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Monday, 19 November, 2018

Putting ace Snedeker can take River Highlands prize

Solid US Open effort bodes well

Brandt Snedeker had a decent US Open
1 of 1

Sky Sports 4, from 8.30pm Thursday

Wilkerson's top tip
Brandt Snedeker 30-1
With the US Open in the books, plenty of thoughts are turning to The Open at Royal Birkdale at the end of next month but for some of the world's top players it is time to put things right.

Rory McIlroy and Jason Day make the trip to Connecticut this week for the Travelers Championship having failed to threaten making the cut at Erin Hills last week.

The pair have much to do and while Jordan Spieth did make it to the weekend at Wisconsin, the fact he finished 17 shots behind winner Brooks Koepka suggests everything is not hunky dory for the Texan either.

Those three dominate the market this week, but there could be value in looking a bit further down the list at players whose efforts in the second Major of the season suggested they are moving in the right direction.

TPC River Highlands presents an open betting heat as while monster-driver Bubba Watson has won at the Hartford track, it was in this tournament that the more gentle Jim Furyk landed his record-breaking 58 in the final round last year.

It is a course that Brandt Snedeker has enjoyed in the past and even though he finished eight shots off the pace last week, he still claimed a top-ten finish, his fifth in the second Major of the season.

Snedeker did not play in the Travelers Championship last year but claimed finishes of tenth and 11th in the two River Highlands tournaments before and those statistics bode well.

He has always been a great putter – he is ranked 19th in strokes-gained putting – and he is one player who should take encouragement from not only Furyk's wonder round but moderate hitter Russell Knox's victory 12 months ago.

The Nashville native has missed just one of his last seven cuts and this looks a good opportunity for him to capture his ninth PGA Tour title.

Next best
Marc Leishman 33-1
Aussie Marc Leishman looks a challenger in every tournament he plays these days and he should be buzzing for a crack at River Highlands, where he claimed his first of two US Tour victories in 2012.

He has claimed two other top-12 finishes at the venue, including ninth last year and has already been in the winners' circle this season having captured the Arnold Palmer Invitational in June.

The steady performer has finished in the top 25 in nine of his 16 tournaments this season and although he will be disappointed with the closing 75 that left him tied for 27th at Erin Hills, he is still heading in the right direction, so expect a bold challenge.

Other selections
Brendan Steele 35-1
David Lingmerth 80-1
Brendan Steele has put some improved form down to a new gruelling fitness regime and claims that he is more competitive now he can drive the ball further.

That may not be a huge asset this week but he is still playing well, having started the season with victory in the Safeway Open in October.

He tied for 13th in the US Open and he put in another good display in elite company last month when he finished tied for sixth at the Players Championship.

He has failed to finish in the top 25 in just one of his six River Highlands attempts – his best effort was a tied for fifth in 2015 – and should be brimming with confidence.

It is also worth taking a chance on David Lingmerth.

The Swede does not possess a great course record (63-MC) but he heads to Hartford in excellent form and this is not a track where his lack of length should be a big disadvantage.

The Players Championship was the only time in his last six tournaments that he hasn't finished in the top 25 and he claimed a 21st-placed finish last week.

He looks a big price to make an impression.

Others to note
Jason Day
The Aussie ace has finishes of 18th (2014) and 27th (2008) at River Highlands. But he has not hit the heights this season and, after missing the cut last week, it is difficult to be enthusiastic about his chances.

Jordan Spieth
If his putter gets hot, he could have a big week but he has been hit and miss for most of the season.

Rory McIlroy
Didn't answer many questions about his rib injury after failing to make the weekend at the US Open. He just needs to get competitive golf under his belt and is making his first course visit.

Justin Thomas
Played brilliantly on Saturday at Erin Hills but couldn't maintain his push in the final round. It is difficult to assess the toll that would have taken and although he finished tied for third last year, better value may exist elsewhere.

Bubba Watson
The two-time Masters champion has won at River Highlands twice and claimed three other top-six finishes. However, he has finishes in the top 25 in just two of his last 11 tournaments.

Staking plan
B Snedeker
2pts each-way 30-1 bet365
M Leishman
1.5pts each-way 33-1 Coral
B Steele
1.5pts each-way 35-1 Betfair, Paddy Power
D Lingmerth
1pt each-way 80-1 Sky Bet


The lowdown

Course TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut
Prize money $6.8m ($1.123m to the winner)
Length 6,841 yards Par 70 Field 156

Course records – 72 holes 258 Kenny Perry (2009) 18 holes 58 Jim Furyk (2016)

Course winners taking part JJ Henry, Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson (twice), Freddie Jacobson, Marc Leishman, Ken Duke, Kevin Streelman, Russell Knox

When to bet By noon Thursday
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports 4 from 8.30pm Thursday
Time difference Connecticut is five hours behind the UK and Ireland

Last week – US Open 1 B Koepka 50-1, T2 H Matsuyama 35-1, T2 B Harman 250-1, 4 T Fleetwood 160-1, T5 R Fowler 25-1, T5 X Schauffele 500-1, T5 B Haas 150-1, 8 C Hoffman 160-1

Course overview The Pete Dye creation has hosted this event (formerly the Greater Hartford Open and the Buick Championship) since 1984, but was redesigned in 1989, its name changing from the TPC Connecticut to the TPC River Highlands.

It is 1,000 yards shorter than the Erin Hills track that US Open competitors tackled last week and low scores look likely. Both the par-fives – the sixth and 13th – always play well under par and represent the best birdie chances on the course.

The 296-yard reachable par-four 15th is also there for the taking. The 481-yard fourth, the tenth, 16th and 17th are the sternest tests.

Only the Phoenix Open attracts more spectators to a regulation US Tour event than the Travelers, with many holes having specially crafted viewing spots.

Story of last year Russell Knox held on for his first US Tour victory by one shot but the real story was Jim Furyk's record 58 in the final round, which earned him a tie of fifth spot.

Weather forecast The tournament should start dry with rain expect Friday afternoon and after round two. The weekend is expected to be dry with temperatures around 30C.

Type of player suited to challenge Bubba Watson has won here twice but there can be no better illustration that you don't have to hit it long than Jim Furyk's final round last year.

It should not represent the sort of test players had to endure last week, but a hot putter could prove decisive.

Key attribute Touch

The Nashville native has missed just one of his last seven cuts and this looks a good opportunity for him to capture his ninth PGA Tour title.
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