After a profitable US Open, golf expert Ben Coley relies on quality iron play and course form in with six selections for the Travelers.
Advancements in the depth and availability of statistical data have transformed the way we analyse and contextualise golf. From the shoulders of Mark Broadie, we can now see things we could not see before: that Viktor Hovland drove the ball better at Pebble Beach than Brooks Koepka did for his two PGA Championship wins; that Martin Kaymer's approach play was at a level which might've made for a remake of Pinehurst '14 had the putter behaved; that Gary Woodland's transformation really was completed by the emergence of a first-class putting performance.
Yet, fittingly, the Travelers Championship - played at an old-fashioned, Pete Dye course, loved for its hospitality and quaintly warm support and positioned as the comedown machine for those with a US Open hangover - affords us the opportunity to go back in time, to the days when the basics - greens in regulation, total putting, ball-striking - were all we had to work with.
Here at TPC River Highlands, the easiest way to spot the winner has been to start at the top of those greens in regulation charts and work down. Year after year, with the sort of odd exceptions we should expect in this sport, someone who has been regularly setting up chances has taken them at this dog-legged par 70. Russell Knox, Jordan Spieth, Hunter Mahan, Kenny Perry, Stewart Cink... the honours' board here is a list of players who make their cheques by pounding greens.
All of these players were among the top 25 per cent on the PGA Tour in the year of their victories. One of the exceptions, Kevin Streelman, is known for his tee-to-green proficiency but doesn't tick the box in 2014 because he was largely out of sorts. The same goes for Marc Leishman, whose sparkling final round for a breakthrough win in 2012 meant Bubba Watson had to settle for second - the same spot he filled in that year's GIR list.
You get the message. A classical par 70 which has yielded the only 58 in the history of the PGA Tour but is by no means a cakewalk has favoured the shot-maker. It's no wonder that Watson, who shapes the ball more dramatically than anyone on the circuit, has found his interest piqued by these winding corridors.
Narrowing down a shortlist isn't easy, but nor is it difficult to pass up those at the front of the betting. Brooks Koepka left everything on the course at Pebble Beach, Patrick Cantlay has been extremely busy and had to work hard to climb the leaderboard last week, Jordan Spieth doesn't look quite there yet and neither is Justin Thomas as he continues his rehabilitation from a spring injury.
With Jason Day at the beginning of a new caddie relationship and not particularly well suited to this technical par 70, it's Ryder Cup duo 'Moliwood' who make most appeal at the front of the betting. Tommy Fleetwood will love it here and isn't much shorter than he has been for majors, while Francesco Molinari hinted at Pebble Beach that he may be ready to lay those Augusta ghosts to rests.
There are ifs and buts with both, however, and I'd rather focus on a collection of players at much bigger prices, all of whom fit the profile not just of winners here, but of those who have gone closest in defeat.
The pick of them is Emiliano Grillo, who ranks sixth among this field in greens hit this year and 21st overall as he continues to operate at a consistently high level without often threatening to win.
That could change at TPC River Highlands, where seven of his eight rounds so far have been par or better. Grillo's ball-striking is ideal for the course and he's been among the best in the field during each of his two starts, particularly off the tee.
Perhaps there ought to be a slight concern that the sort of extremely low bursts of scoring which are often required here might be beyond a notoriously poor putter, but he won't need to make many if he hits his approach shots as he did at the US Open last week, where he was second in strokes-gained.
Having been making cuts all year, it's notable that Grillo has twice been inside the top five at the halfway stage since the Masters - first at the Dye-designed Harbour Town and then at the Memorial two starts back - and it could just be that he's able to see things through better in an event where it's common for the marquee names to flirt with the top of the leaderboard without winning.
In terms of added motivation, Grillo is both outside the world's top 50 and the Presidents Cup places by a narrow margin and there's no doubt the latter in particular will be at the top of his list of priorities with the chance to play for Ernie Els not to be missed.
His form on these short, classical courses includes his only win on the PGA Tour plus third place at Colonial and a strong overall record at Sawgrass, another Dye design which correlates nicely with this courtesy of the likes of Kevin Streelman and Daniel Berger, among others.
There will I'm sure be those unwilling to back a player who so often has flattered to deceive, but the exploits of Gary Woodland, Molinari, Cantlay and Kevin Na lately offer a reminder that nothing in this sport is absolute. Grillo is precisely the type of player to suddenly click when he works out how to score better around the greens and this could be an excellent place to start.
Streelman is really hard to leave out of the staking plan with Berger also on the longlist. The former carded a pair of weekend 64s to win this in 2014 and it's no surprise to read that it's his favourite PGA Tour stop. He hits tons of greens, scores in bursts, arrives in form and has shot 63 and 62 here, so there's an excellent case to be made.
The trouble is he's not been missed in the market, up there at 66/1 with players who are better than he is and, as is the case with Grillo, have much more scope to improve. For all that he might be inspired by seeing stablemate Woodland win the US Open, I can't bring myself to row in at the price in a field which is strong.
Berger meanwhile has a good Dye record, as he should having grown up playing Sawgrass and the Dye Preserve in Florida. He's made cut upon cut, all departments firing separately but never together, and it's significant that his best form has come on similar par-70 courses including here, where he was fifth on debut and a luckless second in 2017.
For my money, however, Russell Knox is a better bet than both as a classier player than Streelman and a more in-form one than Berger.
The Scot won here in 2016, when he was fully focused on a Ryder Cup place he was ultimately denied, and he hit the ball really well when mid-pack last year at a time when his putting was a consistent problem.
Twelve months on and the putter has started to behave again lately, enough to rank seventh and 23rd in his two most recent starts, and it's telling that as his confidence has improved on the greens, so have his scores.
