Bubba Watson, winless since capturing last year’s Masters crown, fired a three-under-par 67 on Friday to seize a two-stroke lead after round two of the USPGA Travelers Championship.
The US’ Watson, last year’s Travelers runner-up, stood on 10-under-par 130 after 36 holes at TPC River Highlands, with Ireland’s Padraig Harrington and the US’ Patrick Reed sharing second on 132, each having fired back-to-back 66s.
A week after the US Open’s dense rough and fast greens played havoc with golf’s finest players, this event allowed players room to show off their shotmaking and ball control.
“The golf course has generous fairways and you’re having short irons into a lot of the holes,” Watson said. “And it’s playable from the rough, unlike last week.”
Australia’s Nick O’Hern shared fourth on 133 with the US’ Hunter Mahan, Tommy Gainey and Tag Ridings, with Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge and the US’ Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and first-round leader Charley Hoffman on 134.
Watson, who started on the back nine, opened with his only bogey, but responded with bogeys at the 13th and 16th holes to grab the lead after Hoffman fell back with a double bogey at 13 and a bogey at the first, his 10th hole.
Watson, who won the Travelers title in 2010 for his first USPGA triumph, dropped a 14-foot birdie effort at the third hole and followed with a six-foot birdie putt at the sixth.
“I love this place. I’ve always played well here,” Watson said.
Watson is looking for a nice finish at the weekend after winning only once in his past six chances when leading after 36 holes, that coming in 2011 at New Orleans.
Harrington, who has not won since the 2008 PGA Championship, was 21st at the US Open last week and 10th in Memphis the week before, in a season where he has missed four cuts as he tries to regain the form that brought him three major titles.
The 41-year-old Irishman called Friday’s round “a fighting 66.”
“It did get windy out there,” Harrington said. “It was a challenge, but there were still opportunities to make birdies.”
Harrington did not like his chances of snapping his win drought despite his contending position.
“I didn’t hit it perfect in any shape or form on the first two days, so I’m not exactly brimming with confidence,” he said.
New US Open champion Justin Rose of England fired a 68 to stand on 135, but admitted the effort of winning his first major title last week at Merion might be getting to him.
“I haven’t hit the ball quite as solidly as I would have liked to,” Rose said. “I just think I need to maybe go and take care of my body a little bit: Some stretching, some physio, maybe a workout, just work out a few kinks. I feel a little bit stiff and tight in the back and the hips.”