The First Tee – The Travelers Championship by Adam Daly

Fantasy Golf Insider Staff
By Fantasy Golf Insider Staff June 19, 2017 21:34

The First Tee – The Travelers Championship by Adam Daly

After a very exciting US Open – that played much easier than expected thanks to the width of the fairways which I completely under-rated – the Tour stops in Connecticut for the Traveler’s Championship, with a remarkably packed field. Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy are some of the highlights at the top of the field, but there are plenty of good options in the value range as well.

The Course

The Traveler’s Championship is played at TPC River Highlands, a Pete Dye design, which means it shares some common characteristics with the other Dye-designed courses (RBC Heritage, The Players, etc.):

  • Hitting the narrower fairways is key to success, but easy to do
  • Shorter approach shots in
  • Water’s in play throughout the course, but not as punitive as the St. Jude Classic
  • Tougher greens that are sloped to hurt the chances of holding the ball

It’s a par-70 listed at only 6,841 yards, with four par-3s and two par-5s with the longest hole being only 574 yards, a big change from last week. This week will tend to be a birdie-fest, with 1534 birdies and 33 eagles being made here last year, and an overall scoring average of -0.331. With more water in play, the back-9 plays much tougher than the front, with 4.5 times the amount of doubles or worse made on the back compared to the front.

With the fairways being tree-lined and slightly narrow but no blind tee shots or need to bomb it, TPC River Highlands has averaged ~68% of fairways hit over the last five years, which has also led to ~67% of greens in regulation. The average driving distance tends to be in the 280-290yard range, which is firmly in the middle of the pack for the PGA, but it sets up for approach shots between 150-175 yards; this is because eight of the 12 par-4s are listed between 400-450 yards.

One of the more exciting holes here – one that absolutely has to be scored on, with a scoring average of -0.27 – is the 296-yard 15th, which is a par-4 that last year saw 11 eagles and 174 birdies, easily the easiest hole on the course.

Once on the small bentgrass greens, putting should be nullified a bit with the slow speed of the greens (around 10.5 on the stimpmeter), and the average proximity to the hole (34’4”). The hardest part of these greens comes not from putting – last year’s One-Putt percentage was a massive 35.19% – but rather from holding the ball on the short side, because there’s undulation and sloping designed to keep the ball away from the pin. It’s about the only “tricky” aspect of this course, and will bring Scrambling % into play.

Stats

The Strokes Gained stats to focus on in order (not including Tee to Green):

  • Approach
  • ***LARGE DROP OFF***
  • Putting
  • Off-The-Tee
  • Around the Green

Counting stats to focus on in order:

  • Birdie or Better % – by a wide margin
  • Bogey Avoidance
  • Approach Shots 150-175 Yards
  • Greens in Regulation %
  • Par-4 Scoring
  • Scrambling

The Golfers

I’m doing something different this week, with two pricier golfers getting written up with a handful of value picks that can perform well for DraftKings purposes. Feedback appreciated whether you like it or hate it!

Jordan Spieth ($11400) – Although Spieth struggled last week at Erin Hills, his performance on a windy Sunday morning when scores were high was a good show of his elite talent level. Spieth will be playing this course for the first time which is a scary proposition at his price point, which could help keep ownership slightly lower than it should be.

The concerns with Spieth have typically come in just one area, Off the Tee, but he’s an absolute stud in every other facet of golf – he leads the Tour in SG: Approach, is 40th in SG: Putting (but 3rd in Putting Average), and 40th in SG: Around the Green. The Off the Tee numbers aren’t nearly as terrifying as they would be otherwise, because his lack of distance (291.6) and struggles with accuracy (59.35%) will be mitigated by the way the course sets up. By taking driver out of his hand, Spieth will be able to either use long irons or woods off the tee, and figures to find the fairway higher than his 2017 average.

On approach, Spieth is elite in every sense of the word. As mentioned he’s 1st in overall Strokes Gained, he’s found 70.89% of GIR (3rd, which is impressive given how bad he’s been off the tee), and has the best Proximity to the Hole at only 32’7”. Importantly here, he sits 2nd in Approach shots from 150-175, and 18th from 125-150 – leaving an average of 22’ and 21’ from those distances respectively.

From a scoring perspective, the world number X averages the second-most birdies (4.57 per round) and has the fourth-best overall par-4 scoring / 11th-best par-4 birdie or better%. Those numbers will help Spieth go a long way towards paying off his salary, and should put him in contention on Sunday.

Paul Casey ($9700) – Another player coming off an interesting performance at the US Open, Casey has had success here his two times out – 2nd and T17 in 2015 and 2016 respectively. In 2015, Casey gained a massive 10 strokes to the field with the strength of his approach game, and that’s a repeatable skill that should help him this week.

Focusing on his approach game, Casey’s currently third-best on Tour for SG: App, sits 9th in the key 150-175 range (29th from that spot out of the rough), and has found the fifth-most greens. Unlike Spieth, Casey has actually found some success off the tee – albeit not to the point where he’s a top-10 player, but he’s been consistent enough not to lose strokes in that area. The combination of that with his stellar approach, and Casey will be in position to sink birdie putts constantly this week.

That’s the one area where Casey has been atrocious: he doesn’t crack the top-100 golfers on Tour in any major putting category, although he’s T1 for putts inside 3’ at a whopping 100% conversion rate!* That would normally be a concern, but with the way the course is set up with easy putts to sink, Casey’s normal downfall won’t be as big of a factor as it would be elsewhere.

*this is facetious

Value picks (below $7500):

  • Bud Cauley ($7400) – 8th in overall SG: Approach, 16th from 150-175, 40th in Par-4 Scoring. Cauley struggles on the greens but avoids 3-putts nicely, has had a great past 10 weeks, and finished T11 in 2014.
  • Wesley Bryan ($6800) – 20th in Approach from 150-175, 35th in Scrambling, 8th in One-Putt percentage. The rookie typically struggles with driving distance, but that won’t be a factor on a short track. If he gets to the green in regulation (182nd), he’ll have a great chance to knock in birdies.
  • Kelly Kraft ($6300) – He’s missed the cut both times he’s played here, but Kraft is having the best season of his young career and is nails from the key approach range (21st). Kraft has been very inconsistent, but his three best finishes this year (2, 3, 18) have come off missed cuts. A better putter than his 148th ranking supposes, Kraft is very high-risk/high-reward.

Good luck this week! You can follow me on Twitter @adalyfrey if you have any questions, and my DMs are always open

Fantasy Golf Insider Staff
By Fantasy Golf Insider Staff June 19, 2017 21:34

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