Travelers Championship preview: There's Moore to Ryan than meets the eye
Time has not been kind to some of those who headed last year’s Buick leaderboard, as it then was. Winner J J Henry has managed just one top 10 and two top 20s this season. Hunter Mahan is only now showing signs of life after a lone top 10 against 8 missed cuts, and Nathan Green has fared only marginally better. The ailing Shigeki Maruyama’s best result is 44th against eight missed cuts and three withdrawals, while Bubba Dickerson has only made the cut once in six outings.
One other to have punctuated a season of missed cuts with modest returns is Ryan Moore, which is possibly why he has attracted so little attention from pundits this week. It still surprises me, because I strongly rate him as a challenger. I say modest returns: he has notched two top 10s and three other top 20s this season.
I’m not fazed by his missing the cut at Oakmont - that’s almost a badge of honour! A fortnight before he stormed to second place in the Memorial. Five birdies in a row down the back nine on the Sunday left him just one short of a playoff with K J Choi. Ignoring the Open, five of his last eight rounds have been in the 60s.
His stats are just the sort of profile I like for this track - decent length off the tee, reasonably accurate, 15th in the short game department and top 10 for putting, which rather let him down last year. Moore says his wrist surgery problems are largely behind him and he just luuuuurves this course. Oh, and he was second here last year, although never really a threat to Henry.
He faces a surprisingly strong bunch for a post-Open event, though, even if Phil Mickelson has pulled out.
Vijay Singh: a rare visitor, but eyeing a perfect opportunity to match Tiger Woods’s three wins this season, albeit of a different calibre. Vijay played a minor role in last week’s Open, but was sharp with the putter. With his length off the tee and quality approach work he has to be a consideration.
David Toms: 18,3,5 in his last three outings, the fifth place coming at Oakmont last week. His problem is finding enough traction on Sundays to complete the job, compounded here by course rustiness - he hasn’t entered since 1999, when he missed the cut.
Justin Rose: I get told off every time I lament his near misses, but I might remind everyone that Adam Scott, the same age and just as flaky (and then some!) now has five wins to his name, including the Players Championship. So I’m sorry, but it really is about time Justin stopped fannying about and won a few like this one. The excuses are beginning to look threadbare. Trouble is his current stats are not at all flattering and he missed the cut here last year, albeit in his first crack at the course. Oh, and if I read another ‘Rose to bloom’ headline I’m going to chuck up.
Stewart Cink: Another who can proudly boast missing the cut at Oakmont. But Cink is a winner here with three top fives in his five outings before the Open. His recent stats show solid all-round healthiness and he had a little confidence booster with a charity event win at the start of the week, so I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t in the final struggle.
Padraig Harrington: I nearly fell off my chair when I heard a BBC commentator tout him as this year’s winner at Carnoustie. A missed cut at the US Open might be something to tell the grandchildren about, but the same outcome at the St Jude the week before is something best hushed up. He’s okay with the putter, and hits long enough off the tee, but the rest needs dramatic improvement for him to be a consideration.
Zach Johnson: another cut-misser last week who might fancy his chances of joining Tiger as a three-timer this season. He was third here three years ago and 21st last year. It’s a question of desire I guess.
Jerry Kelly: Missed the cut last year, but has notched a 4th and 7th in the last six years and is having a very solid season. Since coming fifth at the Masters he’s had four top 10s, including a handy 7th at Oakmont. Struggles a bit distance-wise, but the rest of his game is in rude health.
Kenny Perry: I’m not the only one to fancy this guy’s chances now he has shed the pounds and turned his game around. Only Singh is currently pulling in more money in the winner market I monitor. His third place at the Memorial raised many eyebrows and, while his stats say ‘yes’ except for putting, bis last two rounds there answer that caveat in spades. Seven birdies and an eagle on the Sunday alone shout “watch out".
J J Henry: I was going to write off his chances of retaining his title. It doesn’t happen often in this competition and as I say his form is pretty dull. But he is a local hero and he was Cink’s partner in that morale-boosting victory at the start of the week. He sounds pretty chipper anyway.
After that, though, it starts to tail off fairly swiftly. Mahan’s in some form and was second last year, but his stats don’t sing much. I suppose it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility the dreaded Woody Austin, one of those who shared fifth place last year, could snatch his second win in three weeks. I think he’s going to haunt me to my grave!
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