Travelers Championship betting guide: 6 picks our expert loves this week
Welcome to our weekly PGA Tour gambling-tips column, featuring picks from GOLF.com’s expert prognosticator, Brady Kannon. A seasoned golf bettor and commentator, Kannon is the host of the HeatStrokes podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @LasVegasGolfer, and you can read below to see his favorite plays for the Travelers Championship, which starts Thursday at TPC River Highlands, in Cromwell, Conn.. Keep scrolling past Kannon’s picks, and you’ll also see data from Chirp, a free-to-play mobile platform that features a range of games with enticing prizes, giving fans all kinds of ways to engage in the action without risking any money.
The Travelers Championship has been a stalwart on the PGA Tour schedule for more than 70 years. But in 2023, it has elevated status as a designated event. That means that just one week removed from the U.S. Open, we’ve got another star-studded field.
TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. was redesigned by Pete Dye in 1982. It is a traditional, parkland, tree-lined, Northeast set up with smaller-than-average bentgrass/poa greens. The course is short by Tour standards, playing at just over 6,800. Par is 70 for the event. Fans are a big part of this championship, making it one of the more raucous crowds of the season. In five of the last 12 editions of the Travelers, those fans have been treated to a playoff. For what it’s worth, if you want to bet that there will be a playoff this year, the line is +350.
I looked at Strokes Gained: Off the Tee this week in an effort to find efficient work off the tee. I don’t necessarily favor a bomber or a short knocker here, based on tournament history. Big hitters, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, have won. But so have relatively light-hitting Kevin Streelman and Chez Reavie.
I don’t know if this tournament can be completely referred to as a “birdie-fest” but we could get one this week. Rain and thundershowers are in the forecast for the next 10 days. And even if the tournament avoids weather delays, the course should be short and vulnerable. The average winning score over the last 10 years has been 15 under par but in two of the last three editions, the winner has reached 19 under. Throw into the mix that we have an elevated field this week, and we may get to 20-under par or better.
Given all of these factors, I started my handicap this week by looking at Birdies or Better Gained. I mentioned SG Off the Tee. I also looked at SG Approach and SG Around the Green. I specifically looked at Hole Proximity from 125-175 yards as that is where the bulk of the approach shots will come from — and I also leaned heavily on Par 4 Scoring with 12 of the 18-holes being Par 4s — most of which fall between 400-450 yards.
For correlated courses, I wanted to find smaller, more positional designs — those that require efficient work off the tee with sharp approach play and excellent work on and around the greens. That led me to TPC Potomac, TPC Twin Cities, TPC Deere Run, and TPC Sawgrass — as well as East Lake, Sedgefield, and Innisbrook, host of the Valspar Championship.
It can be a tricky handicap, coming off a major championship. Would we rather have someone who missed the cut last week and has had extra time to regroup? Do we want a player who contended last week and could be ready to make a run? There are many variables to a post-major situation, and the players I landed on had a mixed bag of results last week.
To Win the Traveler’s Championship (and Finish Top 20)
Xander Schauffele (15-1)
It is not often that I go with a defending champion, but even before I remembered that was the case, Schauffele felt like the right pick. After opening with a 62 last week and being tied for the lead at the U.S. Open, Schauffele fell off the pace and wasn’t much of a factor over the weekend. He ended up finishing 10th. He checks a lot of boxes for me on similar golf courses and is arguably the best in the world at East Lake. He was Top 20 earlier this season at TPC Sawgrass and over the last 36 rounds, he is sixth in this field for SG Approach, 6th in Birdies or Better Gained, and ranks first in Hole Proximity from 150-175 yards. He also ranks 12th in this field over the last 36 rounds for SG Putting on bentgrass/poa greens. Yes, he has the pressure of defending, but this is not the cauldron of a major.
Russell Henley (35-1)
There are two things I don’t love about this pick. First, the price has dropped; I’ve seen Henley tipped at 50-1 and even higher. It’s never great to be late to the party and take a bad number. Secondly, it feels like everyone else is on him this week too — and that kind of goes hand in hand with the price being chopped. But we move on and just trust our process. Henley is incredibly efficient tee to green and is the No. 1 player on Tour in Driving Accuracy and the 17th ranked player in this field over the last 36 rounds in SG Approach. He’s missed one cut in his last eight starts — other than that he has not finished worse than 19th. He is also very strong on this week’s correlated courses and has finished sixth, 11th, and 19th at The Travelers in his career.
Si Woo Kim (46-1)
Kim has been somewhat quietly playing very high-level golf. He was runner-up at the Byron Nelson and then took second at the Memorial. He’s won the Players Championship and the Wyndham Championship — and finished Top 5 an additional three times at Sedgefield. Over the last 36 rounds, Kim is 25th in this field for SG Approach, 12th in SG Off the Tee, 15th in Birdies or Better Gained and fourth for Hole Proximity from 150-175 yards. He’s been awfully close as of late and I expect that he will contend again this week.
Corey Conners (72-1)
Schauffele finished 10th at the U.S. Open, Henley was 14th, and Kim finished 39th. Conners missed the cut last week, but I like the way this course sets up for him. Coming into the U.S. Open, Conners had just competed in his country’s national open. He didn’t have a lot of breathing room. I like the fact that he has had some extra time to exhale before getting back to work this week.
Full Tournament Head to Head Matchups (35-27-3 YTD)
Taylor Moore (-140) over Sam Bennett
Corey Conners (-110) over Denny McCarthy
Who Chirp users think will win
Download Chirp here and join the fun!