Matt Fitzpatrick became just the third golfer in history to win the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open on the same course (Jack Nicklaus, 1961 U.S. Amateur and 1972 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach; Juli Inkster, 1980 U.S. Women's Amateur and 2002 U.S. Women's Open at Prairie Dunes) with one of the better ball-striking performances you will see on a major championship Sunday, He hit 17 of 18 greens to finish 6-under par, one stroke ahead of Will Zalatoris and Scottie Scheffler. Fitzpatrick won the 2013 U.S. Amateur at The Country Club and the 2022 U.S. Open at anywhere from 25-1 to 34-1, where he was tipped in this column last week to give us our eighth outright winner of the season.
Hideki Matsuyama had a bogey-free 65 on Sunday, the lowest of the week, to jump up to 3-under par and finish alone in fourth. Defending champion Jon Rahm began the round just a shot off the lead but made five bogeys and only one birdie in a 4-over-par 74 to fall to 12th.
Fitzpatrick led the field for Greens in Regulation (52-for-72, 72.2%) and Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green (+ 5.65), while ranking second for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (+ 4.78), fifth for Driving Accuracy (39-for-56, 69.6%) and 10th for Strokes Gained: Approach (+ 5.73).
The 27-year-old Englishman has now reached the OWGR Top 10 for the first time in his career. While he will not be part of this week's field at the Travelers Championship, five of the world's Top 10 will be as it’s a short trip from Boston to Hartford. Rory McIlroy (10-1) led the field in Strokes Gained: Putting (+ 9.83) last week but was -4.69 for Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green as he settled for a fifth-place finish (he has finished eighth or better in all three majors this year). McIlroy has three Top 20s at the Travelers in three appearances. Scheffler (11-1), the World No. 1, makes an appearance at the Travelers for the third consecutive year but his best finish was 47th last year. Justin Thomas (12-1) has missed the cut in Hartford in three of six appearances but did finish third here in 2016. Patrick Cantlay (16-1) shot 60 — still the lowest round ever by an amateur on the PGA Tour — here in 2011 when he was a 19-year-old at UCLA. Sam Burns (18-1) was in the mix for a while last weekend but fell to 27th.
Xander Schauffele (20-1) has two Top 20s in three Travelers appearances. Jordan Spieth (25-1) won the Travelers in his first appearance in a 2017 playoff over Daniel Berger. Going into last week, Tony Finau (33-1) had three Top 5s in his previous five events but missed the cut at The Country Club, as did Sungjae Im (35-1). Joaquin Niemann (35-1) finished fifth in his Travelers debut in 2019. Keegan Bradley (35-1) lost a playoff here in 2019 but has another home game in New England after the Boston crowd spurred him on to a seventh-place finish last week.
Defending champion Harris English triumphed in an eight-hole playoff last year versus Kramer Hickok and is back to defend his title at a price of anywhere from 100-1 to 125-1. He just returned to the PGA Tour three weeks ago after being out four months due to hip surgery.
Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the Travelers Championship was established in 1952 as the Insurance City Open before it became known as the Greater Hartford Open for most of its existence from 1967-2003. Legendary entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. was a fixture at the Tuesday/Wednesday pro-ams in Hartford and his name was attached to the event from 1973-1988. TPC River Highlands has been the permanent venue for the tournament since 1984.
Multiple-time winners at the Travelers include Billy Casper (1963, 1965, 1968, 1973), Bubba Watson (2010, 2015, 2018), Arnold Palmer (1956, 1960), Paul Azinger (1987, 1990), Phil Mickelson (2001, 2002), Peter Jacobsen (1984, 2003), and Stewart Cink (1997, 2008).
Since 2007, the Travelers has been customarily slotted the week after the U.S. Open on the PGA Tour schedule but still manages to attract solid fields year after year. In both 2017 and 2018, the tournament earned the PGA Tour's Players Choice Award, which is voted on by PGA Tour members for its services, hospitality and quality of both the course and overall event. This year has another strong field with 11 of the OWGR Top 20 participating.
