CROMWELL, June 22 – The sun was shining and there were a few wispy clouds in the blue sky. Zach Sucher was halfway through the third round Saturday at the Travelers Championship and he had a five-shot lead.
Sucher had four birdies on the first nine holes of the third round, enabling him to build upon his two-stroke lead after two rounds at the Tournament Players Club at River Highlands.
In a few minutes, the lead had vanished and Sucher’s playing partner had grabbed the lead for good. Sucher had a bogey, double bogey and double bogey on the tenth, eleventh and twelfth hole.
Meanwhile, Chez Reavie had three consecutive birdies. Reavie had eight birdies in his final 11 holes to take a six-stroke lead after three rounds of the Travelers Championship.
With a 63, Reavie is 16 under after three rounds. Sucher and Keenan Bradley are second at 10 under with Jason Day and Roberto Diaz tied for fourth place at nine under par, seven strokes off the pace.
After rounds of 63 and 65 in the rain on Thursday and Friday, Sucher shot a 71 in the warm sunshine on Saturday. Bradley shot a 69 while Diaz surged with a 67.
“You know, Zack got some tough breaks. I was able to just keep plugging along and make a few putts,” said Reavie, who is looking for his first PGA Tour since 2008 when he won the RBC Canadian Open.
“I kind of felt that way a little bit on the front nine,” Reavie admitted. “(Sucher) came out hot and was making birdies early and I was just kind of making pars. I just tried to stay patient and tried not to press, stayed playing the game plan I came up with earlier in the week.
“And so when I start making putts I think he started feeling it a little bit and started playing a little bit more aggressively than he normally would have,” Reavie said.
Reavie felt for Sucher. “(Sucher) was playing great,” Reavie said. “The bogeys and doubles — he hit a bad tee shot on 10, but his tee shot on 11 wasn’t terrible. The wind just kind of blew it over there and then he was plugged in the bunker. Really tough break.
Then he hit lip of the bunker on the next hole, lip of the bunker on the next hole. He got some tough breaks. It was tough to watch because he didn’t really hit that bad of golf shots.”
Sucher agreed and wasn’t too down on what occurred on the back nine.
“Three straight holes in a row I hit shots that weren’t that far off all behind the lip,” he said. “Two of them plug and — yeah, rough. It was rough. That’s all you can say about it.”
Sucher isn’t rattled with his 71 nor his tough play on the back nine. “This back nine is that way. You can make tons — every hole is almost birdieable on that side. 10 is really hard. Other than that, you can birdie all of them,” he said.
“But, man, there is trouble everywhere. Biggest thing is get that driver in play and the course is pretty easy. The front nine hit my driver awesome; back nine I wasn’t as good with it and I paid for it.”
Defending champion Bubba Watson erased a six-stroke deficit last year to win the Travelers Championship for the third time. He will have to do better Sunday to win the tournament for a fourth time. Watson shot a 73 to fall to two-under, 14 shots off the pace.
Watson feels the pressure to do well but he is trying to see the big picture.
“Coming back here thinking about my dad, I want to do so good,” Watson said. “(I was) thinking about the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. I put so much pressure on myself at all these events, and then coming down the stretch me and (caddy) Teddy (Scott) are just talking. It’s just how blessed are we? Doesn’t matter. I could have made an eight on every single hole I’m still going home to beautiful kids, beautiful wife, bills are paid.
“That’s the thing. I got to look at that from a different perspective. And that’s really what I do it for, trying to teach my own self instead of anybody else. Just teach myself it’s just a game and just have fun with it,” Watson said.
Brooks Koepka came into the tournament ranked No. 1 in the world and finished a close second at last week’s U.S. Open as he tried to win that tournament for the third straight year. He shot four rounds in the 60s and still fell three strokes off the pace, losing to Gary Woodland.
After a third round 72, Koepka is at one under 209. He had a 71 in the first round before rebounding with a 66. Koepka isn’t hiding his struggles.
“Oh, it’s just not there. I’m dead I’m fried. I don’t know. My body is starting to ache, too. It’s a combo. It’s hard to focus. I don’t think I’m over the PGA (Championships at Pebble Beach in California),” Koepka said. “To exert all your energy there last week, (I am) just fried. I mean, I’ve caught myself yawning on the golf course. I don’t think I’ve ever yawned on a golf course before.
“I don’t know if it’s just the early tee time, what it is. I’m still going to the gym every day. I think today might be a day off. Everything is aching. I feel like an old man today,” he said.
Koepka said he didn’t think of skipping the Travelers Championship despite the cross country flight back to Connecticut.
“I already committed to this one, so stick with my commitments,” he said. “There is nothing you can do. I can’t judge how well I’m going to play the week before in a major, so it’s tough. When you’re planning your schedule you’re not thinking you’re going to compete in all three majors and still be fried from it. It’s fine. I don’t mind it.”