The two-time major champion has dropped to 70th in the world ranking, and is currently just 95th in the FedEx Cup race. He’s made 11 cuts in 15 starts this year, but only turned four into top-25 finishes. Why the vote of confidence, then? It all has to do with Johnson’s record at the Travelers Championship. He’s played this tournament 11 times in his career, made the cut 9 times, and has five top-25 finishes. If anybody knows their way around this particular track, it’s Johnson.
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9. Patrick Reed
Reed endured a pretty tough run earlier this year. From February through April, he had just one top-25 finish in eight starts, and he missed three straight from Houston, Augusta and San Antonio. Dating back to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Reed has five top-25s in his last six starts. While he hasn’t broken through with a truly dazzling performance yet, the Travelers Championship is a perfect time for him to do so.
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8. Rory McIlroy
McIlroy, announcing this addition to his schedule back in February, said that TPC River Highlands should set up well for his game, and that he was excited to be playing it for the first time. A shorter track that places a heavy premium on accuracy and putting will work in McIlroy’s favor, as long as the rib doesn’t continue to nag at him.
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7. Jason Day
With an established length advantage over much of the field, Day could pull fairway woods or long irons off the tee, keep the ball in play – something he didn’t do at Erin Hills – and give himself some additional scoring opportunities. It’s all easier said than done, of course, but we’ve seen Day perform with the mental edge in the past, and he can do it again here.
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6. Daniel Berger
Daniel Berger is something of a wild card in my power rankings this week. He was tied for the 54-hole lead last year – his River Highlands debut – before a Sunday 74 knocked him into a tie for fifth place. Ranked 31st in strokes-gained: putting and 17th on Tour in par breakers, he’ll have every chance to go as low as he did in 2016. He’ll just need to finish the job this time around.
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5. Marc Leishman
Five years ago this week, Marc Leishman won his first PGA TOUR title at the Travelers Championship. That week, he went into Sunday’s final round six shots off the lead, and proceeded to fire an 8-under round of 62. Since the 2012 triumph, the Aussie is 4-for-4 in cuts made here, with a T9 finish in 2016 and a T11 in 2014 to his credit.
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4. Justin Thomas
Justin Thomas made some major championship history this past weekend, posting a 9-under round of 63 at Erin Hills on Saturday. Things didn’t work out so well for Thomas on Sunday, as he fell into a tie for ninth with a 3-over round of 75, but it still marked his eighth top-ten finish of the year, and the third in his last four starts. Thomas will get a chance to remedy any sore feelings at TPC River Highlands this week.
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3. Bubba Watson
2017 has not been nice to Bubba Watson. The two-time Masters champion has missed five cuts in just 13 starts, including three of his last five. Watson clearly needs a fix, and fast. Enter the Travelers Championship, and its host course, TPC River Highlands. This is as close to Watson’s golf happy place as you’re likely to find. Since the tournament was renamed in 2007, Watson has finished no lower than 38th, and has won here twice.
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2. Jordan Spieth
Despite some of his season-long struggles, Spieth still leads the Tour in Strokes Gained: Approaching the Green, anchored by his 70.90% greens-in-regulation rate. Spieth also leads the PGA TOUR in proximity to the hole on approach, at an average distance of 32 feet, 7 inches. At a shorter track like TPC River Highlands, that’s a formula for success.
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1. Paul Casey
Paul Casey goes under the radar all too often, but is quietly putting together a very solid year. The world’s No. 14 player has four top-ten finishes and 10 top-25s in 2017 so far. Prior to the U.S. Open, he was riding a streak of four straight stroke-play top-25s, and six in his last seven starts. With only two years’ experience at the Travelers Championship, he’s already proving to understand what it takes to win there.
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