TPC River Highlands is in Cromwell, Connecticut, approximately 12 miles south of Hartford. Robert Ross and Maurice Kearney were the original designers in 1928, and it was redesigned by Pete Dye in 1984 and remodeled by Bobby Weed, a Dye protege, in 1989.
The course plays as a Par 70 of 6,852 yards, which is the fourth-shortest course on tour. Jim Furyk set the course record in the final round of the 2016 Travelers by shooting a 58, the lowest round in PGA Tour history.
River Highlands is a tight and short tree-lined parklands. Wind is its main defense, and the winning score averages in the mid-teens under par. There are only five water holes, and some bunkers (69 remain) were removed in a 2015 renovation to create more short pitch shots from the fairways into the greens. The fairways and rough are Bentgrass/Poa Annua (Kentucky Bent/Fescue mix in the penal, 4-inch rough) and the greens (5,000 square feet on average, ninth-smallest on tour, 12 on the stimpmeter) are also a Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix. In terms of the type of player this course favors, there really isn't a prototype. Shorter hitters and bombers have won here. As always, ball-striking and hitting greens are usually a good recipe for success and River Highlands is no exception.
As for the layout of the holes, the Front 9 is straightforward. Everything is out in front of the players and there are few hazards off the tee. The tough finishing stretch from Holes 15 to 18 is what has produced so many close finishes. Stewart Cink, who won the 2008 Travelers, called them, “four of the most exciting finishing holes in a group anywhere in the world.” The stretch is typical of Pete Dye courses as he loves tempting players to hit toward hazards on drives and approach shots. Hitting toward the hazards increases the risk but also provides the reward of an easier shot into the greens.
Holes 15, 16 and 17 all play around a four-acre lake. The 296-yard, Par 4 15th is one of the best risk-reward holes on tour. It tempts players to go for a three-tiered green with water surrounding the left side and a forested hilly area with bunkers on the right. Both double bogey and eagle are very possible. The 171-yard Par 3 16th is in the most wind-affected area of the course and is completely over water with a near impossible up-and-down if you go long. The Par 4 17th is 431 yards and wraps around the pond with a demanding shot off the tee and on approach toward the back-to-front sloping green.
Here are some of the other Pete Dye designs that feature on the PGA Tour:
— Austin Country Club (WGC-Match Play since 2016)
— Crooked Stick (2012 and 2016 BMW Championship)
— Harbour Town (RBC Heritage)
— Ocean Course, Kiawah Island (2012 and 2021 PGA Championship)
— TPC Louisiana (Zurich Classic of New Orleans)
— TPC Sawgrass (The Players Championship)
— TPC Stadium, PGA West (The American Express since 2016)
— Whistling Straits (2010 and 2015 PGA Championship)
Of the Dye courses, Harbour Town and TPC Sawgrass have the most correlation to TPC River Highlands. Other correlated courses include Colonial, Pebble Beach, Sedgefield Innisbrook and Waialae.
2021: Harris English (-13/267); 35-1*
2020: Dustin Johnson (-19/261); 30-1
2019: Chez Reavie (-17/263); 70-1
2018: Bubba Watson (-17/263); 33-1
2017: Jordan Spieth (-12/268); 10-1**
2016: Russell Knox (-14/266); 50-1
2015: Bubba Watson (-16/264); 14-1***
2014: Kevin Streelman (-15/265); 150-1
2013: Ken Duke (-12/268); 150-1****
2012: Marc Leishman (-14/266); 125-1
2011: Fredrik Jacobson (-20/260); 45-1
2010: Bubba Watson (-14/266); 40-1*****
Playoff win vs. Kramer Hickok*
Playoff win vs. Daniel Berger**
Playoff win vs. Paul Casey***
Playoff win vs. Chris Stroud****
Playoff win vs. Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank*****
— 12 of the last 15 events have been decided by one stroke or less or in a playoff
— 6 of the last 15 events have been decided in a playoff
Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (Last 36 Rounds)
There are many different plans of attack at TPC River Highlands. However, three of the last four winners ranked 10th or better for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee during their winning weeks. The fairways are the ninth widest on tour, so players can club down off the tee. Many of the holes are tree-lined doglegs and there is thick rough all over the course.
