Approach shots key as fans return to Travelers Championship this week

Published on Monday, 21 June 2021 20:28
Written by TYLER HETU

@TheTylerHetu

For the first time since 2019, the Travelers Championship will be back to normal.

An expected field of 10,000 spectators for each round of the Travelers will populate the small town of Cromwell, Connecticut starting Thursday.

The four-day championship will be televised on both the Golf Channel and CBS with the first rounds teeing off Thursday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The second round will follow the next day at the same times, both being broadcast on the Golf Channel.

The third round will feature split coverage, with tee times coming at 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on the Golf Channel and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on CBS.

For Sunday’s final round the tee times remain the same as the third.

$7.4 million pot with $1.368 million going to the winner is at stake for a star-filled field this week, headlined by defending champion Dustin Johnson.

Johnson, the current World No. 2 golfer (passed by Jon Rahm over the weekend), took home the title with a -19 across the weekend in 2020 with impressive second and third rounds to win by one stroke over Kevin Streelman.

But notably, instead of a large crowd erupting into cheers for celebration of Johnson’s first win of the year, TPC River Highlands celebrated on Sunday night with a sparsely populated gallery, an unusual setting for an event that has drawn as much as 290,000 fans across all four rounds.

With COVID guidelines relaxing across the country, fans are now welcomed back to the 6,844-yard course.

One of Connecticut’s few major events for professional sports has tickets starting in the $60 range on Thursday. From then on, the tickets jump all the way up to $145 for Sunday’s competition. Both are ground rates. As usual, many are expecting the tournament to sell out by mid-week.

All ticket sales are digital. You can purchase tickets at travelerschampionship.com/tickets.

To help counter the still ongoing pandemic, hand-sanitizing stations and cleaning stations will be located throughout the course. No spectators are permitted to interact directly with players, which includes high-fives, handshakes autographs and pictures with players.

Spectators will also be unable to bring any bags into the event.

ALL IN THE APPROACH

A par 70 course that sits under 7,000 yards has it as one of the shorter courses on the Tour schedule, leaving golfers to work with precision off the box.

Water comes into play on five holes, but with the rate of double bogeys from hazards lower than the Tour average it proves the water isn’t a major concern.

The iconic 420-yard No. 17 has a fairway that moves almost in a J shape to the green around a lake, and will undoubtedly claim a few balls through the tournament, but a well placed approach for the second shot has players set up for birdie.

The theme will be common at River Highlands all weekend. A well-executed approach shot leading to success, and lower scores.

“It’s a par-70, … quite short, you feel like you have a wedge in your hand every hole,” said Rory McIlroy Monday to Yahoo Sports. “But if you don’t hit it in the fairways and don’t put yourself in position, it can be a little tricky. You need to be accurate here and not feel like you can be super aggressive but just sort of reigning that back a bit but knowing that there’s plenty of opportunities and just to stay patient."

With short irons and wedges being used frequently, course masters have worked to make the greens small and place the pins in difficult spots.

Fast greens and tricky pins still bring an approximately 67 percent Green In Regulation number, so it’s not too hard to hit and set up for an under-par putt, making the approach the money making shot at River Highlands.

QUICK NUMBERS

Get ready for some low scores this week.

Each of the last three Travelers winners all have gone -17 or more. The lowest in recent memory was Kenny Perry’s -22 in 2009, and could be bested by the reigning champion Johnson.

Nobody has won back-to-back Travelers titles since Phil Mickelson did it across 2001-02, and he’s the only one ever to do so. DJ would be put in pretty elite company as a multi-time winner, joining Bubba Watson, Stewart Cink, Peter Jacobsen, Paul Azinger, Billy Casper, Arnold Palmer and Mickelson.

It’s no surprise that as of Sunday he holds the best betting odds at 12-1. Watson, a three-time winner, is at 45-1 odds.

The course saw five first-time PGA Tour winners from 2005-12, and has seen 22 sudden-death playoffs. We could see a new face emerge late in competition, similar to Will Zalatoris’ push at The Masters that saw him place second.

WEATHER

As of Monday, the forecast looking ahead is in the 70’s with slight wind for both Thursday and Friday’s sessions. Cloud coverage may play into the forecast Friday. On Saturday and Sunday it’ll get warmer and the clouds will stay.

MY PICK

I will be going with Abe Ancer. A value betting odds pick, he’s been so close but has yet to get a win in the states. Not only is he due, I think his accuracy in hitting fairways and greens will set him up well for under-par scores. He had his first ace at the Travelers last year, and is also a common favorite among betting analysts and daily fantasy analysts calling their shots for the Travelers.

Putting a +8 in two rounds from the U.S. Open out of sight and mind will be big to his success, and I think if he’s at least three keeps himself around the top-15 through the first day he’ll be in great shape. From there on, it’s only going to get better.



Posted in New Britain Herald, General Sports on Monday, 21 June 2021 20:28. Updated: Monday, 21 June 2021 20:31.