Travelers Championship 2021 picks: No major, no Brooks Koepka for our experts
Ahh, a post-major week. It’s a great time to take the week off as a gambler—not sweat for once—and maybe enjoy Sunday afternoon with your significant other.
Scratch that, it’s Travelers Championship week, also known as the fifth major. It’s another can’t-miss affair on the PGA Tour, a tournament that continues to boast a strong field year after year, even in its unfortunate spot on the schedule. Dustin, Brooks, Bryson and Co., are all right back at it in Cromwell, Conn., where the always-exciting TPC River Highlands awaits.
The key question for gamblers this week: Do you trust one of the big boys, especially coming off a high-intensity week like the U.S. Open? Mix in a cross-country flight and a three-hour time difference, and you could be looking at some very early exits this week from the world’s best.
Then again, this event has been in a similar spot on the schedule before and has still produced some very well-known winners and some unbelievably entertaining finishes. What we are trying to say is, there are no easy handicapping weeks on the professional golf schedule.
Read below for our picks from our betting panel—which includes an anonymous caddie; Pat Mayo of Mayo Media Network; Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com; Brandon Gdula of FanDuel/numberFire; Lee Alldrick of FanShareSports.com and two Golf Digest editors who pay too much attention to gambling on golf.
Travelers Championship 2021 picks: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions (Odds from William Hill)
Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Dustin Johnson (14-1) — The odds aren’t in the 10- to 12-1 range we’re used to seeing from DJ since the strength of this field is strong. I think you’d be crazy to pass up DJ on a course where he’s won. He’s a great Poa putter and his elite off-the-tee game (second only to Bryson really) will give him a ton of good opportunities at TPC River Highlands. His approach game has improved a ton over the past two weeks, and I think the good vibes from last year should have him near the top of the leader board.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Abraham Ancer (28-1) — It’s eventually got to be his time, right? RIGHTTTT???? He’s posted a pair of top-11 finishes at TPC River Highlands the past two years, a course short enough to make certain that distance won’t be an issue, and before his missed cut at the US Open last week, he’d rattled off five straight top-20 finishes. There’s also his performance at Torrey Pines. Yes, he missed the cut, but actually finished fifth for the week in strokes-gained/approach, despite only playing two rounds.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Abraham Ancer (28-1) — TPC River Highlands doesn’t require distance but does demand gaining strokes off the tee, which fits with what Ancer does as a great ball-striker who lacks distance off the tee. Ancer had great iron play last week at the U.S. Open despite the missed cut and has been top-11 at this event the past two years.
Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Scottie Scheffler (25-1) — It’s always scary picking a golfer who doesn’t have a win on the PGA Tour, but Scheffler is certainly trending in the right direction. Per the RickRunGood.com golf database, Scheffler has gained strokes in ball-striking (off-the-tee plus approach) in 13 consecutive events. More recently, he’s started to putt much better—gaining 13.4 strokes total in his last four events. That has resulted in three top-eight finishes in his past four starts. Scheffler is knocking on the door, and it’s about to open.
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Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Tony Finau (28-1) — Finau missed the cut at the U.S. Open, so he won’t be on anyone’s radar. But we’ve seen so many players win this season after missing the weekend. Prior to Torrey Pines, Finau gained strokes/off the tee and on approach in three consecutive events. Miraculously, he gained strokes/putting at Torrey, but the ball-striking was off. The thing that puts me over the edge, my guy Steve Bamford, a sharp European handicapper, points out that West Coast Poa-putting prowess helps at TPC River Highlands, where the putting surfaces are predominantly Poa. Finau’s near miss at Riviera could bode well here in Connecticut.
Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Matthew Wolff (40-1) — If, like me, you were on him last week at 225-1 at Torrey, you experienced a similar thrill when he popped on Thursday and then remained in the mix until Sunday afternoon before fading late. Naturally, you’re going to jump off now that he’s down to 40-1, but I’m sticking with him. Strokes-gained/off-the-tee is important at Travelers, and he’s among the best in that department. The short game definitely scares me, but if he hits fairways and greens perhaps we can avoid the squirrely chip shots and make a bunch of birdies, which he can do on poa greens. He should also be as fresh as ever given his long layoff, as opposed to the other big dogs in the field who have played a lot of golf recently.
Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Paul Casey (18-1) — Casey comes into this event ranked first for strokes-gained/tee-to-green over the last two months and second for total strokes-gained at similar courses. One of the reasons he does so well here is his excellent putting on Bentgrass greens
Recent results: Golf Digest's betting panel has been red-hot the past two seasons. Our experts have now predicted seven of the past 18 winners—after going up 225.30 units last season. Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports called Garrick Higgo’s victory at the Palmetto Championship (at 40-1)! Stephen Hennessey predicted Jason Kokrak’s victory at the Charles Schwab Challenge a few weeks ago (at 45-1)! He also picked Jordan Spieth (11-1) at the Valero Texas Open. That continued a strong 2021—at The Players, Christopher Powers and Rick Gehman called Justin Thomas’ victory (18-1). That was each of their second accurate predictions of 2021, with Powers hitting Koepka (50-1) and Gehman calling Daniel Berger at Pebble Beach (14-1). Pat Mayo nailed Collin Morikawa at the WGC-Workday three events ago at 33-1 in addition to Koepka at the WMPO. And Brandon Gdula also called Berger’s win at Pebble Beach. We’ll stop there! Be sure to check this column every week for picks from the hottest betting panel in golf!
Listen to Golf Digest's weekly betting podcast, "Be Right," (below) where we interview the industry's leading experts (and sometimes tour pros) to help you make your bets and pick your fantasy lineups. And be sure to subscribe to "Be Right" wherever you get your podcasts!
Travelers Championship 2021 picks: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win (Odds from William Hill)
Caddie: Will Gordon (150-1) — Will made a name for himself here last year. And you might not have noticed, but he finished 14th in his last start at the Palmetto—where he gained 8.9 strokes on his approach shots. That’s otherworldly. If the short game follows suit, Will is definitely live to contend again.
Mayo: Max Homa (66-1) — Homa’s chipping and putting kept him out of the weekend at the U.S. Open, but this is nothing new. He lives and dies by the flat stick. The biggest difference between him and the truly bad putters is when he gains on the greens, he gains A LOT. He’s lost strokes putting in six of his past 13 starts, but in the five he has gained, he’s gaining an average of +4.85 per event. Hit that number this week and he probably wins.
Gdula: Emiliano Grillo (66-1) — Grillo ranks fifth in adjusted SG/approach over the past 50 rounds, via datagolf, and the putting has surprisingly—actually, astonishingly—been positive in that span, too.
Gehman: Doc Redman (66-1) — Redman is piecing his game back together after a slow start to 2021. He’s gained strokes on approach in four consecutive events and gained putting in five consecutive starts. The latter feat is the first time he’s accomplished that in his young career. Now he returns to TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-11 last year, with plenty of great vibes to lean on.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Keegan Bradley (40-1) — This has gotten bet down—I was able to catch 55-1 earlier in the week. I really think this could be Keegan’s time. The ball-striking has been incredible, and best yet, he has actually gained strokes putting in six of his past eight starts. He has nice history at the Travelers, so this could be Keegan’s return to the winner’s circle.
Powers, Golf Digest: Jason Day (66-1) — I know, I know, he’s not been good, but that’s made his number very attractive if we’re strictly betting on his ceiling. He’s great on poa, and he’s been just fine tee-to-green, off-the-tee and around the greens over the last several weeks. The course history is there too, with three top-18 finishes. Plus, like my pick to win Wolff, he’ll be much fresher than guys coming from from the U.S. Open, which he did not even attempt to qualify for.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Sam Burns (55-1) — The recent PGA Tour winner ranks 12th in this field in SG/off the tee over the past two months—an asset that will give him plenty of chances for birdie at TPC River Highlands. He has made the cut in his two previous appearances, so that familiarity allow him to ride his hot form into contention.
