2016 Travelers Championship: 10 picks to win at TPC River Highlands

By Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange  |  Updated Aug. 2, 2016 at 1:16 PM
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1. Bubba Watson, United States

Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
Before heading to Rio de Janeiro next week to represent the United States in golf's return to the Olympic Games, Bubba will defend his title this week in the Travelers. Last year, he led much of the way in the tournament after opening with a 62, but needed a 12-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to beat Paul Casey of England. Watson also won at TPC River Highlands in 2010, when he closed with a 66 and beat Scott Verplank and Corey Pavin with a birdie on the second extra hole. Bubba missed the cut in his first appearance at TPC River Highlands in 2006 and said he wouldn't return, but changed his mind and has posted three other top-10 finishes, including a tie for second in 2012.

2. Branden Grace, South Africa

Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Grace claimed his first PGA Tour victory at the RBC Heritage in April and has been knocking on the door for more ever since, including a tie for fourth last week in the PGA Championship at Baltusrol. That was his fourth top-five finish in the major championships in the last two seasons and he is up to No. 10 in the world. He has finished in the top 10 four times in his six tournaments since winning at Hilton Head after posting five top-10s earlier this season on the European Tour, including a victory in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. Grace is making only his second appearance at TPC River Highlands, and he opened with a promising 67 last year before coming back with a 77 to miss the cut by five strokes, but he's a different golfer these days.

3. Brooks Koepka, United States

Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
By equaling his best finish in a major championship with a tie for fourth in the PGA Championship last week at Baltusrol, Koepka posted his third top-10 result in his last four outings. He was in or near the lead all the way in the AT&T Byron Nelson before losing in a playoff to Sergio Garcia of Spain, and in his next start he finished second to Daniel Berger in the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Koepka has proven he can win, claiming his only victory on the PGA Tour in the Waste Management Phoenix Open after winning the 2014 Turkish Airlines Open on the European Tour. This is his second appearance in the Travelers, as he tied for 51st last year after opening with a 65 and closing with a 69.

4. Patrick Reed, United States

Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Like Bubba Watson, Reed will play for the U.S. next week in the Olympic Games in Rio after playing at TPC River Highlands. He has come close to adding to his total of four victories on the PGA Tour, all since 2013, with nine results in the top 10 this season -- including runner-up results in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the Valero Texas Open. Reed was in the hunt at the PGA Championship last week at Baltusrol after shooting 65 in the second round, but couldn't keep up with the leaders and tied for 13th. This will be his fifth appearance at TPC River Highlands and he missed the cut the last two years after getting off to a promising start with 66-66 in 2013 en route to a tie for 18th.

5. Matt Kuchar, United States

Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
A third member of the U.S. Olympic team who will put off heading to Rio de Janeiro until after playing in the Travelers, 'Kooch' had a bit of a slump last season but once again is a top-10 machine this season. He has posted nine top-10s, including third-place finishes in the Players Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the AT&T Byron Nelson. He will be trying to bounce back from a missed cut last week in the PGA Championship at Baltusrol when he makes his ninth appearances at TPC River Highlands. Kuchar missed the cut in his first four starts in the Travelers and has only one top-10 finish, a tie for eighth four years ago, when he posted four scores of 68 or better.

6. Zach Johnson, United States

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His run of four starts of 17th or better, including a tie for eighth in the U.S. Open at Oakmont and a tie for 12th in his title defense in the Open Championship at Royal Troon, ended with a tie for 33rd in the PGA Championship. Zach will try to get back on track this week in the Travelers. This will be his 11th appearance at TPC River Highlands, and he tied for sixth there last year when he shot 65 in the first round and 64 in the third. Johnson's best result in the event was a tie for third in 2004, when he held the lead after starting with 67-65, but then shot 73 in round three and a closing 66 left him in a tie for third.

7. Jon Rahm, Spain

Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI
The rookie from Arizona State has accepted Special Temporary Membership for the rest of the 2015-16 PGA Tour season, which means he can accept unlimited sponsor exemptions in his bid to earn his playing card for next season without having to go to Q-school. If he pulls it off, he will become the first player since Bud Cauley in 2011 to achieve the feat. Rahm tied for 10th in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November and was low amateur in the U.S. Open at Oakmont, tying for 23rd. Since turning pro, he has tied for third in the Quicken Loans National and the RBC Canadian Open. Rahm played in the Travelers as an amateur last year, posting three scores in the 60s before closing with a 72 to tie for 64th.

8. Webb Simpson, United States

Webb Simpson reacts after hitting a hole-in-one at the 2016 Masters Tournament. Photo by Kevin Dietsch
The 2012 U.S. Open champion's game seems to be coming back, as he tied for third in the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, tied for 11th in the Memorial, finished sixth in the Quicken Loans National and tied for 13th last week in the PGA Championship at Baltusrol. Simpson has won four times on the PGA Tour, but not since the 2013 Shriners Hospitals for Childrens Open, and he hopes to keep his run going this week in the Travelers. He is playing at TPC River Highlands for seventh time, and in 2013 he posted his best result there, a tie for fifth. Simpson recorded bookend 65s, and shot 69-72 in the middle rounds to wind up three strokes out of the playoff in which Ken Duke beat Chris Stroud.

9. Paul Casey, England

Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
The Englishman, once third in World Golf Rankings, has been slow to regain that form after injuries short-circuited his career, but he has been playing well again lately. He tied for 16th in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and tied for 10th last week in the PGA Championship at Baltusrol, posting four rounds in the 60s. Casey will tee it up in the Travelers for only the second time and last year he liked TPC River Highlands so much at first sight that he nearly took home the title. He posted four rounds of 68 or better, closing with 64-65 to catch leader Bubba Watson with three birdies on the last four holes. However, Casey hit into two bunkers on the second playoff hole, where Watson beat him with a 12-foot birdie putt.

10. Daniel Berger, United States

The 2015 Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour has not played as well since claiming his first victory on the circuit in June at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He tied for 37th in the U.S. Open at Oakmont and tied for 73rd last week in the PGA Championship at Baltusrol, but will try to get back on track when he plays in the Travelers for the first time. Perhaps he's simply had a bit of a mental hangover since that first victory after playing well early this season, when he tied for 10th in the Masters, tied for ninth in the Players Championship and tied for fifth in the Shell Houston Open. Berger was the only rookie to make it all the way through the FedEx Cup playoffs last year and is too good for this slump to go on much longer.

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