It is never easy to follow up a major, but this week’s Travelers Championship will have its hands especially full after an exciting U.S. Open that saw Jon Rahm emerge from an incredible leaderboard, and break through for his first major championship title.
Unfortunately, Rahm will not be in attendance at TPC River Highlands this week, which should not be surprising given that it is a cross-country trip.
However, the field is shockingly strong given the circumstances, with five of the top-10 ranked golfers headlining. The inclusion of both Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau should be especially good for network ratings.
Where do the two feuding Tour phenoms rank among the crowd this week? Here is who we like most to take the underrated event, which has been playing continuously since 1952:
15. Matthew Wolff
He either looks brilliant or like he should not be playing professional golf, depending on what hole you’re watching him. Wolff’s bogey binges make him a difficult bet, but the man who co-led the U.S. Open field in birdies is too good to ignore entirely.
He cannot hit a fairway to save his life, but both of the top two finishers at last year’s Travelers struggled in that regard, so Wolff might be able to get away with that for this week.
World Rank: 32
Odds To Win: 40-1
14. Guido Migliozzi
The 24-year-old from Italy was overlooked heading into last week’s U.S. Open despite coming off back-to-back solo runner-ups in Europe. Not too surprising given that not only was Migliozzi making his major championship debuit, but it was his first PGA Tour start altogether.
How did that go? How about a T4, including a final round 3-under 68, one of the best in the Sunday field? I guess we have to accept that this guy is for real, and the fact that he played great without really being in serious contention should make him not quite as drained from the week.
World Rank: 72
Odds To Win: 100-1
13. Rickie Fowler
It felt wrong not seeing Rickie at last week’s U.S. Open, the second major this season he did not qualify for, after having played in every major since the 2010 U.S. Open.
While the 32-year-old has had to swallow his pride a bit this season, we should not forget the strides he was making, chasing a T8 at the PGA Championship with a T11 at The Memorial Tournament over his last two starts.
Now he is well-rested as he hopes to continue his better recent play, at an event he has not played since 2013. Fowler’s putting has been significantly better as of late, a sign of growing confidence.
World Rank: 91
Odds To Win: 66-1
12. Mackenzie Hughes
While the 30-year-old Canadian did collapse on Sunday’s back-nine at the U.S. Open, Hughes should be incredibly encouraged that he was able to get a share of the 54-hole lead coming off of five consecutive missed cuts on Tour.
It was the first time he has contended at a major, a physical and emotional drain that often leads to a disappointment in the next start, but Hughes should be confident after a T3 a year ago at TPC River Highlands, including a first round 60(!).
Things are looking good for Hughes to turn around a disappointing 2021 season, after a 2020 season where he was able to reach the Tour Championship.
World Rank: 63
Odds To Win: 100-1
11. Francesco Molinari
Second round 76 aside, it was promising to see Molinari back on the first page of the leaderboard of a major, as the man who flashed absolutely elite shotmaking at his 2016-2018 peak seems to be rounding into form after barely playing during the pandemic year.
His T13 at Torrey Pines was his fourth top-15 of the season, and he was one of just nine men in the field to record two rounds in the 60s. He feels extremely under-ranked at 133rd in the world.
World Rank: 133
Odds To Win: 66-1
10. Kevin Streelman
A T15 at the U.S. Open, where in his odd Sunday round, he parred each of the final 12 holes after not carding any on the first six, was the second straight excellent showing at a major, having also finished T8 at the PGA Championship.
The 42-year-old Duke product has now posted four straight top 20 finishes, and arrives at the Travelers after having finished runner-up to Dustin Johnson a year ago.
Streelman has not won on Tour in seven years, but good news: that last win was here in 2014, when he closed 64-64 to win by one over K.J. Choi and Sergio Garcia. He is certainly a horse for the course.
World Rank: 51
Odds To Win: 33-1
9. Patrick Reed
Having won the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January, Reed was a somewhat popular bet to take last week’s Torrey Pines-hosted U.S. Open. After opening with three consecutive rounds over par, it was once again shown that these courses play much, much differently for majors than they do for “regular” Tour events.
Reed did close strongly, though, sharing low-round honors with a 4-under 67 on Sunday, that jumped him from T54 to a respectable T19. Reed has now posted five top-20s in just seven starts since the beginning of April, and he has played well at TPC River Highlands before, shooting 68 or better in 12 of his last 18 rounds.
World Rank: 9
Odds To Win: 22-1
8. Bubba Watson
It was discouraging to see Bubba come apart on the weekend at Torrey Pines, shooting 77-76 after getting himself into contention for what felt like the first time in forever at a major. He and Jon Rahm were tied at 3-under through two rounds, and while Rahm went on to claim victory, Bubba finished T50.
