CROMWELL, June 22 – Zach Johnson had a heck of an afternoon at the Travelers Championship at the TPC River Highlands. He made an amazing recovery at the 17th hole after hitting his tee shot into the water to salvage par and on the third hole, his birdie putt stopped on the lip of the cup before falling in after 30 seconds – too late to get a birdie.
Still, Johnson’s 68 in the second round lifted him into a three-way tie for second place at the Travelers Championship at nine under par.
Brian Harman had seven birdies and a four-under 66 on Friday to take the lead at 10 under. Russell Henley and Matt Jones are also tied at nine under.
Bryson DeChambeau, a former NCAA champion (2015), Paul Casey and Beau Hossler were at eight under. Former two-time Travelers champion Bubba Watson, who had the best second round score (63), Rory McIlory and Lance Griffin are at 7 under.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth, who shared or held the lead for the last five rounds at the Travelers, had a 73 to fall off the lead with a two-round total of four under – six shots off the pace.
“I just think it’s really a risk-reward golf course,” Harman said. “You can take on as much as you want, but you run the risk — because it’s really easy to make bogeys here. I made three of them today getting out of position. So I enjoy that aspect of it a lot.”
Johnson, who had a share of the lead after one round with a 63, got into early trouble on the 17th hole when he put his tee shot in the water. But he took advantage of the lateral hazard rule and chose to put his ball on the other side on the other side of the pond near the 16th green. It gave Johnson a shot of about 240 yards to the hole.
His shot landed a few feet from the hole. His seven-foot putt gave him par – his biggest shot of the day.
“I used the rule to my advantage and went lateral, which was towards 16 tee box. There was kind of a brown area there that was within two club lengths, so I dropped it there, and I thought, you know what? If I get a decent lie I can maybe give it a whirl because there’s really not a whole lot there between me and the hole, and maybe I can get it around the green and make a 5,” Johnson said.
“Just opened up a 4-hybrid, and it started over in the grandstands and drew in there. Obviously, where it landed is about the only place it could land (on the 17th green) to get that close,” Johnson said. “At that point you have to make that putt. I mean, you can’t not hit that shot and make that putt. It felt good. It felt good to get away with that 4. That’s as good of an up-and-down as I’ve witnessed or performed.”
Johnson played the back nine first. On the third hole, he again ran into a unique situation. He had an 18-foot attempt for birdie and it nearly went into the hole. It stopped on the lip.
He walked up to the ball and counted off 10 seconds. He was about to tap the ball into the hole but saw it move and he stopped as the ball fell into the hole.
But it had taken too long to fall in and Johnson got a par on the hole instead of a birdie.
“It looked like it was going to fall in because it was coming in the back door there,” Johnson said. “Once you get to the ball, once you have ample time to get to the ball, you have 10 seconds. Regardless if that ball — which I found out, if that ball is moving in those ten seconds, it’s still deemed to be at rest.
Because the ball did come to rest, as we can see, the label’s not moving and I’m counting. You can see me counting. That’s ten seconds. Now there is a line there, so I don’t want to step on it, but now the ball is rolling, and I’m like, I can’t touch it, it’s moving. As I get closer to it, it’s moving even more. So I don’t want to touch a moving ball. However, even if I would have, it wouldn’t have mattered. It’s a 4. That’s all I know is it’s a 4.”
Watson shot a 70 on Thursday but shot a 63 on Friday morning. The difference was his mental focus, he said.
“I was just focused on the wrong things yesterday. I had some mental mistakes yesterday, and then I didn’t make some putts,” Watson said. “Today I started out hotter. I made a good shot on 11, our second hole, made the putt, making the eagle, making a solid par putt on 12, and then that freed me up a little bit. Gave me some confidence going into the next hole where I made the eagle. When you make putts, you can score on any golf course.”
He was also complimentary of the fans. There was a sizable crowd to see him play Friday morning.
“It was crazy today at 9:30 in the morning the crowd around,” Watson said. “It was 9:30 in the morning you had that big a crowd, Hartford, Travelers, they put on such a great tournament. When the fans come out like that, the volunteers, gosh, it just gives you energy. Then around a golf course that you’ve won at, you have some more confidence.”
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West Hartford’s Adam D’Amario is the assistant professional at Indian Hill Country Club in Newington. He had a tough two days at the Travelers Championship.
He shot a five-over-par 75 on day one and a nine-over-par 79 on day two and missed the cut. He had a birdie and six bogeys on Thursday but struggled Friday with seven bogeys and a double bogey.
D’Amario qualified by taking third at the Connecticut Section PGA Stroke Play championships in May, winning the spot in Cromwell in a playoff.