CROMWELL, Conn. – Death, taxes and Bubba Watson atop the leaderboard at the Travelers Championship.
Watson is a three-time winner at TPC River Highlands (2010, '15, '18) and led the tournament that he's all too familiar with for a period on Friday. His 4-under 66 brought him to 8 under, where he is just a shot back of leader Jason Day as he eyes making it four career wins at the Travelers.
"When you come off the U.S. Open everything seems easier," Watson said. "Even though there is thick rough you feel like you can play out of it. You can still move the ball forward. ... As long as you stay out of the bunkers you can still move the ball forward and you feel like you have a chance to hit the green.
"That's really what I've felt over the years, is that I can play no matter where the ball ends up."
TPC River Highlands holds a special place in Watson's heart. He first played here in 2006 when it was the Buick Championship and missed the cut. In 2007, Travelers started sponsoring the tournament, and Watson said it changed the entire culture of the event.
"Then Travelers started coming around to everybody and saying, 'Hey, we're going change the range,'" Watson said. "The old range here, where you couldn't hit driver, not supposed to hit driver, so they said they were going to change that and start doing better for the players and caddies, trainers, physios. So there was a lot of things they were going to amp up and then golf was the last thing they were worried about."
Watson got his first Tour win at the 2010 Travelers, beating out Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff. Watson was tearful after the victory, dedicating the win to his father, who at the time was battling throat cancer. Watson's dad died that October.
"So and then my first win here with my dad watching," he said. "So many things that happened with my family at this place, this community. It just means so much to us, and so when I get here I just feel energized I feel like the people are behind me and they're pulling for me. I feel like I can move the ball forward from any lie, so that's always a positive trying to make a par or make a birdie."
That tournament, two years before he put on his first of two green jackets in Augusta, was when Watson solidified his spot in the sport forever, and it remains one of the accomplishments he's most proud of.
"It was funny, me and Phil [Mickelson], I was asking Phil some questions out there the last couple days and I told him one of my most exciting things in golf was getting my PGA Tour card," he said. "So that was one of the most exciting things in golf before I became vice-captain of the Ryder Cup (in 2016)."
"It was one of those things where never dreamed I could win that many times, and now at one place having a chance to get four times and tie one of the greats of all-time, yeah, be a thrill of a lifetime."
If Watson is able to move into the top spot after another 36 holes, he'll join three-time major winner Billy Casper for the most wins ever at TPC River Highlands.
"Yes, it would be with great company, but forget that," Watson said. "Just winning here or winning anywhere four times, or four times ever on Tour, just all those things all add up."