Watson leads PGA Travelers
Cromwell - 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 US PGA Travelers Championship.
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 American 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," said Watson, an American. "And it's playable from the rough, unlike last week."
Australia's Nick O'Hern shared fourth on 133 with Americans Hunter Mahan, Tommy Gainey and Tag Ridings with Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge and Americans 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 US PGA 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. "The tee shots set up well for me. I like the way they look. There's nothing that's too scary for me, so somehow it's treated me nicely."
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."
Leading scores on Friday after the second round of the $6.1 million US PGA Travelers Championship (par-70, USA unless noted):
130 - Bubba Watson 63-67
132 - Patrick Reed 66-66, Padraig Harrington (IRL) 66-66
133 - Tag Ridings 68-65, Nick O'Hern (AUS) 67-66, Tommy Gainey 66-67, Hunter Mahan 62-71
134 - Charley Hoffman 61-73, Keegan Bradley 69-65, Webb Simpson 65-69, Brendon de Jonge (ZIM) 67-67
- Ricky Barnes 67-68, Graham DeLaet (CAN) 65-70, William McGirt 67-68,
J.J. Henry 68-67, Justin Rose (ENG) 67-68, Zach Johnson 65-70, Chris
Stroud 66-69, John Rollins 67-68, John Huh 66-69, Jerry Kelly 67-68,
Camilo Villegas (COL) 65-70, Kevin Stadler 65-70
136 - Stuart
Appleby (AUS) 69-67, Marc Leishman (AUS) 66-70, Jim Herman 69-67, George
McNeill 69-67, Brendan Steele 68-68, John Merrick 65-71, Noh Seung-Yul
(KOR) 68-68, Russell Knox (IRL) 69-67