Players Try to Close Tigers Open Lead
Still, even with the temperature not yet exceeding 60 degrees, its a far better situation than that of Friday.
Rain pelted players throughout their second rounds, never relenting, and forcing many to wonder why the siren never sounded to halt play.
'We would have stopped in most tournaments,' commented Davis Love III, who shot 1-over 71 to finish at 2-over-par. 'They could have stopped and nobody would have complained, let's put it that way.'
Fairways were flooded, squeegees were brought in to clear putting lines, mud encased Footjoys. It was a nasty scene, but one that officials felt the players could handle.
If the golf course is playable, and ladies and gentlemen, by that, we mean if the greens are playable, then we can play, said USGA Director of Rules and Competition Tom Meeks.
With rain a possibility both Saturday and Sunday, Meeks said he did everything Friday to stay on schedule. Many in the field of 155 agreed with Loves assessment that at most tour stops play would have been stopped. But Sergio Garcia took it a bit further.
If Tiger Woods had been out there, I think it would have been called,' Garcia accused.
Responded Meeks: I can assure you thats not true.
Woods teed off Friday morning, and under the same rain as Garcia shot 2-under-par 68 on the Black Course. He was the only player from the early groups to post an under-par score, and one of only four to shoot in the 60s for the day ' the other three sub-par scores came in the afternoon, when Sergio shot 74.
Thanks to his remarkable round ' one that left many in the field in awe ' Tiger takes a three-shot lead, at 5-under 135, into the weekend at Bethpage State Park. Irelands Padraig Harrington is the only other player in red numbers, having matched Woods 68 in the afternoon.
Garcia, meanwhile, is seven back, at 2-over. He experienced a bitter day all around Friday. Never looking comfortable ' he re-gripped his club nearly 30 times on his second shot of the round ' the 22-year-old Spaniard slammed his irons, tossed his putter and fought with fans.
The vocal, blue-collar New York crowd jeered Garcia on his re-gripping tick. It angered him so much that cameras caught him flipping an obscene gesture ' the middle finger ' to the count-happy crowd.
'The people have to realize that we're trying as hard as we can out there, and sometimes they make some stupid comments. There was the finger,' said Garcia. 'You can't control them, unfortunately, and there's going to be people like that everywhere in the whole world; if not, the world would be too perfect.'
Perfect may describe how players are going to have to perform to catch Woods. His victory gauge is approaching the red zone, reminding many of his 15-shot victory in the 2000 Open at Pebble Beach.
He may win by 20 this time, quipped Jesper Parnevik.
Friday, he wasnt accurate, but he was determined. He missed five fairways and six greens, but saved par from everywhere imaginable. And, for the second straight day, he concluded his round with a 20-foot birdie.
Tigers third round officially gets underway at 2:50 PM ET, when he will tee off alongside Harrington.
Many inside and outside the ropes have already crowned Woods Open King ' but not the Irishman.
Im really not interested in what hes going to do. Im interested in what Im going to do, he said. Im not going to intimidate him on the tee box (Saturday), thats for sure.
Harrington, a two-time European Ryder Cupper, has three career top-5 finishes in major championships. He tied for fifth in the 1997 British Open; tied for fifth in the 2000 U.S. Open (won by Woods); and tied for fifth in this years Masters Tournament (also won by Woods).
This will be the second time Harrington and Woods have played in the same twosome in a major. They first did so in the final round of last years Open ' when neither was in contention.
There can be a distraction factor. But Ive seen it before, said the three-time European Tour winner. There shouldnt be too much I wont expect (Saturday), but, obviously, that doesnt mean its easy to handle.
But if I play well with him, Ill play with him for two days.
Full-field scores from the 102nd U.S. Open
Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey
CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.
This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.
Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.
Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.
“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”
Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.
“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”
Day (66) only star to shine Saturday at Travelers
CROMWELL, Conn. – With an early rain softening an already vulnerable course, there were plenty of birdies to be had during the third round of the Travelers Championship. They were few and far between, however, for some of the biggest names in the field.
On the same TPC River Highlands layout where Paul Casey took control of the tournament with an 8-under 62, the decorated quartet of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka combined to shoot 1 under with no single score better than a 1-under 69.
Spieth’s dim hopes of back-to-back titles were effectively ended with a 1-over 71, while McIlroy’s second straight 69 dropped him from three shots off the lead to outside the top 10.
Thomas (70) and Koepka (69) are now 11 and 12 shots back, respectively.
Among the top-ranked contenders, the only player to make a modicum of a move was Jason Day, who shot a 4-under 66 and heads into the final round in a tie for sixth, six shots behind Casey. The Aussie made four birdies over his first nine holes, but he stalled out on the more gettable inward half.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing right now. I played well today from tee to green,” Day said. “Tomorrow it all depends on how Paul plays.”
Day has won twice already this season, but facing a significant deficit against a seasoned veteran he realizes that a quick start will be necessary to retain any hopes for a third title.
“This course can yield some birdies, which is quite nice,” Day said. “Get through tomorrow in a couple under on the front side, and then try to let things go a little bit on the back side if you can.”
Monkey off his back, Casey freed up to win again
CROMWELL, Conn. – Paul Casey is flushing his irons, rolling in putts and no longer fielding questions about a lengthy victory drought. For the remaining players looking to chase him down at the Travelers Championship, it adds up to a terrifying combination.
The Englishman felt right at home on a gray and dreary afternoon at TPC River Highlands, vaulting to the top of the leaderboard with an 8-under 62. It was the lowest round of the week, two shots better than the next best effort Saturday, and it turned a two-shot deficit into a four-shot lead heading into the final round.
