Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau and defending champion Harris English will be among the notables reviewed in Draws and Fades.
On one hand, it was ironic that English and Hickok traded only pars for seven holes before English finally ended their duel with a birdie conversion from just outside 16 feet for victory here last year. TPC River Highlands was the easiest par 70 of the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, so for the only two to reach 13-under 26 in regulation, and then go that long in death spoke to the challenge of the task at hand – victory.
On the other, the pushes with pars in the playoff also served as a microcosm of the exam overall. TPC River Highlands stood up for 69,672 last year. That was more than a stroke higher than 2020 but in line with its prior history.
In 2020, the strength-of-field [SOF] rating as determined by the Official World Golf Ranking for the Travelers Championship was 623. That reflected the thirst for playing time among membership’s best. Last year’s SOF was still a beefy 461, but the course prevailed in the reset.
Poa greens average 5,000 square feet, but because TPC River Highlands tips at just 6,852 yards – an additional 11 yards at the 431-yard, par-4 17th hole is responsible for a slight uptick in the aggregate – the field still targets 12-13 greens in regulation per round as reasonable. That slots the track inside the easier half of all courses in terms of piling up the scoring opportunities.
Prior to last year’s playoff, English split 75 percent of his fairways (42 of 56) and hit 75 percent of his GIR (54 of 72), and still didn’t rank inside the top 10 in either stat for the week, but he did finish T2 in scrambling. Hickok ranked third in both fairways and GIR, as well as second in Strokes Gained: Putting. The primary takeaway from their differences is that both English’s balance and Hickok’s extremes by comparison were rewarded, as they should be on a worthy stage.
TPC River Highlands is set up familiarly again this week. Primary bluegrass rough is allowed to grow four inches and greens are governed to 12 feet on the Stimpmeter, although it might be a day or two before putts are rolling with that expectation.
Midweek rain could soften the property, so hole locations in the first two rounds would serve the strongest defense. Drier air settles in by Friday and hangs into the weekend. The next threat for precipitation enters the equation for the finale. After the first system is gone, daytime temperatures will extend into the 80s. Wind is unlikely to be a factor.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Draws and Fades
WEDNESDAY: Pick ‘Em Preview
SUNDAY: Medical Extensions, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Rookie Ranking
* – Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.