At 22nd in greens hit this year, one place behind Grillo, it's only a decent putting week that we require to put him firmly in the mix at a course where he carded 64 when in worse form last year.
Knox is one of those who could benefit from having missed the US Open and having been eighth and 27th in his last two starts, it's a nice time to chance a return to the sort of form which saw him finish second and first in successive weeks last summer.
Sticking with the theme, Russell Henley is worth chancing despite some modest play throughout 2019.
Relying on course form is always risky - typically we're talking limited sample sizes and my preference would always be for a solid bank of more recent form - but Henley's performances here have been exceptional to the extent that I find him hard to leave out.
On debut, Henley led at halfway and played in the final group on Sunday only to drop to 11th, while two years later he returned to again secure a place in the final group and this time fade just a little to sixth.
During last year's visit, he hit all 18 greens in regulation in the second round and went on to lead the field in driving accuracy, greens hit and scrambling - a deadly combination for one who built his reputation on putting after bursting onto the scene in the Sony Open six years ago.
Ultimately, he's not quite managed to go through with it under pressure from world-class opponents like Spieth and Watson, but the fact he's bettered only by Paul Casey in course scoring average speaks to a serious affinity for a layout which has always thrown up horses for courses.
With his par-four scoring and greens-in-regulation stats both strong, the one area of concern is a run of poor form which has kept him out of the frame in every start since this event last year, with 15th in Phoenix his best showing so far in 2019.
However, Henley has sprung to life in this sort of situation before, with his shock win in the Honda five years ago coming after a run of missed cuts but with an eye-catching 78-66 at Riviera on his previous start.
When third at East Lake, his best non-winning form, he'd opened with a round of 66 a week earlier having appeared to be in generally poor shape, so I just wonder whether an opening 65 in Canada last time - his best score of the year - proves to be a big clue.
Henley went on to miss the cut after a nightmare second round but he's fancied to do better now returned to a course he's taken a real shine to.
It'll be interesting to see if Chez Reavie can build on third place in the US Open last week at another suitable venue, while Brian Harman's long-game has finally clicked and it could be just in time given that he's been third and sixth here before.
Neither has the credentials of Ryan Moore, though, and for all that he's as frustrating as Grillo, the Seattle man goes in the staking plan.
Moore's two wins in the CIMB Classic support the idea that he plays the same courses well, typically when they're short, tree-lined and vulnerable to his quality iron play, so it's no surprise he boasts such an excellent record here at River Highlands.
In 11 visits so far, he's bagged seven top-20 finishes, five of them good enough for a place in the top seven, and he's one of just six players in this field with a sub-68 scoring average at the course.
While his greens-in-regulation numbers aren't as bright as they could be, Moore is still above average and he very much caught the eye when starting brightly in Canada last time out.
Each and everyone one of Moore's recent top-10 finishes supports the idea that he can only be backed with confidence across a small, specific selection of courses, and none fit the bill quite like this one.
If you believe Anirban Lahiri's assertion that his game is very close then he's one to watch at a big price, while Tyler Duncan placed two starts back, played well here last year and is the sort of steady operator who could threaten the top 10 if the putter does happen to warm up.
There's a case for Troy Merritt, eighth here in 2017 and also inside the top 10 at the Heritage previously, while of the bigger hitters watch out for Kevin Tway, sixth in 2018 and playing nicely enough ahead of his return.
My search goes further down the list, though, with Cameron Tringale kept in the staking plan after an excellent effort in Canada.
Tringale finished 11th up at Hamilton, backing up 23rd in the Byron Nelson, with 17th place in the Texas Open and fifth alongside Roberto Castro in the Zurich Classic all helping to suggest he's back close to his very best.
His iron play during the final round of the Canadian Open was nothing short of world-class - he would've hit the frame for us at 250/1 had he holed a couple more of the dozen or so chances he had - and I see no reason why he can't continue to move forward.
Tringale has rounds of 64 and 65 to his name here despite a best overall finish of 15th, so there's some hidden course form to cling to, but more important in this case is the fact that he's been among the best iron players in this field over the last few months.
Indeed, while just outside of the top 50 in those greens-in-regulation statistics, he's been third and fourth on two of his most recent four starts and ranks fifth on the PGA Tour over the past three months.
Given that he's also 25th in par-four performance - a key reference point on any par 70 - and that he's got an excellent record on Dye courses which is on a par with virtually all bar the biggest names in the field, he looks well overpriced once more.
As should now be clear, this is the sort of event where a dozen or more players make some kind of appeal, to the extent that I've spared everyone another six or seven paragraphs about how good Hovland looks and haven't even mentioned Matthew Wolff yet.
Both these two make their professional debuts, with another promising type in Collin Morikawa now on start number three, and they add a further layer of intrigue to what's one of my favourite events on the calendar.
But it's to a veteran to finish the staking plan with Charley Hoffman another who just loves it here.
Hoffman's last 12 rounds at River Highlands have all been under-par, and he's made the cut in all eight visits since 2010 with three of those top-sevens.
In 2013, he held a two-shot lead with two to play only to stumble to second, a year later he opened with a blistering 61, and whatever shape he's arrived in it hasn't seemed to matter.
This time he's actually been playing well since Augusta, with a missed cut at the Memorial easily ignored as he's never been able to get to grips with that course - he just won't turn down an invite from Jack Nicklaus to play there.
Back to one where he's enjoyed success, Hoffman can confirm once more that his make-up is just perfect for this tournament.
Posted at 2115 BST on 17/06/19
Sky Bet offer 11/1 that one of the above six selections wins the event