His game does not really mesh with U.S. Opens, but it is still difficult to believe that he hasn’t posted a top-30 in one since 2009.
Fortunately, it’s Travelers week, an event Bubba has won three times and finished runner-up on another occasion.
World Rank: 61
Odds To Win: 50-1
7. Harris English
With neither Jon Rahm nor Louis Oosthuizen in this week’s field, the best U.S. Open finish among those in Connecticut, is the impressive solo-third posted by Harris English, off the strength of a final-round 68.
That makes three finishes of T14 or better in his last four starts, meaning he is trending positively in a season where he has been incredibly streaky. In 40 starts over the past two seasons, English has 23 finishes inside the top 25, and his 12 top 10s is more than he had over the previous five seasons combined.
World Rank: 19
Odds To Win: 33-1
6. Patrick Cantlay
The world No. 7 came into The Memorial Tournament three weeks ago badly leaking oil, but ended up being the chief beneficiary of Jon Rahm’s COVID-related 54-hole withdraw, taking the title at Muirfield Village for the second time.
In his follow up last week at Torrey Pines, Cantlay had just one round over par, which is always fantastic at a U.S. Open, and closed with a bogey-free 2-under 69 to finish T15.
He has not quite put it together at TPC River Highlands, but a T11-T15-T15 stretch over his past three attempts all included a round of 65, so the current FedExCup leader certainly looks more than capable of winning.
World Rank: 7
Odds To Win: 16-1
5. Scottie Scheffler
The young Texan keeps getting himself onto the first page of leaderboards, particularly at majors, where a T7 at last week’s U.S. Open was his fifth consecutive top-20 on the major stage.
Three of his seven top 10s on the season have come in his last four starts, as Scheffler looks he could not be closer to nabbing his first career Tour victory.
He currently ranks fourth on Tour in birdie average, something that should definitely have him positive on his chances in Connecticut.
World Rank: 18
Odds To Win: 22-1
4. Bryson DeChambeau
Wow, that was some collapse from Bryson on Sunday, with the U.S. Open defending champion taking the lead on the eighth hole, but then absolutely imploding on the back nine, with two bogeys, a double-bogey on a par 5, and a snowman 8 on the par-4 17th.
After playing the front-nine in 2-under, DeChambeau shot a 77 and finished T26.
It is easy to wonder what that finish will do to his confidence, although he was adamant that it was more bad breaks than anything else.
He might be able to get away with spraying it off the tee a little at TPC River Highlands this week, where he has posted a top-10 in each of the past three seasons.
World Rank: 6
Odds To Win: 10-1
3. Paul Casey
Desperately needing to take advantage of a closing major championship window, the 43-year-old from England contended at last week’s major, something he has made a habit of in the past year, but a Sunday bogey on 11 and a double on 12 meant a T7.
While Casey did post his first top-10 at a U.S. Open since 2007, he is still winless on the biggest stage as he is set to play in his 70th career major next month in his home country.
As for this week? The world No. 20 has two runner-ups at TPC River Highlands, both in years where Bubba Watson won, in addition to two other top-5 finishes.
We have a lot more faith in Casey keeping it together on Sunday that we have in past years, given the increased confidence he has shown.
World Rank: 20
Odds To Win: 16-1
2. Dustin Johnson
Two weeks in a row, DJ has seen his title chances go up in smoke after an inopportune triple-bogey 7 on a par-4 Sunday hole. It is promising that he is at least in the mix in these events again, and he should have some confidence coming in as the defending champion, a win that included a third-round 61.
Now ranked second in the OWGR, Johnson could easily get the top spot back with another good week in Connecticut.
The shotmaking is still there during his recent funk, just not consistently there.
World Rank: 2
Odds To Win: 11-1
1. Brooks Koepka
Brooks did what Brooks does in majors, contending the entire week at Torrey Pines, with his T4 finish being his eighth top-4 in his last 11 majors championship starts.
His reputation as an elite closer continued to take a hit, though, as the bogey-six he had on Sunday’s 18th hole was painful to watch.
The question now becomes, does he even care this week? Well, to be making the flight from San Diego to Hartford the week after a major, we would think he has to. Koepka’s last six starts now comprise three top-4s and three missed cuts. It does not get more hit-or-miss than that.
World Rank: 8
Odds To Win: 14-1
Next Five: Tony Finau, Abraham Ancer, Ryan Armour, Chez Reavie, Garrick Higgo