Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and fellow American Kramer Hickok each fired a two-under par 68 to share the lead after Saturday’s third round of the US PGA Travelers Championship.
Watson, seeking his fourth victory in the event, sank a 20-foot birdie at the 17th hole while Hickok, chasing his first tour title, closed with back-to-back bogeys to leave them deadlocked on 10-under par 200 after 54 holes at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.
“I expect to play good here,” Watson said. “Tomorrow when I tee off number 10, hopefully when I get there I have a chance to challenge for the win.”
Australians Jason Day and Cameron Smith and American Russell Henley were one adrift on 201 while South Korea’s Lee Kyoung-hoon and Americans Harris English and Brice Garnett were on 202.
Watson, who won green jackets at Augusta National in 2012 and 2014, missed a five-foot birdie putt at the 18th to seize the lead alone.
Watson’s 12 US PGA titles include three Travelers titles, including his first tour victory in 2010, another in 2015 and his most recent US PGA triumph in 2018.
“At my stage in my career, if I have a chance to win I’m going to go for it,” Watson said. “I’m not going to change anything. I’ve played this course good over the years.
“Hopefully tomorrow nobody goes really crazy.”
Hickok said tricky winds made his club choice the wrong one for his approach at 17 but on 18, “That was adrenaline, I’m not going to lie.”
“I thought I’d be more nervous than I am,” Hickok said. “Happy with where I’m at right now and 18 holes to go.”
Hickok said experience in winning on lesser tours would serve him well battling a major champion for a PGA title.
“I’ve been in contention before. I know the nerves are going to be there,” Hickok said. “It’s about embracing those nerves and learning to roll with the punches.”
Former world number one Day, now ranked 71st, is chasing his first US PGA victory since 2018 at Quail Hollow while battling a stiff back. The 2015 PGA Championship winner withdrew from the Memorial with a back injury earlier this month.
“The stiffness is not stopping me from hitting good shots,” Day said. “I just didn’t capitalize only the opportunities that I had. Hopefully they start falling in tomorrow.”
Watson rolled in a birdie putt from just inside 13 feet at the second and chipped in for birdie from 42 feet at the third, then dropped a wedge shot to five feet and birdied the seventh to reach 11-under.
But Watson missed a putt from just outside three feet to bogey the par-3 11th and fell into a share of the lead with Hickok and Henley.
Hickok rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt at the 14th for the lead alone at 11-under.
Watson came up short of the 14th green and left a 12-foot par putt short to stumble two adrift.
Hickok sank a six-foot birdie putt at 15 and was three ahead of the field after Henley made bogey at the par-3 16th.
Watson responded with a 14-foot birdie at the 15th.
Hickok saved par from 12 feet at the 16th but missed a 10-footer for par at 17 and another par putt from inside eight feet at 18 to fall back.
– Aces for Ancer, Stanley –
Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and American Kyle Stanley each aced the par-3 eighth hole from 180 yards with a 7-iron.
It was Ancer’s second US PGA ace, the other coming at the 16th in last year’s first round at River Highlands as the Mexican joined Glen Day as the only players with multiple holes-in-one at the Travelers.
©️ Agence France-Presse