With his third round winding down, Jordan Spieth had bogeyed two consecutive holes at No. 13 and No. 14 at Saturday’s Travelers Championship at the TPC River Highlanders here in Cromwell.
But the 23-year-old youngster didn’t flinch. He had three birdies on the final four holes including a 20-foot birdie at the 18th hole to post a four-under 66 and take a one shot lead into the final day of competition on Sunday. Spieth, who is looking to be the first man since to lead the tournament from start to finish since 1982, is at 12-under for the tournament.
Spieth holds a one stroke lead over Boo Weekley, who shot a 65 Saturday. Daniel Berger, who had a three stroke lead after three rounds here at the Travelers a year ago, is third and two strokes off the pace.
A putt for birdie on 15 helped snap Spieth’s game back into focus. “It’s amazing what one shot can do (to get) you out of trouble,” Spieth said. “That shot was a big-time propeller for the last few holes and the shots that I hit. Stepping up to 16 a lot more confidently than I may have if I had made par or even a bogey.”
The last golfer to lead from start to finish here at the Travelers came in 1982 at the Wethersfield Country Club when Tim Norris won the tournament, then known as the Sammy Davis, Jr. Greater Hartford Open with a six-stroke win over Ray Floyd and Hubert Green. Gene Littler did it here at the Insurance City Open in 1959.
Spieth and Weekley will be the final pair on Sunday. He realizes that his lead could be gone even before he steps foot on the course.
“Guys can tear up this front nine, and you see that on the (score)board,” Spieth said. “It’s not the easiest course to hold the lead on. All of a sudden there is a group that is one back or even you may not be leading anymore. But you still have those holes to play. Stay focused on a goal is the most important thing. So that will be the goal tomorrow.”
But Spieth is feeling good. He had seven birdies in the third round and leads the tournament with 19 after three rounds. His 20-foot putt on 18 gave him a one stroke lead.
“That was really fun,” he said. “This is a rowdy crowd on a Saturday afternoon. It was a long day, a 5½ round.”
He described his approach to the putt on 18. “I’m looking to hit the putt at the right speed. If it goes in, great, if it doesn’t, so be it, tap it in,” Spieth said. “With a few feet to go it was going to have a chance and it curled right in the middle. That was a loud roar, and those are really fun to experience.”
Spieth is looking for his 10th career victory on the PGA Tour. With a win, he would join Tiger Woods as the only players in the modern era with 10 PGA Tour victories by the age of 24. Woods won 15 before he turned 24.
Weekley, 43, is looking for his first win since 2013. After making the turn at even par, Weekley had five birdies on the back nine including back-to-back birdies at 17 and 18 for a five-under-par 65 Saturday.
It’s been a while. I mean, I’ve been having some personal struggles back home and then finally I’m starting to get that little bit taken care of,” Weekley said. “It’s just kind of surreal to be back up here in front of y’all and talking about it. As much work as I’ve put into golf and as much as I’d love to win again and be a part of it, don’t matter which tournament, I just want to win. “
A year ago, Berger had a three stroke lead here after three rounds. But he shot a four-over 74 on Sunday to finish tied for fifth. Earlier this year, he trailed by three strokes but rallied to win the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Berger had a 66 on Saturday to leap into contention.
“Obviously, trying to run down Jordan’s going to be tough, but if I play well, I’ve got a chance,” Berger said.
Tour rookie C.T. Pan is fourth, one of three golfers who are four shots off the pace. He had the low round of the day on Saturday with a bogey-free 64.
NOTES – At one point, Charley Hoffman had the lead for a brief time on Saturday. He had an eagle on 13 along with consecutive birdies on 14 and 15. But then he stumbled with a double bogey on 16 and bogeys on the final two holes for a two-under 68. … New England’s Keegan Bradley posted six birdies for a 4-under 66 and tied for seventh place. The St. John’s University alum has never broken the top 10 in six starts at TPC River Highlands. … Paul Casey is one of three golfers who is tied for fourth place, four shots behind Spieth. In 2015, Casey lost to Bubba Watson in a playoff here in Cromwell. … Rory McIlroy has shot 67, 73 and 70 in his debut here at the Travelers.