Travelers Championship First Round Leader Picks, Bets & More (2024)

Chalk one up for LIV. The reality of Bryson DeChambeau winning another US Open at one of the most difficult courses any major field will see was filled with drama and heartbreak. It’s on to the Travelers Championship where the field is full of familiar names by now on tour, including some of the younger guns pushing for a first or second career win.

We will focus more on the Peter Dye course that comes in rather short for tour standards yet doesn’t penalize distance while requiring elite ball striking. It’s an elevated event with a big field in front of a loud crowd — the perfect way to avoid any hangover from an electric finish at Pinehurst. TPC River Highlands has seen its share of bombers trod in with their big sticks, choosing to carry tree lines versus using a shorter club off the tee. This will come down to who has the best approach shots going and who is most comfortable on the greens.

We have many of the top 30 golfers in the world at this event, at least eligible on tour: Scottie Scheffler and Patrick Cantlay down to Ludvig Aberg and Sahith Theegala. The balance of the new look PGA Tour is on full display in Connecticut. Don’t forget last year’s hometown winner in Keegan Bradley. The drama should continue right into the weekend but for us; the focus remains on targeting a first-round leader on Thursday.

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Travelers Championship First Round Leader Picks

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The Keys To The Kingdom

While short, River Highlands is far from easy to beat. Standing at 6,835 yards, it might appear to hurt the longer hitters but that’s far from the case. There are two ways to reach the same point: Either a shorter club off the tee or a driver over trees and other hazards. Length has become secondary, far from a massive advantage. The rest of this week will focus on who can remain or become elite with their iron play. The emphasis on ball striking is as heavy here as anywhere, especially knowing some guys may choose to go shorter off the tee. Longer iron play is huge, as is gaining strokes around the green.

This is a risk/reward course that offers plenty of temptations for the longer hitters. Driver to wedge is absolutely attainable, but it’s coming as a result of clearing trees or water. Missing these shots sets up a forced layup, or worse. There will be guys looking to push this; hubris, pride or whatever you want to label it will drive them. We want to pinpoint guys who still take risks but consistently avoid bogeys and doubles. Putting is always a metric worth looking at, but it’s handcuffed this week with golfers who are extra sharp on the approach.

Travelers Championship First-Round Leader Picks

Travelers Championship First Round Leader Picks: Sam Burns (+3300 at BetMGM)

Sam Burns turned in a rather impressive scorecard despite two 73s at Pinehurst No. 2. The most shocking thing in it all was Burns struggling on the first day, an area of success we’ve seen rather recently out of him. We look to Burns again this week with a rather interesting angle, but we shouldn’t understate how impressive he’s been in the first round this year. He’s been able to establish ground on day one with early comfort on the course, he’s a first-round leader bettor’s dream because we don’t need him to hold anything more than a first-round lead.

After a disastrous PGA Championship, Burns turned in a 10th, 15th and most recently a ninth. He’s gaining on the greens, around the greens and, most importantly, off the tee. The latter is huge here because we aren’t seeing just driver at the tee box, especially with shorter par 4’s requiring some course navigation. Burns is a great fit for River Highlands because of how well he’s played at comparative courses. It’s an interesting way to approach a golfer but rarely applies outside of a first-round bet. Burns could easily go on and win this, but the comp-course play is based on how quickly Burns can adapt to a different demand of a course.

Travelers Championship First Round Leader Picks: Keegan Bradley (+4000 at BetMGM)

This is one of the most attended PGA events on tour each year, mostly coming in second to Scottsdale. Keegan Bradley won in front of as much of a home crowd as it gets in the greater Cromwell area and hasn’t been in the tank recently either. Ever since the Masters, Bradley has quietly been playing competitive golf against strong fields, which should carry right into Thursday’s first round. He’s at his best gaining strokes on the green and surviving off the tee but won’t need to rely on power from the tee box.

Look, the fact is Bradley didn’t get lucky in navigating TPC River Highlands to victory. He was able to get through the nuances of this short course and make some solid putts. There’s little reason to think that the familiarity of this place won’t immediately return to the hands once Bradley steps back on the course. It should not go unnoticed how familiar and successful Bradley has been at this course — top 10 in the current field in overall history at River Highlands. He’s one of just six golfers in this field with multiple top-15 finishes here over the past six years, another sign of command on the course. He’s worth the price at 40-1.

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