Travelers Championship Predictions: Conservative/Aggressive Plays for Every Type of Bettor

min read
Patrick Cantlay waves after making a putt on the seventh hole during the third round of the U.S. Open golf tournament Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Pinehurst, N.C.
(AP Photo/Matt York)
Jason Sobel @JasonSobelGolf Jun 20, 2024, 8:03 AM
  • The Travelers Championship, a PGA Tour signature event, is June 20-23.
  • Patrick Cantlay is worth taking a look in the outright winner market.
  • Find out why Denny McCarthy could be a great value play this week.

No rest for (most of) the weary, as Bryson DeChambeau goes back to his regularly scheduled LIV life after that stunning U.S. Open victory, while (most of) the PGA Tour’s elite head to this week’s Travelers Championship for yet another PGA Tour signature event, no matter how fatigued they might be.

A tournament which was once on its deathbed, the annual stop in Cromwell, Conn., has thrived in recent years, with a fun host course in TPC River Highlands, a strong support staff and great community atmosphere helping attract big names directly after the year’s biggest mental grind – even before such attendance was mandatory.

Such attendance, of course, was never going to include DeChambeau, who no longer plays the PGA Tour, and we learned late Monday afternoon that it also won’t include the U.S. Open runner-up in Rory McIlroy, who withdrew from the Travelers after a heartbreaking defeat at Pinehurst.

That said, we can still look at those beyond them on this past weekend’s leaderboard – and we can start that process by first looking back.

There’s enough of a recent sample size, with the Travelers following the U.S. Open in five of the last six years (the COVID-riddled 2020 season being the lone exception), that we can examine any potential correlations between performances at each one.

Let’s start by looking into how those who finished in the top-10 at each of these editions of the U.S. Open fared the following week.

How did the U.S. Open top-10 play the next week at Travelers?

YearTotal PlayersWinTop-5Top-10Top-20Made CutMissed Cut
202310No13591
20225No00341
20215Yes22350
20194Yes11131
20185No00123

What we see here is what we might’ve believed without doing the research: After four rounds of title contention at such a draining event, most U.S. Open contenders don’t have much left in the tank the next week.

 Of the 29 players who finished top-10 at the U.S. Open and teed it up the next week in Connecticut, there were two winners (Chez Reavie in 2019 and Harris English in 2021), but only two others who finished in the top-five and two more who finished in the top-10.

Again, perhaps somewhat predictable, is that while these players might not contend the next week, they do make the cut at a rate of 79.3%.

Now let’s take a look at how those who finished inside the top-10 at the Travelers performed the previous week at the U.S. Open.

How did the Travelers top-10 play the previous week at U.S. Open?

YearPlayersWin?Top-5Top-10Top-20Made CutMissed Cut
20239No33563
20226No00233
20216No22351
20196No11151
20185No00141

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that this list shows us that no U.S. Open winner during this period has finished inside the top-10 at TPC River Highlands – many didn’t even tee it up the next week, as will be the case with DeChambeau.

What’s interesting is that of the 31 players who finished top-10 at the Travelers and also competed in the previous week’s U.S. Open, a dozen of them – 38.7% – were top-20 that week, perhaps proving that momentum can be a real thing in this circumstance.

With all of that in mind, let’s get to the picks, where I will indeed start with a U.S. Open contender.

Travelers Championship Outright Picks

Conservative: Patrick Cantlay (+2000)

I will readily admit that I haven’t touched Cantlay in any markets this year, especially outright, as solid-enough performance numbers have often led to mediocre results. When he has fared well, though, he’s fared really well, with top-fives at the Genesis Invitational, RBC Heritage and last week’s U.S. Open. 

The first two of those are familiar spots for Cantlay, as is TPC River Highlands, where he’s finished 15th or better in each of the past six years, including a career-best T-4 last year. I spoke with him for SiriusXM after the final round at Pinehurst and while his poker face is about as sturdy as any player on the PGA Tour, I could sense a vibe that he found a little something last week and should be brimming with confidence for this one.

Aggressive: Tom Kim (+5000)

The combination of improved recent ball-striking, being a short-course horse and having a decent price next to his name all make Kim a terrific value this week. He gained strokes off the tee in five consecutive starts – four of which have been results of 26th or better – and been well above field average with his irons in three straight. 

In his first start at the Travelers last year, he finished a ho-hum T-38, but rounds of 64 and 65 on Friday and Sunday, respectively, should have us jumping at the chance to believe he can do something close to that for all four rounds this time.

Travelers Championship Top-5 Picks

Conservative: Collin Morikawa (+200)

His streak of three consecutive top-five results came to an end with a respectable T-14 finish at the U.S. Open, but there’s no reason to jump ship from Morikawa anytime soon. He’s been knocking on the door for two months now, his driver gaining as many strokes as his usual strong iron game, but it’s the putter doing damage that should really have us optimistic.