Travelers Championship 2021 picks: Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
Caddie: Brian Harman (25-1) — I’m a fan of Brian’s, but he should not be in this tier with the elite players in the world. Sure he’s playing great golf, but his odds should be double this before you consider putting money on him with a field like this.
Mayo: Brooks Koepka (16-1) — Not a major or WGC? Pass on Brooks.
Gdula: Brooks Koepka (16-1) — Of the studs, Koepka generally has the most red flags, and after another narrow major miss, I’m not quite there. He did win the WGC-St. Jude after a fourth at The Open but required a blazing hot putter. I’m more inclined to go with Cantlay, Dustin or Bryson at the top.
Gehman: Brian Harman (25-1) — Harman is seemingly a great fit for TPC River Highlands, but his outright number is getting a bit outrageous. He’s nearly the same price as players like Patrick Reed, Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau and Abraham Ancer. As much as I love Harman, he doesn’t have nearly the win equity as those other golfers.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Brooks Koepka (16-1) — I’ll join the chorus of dissent on fading Koepka. He could finish in the top 15 or 20, but I don’t see him being engaged enough early in the week to put himself in contention.
Powers, Golf Digest: Paul Casey (18-1) — I’m not saying don’t bet Casey top 10, in matchups, etc., but I won’t be betting Casey to win in the teens, ever.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Matthew Wolff (40-1) — Wolff ranks outside of the top 30 in all my key stats this week. Statistically the course doesn’t look to suit and his form has not been great coming in.
Travelers Championship 2021 picks: Matchups
Caddie: Kevin Streelman (+100) over Brian Harman (William Hill) — Streels is also mispriced in the same category as Harman, but I’ll take Streelman’s course history over Harman’s. And Streels seems to really play well on Poa greens like out at Pebble, and he’s coming off another strong showing at a major. There’s more of an argument to be made for Streels than Harman.
Mayo: Tony Finau (-110) over Brooks Koepka (DraftKings) — If Finau can just play to his historic 150 yards and in baseline (where he’s been off recently) he’ll be scoring at will.
Gdula: Cameron Tringale (-118) over Kevin Na (FanDuel) — Na’s ball-striking has been pretty rough lately, and Tringale has a pretty substantial edge across the board other than wedge play, which isn’t a key stat this week.
Gehman: Aaron Wise (-113) over Cameron Tringale (DraftKings) — Wise has fixed his driver, gaining strokes off the tee in seven of his past eight starts and is returning to his 2019 level. Combine that with his small, but important, gains on the greens and he is turning into a viable weekly option. His last four starts have resulted in three top-20 finishes while flashing that top-10 upside.
Hennessey: Jason Day (-110) over Justin Rose (DraftKings) — I hate doubling up on matchup (Powers took this first below me), but I’m not going to pass up a winner. Day is seventh in this field in SG/off the tee over the past 24 rounds, per Fantasy National, whereas Rose is 105th, and he’s also negative in SG/approach.
Powers: Jason Day (-110) over Justin Rose (DraftKings) — Feeling good about Day this week, and Rose wasn’t just bad at Torrey, he was downright abhorrent. Maybe it’s just one bad week, but he lost strokes, a lot of them, in literally every area you can lose strokes in. Would be an all-time Jekyll and Hyde act for that to completely flip. I’m betting it won’t.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Charley Hoffman (+100) over Matthew Wolff (Betway) — As you can see above, Wolff has poor form and poor course history. Hoffman on the other hand comes in ranked 11th for SG/tee-to-green over the last 2 months and 7th SGT on similar courses.
Matchup results from the U.S. Open: Powers: 1 for 1 (Patrick Cantlay (-114) over Tony Finau); Hennessey: 1 for 1 (Louis Oosthuizen (-120) over Matt Fitzpatrick); Gdula: pushed (Xander Schauffele over Rory McIlroy); Caddie, Mayo, Gehman, Alldrick: 0 for 1.
