DraftKings PGA Preview: Travelers Championship
DraftKings has seven golfers priced at $9,500 or above this week. Brooks Koepka is the clear favorite with a price tag of $11,800 and Vegas odds of 7:1. Patrick Cantlay is the only other golfer in the 11k range at $11,300. Jordan Spieth ($10,700), Francesco Molinari ($10,300), and Jason Day ($10,000) round out the five-figure salary club. DraftKings provides you with $50,000 to select six golfers for an average roster spot of $8,333.
All of the tips and information that I mention in this article are plays that I will be considering for my own lineups (by the way, we were 13 of 13 last week in our favorite plays making the cut). However, that doesn’t mean that I will end up with all of the guys that I mention. Additional news, research, and roster construction may lead me to different plays. Remember to check the news and social media reports leading up to the first golfer teeing off. Though golf is more difficult to get injury news, you might be able to pick up a nugget or two that helps with roster construction – especially when dealing with possible withdrawals.
Work at having a solid process week in and week out as opposed to getting bogged down by recency bias or the ups-and-downs of the weekly golf grind. Though the best golfers will perform best during the season, from week-to-week, any golfer is capable of winning and the best golfers are capable of missing the cut. Have a solid process and use all the information available to make the best decision possible for your lineup. Good luck and, most importantly, have fun! Whether you win or lose, golf is one of the most entertaining fantasy sports to follow because you get four days of action.
The Travelers Championship is played at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, CT (10 miles south of Hartford).
TPC River Highlands is a Pete Dye-designed Par 70 course that measures 6,841 yards. It is the second-shortest course on the PGA Tour (behind Pebble Beach). The fairways average around 35 yards and are tree lined. The rough is quite thick approaching 4” in some places..
The course is a well-balanced golf test with a mixture of long and short holes. The most notable stretch is hole numbers 15-17 which play around a four-acre lake. When you include the home hole, the four-hole collection is, according to Stewart Cink, “four of the most exciting finishing holes in a group anywhere in the world.”
The greens are a mixture of Bentgrass and Poa. They measure around 5,000 square feet, which is a bit smaller than average. The green speeds are a 12 on the stimpmeter.
156 golfers are scheduled to tee it up this week. The top 70 (and ties) will make the cut. The MDF rule (secondary cut) is in effect if more than 78 golfers make the initial cut.
Previous winners of the Travelers Championship that are in the field this week include Bubba Watson (2018, 2015, 2010), Jordan Spieth (2017), Russell Knox (2016), Kevin Streelman (2014), Marc Leishman (2012), Fredrik Jacobson (2011), Hunter Mahan (2007), J.J. Henry (2006), and Phil Mickelson (2002, 2001).
Five of the world’s top-10 golfers are teeing it up this week, including the top dog, Brooks Koepka. In total, 12 of the top-25 golfers are scheduled to appear. This is a solid field considering it is the week after a major and the golfers have to travel from the west coast to the east coast.
The average winning score has been 15-under par and the average cut line is 1-over par.
Rain could be an issue on Thursday and Friday so check the weather as there could be some slight tee time advantages to different waves of golfers for DFS or betting purposes. The weekend looks to be really good, however much we can rely on the weather a few days in advance, that is.
Only the Waste Management Phoenix Open attracts more fans each year. Nearly 300,000 fans come out to watch the Travelers during the course of the week.
The two Par 5 holes have averaged a Birdie or Better rate of nearly 40%.
When looking at total strokes gained over the last five years of the Travelers Championship, Paul Casey, Bubba Watson, Brendan Steele, Charley Hoffman, and Brian Harman lead the way.
Keegan Bradley and Charley Hoffman have the longest active streak of made cuts at the Travelers Championship with eight each. Paul Casey, Brooks Koepka, and Vaughn Taylor are next with four consecutive cuts made.
Nearly 67% of fairways are hit at TPC River Highlands (the tour average is 61%).
There were eight eagles on the 206-yard Par 4 15th hole in 2018. The hole yielded nine eagles in 2017.
Oklahoma State University teammates, Vicktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff, are set to make their professional debuts. They are ranked number one and two, respectively, in the world amateur rankings. Justin Suh will be making his second career professional start and Collin Morikawa will be making his third career professional start.