1. Rory McIlroy 29.9
2. Brendan Steele 28.8
3. Keith Mitchell 28.2
4. Mito Pereira 24.9
5. Joaquin Niemann 24.4
6. Luke List 24.3
7. Cameron Champ 24
8. Justin Thomas 21.4
9. Sungjae Im 20.9
10. Tony Finau 20.3
11. Paul Barjon 20.3
12. Keegan Bradley 19.9
13. Hayden Buckley 19.7
14. Jordan Spieth 19.2
15. Patrick Cantlay 19.1
Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (Last 24 Rounds)
1. Brendan Steele 22.4
2. Tony Finau 19.9
3. Rory McIlroy 19.3
4. Joaquin Niemann 18.7
5. Mito Pereira 17.7
6. Jordan Spieth 17.7
7. Luke List 16.7
8. Cameron Champ 15.7
9. Keegan Bradley 15.6
10. Keith Mitchell 15.2
11. Anirban Lahiri 14.6
12. Justin Thomas 13.8
13. Hayden Buckley 12.9
14. Patrick Cantlay 12.2
15. Nick Hardy 12
Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 36 Rounds)
Four of the last six winners ranked seventh or better for Strokes Gained: Approach during their winning weeks. While it is easier to hit greens in regulation here and the average approach shots are much shorter, approach play is still important with pins in more difficult positions and many of the green complexes being angled away from the path of the hole.
1. Scottie Scheffler 32.9
2. Aaron Wise 29.4
3. Russell Henley 29.4
4. Jordan Spieth 28.8
5. Mito Pereira 28.7
6. Justin Thomas 28.1
7. Xander Schauffele 25.4
8. Harold Varner III 24.6
9. Tony Finau 24.4
10. Sam Burns 23.6
11. C.T. Pan 23
12. Jhonattan Vegas 22.4
13. Luke Donald 20.3
14. Erik Van Rooyen 20.1
15. Luke List 19.3
Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 24 Rounds)
1. Sam Burns 25.7
2. Scottie Scheffler 25.2
3. Harold Varner III 23.8
4. Xander Schauffele 22.5
5. Aaron Wise 21
6. Russell Henley 20.8
7. Mito Pereira 20.7
8. Rory McIlroy 20.2
9. Jordan Spieth 19.8
10. Justin Thomas 18.8
11. Brendan Steele 18.6
12. Erik Van Rooyen 17
13. Jhonattan Vegas 16.8
14. C.T. Pan 16.6
15. Tony Finau 14.8
Proximity Gained 150-175 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)
TPC River Highlands has the shortest average approach-shot distance on tour at only 151.3 yards. Nearly half of the approach shots will come from the 125- to 175-yard range.
1. John Huh 13.5
2. Matthew NeSmith 12.2
3. Andrew Novak 11.9
4. Justin Thomas 11.9
5. Tony Finau 10.2
6. Nick Watney 9.5
7. Jhonattan Vegas 9.2
8. Sam Ryder 8.6
9. Emiliano Grillo 8.5
10. Russell Knox 8.5
11. Jordan Spieth 8.5
12. Lee Hodges 8.1
13. Russell Henley 8.1
Proximity Gained 150-175 Yards (Last 24 Rounds)
1. Nick Watney 14.5
2. John Huh 13.2
3. Kelly Kraft 12.4
4. Mackenzie Hughes 12.4
5. Justin Thomas 11
6. Dawie Van Der Walt 10.3
7. Jhonattan Vegas 10.1
8. Lanto Griffin 9.8
9. Chesson Hadley 9.8
10. Lee Hodges 9.4
11. J.J. Henry 9.2
12. Kevin Streelman 9.1
13. Aaron Wise 9
Proximity Gained 125-150 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)
1. Matthias Schwab 12.5
2. Andrew Novak 11.3
3. Max McGreevy 11.1
4. Lucas Glover 9.5
5. Mito Pereira 9.4
6. Curtis Thompson 8.4
7. Justin Thomas 7.2
8. Doc Redman 7.1
9. Adam Schenk 6.4
10. Rory McIlroy 6.1
11. Tony Finau 6
12. Garrick Higgo 5.9
13. Paul Barjon 5.8
14. Luke Donald 5.6
15. Xander Schauffele 5.5
Proximity Gained 125-150 Yards (Last 24 Rounds)
1. Mito Pereira 12.6
2. Andrew Novak 12.2
3. Russell Henley 11
4. Matthias Schwab 10.7
5. Max McGreevy 10.1
6. Rickie Fowler 9.7
7. Lucas Glover 9.2
8. Scottie Scheffler 9.1
9. Brian Stuard 9.1
10. Rory Sabbatini 8.8
11. Curtis Thompson 8.7
12. Sam Burns 8
13. Ryan Palmer 7.9
14. Rory McIlroy 7.7
15. Seamus Power 7.6
Proximity Gained is measured in feet per shot
Strokes Gained: Par 4s 400-450 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)
Eight of the 12 Par 4s measure between 400-450 yards.