After enduring an afternoon logjam, with as many as five players sharing the lead at one point, the tournament is now Casey’s to lose – and he’s not shying away from the burden.
“You’d always rather have a lead,” Casey said. “When you’re behind, there is no room for error. No, I’m excited. I’ve got confidence in my game. I’ve got confidence with the man standing next to me (caddie John McLaren), confidence in the gameplan of how to get around this golf course.”
That approach is undoubtedly aided by the magic act Casey pulled off in March at the Valspar Championship. Teeing off well before the tournament leaders, he shot a final-round 65 and watched as the likes of Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed were unable to match his number.
Without having to field a single question about the weight of the burden he shouldered, about ending a PGA Tour victory drought that extended back to the 2009 Houston Open, Casey launched the monkey off his back and into the trees lining the 18th fairway at Innisbrook.
While Casey has won 13 times on the European Tour, including five times from 2009-14, his dry spell on this side of the Atlantic had become a point of discussion and one that wore on the affable veteran. But one sublime round in Tampa rendered it moot, and it will also grant him an extra sense of calm heading into the final round outside Hartford where only Russell Henley will start the day within five shots of his total.
“If I hadn’t won in a while, then yeah, there would be more pressure. I sit here right now with no nerves,” Casey said. “I’m sure there will be tomorrow, but no nerves now. I’m very happy with what I’ve done. In years past maybe that wouldn’t have been the case because there hadn’t been enough wins.”
Granted, this is an event that often doesn’t follow the script. Birdies will be there for the taking on a course softened by light rains, and low scores shouldn’t be hard to find. This is, after all, where Jim Furyk shot a 58 two years ago and where Kevin Streelman ended his comeback victory in 2014 with a run of seven straight birdies.
Trailing by six, Bubba Watson floated the notion of needing a 60 to catch Casey without any hint that the score is out of reach. Jason Day, who like Watson trails by six at 10 under, quickly sniffed out Casey’s long-term track record like a shark seizing on a droplet of blood.
“Tomorrow it all depends on how Paul plays,” Day said. “I know that he in the past hasn’t quite got over the line with some of the wins that he possibly could have won, and that’s kind of a positive in my mind knowing that.”
But the look of calm confidence that emanates from Casey is that of a man who no longer has to answer questions about when The Win will come. His next victory will be just that, the next one. Another trophy to add to the decorated credentials of a player who has re-established himself in the game’s upper echelon over the past three years.
He’s back on a course he has thrived on from the very first time he set foot on the property, losing in a playoff to Watson in 2015 in his tournament debut. He has returned each year since, finishing T-17 and T-5.
His final-round 71 in 2016, carded the same day Furyk shot his 58, is proving more and more to be an aberration since each of his other 14 competitive rounds in Cromwell have ended up in the 60s. That includes three straight this week, capped by Saturday’s effort where he hit every green in regulation and tied his career low score on Tour.
Yes, the tournament is Casey’s to lose. But liberated by a recent win and playing some of his best golf at one of his favorite venues, there’s little reason to expect him to do anything but lift the trophy he barely missed out on three years ago.
“If I go out there tomorrow and I hit it the way I normally hit it, and I putt it well,” Casey said, “then I’m fairly confident.”
Couples one behind Toledo; Sticker struggles in Wisc.
MADISON, Wis. – Esteban Toledo birdied four of the last six holes for a 6-under 66 and the second-round lead Saturday in the American Family Insurance Championship.
Five strokes behind tournament host Steve Stricker after an opening 69 in rain Friday at University Ridge, Toledo had six birdies in a bogey-free round to reach 9-under 135. The 55-year-old Mexican player won the last of his four PGA Tour Champions titles in 2016.
Defending champion Fred Couples (67), David Toms (66), Kent Jones (67) and Billy Mayfair (68) were a stroke back.
''I'm surprised that someone isn't 11 or 12 under, but the greens picked up a lot of pace today,'' Couples said. ''I think maybe the scoring was a little easier yesterday because we got to clean the ball in the fairways, but it's not easy out there.''
Bernhard Langer (69) was 8 under with Madison player Jerry Kelly (69), Scott McCarron (67), Mark Calcavecchia (68), Paul Goydos (68), Joey Sindelar (68), Glen Day (69) and Brad Bryant (72).
''The conditions haven't been that easy,'' Kelly said. ''The pins are in some spots where you can't spin it and you have to hit them firm out of these kind of soft fairways, otherwise you could chunk it. It's not that easy even though the course is gettable. There's just a few things going on out there to keep the scoring from going too low like it normally does.''
Stricker followed his opening 64 with a 74, ending his Champions under-par streak at 30 rounds - the fourth-longest streak in tour history.
''It just was one of those days where I didn't have a lot of energy,'' Stricker said. ''Nothing - hit very few good shots, really. The couple that I did hit well, I was in bad spots, and a couple bad shots even got worse.''
He had three bogeys and a birdie - on the final hole.
''That was a big birdie in my mind,'' Stricker said. ''It kept me a little bit closer. No one ran away with this thing today and three shots back, a lot of guys in between me and the lead. It was a good putt to make and finally get a birdie. That was my only one today.''
Stricker won in Arizona and Mississippi in consecutive starts in May for his first senior victories. The 12-time PGA Tour winner played the big tour the last two weeks, tying for 18th in Memphis and tying for 20th in the U.S. Open.
John Daly matched Stricker at 6 under with a 70.