Patrick Cantlay shot a 10-under 60 to set the course record in 2011. It was the lowest round ever shot on the PGA Tour by an amateur. The course record was broken in 2016 when Jim Furyk shot a 12-under 58 (which is the lowest round ever on the PGA Tour).
COURSE FIT & KEY STATISTICS
This course has seen a healthy mix of winners here. Bombers and short hitters have both done well. There are some very short holes that bombers can grip it and rip it. There are also a number of doglegs and precision holes that will require great ball-striking. I will be looking at golfers that have a strong overall game this week. My customized overall stat model measures all stats from both a short-and-long-form standpoint. The best golfers, in terms of stats, for my customized model this week (in ranked order) are Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay, Paul Casey, Kevin Streelman, Chez Reavie, Viktor Hovland, Emiliano Grillo, Adam Hadwin, Justin Thomas, and Russell Knox.
Many of the golfers will have the same 125-175 approach shot and the ability to hit the greens will be important this week (as it is all weeks). I don’t anticipate as much emphasis on the short game or around the green game as last week at the U.S. Open. This week could turn into who can get the ball closest to the hole on their second shot and then who gets hot with the putter (never easy to predict that one). The top ten golfers according to my customized proximity/approach model are Brooks Koepka, Paul Casey, Emiliano Grillo, Justin Thomas, Charley Hoffman, Kevin Streelman, Patrick Cantlay, Byeong-Hun An, Chez Reavie, and Viktor Hovland.
Pete Dye Courses
This is a Pete Dye course so I will be giving some weight to golfers that perform well at Pete Dye courses, as well as two tournaments (Genesis and Valspar) that tend to have correlated results. The best golfers that have performed best at these courses (in rank order) according to my model include Patrick Cantlay, Justin Thomas, Jason Kokrak, Paul Casey, Jason Day, Buba Watson, J.B. Holmes, Bryson DeChambeau, Tommy Fleetwood, and Brooks Koepka.
Brooks Koepka ($11,800)
He and Gary Woodland were the only golfers to go sub-70 in all four rounds last week at the U.S. Open. In Koepka’s last eight events, he has five top-three finishes. Only two people (Woodland and Tiger Woods) have beaten him in the last three majors. Only Patrick Cantlay has gained more total shots in the last 24 rounds. Koepka leads the field in fantasy scoring in the last 24 rounds.
Patrick Cantlay ($11,300)
In the last 24 rounds played, Cantlay is first in SG: Total and second in fantasy scoring. He has five top-10 finishes in his last seven events, including a win at the Memorial, and a T3 at both the PGA Championship and the RBC-Heritage.
Jordan Spieth ($10,700)
He struggled to a T65 at the U.S. Open but prior to that, he was rounding into form. He came into Pebble Beach with three straight top-10 finishes, including a T3 at the PGA Championship. Overall, he has made nine straight PGA Tour cuts. Only Jason Kokrak and Tommy Fleetwood have made more consecutive cuts of the players in this week’s field.
Bubba Watson ($8,900)
He is a three-time winner of the Travelers Championship. In fact, he erased six shot deficits in his 2018 and 2010 victories. Overall, he has made the cut in 10 of his 12 starts. In addition to his three wins, he also has two other top-five finishes. He is the defending champion. Only Paul Casey has gained more total strokes in the last five years than Watson.
Charley Hoffman ($8,100)
Has made eight straight cuts at the Travelers, including three top-10 finishes. His most recent coming in 2017 when he finished T3. He finished T15 last year.
Hunter Mahan ($6,300)
From 2006 to 2009, he had four straight top-five performances, including a win and two runner-ups. Overall, he has made the cut in 12 of his 17 starts here. Certainly, he has tailed off a bit since that wild stretch a decade ago, but he has still managed to make the cut here the last three years, including a T17 in 2017.