1. Scottie Scheffler 26.1
2. Mito Pereira 18.2
3. Justin Thomas 17.8
4. Joaquin Niemann 17.1
5. Sungjae Im 16.3
6. Lanto Griffin 15.9
7. Keegan Bradley 15.8
8. Jordan Spieth 15.8
9. Kevin Kisner 12.9
10. Tommy Fleetwood 12.6
11. Adam Long 12.1
12. Davis Riley 12
13. Luke List 11.8
14. Russell Knox 11.6
15. J.T. Poston 11.3
Strokes Gained: Par 4s 400-450 Yards (Last 24 Rounds)
1. Scottie Scheffler 15.9
2. Luke List 14
3. Wyndham Clark 13.8
4. Lanto Griffin 12.7
5. Mito Pereira 12.6
6. Joaquin Niemann 11.9
7. Jordan Spieth 11.2
8. Adam Svensson 10.9
9. Sungjae Im 9.9
10. Scott Gutschewski 9.8
11. Alex Smalley 9.7
12. Keegan Bradley 9.6
13. JJ Spaun 8.8
14. Tommy Fleetwood 8.8
15. C.T. Pan 8.6
Birdie or Better Gained (Last 36 Rounds)
Even with thick rough and smaller greens, there are still plenty of birdie opportunities.
1. Scottie Scheffler 49.3
2. Rory McIlroy 41.1
3. Joaquin Niemann 33.7
4. Davis Riley 31.9
5. Justin Thomas 29.4
6. Sam Burns 28.5
7. Keegan Bradley 27.3
8. Patrick Cantlay 26.6
9. Xander Schauffele 24.6
10. Russell Henley 21.5
11. Charles Howell III 19.6
12. Aaron Wise 18.4
13. Jordan Spieth 18.2
14. Keith Mitchell 18
15. Chad Ramey 17.5
Birdie or Better Gained (Last 24 Rounds)
1. Rory McIlroy 35.1
2. Scottie Scheffler 28.3
3. Davis Riley 26.5
4. Sam Burns 26.3
5. Keegan Bradley 25.3
6. Justin Thomas 23.5
7. Jordan Spieth 22
8. Aaron Wise 19.8
9. Mito Pereira 19.4
10. Xander Schauffele 18
11. Stewart Cink 16.4
12. Joaquin Niemann 14.7
13. Russell Henley 13.8
14. Chad Ramey 13.8
15. Harold Varner III 13.4
Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green (Last 36 Rounds)
TPC River Highlands is a test around the greens due to the small surfaces and rough that surrounds them.
