Jason Daniels from @thirtysixholes looks ahead to this week’s golfing action from the Travelers Championship and BMW International Open, having come oh so close in the US Open.
Close but no cigar for the opening column in this series of previews, as Matt Fitzpatrick proved a shot too good for both Scottie Sheffler and Will Zalatoris, the two most-fancied of the five sections.
Having been used to lesser fields in the weeks that follow majors, recent times have seen a serious upturn in quality, and five of the world’s top six make the brief journey to TPC River Highlands for the Travelers Championship. Meanwhile, world-ranked 14 and recent Memorial winner Billy Horschel travels to Germany for the once-revered BMW International.
Here’s the pick of this week’s selections.
Scottie Scheffler (Travelers)
With a top-order that reads like an invitational event, separating the head of the market is tough.
Despite his outstanding recent play, a final round 62 was the reason Rory McIlroy got over the line in Canada after a host of near misses. He again seemed fairly pedestrian in contention last weekend at Brookline and therefore I’m leaving him alone despite the three consecutive top 17 finishes here.
With recent Travelers champions Harris English and Chez Reavie coming off a pair of third-place finishes at Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach respectively, Scottie Scheffler (11/1) must hold outstanding claims after tying for second place last weekend.
In looking the most likely champion after the first half on Sunday night, the 25-year-old continued a run of form that contains four wins, two seconds, a top ten and three further top -20 finishes, all in the space of 13 tournaments.
Scottie’s victory at The Masters links nicely with two-time River Highlands champion Bubba Watson and with Marc Leishman, winner here in 2012 and third behind Harris English last season, the latter’s third at the Pheonix Open at TPC Scottsdale being the scene of Scottie’s first victory in February. Complete that lot with Reavie’s runner-up at the Arizona course, and there looks to be an understandably strong correlation.
On a course that rewards strong driving and approach play, Scottie stands sixth in ‘total driving’ over the last three months, third in ball-striking and top-10 in putting average.
Following a tough week won’t be easy, but he isn’t as volatile as Jon Rahm, for example, and having continued a set of stats that lead the way for consistency, at a course that required absolute precision, he is an obvious but vital pick this week.
Scottie Scheffler tied P1 on the leaderboard after hitting three birdies in his first four holes.
— BetVictor (@BetVictor) June 19, 2022
Brian Harman (Travelers)
I’m not the biggest fan of the 35-year-old former Bulldog, but there’s no question this is his track.
Harman is one of a few around the 50-1 mark that is fancied to put up a strong case for placing here this week, even after falling away to 43rd over the weekend, a blow-out that disguises his play in the first two rounds, a 68-69 finding him in 8th place going into blustery Saturday.
Past results include a victory at the John Deere Classic, an event Jordan Spieth won twice before winning here in 2017 (a player that, perhaps, should have won the 2021 Pheonix Open), whilst his Pete Dye form works nicely with a third and two eighth-place finishes at Sawgrass, and high placings at the La Quinta complex.
And then you come to River Highlands, where Harman has four top-10 finishes in his last seven outings. Don’t give up on him in running either – in 2019 he came from 127th after round one to finish in eighth place, while last season he was 35th at halfway before ending in the top-5.
Currently, in the top-five of the field for par-four scoring on par-70 courses, Harman (45/1) can show again that classic courses call for classic play.
Seamus Power (Travelers)
It was hard to leave out Mito Pereira given his M.O. has to fit this place but, despite his admirable effort at the PGA, winning on debut here is a tough ask.
Instead, go for one of the great successes of 2021, 35-year-old Irishman, Seamus Power (45/1), who is lightly raced for his age, having started on the Web.com Tour just seven years ago.
In those years, Power has gone from a world ranking of 764 to a current 36th, taking in some impressive results.
2022 saw the Las Vagas resident take part in his first three majors and he’s been impressive in finishing 27th at Augusta, tied-9th at Southern Hills, and latterly 12th at Brookline, the latter showing admirable consistency with three rounds of 70 and a final 71.
Most total strokes gained through the first three men's majors of the year:
Will Zalatoris – 40.12
Rory McIlroy – 38.12
Matt Fitzpatrick – 34.12
Scottie Scheffler – 32.24
Justin Thomas – 26.12
Collin Morikawa – 25.12
Seamus Power – 23.12
Shane Lowry – 20.50
Cameron Smith – 20.50
— Phillip Allen (@PhilAllenTFG) June 20, 2022
When he hit form last season, Power went on runs of top finishes, a quintet of top-20 finishes concluding with a win at the Barbasol Championship.
Included in that run were top-10 finishes at the Byron Nelson, Rocket Mortgage and the John Deere, before a run of three events ended with a tied-11th at Mayakoba, an event found in the resume of English (won) and Brice Garnett (four top-11s).
2022 has been just as strong with a tied-15th at the opening Tournament of Champions better than it looked after an opening 71, top-three in the Sony, T-14 at the Dye-influenced American Express, and ninth at Pebble Beach.
Power made the latter stages of the World Matchplay before another excellent result at TPC Craig Ranch and that top-10 at the PGA.
Given the way he strings three or four results together, I have no worry about the missed cut at Muirfield. After a sign last weekend, when 11th for approach and green-in-regulation, and top-10 (again) in putting, he looks worth backing on a course at which he has four-year progressive form of mc/36/66/19.
Victor Perez (BMW International)
I’m one-and-done this week in what looks like a tournament in the hands of Billy Horschel.
With the 35-year-old West Ham fan coming to Germany off the back of another season of quality results, the vast majority of the field are playing for places.
Just three weeks ago, Horschel won the prestigious Memorial by four shots from, amongst other names, Jon Rahm, Will Zalatoris, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Max Homa. That form reads plenty good enough to gag up this week, but add in the top-12 at Torrey Pines, 6th at Scottsdale, and a runner-up at Bay Hill and this looks his for the taking.
His win at Wentworth last year was a sign he could travel, and the single-shot margin around that tree-laden course certainly did not show his superiority throughout the weekend.
Despite all that, the mention of Wentworth brings the memory back to Victor Perez, who produced one of the great iron displays when running up to Tyrrell Hatton in 2020. On that occasion, the Frenchman, now living in Scotland, found over 11 shots on the field from tee to green and had many a pundit purring.
It’s since been in-and-out for the 29-year-old and whilst there were signs when 8th in Spain, recent results suggest he is now very close to his best, with a win from an unfortunate Ryan Fox and a subsequent third place at the European Open, the brute of Green Eagle suiting his outstanding ball-striking.
Second to pure ball-striker, Jordan Smith, in the lists for total driving and ball-striking, he is also top-10 for greens found. However, Perez is by far the more confident putter, ranking 24th over the last three months, all assets that should see him thrive around a track that has seen the likes of Viktor Hovland, Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, Matt Wallace, Pablo Larrazabal, Ernie Els and Danny Willett taste success.
That list also contains a great deal of form associated with Scotland, as do previous shock winners Andrea Pavan and Andres Romero, so Perez’s win at St. Andrews is a nice boost, whilst anyone doubting he can compete against the class of the favourite need only look at his semi-final loss to the eventual 2021 Matchplay champion (Billy Horschel) and the top-10 at Sawgrass.
Taking a drop-in class when fancied to provide a bit of a shock at Brookline, Perez looks a solid each-way poke (30/1).