After two straight successful weeks for the PGA Tour, the sport hit a roadblock on Wednesday as it continues its return amid the coronavirus pandemic. Just one day prior to the 2020 Travelers Championship teeing off in Cromwell, Connecticut, it was announced that, including Brooks Koepka and last week's RBC Heritage winner Webb Simpson, would be withdrawing from the tournament due to COVID-19-related concerns. Koepka pulled out of the field early on Wednesday after caddie Ricky Elliott tested positive for the virus, while Simpson was withdrawing as a precautionary measure.
In response, rather than announce the cancellation of the 2020 Travelers Championship, PGA Tour president Jay Monahan revealed stricter protocols that golfers must adhere to going forward as the tournament schedule continues.
Despite the withdrawals, this is still one of the more loaded fields in tournament history. Let's take a closer look at this week's contest, with odds and prop bets provided via William Hill Sportsbook.
What: Travelers Championship
When: June 25-28
Where: TPC River Highlands -- Cromwell, Connecticut
Three things to know
1. Another diverse board: I wrote on Monday about how a short course like Harbour Town was the real MVP in last week's RBC Heritage. This week's TPC River Highlands is even shorter than Harbour Town. Will that lead to another stylistically-diverse leaderboard, or will the bombers take over? Last year's final leaderboard suggests the former will be true with the heavy-hitters sprinkled in. I'm here for that following the fun we had last week.
2. Another sub-60 round: The only 58 in PGA Tour history was shot here in the final round in 2016 when Jim Furyk did it. We saw guys flirt with 60 last week (Justin Thomas shot 63 with two bogeys), and with the loaded field is and how short this course is, I wonder if we might be on a 59ish watch at some point later on this week.
3. Player of the Year race: This point was made to me on the "First Cut Podcast" following Webb Simpson's win last week, but Simpson might actually be the frontrunner for Player of the Year, though his chances may have taken a hit due to his withdrawal from the tournament. The odd thing here is that there are only a handful of events left, and only one of them is a major. If Webb -- assuming he's back in quick order -- or Justin Thomas gets to three wins at some point over the next few weeks, that might be enough to seal the deal on the POY discussion, which is a crazy -- but also true -- thing to say when there hasn't been a major played yet this season.
Grading the field
We're 3 for 3 since golf's return on elite fields. This one includes the top seven players in the world and 10 of the top 11 in what is maybe the best field we've seen of the first three tournaments back. It lacks Tiger Woods, but it does get a now 50-year-old Phil Mickelson in his first start since he's been eligible for the senior circuit. If you did a blind test on this field at the beginning of 2020, you would have thought it was closer to a Players Championship or PGA Championship than a Travelers Championship. That's a good thing for this event and an even better thing for those of us who will be tuning in. Grade: A
Seeking more action on the course? Listen below and subscribe to The First Cut Golf podcast where we take you inside the ropes on the PGA Tour and beyond.
Two best prop bets
1. Tournament ends in playoff (+300) or one-stroke win (+250): In 12 of the last 16 Travelers Championships, this has been the outcome. It's also been true of the first two events in the return amid the pandemic. With this many elite players in the field, it's difficult to see somebody running away from the pack on the weekend, and both of these are reasonable numbers.
2. Matthew Wolff to win (150-1): I don't really love his game right now, but when you can get his talent on this course at that number, you have to take it. He doesn't have a top 20 at a full-field event since the Zozo Championship last fall, but that's sort of the point to me. That's the reason he's 150-1 while contemporaries Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa are 60-1 and 35-1, respectively. If he has one good week, he'll pop back into double digits here, so I like the number given his overall game can stand up to this field.
Travelers Championship picks
Winner (12-1): It's very brave of me to pick one of the co-favorites to win this golf tournament, I know, but here we are. Thomas has been tremendous in the first two tournaments back, finishing in the top 20 from tee to green at both. His putter finally got hot on Sunday at the RBC Heritage, and he shot a 63. Hoping it stays hot here.
Top 10 (14-1): Bryson has a strong history here, and he's been as consistent as anyone over the last two weeks with a pair of top-10 finishes. He's probably going to try and drive a handful of the par 4s on this course (which he can) and take advantage of his newfound length. He's finished in the top 10 here in each of the last two seasons.
Sleeper (80-1): Quietly having the best year of his career so far with four top-10 finishes in just 14 events. He faded hard on Sunday at Harbour Town after a Saturday 63, but seven of his eight rounds since returning from the pandemic have been at 70 or better. Love him at this number.
So who will win the Travelers Championship? And which long shots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected leaderboard, all from the model that's nailed six golf majors and was all over Webb Simpson last week.