The wacky world that is the PGA Tour continues its comeback with Week 3 of the coronavirus-interrupted tournament schedule.
This week, the Tour heads to the northeast to the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, CT. While this will be the third straight week without fans at the course, the good news is it’s just a couple of weeks before fans (in theory) are scheduled to be allowed to check out the action in person.
How wacky has it been so far? Well, if you had Daniel Berger (80-1) and Webb Simpson (25-1) winning the first two events when the Tour started back up, you need to invest in lottery tickets.
This week’s action takes play on a TPC layout that plays just 6,841 yards. The par-70 track means there are just two par 5s and that will likely level out the playing field and tone down players’ chances to break out the big stick as often.
We also need to remind everyone that we’re only about six weeks from the first of the year’s three majors (the Open Championship has been canceled so there won’t be four).
And once we hit that first major, the rush begins. There is just one major, the PGA Championship, in this year’s wraparound season but there will be six in the 2020-2021 wraparound as the other two for this year, the U.S. Open, to be played Sept. 17-20 and the Masters, set for Nov. 12-15, will come after the FedEx Cup playoffs and be in the fall portion.
So 2020-2021 will be quite the impactful season as the six majors will also be joined by the Tokyo Olympics — if the 2020-2021 schedule takes us back to our regularly scheduled programming.
So if you think the players are scrambling right now, it’s about to ramp up another several degrees very quickly and for a long period of time.
As usual in this comeback, this week’s event will feature another star-studded field as everyone’s looking to climb the FedEx Cup points ladder for a playoff spot.
In fact, it might be easier to name the top-tier players who aren’t in the field (Tiger Woods, where are you?) at TPC River Highlands.
Yes, Rory McIlroy is teeing it up. Same with Dustin Johnson. There’s also Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau and … well, you get the picture.
Now, let’s crunch some numbers. All of these guys know there are just 10 events (including one alternate-field tournament) before the FedEx Cup playoffs. That puts the pressure on them to play often and, more importantly, play well.
This week we’re going with a guy who’s making his return to action after the long layoff. Patrick Cantlay, at 20-1 odds, skipped the first two events and we’re banking that he’s ready to keep up his torrid pace. Before the Tour’s break, Cantlay had five straight tournaments with top-20 finishes, including a runnerup finish at the Shriners Open in Las Vegas last fall — an event he could have just as easily won.
He tied for 15th in the Travelers the last two years, both times after mid-pack finishes in the U.S. Open. This year, he comes in fresh after the long layoff while many others are on their third straight week of playing.
The good news with the time off is he hasn’t been grinding it out on the Tour. But, the bad news is the same: he hasn’t been grinding it out on Tour. It’s a double-edged sword as this can either be a huge plus for his game or a big minus. We’re going with the plus aspect because he’s fresh.
One more note. If you hear the ‘Jaws’ theme floating around in the back of your brain, you’re not crazy. Brooks Koepka, at 20-1, is rounding into form and on the prowl.