Matchup Results this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Hennessey: 19-13-2 (up 4.96 units); Gdula: 19-15-2 (up 2.74 units); Alldrick: 19-16-1 (up 1.43 units); Powers: 16-16-4 (down 1.20 units); Gehman: 15-19-2 (down 3.88 units); Caddie: 13-19-4 (down 5.92 units); Mayo: 14-19-2 (down 6.14 units).
Travelers Championship 2021 picks: Top 10 (Odds from DraftKings)
Caddie: Charley Hoffman (+400) — Hoffman has sneaky good history on this course with a runner-up in 2012 and two other top-seven finishes. Until he gets off this hot streak, keep riding him.
Mayo: Charley Hoffman (+400) — He’s now made 12 cuts in a row, and we’ve returned to a comfy location where he can wedge the place to death. He rarely makes enough putts to get into the winner’s circle, but a top 10 is more than achievable for the top iron player in the field over the past 24 rounds.
Gdula: Doug Ghim (+900) — This is a great number on Ghim for a top 10. Ghim gains strokes off the tee but more importantly with his irons, and his putting issues get mitigated on bentgrass and Poa.
Gehman: Harris English (+400) — The last two starts for English have been reminiscent of his 2020 form, when he ended the season with the seventh-best strokes-gained number on tour. In each of his last two events, he has gained strokes in all four major strokes-gained categories. It’s that level of well-rounded and consistent play that led to great results for English last year.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Paul Casey (+175) — Not a great number, but Casey’s Travelers Championship history speaks for itself with two runners-up and two other top-10s. Nearly 2-to-1 on your money seems like a nice pay day for the Englishman, coming in with great form.
Powers, Golf Digest: Abraham Ancer (+250) — I’m a sucker for a community play, and it seems like the community is on Ancer to win this week. I’m not willing to go that far at 28-1, so a good emotional hedge is him to top 10, which he does pretty regularly.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Keegan Bradley (+400) — If Bradley just doesn’t lose shots to the field putting this week he will finish in the top 10. He’s playing great golf tee to green right now, ranking seventh in the field for SG/tee to green over the past two months. And he also loves the course, ranking 11th for total strokes gained here.
Top-10 results from the U.S. Open: Everyone: 0 for 1.
Top-10 results from this season: Gehman: 7 for 33 (up 8.85 units); Powers: 5 for 33 (down 5.5 units); Hennessey: 5 for 32 (down 5.5 units); Gdula: 3 for 33 (down 14.5 units); Tour caddie: 5 for 33 (down 14.85 units); Mayo: 2 for 33 (down 18 units); Alldrick: 2 for 32 (down 22 units).
Travelers Championship 2021 picks: One and Done
Gehman: Keegan Bradley — We’ve been tracking Bradley for months now, and I’ve been continually impressed with his putting gains. Once a disastrous putter, Bradley has gained strokes on the greens in six of his past eight starts. Now he gets to head to TPC River Highlands where he has earned two top-10 finishes in the past four years.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Joel Dahmen; U.S. Open: Jon Rahm; Corales: Denny McCarthy. Sanderson: Sebastian Munoz. Shriners: Matthew Wolff. CJ Cup: Xander Schauffele. Zozo: Bubba Watson. Bermuda: Rasmus Hojgaard. Houston: Lanto Griffin. Masters: Rory McIlroy. RSM: Webb Simpson. Sentry TOC: Patrick Reed. Sony: Abraham Ancer. AMEX: Patrick Cantlay. Torrey: Jon Rahm. Waste Management: Webb Simpson. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis Invitational: Rory McIlroy. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. The Players: Bryson DeChambeau; Honda Classic: Sungjae Im. WGC-Match Play: Patrick Reed. Valero Texas Open: Jordan Spieth. The Masters: Dustin Johnson. RBC Heritage: Daniel Berger. Valspar: Paul Casey. Wells Fargo: Viktor Hovland. AT&T Byron Nelson: Sam Burns. PGA Championship: Collin Morikawa. Charles Schwab Challenge: Charley Hoffman. Memorial Tournament: Billy Horschel. Palmetto Championship: Lucas Glover. U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka.
