Will it be Another Title for Bubba Watson?
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
Is this weekend set up for set up for “Bubbamania” at The Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell?
That’s the question fans were asking themselves following Friday’s second round of the tournament. Watson, a past winner of the event, fired a solid three-under-par 67 Friday to back up his torrid 62 on Thursday to sit at 11-under-par and two shots ahead of a pack of three golfers at nine-under, with a dozen more players three and four shots back.
Watson said the course played a tad harder on Friday, a mild, sunny but a bit breezier day than Thursday. Said the long-hitting lefty, “It was windier and gustier and coming from a different direction, so it made the golf course tougher. It was hard to get the ball close to the hole. You could still make some birdies, but the lower scores were very difficult to keep repeating like yesterday. Obviously when you're playing good, you are thinking you can score. All these players are pretty good. You can still score even in tougher conditions.”
Three players, Brian Stuard, Carl Pettersson and Scott Brown, are two shots back of Watson starting play today. Pettersson, a Swede, shot a 66 Friday and could be Watson’s toughest change. He’s an underrated player who usually flies under the radar until he pops up and contends. Pettersson has won five times on the PGA Tour and once on the European Tour.
“I played nice,” said Pettersson, who attended college in the States. “I played really good yesterday and today started off good. In the middle of my round I was a little sloppy, but I made some nice saves and finished it off really well. The course played harder today than yesterday. It's a great golf course. It's fun to play. The front nine is a little old school, and the back nine is kind of new school. You can definitely make some birdies, but it's tricky too.”
Watson said his game plan for the weekend is simple. “I'm going to do exactly what I've been doing. I'm going to hit driver when I feel it's a driver. I've played different on the 17th hole this week because that hole is a tough one to play. Today I hit driver. It was a little bit into the breeze on the second shot. I just tried to play safe, make my par and get out of there. I’m playing the normal way I've played the last seven years I've been here.”
Watson is a man obviously at peace with himself. “Looking back five years to today, I'm ahead of where I wanted to be. You can never predict if you're ever going to win again. So, when I won here, three months later my dad passed away. If I wanted to do it over, I would want him still here. But you can never predict. I'm not going to sit here and brag and say I'm an awesome golfer and I should have won the Majors (two Masters) that I won. There are great players that have never won. There are great players that have never won a Major. For me to have two and now seven wins and a World Golf Championship after my first win here, I'm ahead of schedule. My whole dream in life was to play on the PGA Tour, and to actually have those wins and two of them a Major, I'm ahead of schedule more than I've ever dreamed.”
A dream finish for the fans on Sunday would have Watson and another local favorite, Vermont native Keegan Bradley, going at it head-to-head down the stretch. Bradley is among a group of players at seven-under-par after firing a gutsy 69 on Friday.
“I didn't play my best golf today, but I grinded it out and salvaged something,” said Bradley, who won the 2011 PGA Championship and two other events on Tour. “I hit a few really good putts at the end that didn't go in. But I'm happy. I'm in a good spot. I'm proud of myself for hanging in there. I hit the cart path twice on 17. I was in rough that was literally a foot deep and then grinded it out and made a 20-footer for par.”
On his chances to win the event, Bradley said, “This is probably the best position I've been in ever here. On this course anything can happen. Somebody could shoot 61 or 62 on any given day, so just being around the lead is important.”
The bad weather that was predicted for Friday didn’t materialize, although the forecast for today looks questionable, with rain expected to move in late in the afternoon and continuing until near the first tee times on Sunday. Thunderstorms are also a possibility later during the final round.