FAVORITE $10,000+ PLAYS
Brooks Koepka ($11,800)
He nearly pulled off a three-peat at the U.S. Open as he and Gary Woodland were the only golfers to go sub-70 in all four rounds. In his last eight events, he has five top-three finishes. In the other three events, he finished outside the top 50 or missed the cut. He either contends on Sunday or is a non-factor. There seems to be no middle ground for him lately. Last year he finished T19 at the Travelers after his U.S. Open win. I plan on fading him for the most part on FanDuel as he is just way too expensive compared to Patrick Cantlay (or anyone else that could conceivably contend). However, on DK, I will probably play him a good deal in my MME builds and put him in a couple of my 20-max builds once I find some value that I like. I will probably avoid him in my single-entry lineups and start most of those with Paul Casey and focus on balanced builds.
Patrick Cantlay ($11,300)
I really like Cantlay. He is playing as well as anyone (not named Koepka) right now. However, I plan on getting my exposure to him on FanDuel this week. His price is too close to Koepka’s on DK. On FD, however, there is a significant gap to the tune of $1,100. Koepka and Cantlay are the best golfers in this field (in terms of recent form and stats) so if I can get one at a huge price discount I will do so. In the last 24 rounds played, Cantlay is first in SG: Total and second in fantasy scoring. He has five top-10 finishes in his last seven events, including a win (at the Memorial) and two different third-place finishes. He finished T15 at the Travelers last year.
FAVORITE $9,000 PLAYS
Paul Casey ($9,500)
I never seem to get Casey right but that won’t stop me from playing him because he is extremely talented, rates out well in most statistical models, and has great course history. He is third in my overall customized stat model that takes every part of the game (including putting) into account. He is first or second in my driving accuracy model, my proximity model, and my ball-striking model. He is also the fourth best scorer, which is important if this turns into a birdie fest. His T17 in 2016 is his only finish outside the top five in the four years that he has played the event. Ironically, he has finished runner-up each of the last two times (2018 and 2015) that Bubba Watson has won. He is a stud at the Travelers. His form has been a little inconsistent, but he does have four top-five finishes in his last nine events, including a win at the Valspar Championship back in March. Even though I prefer Cantlay and Koepka straight up, Casey’s price on DK is too good to pass up when compared to those two. He is $1,800 cheaper than Cantlay and $2,300 cheaper than Koepka. Casey could win this tournament and he definitely could outperform Cantlay and Koepka but at a significant discount.
Tommy Fleetwood ($9,300)
Fleetwood has been under-performing this season, in terms of high finishes. He rates out well in all ball-striking categories. He has as solid of a golf swing as you’ll see but just hasn’t been scoring consistently this season – though he did have a nice stretch in the spring with a T5 at The PLAYERS and a T3 at the Arnold Palmer. If you are playing cash or single-entry contests, then Fleetwood is a solid option. He has played the weekend in 28 straight events worldwide and 50 of his last 52 events. During that stretch, he has 20 top-10 finishes. He is as safe as they come in DFS golf.
Bryson DeChambeau ($9,200)
This is purely a gut hunch but at some point, it has to click for Bryson. After all, he has won five times in the past year. He has made all three cuts at the Travelers, including a T9 last year so this might be where he puts it all together again. He hasn’t played terrible in 2019 – just inconsistent. He still rates out well in my statistical models. His overall game is 11th, which isn’t great for his price point but is solid for a guy with his recent results. Playing him is pure speculation this week but he should be fairly low owned. If that is the case, then I will take a low owned guy with plenty of win equity that finished 2018 ranked number five in the world. This is a GPP-only play where you are trying to differentiate your lineups.
FAVORITE $8,000 PLAYS
Chez Reavie ($8,400)
If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around, does it make a sound? If Chez finishes third at the U.S. Open but gets next-to-nothing in terms of television coverage, did he still play great? The answer is an emphatic yes. He was as locked in as a player could be. It was just Brooks Koepka and Gary Woodland had amazing weeks also. I expect Chez to continue to strike the ball well and be dialed in for this week. In the last 12 rounds, only Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka, and Paul Casey have gained more total strokes on the field. The only negative is that he missed the cut last year at the Travelers but came in missing the cut in two of his previous three tournaments. This year he has not only made the cut in two of his previous three events but finished T3 and T14 in MAJORS! He also made the cut at the Travelers in three straight years prior to last year.