Hennessey: Paul Casey — It’s a toss-up between Casey and Streelman for me, but Casey is more likely to win with his firepower, with some risk. It depends where you are in your pool: If you need the win, go with Casey—if you just want a top-10 to stay at the top of the leader board, it’s a great Streelman week.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Phil Mickelson; U.S. Open: Hideki Matsuyama; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Harris English. CJ Cup: Kevin Na. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Doc Redman. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Tyrrell Hatton. RSM: Brian Harman. Sentry TOC: Justin Thomas. Sony: Ryan Palmer. AMEX: Scottie Scheffler. Torrey: Sungjae Im. Waste Management: Daniel Berger. AT&T Pebble Beach: Francesco Molinari. Genesis Invitational: Tony Finau. WGC-Workday: Xander Schauffele. The Players: Jordan Spieth. Honda Classic: Adam Scott. WGC-Match Play: Patrick Reed. Valero Texas Open: Chris Kirk. The Masters: Dustin Johnson. RBC Heritage: Webb Simpson. Valspar: Charley Hoffman. Wells Fargo: Max Homa. AT&T Byron Nelson: Will Zalatoris. PGA Championship: Xander Schauffele. Charles Schwab Challenge: Abraham Ancer. Memorial Tournament: Collin Morikawa. Palmetto Championship: Matt Fitzpatrick. U.S. Open: Jon Rahm.
Powers: Scottie Scheffler — The door has to be banged down sooner or later for Scottie, who now has five top-8 finishes in his last 11 starts, and that’s not including a runner-up at the Match Play.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Brendan Steele; U.S. Open: Louis Oosthuizen; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Jason Kokrak. CJ Cup: Daniel Berger. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Denny McCarthy. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Bubba Watson. RSM: Brian Harman. Mayakoba: Corey Conners. Sentry TOC: Harris English. Sony: Zach Johnson. AMEX: Matthew Wolff. Torrey: Tony Finau. Waste Management: Sungjae Im. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis: Hideki Matsuyama. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. The Players: Tommy Fleetwood. Honda Classic: Adam Scott. WGC-Match Play: Matt Fitzpatrick. Valero Texas Open: Chris Kirk. The Masters: Jordan Spieth. RBC Heritage: Kevin Kisner. Valspar: Patrick Reed. Wells Fargo: Patrick Cantlay. AT&T Byron Nelson: Will Zalatoris. PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy. Charles Schwab Challenge: Joaquin Niemann. Memorial Tournament: Jon Rahm. Palmetto Championship: Harold Varner III. U.S. Open: Bryson DeChambeau.
By The Numbers:
Courtesy of Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com:
2.03 — The average number of strokes gained by Abraham Ancer since the Masters, the most of anyone in this field (minimum 5 rounds).
67 percent — The percentage of time that Paul Casey has finished inside the top 10 at the Travelers Championship (four out of six), the highest rate of any tournament in his career with at least four starts.
78.5 percent — The percentage of time this event was decided by one stroke or in a playoff since 2007.
$4,735,133 — The amount of money earned by Bubba Watson in 14 starts at the Travelers Championship, largely thanks to three victories. This is the most Watson has earned at any one event in his career.
Listen to Golf Digest's weekly betting podcast, "Be Right," (above) where we interview the industry's leading experts (and sometimes tour pros) to help you make your bets and pick your fantasy lineups. And be sure to subscribe to "Be Right" wherever you get your podcasts!
About our experts
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, owner of the Mayo Media Network and host of The Pat Mayo Experience. (Subscribe for video or audio. Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.
Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year *(congrats, Brandon!)*. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.
Rick Gehman is the founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.
Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.