1. Rory Sabbatini 18.8
2. William McGirt 17.2
3. Andrew Novak 16.4
4. Danny Willett 16
5. Harold Varner III 15.3
6. Joaquin Niemann 15.2
7. Jordan Spieth 14.6
8. Rory McIlroy 14.3
9. Matthias Schwab 14.3
10. Sungjae Im 14.3
11. Scottie Scheffler 14.2
12. Si Woo Kim 13.9
13. Russell Henley 13.7
14. Stephan Jaeger 13.5
15. Kevin Kisner 12.7
Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green (Last 24 Rounds)
1. Jordan Spieth 16.7
2. Si Woo Kim 13.9
3. William McGirt 13.2
4. Michael Gligic 12.8
5. Rory Sabbatini 12
6. Matthias Schwab 10.1
7. Harold Varner III 9.9
8. Jason Day 9.8
9. Russell Henley 9.7
10. Peter Malnati 9.3
11. Denny McCarthy 9.3
12. Scottie Scheffler 9
13. Tony Finau 8.9
14. Anirban Lahiri 8.7
15. Joaquin Niemann 8.5
Patrick Cantlay (15-1 Circa Sports)
Cantlay disappointed at a major again last week (14th place) but did shoot 1-under par on the weekend and led the field off the tee in the final round. He has finished Top 15 each of the last four years here and shot a 60 as an amateur in 2011. Cantlay is also a bit of a Pete Dye ace, ranking No. 1 in this field for Total Strokes Gained: Pete Dye Designs over the last 24, 36 and 50 rounds.
Sungjae Im (30-1 Westgate Superbook)
Prior to last week's disappointing missed cut, Im had four consecutive Top 25 finishes and seemed to be rounding into form. We'll buy on the small dip here with a player who ranks in the Top 10 in this field for both Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green.
Joaquin Niemann (35-1 Boyd Sports)
Niemann finished a disappointing 47th last week after a 76 on Saturday but played better than his result. He has continued to show strong form since winning the Genesis in February, including a third-place finish in the Memorial Tournament, where he was by far and away the best ball-striker in the field. Niemann ranks in the top six in this field for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green and Strokes Gained: Par 4s 400-450 Yards.
Keegan Bradley (35-1 Caesars Sportsbook)
Bradley earned his first Top 10 in major since the 2014 U.S. Open last week. He has had an excellent 2022, working his way back into the OWGR Top 50 with two Top 5s and four Top 10s. Bradley was clearly pumped up to play well in front of a New England crowd last week and should do the same this week.
Seamus Power (48-1 Boyd Sports)
Power's 2022 includes a third at the Sony Open, ninth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and quarterfinal appearance at the WGC-Match Play. However, it’s his finishes in the last two majors (ninth at the PGA, 12th at the U.S. Open) that show the signs of a potential big-time player emerging. He shot 66-67 in the first two rounds here last year before finishing 19th.
Marc Leishman (60-1 Circa Sports)
Leishman won the Travelers in 2012 and has only missed one cut in 11 starts at TPC River Highlands, finishing inside the Top 5 five times including third last year. Following a 14th-place finish last week, he looks well-placed for another strong showing this year. He’s coming off his best week for SG: Approach.
Brendan Steele (65-1 DraftKings)
Steele has an average score of 68.08 at TPC River Highlands in 11 appearances. Steele's form at the Travelers includes finishes of third (2011), 13th (2013), fifth (2014), 17th (2016) 14th (2017) and sixth (2020). In his last six starts on tour, Steele has finishes of 13th at The Players, fourth at the Zurich team event (with Bradley), ninth at the PGA (his best major finish) and 10th at the Memorial.
BMW International Open
With the U.S. Open behind us, the road toward next month's Open Championship begins. However, the Saudi-funded LIV Golf tour is again the lead story. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan suspended defectors, and DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley is going to have a decision to make regarding his tour membership. As of now, Pelley has not elected to follow Monahan's lead, and several players in this week's BMW International Open field participated in the first LIV Golf event two weeks ago.
Ten players, led by Louis Oosthuizen (22-1) and Sergio Garcia (22-1), who played in the inaugural LIV Golf event are part of this week's field in Munich. However, the favorite is Billy Horschel (12-1), who is attempting a “BMW Triple” after winning last year's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and the 2014 BMW Championship as part of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs. Thomas Pieters (22-1) returns to Europe off a respectable 27th-place finish at the U.S. Open. Jordan Smith (22-1) has a pair of runner-up finishes on the DP World Tour this season and has made 10 of 11 cuts in 2022. Pablo Larrazabal (35-1), who played in the LIV event, has two victories in 2022 and two wins in this event on this golf course (2011, 2015).