A notoriously weak rock-roller, he’s gained with the flatstick in six of his last seven – and he’s gained more than a stroke per round in each of the last two. If there’s a yellow light here, it emanates from his record, as a T-36 and a pair of MCs in three career starts at this event are more than a bit curious.

Aggressive: Russell Henley (+400)

For those of us who went just a teensy-bit too aggressive and played Henley for a top-five last week, I’d like to at least thank him for the effort and the sweat, which ultimately resulted in a T-7 finish. What I really like about his game is less what I’ve seen and more what I’ve heard, as his fellow players are starting to take notice of just how well he’s been performing recently.

Once again I’ll admit that top-five might be a bit too aggressive, but for a guy with four top-20s in six career starts here, he’s worth an investment somewhere.

Travelers Championship Top-10 Picks

Conservative: Corey Conners (+225)

For a while there, I felt like my weekly top-10 plays on Conners were like continually wagering on black at the roulette table, having it come up red, then increasing the stake on black for the next spin. In his first 13 starts of the season, he came close on a few occasions, but the putter would always hold him back. 

In his last three starts, though, Conners has cashed top-10 tickets twice, gaining strokes on the greens each time. If he can do that again this week, he’ll finish top-10 again. 

Aggressive: Tom Hoge (+550)

From Conners to Hoge – cue the meme of Pam from The Office holding up two photos with the caption, “They’re the same picture.” Elite-level ball-strikers who struggle on the greens, the idea here is that pinpoint accuracy will be essential on these smaller greens. Hoge’s irons have been red-hot all year, as he’s gained strokes on approach shots in all 18 starts so far.

Travelers Championship Top-20 Picks

Conservative: Denny McCarthy (+160)

With five finishes between 22nd and 28th this year, McCarthy has killed plenty of top-20 tickets. If there’s a place to back him, though, it would be a shorter course in the Northeast on bentgrass greens, which essentially renders this the seemingly perfect spot. 

His record here wasn’t much to speak of until last year, when an opening-round 60 led to a T-7 result, but this one at plus-money in a 71-man field might be my favorite play on the entire board.

Aggressive: Emiliano Grillo (+33)

If you’d asked me a decade ago, I would’ve believed that Grillo would become a very good PGA Tour player, perhaps not quite at the level of fellow Class of ‘11ers Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, but not too far behind. Instead, he’s often treaded water, his two career victories offset by a whole heap of “pretty good.” 

He’s a guy who’s going to have to overcome some poor recent results and really poor short game numbers, but he’s one of the very few toward the bottom of this top-heavy board who really interests me. Last year, he posted his second top-20 here in seven career starts, though scores of 67-65-69-64 sound like it coulda/woulda been something better than a share of 15th place.

Travelers Championship First-Round Leader Picks

Conservative: Sungjae Im (+4500)

While the numbers above show that it often isn’t wrong to chase U.S. Open contenders in full-tournament markets, I do like the idea of playing those who missed the cut for FRL this week, as they’ve had two extra days to recover, recharge and most importantly, rejuvenate. 

This could easily go either of two ways for Im, who MC’d last Friday afternoon, then immediately went to the practice range to work on his swing. This isn’t a common maneuver, but my guess is that he either felt he was so close to figuring something out that he didn’t want to let it go, or he was so far from figuring something out that he didn’t want to let it linger. I’ll cautiously bank on the former, as he was coming off a couple of top-10s prior to that MC.

Aggressive: Mackenzie Hughes (+9000)

Yet another FRL play on an MCer from last week, as Hughes’ usual brilliant short game eluded him on a couple of holes. That’s nothing to worry about moving forward, though, and he owns a tremendous Thursday record at the Travelers, posting five scores of 67 or better in seven career starts, including a 60 back in 2020. I often like FRL plays on guys who have a massive putting upside, and Hughes certainly fits that profile.

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About the Author

Jason Sobel

Read More @JasonSobelGolf

Jason Sobel is a Brand Ambassador for BetMGM. He joins after six years with Action Network. Prior to Action, Jason spent a total of 17 years in two stints at ESPN (1997-2011; 2015-18) and four years at Golf Channel (2011-15). He also currently works as a host for "Hitting the Green" on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio and contributes to the channel's on-site coverage during major championships. He's won four Sports Emmy awards, more than a dozen Golf Writers Association of America accolades and has earned an honorable mention in the Best of American Sportswriting series.

Jason Sobel is a Brand Ambassador for BetMGM. He joins after six years with Action Network. Prior to Action, Jason spent a total of 17 years in two stints at ESPN (1997-2011; 2015-18) and four years at Golf Channel (2011-15). He also currently works as a host for "Hitting the Green" on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio and contributes to the channel's on-site coverage during major championships. He's won four Sports Emmy awards, more than a dozen Golf Writers Association of America accolades and has earned an honorable mention in the Best of American Sportswriting series.