out a victory here, but at 55/1 I am more than happy to take my chances. He notched his 3rd win on Tour in January of this year, and that came on the back of a couple of similar performances to what he produced at Muirfield and Torrey. Kim has made the weekend in 3 of his 4 journeys to River Highlands, and cranked it up a notch last year when a closing 65 saw him finish in 11th place. Given the excellent state of his long game the past two weeks, I feel he can improve on that here on course that will reward such accuracy. If he happens to produce a hot putting week, we’ll have ourselves a live one come Sunday evening.
Top 20 Finish:
I will make no apologies for going to the well once more with CHEZ REAViE. I really like the chances of the 2019 winner this week, and from following him closely at Torrey, his game seems in perfect shape to contend here once again. The 11/2 on offer with a few firms is quite a bit too big that he delivers a Top 20 finish.
Top Continental Euro:
Somewhat similarly to Fowler, FRANCESCO MOLINARI had been below his best for a prolonged period. He began a revival in January at the Amex, and backed that up by making it 3 top tens in 4 outings courtesy of excellent displays at Torrey Pines and Riviera. He again went missing after that, but last week’s return to Torrey saw another return to form, when his approach play was particularly eye-catching. He won’t struggle through lack of length here, and has the ideal game to plot his way successfully around this week’s layout.
Opposition here is headed up by Guido Miggliozi, who announced himself to the wider golfing world with a career best display last week. Clearly a very exciting talent, who is set to leave the lesser lights of the European Tour behind, it would have to be a big worry that he will be mentally drained after his most recent efforts.
Outside of that, there really isn’t much for an on song Molinari to be worried about here, and buoyed by that excellent display from the fairways last week, I expect him to oblige here.
.7pts ew Bubba Watson 55/1 (1/5 odds 8 places, Betfred) *Sent yesterday
2.5pts ew Dustin Johnson 12/1 (1/5 odds 8 places, PP/BFSB/WH/Betfred/Coral/Lads) ***Now 14/1 with WH***
.6pt ew Si Woo Kim 55/1 (1/5 odds 8 places, PP/BFSB/Betfred) *50/1+ acceptable
.5pt ew Rickie Fowler 60/1 (1/5 odds 8 places, PP/BFSB/Coral/Lads) *50/1+ acceptable .3pt ew Chez Reavie 125/1 (1/5 odds 8 places, PP/BFSB/WH/Betfred) *90/1+ acceptable Top 20 Finish:
4pts Chez Reavie 11/2 (PP/BFBS)
Top Continental Euro:
6pts Francesco Molinari 5/2 (PP/BFSB)
The above two bets are not yet priced up with all firms. I would take anything 4/1+ on Reavie. He is currently 9/2 in a few places, and will be that when liquidity forms on Betfair.
Molinari is 9/4 with 365 and this is also acceptable. Hopefully the likes of WH/SBK match the 5/2 when they eventually go up.
Running Totals 2021:
Best of Luck all, I will be back with the John Deere Classic in 2 weeks time. The reason next week was left off the schedule was I had a couple of days away planned. If that doesn’t transpire, or if I am getting involved in the event, I will send any bets I have had out on the Tuesday afternoon.