With the U.S. Open in the books, the PGA Tour is officially at the unofficial half way mark of their season. There’s still plenty of golf to be played — including two majors to be claimed — before the FedExCup Playoffs kick off at the Barclay’s in August, but that doesn’t mean the Tour’s best and brightest aren’t already looking forward to that day.
How do you know? Well, just take a look at the field for this year’s Travelers Championship. Annually, the Travelers is one of the Tour’s most popular stops with fans and players. Maybe that reputation proceeded it this year, as names like Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy will make their first career starts at TPC River Highlands.
With that in mind, there might be some more competition than normal for those looking to pick up their first career wins at a stop that normally doesn’t see that many top-10 players in the world commit.
Speaking of that trend — the Travelers seems to have a very specific type of winner. Either a first timer, a first time in a long time winner or a repeat champion. Very rarely is it someone who comes to town once in a blue moon and walks away with the title. Gone are the days of Phil Mickelson and the Canon Greater Hartford Open, but perhaps the increased star power this year will be a sign of things to come in Cromwell.
So — who looks good and who’s just good-lookin’ in capital of Connecticut this week? Here are your players and posers for the Travelers Championship:
Rory McIlroy — This first one may be wishful thinking, but it’s certainly rooted in history. Everyone knows that McIlroy can go low seemingly out of no where. He doesn’t need much fore play (get it?) to get hot, just a good week. TPC River Highlands is a very gettable course that usually sees some of the lowest 18-hole totals all year. Just ask Jim Furyk how low you can go. If Rors falls in love with his new flat stick in Hartford this week, don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
Patrick Reed — A guy who makes time for Hartford’s tour stop each year, Patrick Reed is going to get it done at the Travelers sooner rather than later. Last year he played well all week and just missed out really making some noise on Sunday. After a disappointing final round at Erin Hills, Reed will be out for blood this week. He’s collected top-25’s in five of his last six starts and looks to build on that momentum.
Charley Hoffman — The Travelers Championship is one of those tournaments that I already feel like Charley Hoffman has won. He hasn’t, but I like the juju surrounding him this week. After another solid performance in a major, Hoffman has all the tools necessary to succeed at TPC River Highlands. Even if he doesn’t collect the big check at week’s end, he should make enough noise to warrant a start on your DFS or weekly roster.
Paul Casey — Englishman Paul Casey fell two rounds shy of claiming PGA Tour win No. 1 at the U.S. Open last week, so you can bet he will be hungrier than ever coming into the Travelers. For Casey, the return to a track where he lost in a playoff in 2015 could bring back all the right memories to go along with that momentum he built up at Erin Hills. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — you have to take the hot hand.
Justin Thomas — Speaking of hot hands, if you thought Paul Casey could taste a win last week, Justin Thomas must’ve been salivating. On the heels of an historic Saturday 63 at the U.S. Open, Thomas stumbled about on Sunday and never really factored. He’d like to shake off that uncertainty from Sunday and the birdie-friendly confines of TPC River Highlands will do wonders in doing just that for Thomas. Expect him to seriously contend once again.
Xander Schauffele — Don’t be fooled by one hot week by a PGA Tour rookie. There are ALWAYS guys who make waves at majors who fade on Sunday and then cease to matter — specifically in a fantasy sense — in the following weeks. These guys cost more than they ever would in DFS and people take the bait. I really like Xander Schauffele. He’s a PGA Tour winner waiting to happen. That said, I just think there’s no way he makes good on last week’s momentum when he’s never been in the situation before. And even if he does — there are still plenty of better, more viable fantasy options available this week.
Trey Mullinax — See above.
Tony Finau — Making his first start in a couple weeks, many are looking to Tony Fianu for big things in Hartford. Personally, I don’t see it. Finau has been a cut-making machine, which is fine for DFS if you’re looking for bottom-tear performance. But Finau commands a premium and for that, there are better options this week.
Bryson DeChambeau — Many — myself included — are waiting for the arrival of Bryson DeChambeau. The noted tinkerer and golf savant obviously has the talent to succeed on Tour, but has struggled mightily as of late. DeChambeau has missed his last eight consecutive cuts and should be considered fantasy kryptonite until further notice.