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Looking for first win at Travelers, Casey leads by four after three rounds

Paul Casey would like to write a new chapter for himself at the Travelers Championship.

Casey, a 40-year-old golfer from England, played here at the Tournament Players Club-River Highlands for the first time in 2015. He erased a three-stroke lead with five holes remaining to force a playoff with Bubba Watson but lost on the second hole when Watson sank an eight-foot putt. A year ago, Casey was fifth.

Casey would like to leave Cromwell Sunday with a championship. He is in position to do so after shooting a PGA Tour personal best 62 on Saturday at the Travelers Championship to take a four-stroke lead at 16-under par.

Russell Henley (67 on Saturday) is four strokes back at 12 under with second round leader Brian Harman (69), Anirban Lahin (65) and J.B. Holmes (64) each at 11 under. Six shots behind is Watson, who shot 67 on Saturday.

For just the third time in his PGA career, Casey hit all 18 greens. “I didn’t know I had hit 18 greens in regulation before. I thought it was the first. Johnny, my caddie, and I always have a good plan around here,” Casey said. “It’s always a golf course I’ve felt comfortable on. And today was just one of those days where I didn’t really miss a shot, and if we did, we missed it in the right place.

“The lines on the putts were popping out for me, and the hole looked to reasonable size, bigger than normal, and just a real joy,” Casey said.

In March, Casey won his first tournament since 2009 at the Valspar Championships in Tampa, Florida with a one-stroke victory over Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods.

“The last couple of seasons not winning has been frustrating, but the reason for it was not putting well enough,” Casey said. “You know, I’ve made gains on the back end of last year, working on the putting.”

And Casey is thrilled to be in a position to win here in Cromwell.

“It’s a golf course which is open to all styles of play, having seen that with Bubba Watson (and) Corey Pavin (going to a playoff in 2010),” Casey said. “Jim Furyk shooting a (PGA record low) 58 (in 2016). Yeah, (there are) multiple ways of playing (the course). Good architecture, fantastic conditions, plus just a feeling of liking this event. You know this event where it sits in players’ kind of heart as their enjoyment of it. That’s just another factor of playing well.

“If you don’t like playing a tournament, you’re not going to play well because you don’t want to be there. And this is just a good vibe all the way around,” he said.

Fabian Gomez is at four under par for the tournament after shooting a 68 on Saturday.

Henley, 29, is hopeful to pick up his fourth victory on the PGA Tour and first since taking the Shell Houston Open in 2017.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course,” he said. “You’ve got to make the putts. I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what (Casey is) doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

Watson shot a 67 on Saturday and is six strokes behind Casey at 10 under par. In 2010, Watson erased a six-shot deficit to win in a playoff. He won his second Travelers Championship in 2015 in another playoff – beating Casey.

“You’ve got to just play golf and hopefully you have a good one,” he said. “If the weather’s better than this, a little bit better, then the guys are going to make birdies. As we’ve seen around this golf course, guys are going to make birdies.”

Watson is looking to become just the second golfer in tournament history to win this event three times. Billy Casper won this event four times (1963, 1965, 1968, 1973).

Jason Day (66 on Saturday), Ryan Blaum (66), Beau Hossler (67) and Bryson DeChambeau (68) are also at 10 under with Watson.

Zach Johnson, who shared the lead after one round and was just two shots behind at the midway point of the tournament, had a 71 Saturday and is eight shots behind at eight under.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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