Bubba Wat­son shoots 62, takes Trav­el­ers Cham­pi­onship lead

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY PAT EA­TON-ROBB

Bubba Wat­son made him­self right at home in the Trav­el­ers Cham­pi­onship — again.

Wat­son shot an 8-un­der 62 on Thurs­day to take a two-stroke lead in the event he won in 2010 for his first PGA Tour ti­tle. He has fin­ished in the top 20 five times in eight pre­vi­ous starts at TPC River High­lands.

It was the two-time Mas­ters cham­pion’s low­est round in the event.

“It’s spe­cial,” Wat­son said about the tour­na­ment. “It was my first win and it’s the same time that I an­nounced to the world that my dad was pass­ing with can­cer. So, spe­cial in dif­fer­ent ways.”

New Eng­land na­tive Kee­gan Bradley was tied for sec­ond with Jason Gore, Se­ung-Yul Noh, Brian Stu­ard and Harris English, who shot a 30 on the back nine. Eight play­ers shot 65, and 12 more opened at 66. Ninety-three play­ers were un­der par in the first round.

“Com­ing off a U.S. Open, this golf course seems like it’s get­table, and we all feel that way,” Wat­son said. “So the guys that played in the U.S. Open maybe feel bet­ter about their game when they get here.”

Wat­son, play­ing late in the day, had four birdies on his fi­nal five holes. The two-time Mas­ters cham­pion just missed an ea­gle on the par-4 18th hole, hit­ting a 139- yard sec­ond shot that bounced into the flag­stick and rolled 4 inches past the cup.

His only glitch dur­ing that stretch was bo­gey on the par-3 16th, where he over­shot the green, and chipped his sec­ond shot past the hole and into the fringe.

He is try­ing to be­come the fifth golfer to win this tour­na­ment since 2000 af­ter lead­ing or be­ing tied for the lead go­ing into the sec­ond round.

“I just kept grind­ing it out,” he said.” `’What­ever shot was called for, I tried to hit it and some­how to­day, I hit it good.”

Bradley, put up an early 64, shoot­ing a 31 on his front nine. The 29-year-old, who was born in Ver­mont, is play­ing his fifth Trav­el­ers Cham­pi­onship, which he con­sid­ers a home tour­na­ment. His best fin­ish has been 18th.

“I put a lot of pres­sure on my­self in ev­ery tour­na­ment, but this one es­pe­cially just be­cause I’ve got a lot of peo­ple here. I know a lot of the fans are root­ing for me. I can feel it.”

English, who did not play in the U.S. Open, had just 22 putts.

“You can hit a lot of good wedge shots to 8, 10, 12 feet,” he said. “If you don’t make them, it kind of hurts, it stops the mo­men­tum. But I feel like I made some of those and kept it go­ing.”

Ernie Els is mak­ing his first ap­pear­ance in Con­necti­cut since 2002 and was among those at 66. He said he nor­mally heads to Europe af­ter the U.S. Open to pre­pare for the Bri­tish Open, but de­cided to try to pick up a few more FedEx points this year.

“This is quite close to Europe,” he said. “It’s only 5 1/2 hours away.”

Ar­gentina’s An­dres Romero won a Rolex watch dur­ing his round of 69 when he aced the 177-yard par-3 16th hole. Romero said he grabbed his 7-iron and de­cided to go for the pin af­ter his cad­die trans­lated a sign about the holein-one prize next to the tee box.

“I got the shot off and when it headed to­ward the hole and dis­ap­peared, I couldn’t be­lieve it,” he said through a trans­la­tor.

It was the third hole-in-one of the Romero’s ca­reer, and he said now owns seven Rolex’s.

Martin Laird may have had the shot of the round when he holed out from 140 yards for an ea­gle on the par-4 17th hole, watch­ing as ball cleared the wa­ter and the pin be­fore rolling back into the cup.

As many as nine spots for the Bri­tish Open are avail­able this week.

The lead­ing five play­ers, not al­ready ex­empt, from the top 20 in the FedEx Cup will be part of the field at St. An­drews next month.

In ad­di­tion, the lead­ing four play­ers who fin­ish in the top 12 at TPC River High­lands also will get spots. The Trav­el­ers is the first of three PGA Tour events where top fin­ish­ers can get into St. An­drews. There are four spots avail­able at The Green­brier Clas­sic, and one at the John Deere Clas­sic.

AP

The gallery watches as Bubba Wat­son tees off on the sixth hole dur­ing the first round of the Trav­el­ers Cham­pi­onship golf tour­na­ment in Cromwell, Con­necti­cut on Thurs­day, June 25.

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