Jason Kokrak ($8,300)
I will probably just go ahead and lock Kokrak in and roll the dice that he will continue his cut making streak after taking a couple of weeks off. To get a guy at the average cost who the PGA Tour in consecutive cuts (23) is a no-brainer. In the last 24 rounds played, he is 12th in total strokes gained and 15th in fantasy scoring in this field. His last three events haven’t been great, but he’s made the cut in each. He has one of the best approach games on tour as he has gained at least 2.5 SG: Approach in 11 of his last 14 events. He was runner-up at the Valspar back in March, which tends to have a positive corollary to success at TPC-River Highlands. Unfortunately, he missed the cut at the Travelers last year after a string of three straight made cuts.
Kevin Streelman ($8,200)
He tends to be a player that plays well on courses that he plays well on. That statement might seem like something that Captain Obvious would say but it is not true for every golfer. He tends to like this course. He has a couple of top-10 finishes in the past five years, including a win in 2014. Overall, he has four top-10 finishes in the 11 times that he has played this event. When he won in 2014, he birdied the last seven holes, which is a PGA Tour record for an event winner. Streelman is like Bubba Watson in that you fire him up only if he has decent course history. When you consider that he has a good track record here combined with the fact that he has made five straight cuts, then he is definitely a play to consider. When you realize that three of those five cuts resulted in top-six finishes then I am planning on playing a lot of Streelman this week. In the last 24 rounds played, only Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka, and Jason Day have gained more total strokes on the field. He ranks seventh in my customized driving accuracy model, my proximity model, and my ball-striking model. He is playing well right now.
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Emiliano Grillo ($7,900)
He has made two straight cuts at the Travelers after his T19 last year. Prior to his T58 last week at the U.S. Open, he had three straight top-25 finishes on tour. He is top five in my customized driving accuracy model, proximity model, and ball-striking model. He is set up well for this course. Overall, in the last 12 rounds, he is 13th in SG: Total and 13th in fantasy scoring. He has also made eight straight cuts on the PGA Tour.
Viktor Hovland ($7,900)
He is fresh off breaking Jack Nicklaus amateur scoring record at the U.S. Open. This will be his first tournament as a “professional”. His last three PGA Tour events as an amateur have been impressive. He finished T40 at the API, T32 at The Masters, and T12 this past week at the U.S. Open. He shot a 67 on Sunday, which is pretty impressive for anyone – let alone an amateur. He is currently the number one ranked amateur in the world. He is a very good ball-striker, which should serve him well at any venue. At the challenging Pebble Beach U.S. Open, he gained an astounding 12.6 shots tee-to-green.
Max Homa ($7,200)
Not counting the Zurich Class team event, Homa has made the cut in six straight events, including winning the Wells Fargo in early May. I always like guys that have shown an ability to win on the PGA Tour but that stay somewhat relevant afterward. In the last 24 rounds played, he is 11th in the field in SG: Total. Nothing is certain when you play guys this far down but he can provide some salary relief. All you are really hoping for is a made cut (which he has done six straight times). He also has shown that he can win, as well.
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Hank Lebioda ($6,700)
He has made the cut in six of his last seven events. This doesn’t include his T5 at the Zurich Classic team event. If you include that event, he has three top-20 finishes in his last five events. Not bad for this cheap of a price. He ranks in the top 25 for all of my customized stat models for this week (overall game, ball-striking, proximity, driving accuracy, and scoring ability)
Vaughn Taylor ($6,700)
He has made four straight cuts on the PGA Tour and nine in his last 11 events. In total, he has five top-20 finishes in the 2019 calendar year. Two of those came during the month of May. None of that is particularly spectacular but if you are looking for a cheap option so that you can pay up for Koepka or Cantlay, then he is a good option. He has made four straight cuts at the Travelers and 12 of 14 overall in his career.
Jamy Bechler is a regular contributor to FantasyPros for NBA, NFL, and PGA. You can follow him on his DFS twitter @WinningDFS101. When he is not playing DFS, Jamy is an author, host of the “Success is a Choice” podcast, and is a leadership trainer, working with businesses and teams across the country (including the NBA). Even though he offers his advice on players and contests, after additional information and consideration, he may end up using different players and strategies than what he recommends.