Defending champion Viktor Hovland is not playing this week. Fourteen players who played in the U.S. Open will be in the field, but only Pieters and Wil Besseling (80-1) made the cut at The Country Club.
The BMW International Open was established in 1989 and has spent most of its time in the home city of its title sponsor, Munich. Over the last decade, the event has alternated between Golfclub München Eichenried in Munich in odd years and Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof near Cologne in even years, but Eichenreid will again host this year.
Previous winners at Eichenried, dating to its first year in 1989, include Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Thomas Bjorn, Lee Westwood, John Daly, Colin Montgomerie, Paul Azinger, Sandy Lyle and David Feherty.
Golfclub München Eichenried has been slightly lengthened to a Par 72 of 7,284 yards. The 1989 Kurt Rosknecht design is very scorable with four mid-range Par 5s and two potentially drivable Par 4s. The Poa/Ryegrass fairways are very generous, so the layout is set up for the players to attack. The Creeping Bentgrass greens are relatively flat and roll about 10 on the stimpmeter.
Players with different styles have succeeded here. The winner could be a high GIR player who has a good putting week, or someone in good putting form who finds more greens than normal. Either way, birdies and low scoring are the order of the day, particularly if rain softens the putting surfaces.
2021: Viktor Hovland (-19/269); 13-2
2020: Canceled (COVID-19)
2019: Andrea Pavan (-15/273); 100-1*
2018: Matt Wallace (-10/278); 40-1
2017: Andres Romero (-17/271); 300-1
2016: Henrik Stenson (-17/271); 10-1
2015: Pablo Larrazabal (-17/271); 60-1
2014: Fabrizio Zanotti (-19/269); 80-1**
2013: Ernie Els (-18/270); 22-1
2012: Danny Willett (-11/277); 90-1***
2011: Pablo Larrazabal (-16/272); 45-1****
2010: David Horsey (-18/270); 150-1
Playoff win over Matthew Fitzpatrick*
Playoff win over Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Gregory Havret and Henrik Stenson**
Playoff win over Marcus Fraser***
Playoff win over Sergio Garcia****
The 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 events were played at Lärchenhof.
Thomas Pieters (22-1 Caesars Sportsbook)
Pieters finished 27th at the U.S. Open but ranked eighth in the field for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. He takes a drop in class here, going back to the DP World Tour. If we examine his form in only DP World Tour events this year, it reads an impressive 1-12-9-10. Take it back to the end of last year and it reads 16-1-15-1-12-9-10. Pieters' power off the tee should be effective on the Par 5s and short Par 4s.
Jordan Smith (22-1 BetMGM)
Smith was third on this course in 2019. The Englishman leads the DP World Tour for both Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Greens in Regulation. He also ranks fifth for Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and seventh for Driving Accuracy. Smith has two runner-up finishes and four Top 10s this year and is clearly knocking on the door.
Romain Langasque (50-1 DraftKings)
Langasque's seventh-place finish two weeks ago at the Scandinavian Mixed was his fourth Top 10 and seventh Top 25 of 2022. He also ranks 12th on the DP World Tour for Strokes Gained: Approach and 15th for Greens in Regulation.
Haotong Li (70-1 DraftKings)
After missing his first 13 cuts in 2021, Li showed signs of a turnaround and has continued his improved play into 2022. In 11 starts, he has missed just three cuts and hit the Top 10 twice, his best effort a third-place finish in the Ras Al Khaimah Championship in February.
Matti Schmid (80-1 BetMGM)
Schmid won Rookie of the Year last year on the DP World Tour. He has an outstanding pedigree with wins in the European Amateur in consecutive years (2019, 2020). Schmid ranks 10th on the DP World Tour for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee.
Check in at VSiN.com on Wednesday for breakdowns of the two majors being held this week: the KPMG Women's PGA Championship and the U.S. Senior Open.