We are now taking a break to fondly remember Bubba Watson’s neon pink driver, which broke apart in mid-swing on Friday at the second tee of the Travelers Championship.
And if the three-time Travelers winner gets that lucky over the weekend, please think about the rest of the field in the TPC River Highlands.
Watson bounced back after snapping his driver to make a birdie in second place on his way to a second straight 66 that left him under at 8, one stroke behind 36-hole leaders Jason Day.
“It was a perfect tee shot right in the middle. I chopped it there and made the putt a birdie, ”Watson said ironically. “Ho-hum.”
Day shot 62 for the day’s low score and a chance of his first top-3 finish in over three years. The former world number one missed three straight cuts before finishing 44th in the PGA Championship, then retiring from Memorial with a back injury and unable to qualify for the US Open.
Day appeared to be wriggling with his back on the court on Friday, but still had eight birdies in a bogey-free round.
“Sometimes when you have an injury or stiffness, sometimes even if you are sick you can come out and play good golf,” he said. “I was lucky not to really stand in my way today.”
Round one co-leader Kramer Hickok was 10 under before flying the par-3 green on the 16th hole and then making three 18 foot puttes for a double bogey; he finished on a 69 to tie Watson for second.
Justin Rose and Kevin Kisner each shot 63 and were among seven players who were in fourth place with minus 7. Satoshi Kodaira, who was down 7 after the first round, shot a 2-over 72 in the second.
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A total of 79 players made the cut at minus 2 on the 6,841 yard, par 70 course outside Hartford. Only under the number: defending champion Dustin Johnson and the two-time winner Phil Mickelson.
Watson, who won the 2010, ’15 and ’18 tournament, started in 10th place on Friday morning and was 1 under for the day when he arrived at the second hole, par 4, 350 yards.
Then his driver fell apart – but he didn’t.
After touching the ball, Watson’s club head fell off the shaft and landed just outside the gallery, leaving him with a broken shaft in his hands.
“Fortunately … it didn’t reach the crowd, so no one got hurt,” he said. “Nobody in my group knew where the ball was. Once you hit, focus on where the driver’s head is going.”
Despite a fairly pronounced fade, the ball landed in the fairway about 50 yards from the pin. Watson hit 11 feet and punched the putt.
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Watson said it could have been the travel that from hot to cold or overuse resulted in the club breaking right above the hosel where the shaft connects to the head. His caddy, Ted Scott, tried to pry the rest of the shaft out so the head could be reused; Watson had a backup driver in his trunk for such an emergency.
Rule 4.1 allows Watson to replace the club. After hitting a 3-wood on the 437-yard, par-4 third, he had his support in time for the 479-yard, par-4, fourth.
“It’s one of those things that has happened before and I always have a backup. They brought me the backup two holes later and I played with it for the rest of the day, “he said.” I knew there were only a few drivers left so it really wasn’t a big deal. “
Watson added birdies on the fifth and sixth holes before taking a 50-foot birdie putt on # 7 to take the lead at 9 Under. He returned that shot with a missed 3-footer on the last hole.
“I tried to get a few extra when I could,” he said. “Just one of those things that went wrong.”
Bryson DeChambeau shot 66 on Friday and was minus 5, a shot better than social media arch-nemesis Brooks Koeplka, who got a 67 in the second round. Koepka’s brother Chase, a regular minor league tour participant who qualified for the tournament last year but retired due to COVID-19 logs, shot 73 and missed the cut at 3 over.
Nelly Korda realized that low scores were available at the Atlanta Athletic Club on Friday. For a long time she couldn’t find her in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
And then the birdies came in bushels, one at a time, six times in a row to finish her second round, which put her in the record book with a 9-under 63, giving her a head start on Lizette Salas before the weekend.
“Golf is easy on days like this,” said Korda. “But it’s not always like that.”
It seems like that lately. Korda shot 62 in the third round last week on her way to victory at the Meijer LPGA Classic. The 22-year-old American is the first multiple winner of the LPGA Tour this year.
This round might have been even better.
On her last six holes on the first nine, Korda made birdie on both par 3s, guarded by the water at the front. She had eagle putts on consecutive holes – one on the sixth par-4 with the tee shifted to 229 yards – and narrowly missed both.
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At the hardest hole on the course, she had to grapple with a tree root in front of her ball to get to the green, then made a 45-foot birdie putt. Korda finished her lap with an eight-foot pitching wedge.
“I guess I just passed out, a bit like last week,” said Korda.
She was at 11-under 133, one stroke ahead of Salas, who usually hit all 18 greens, shot another 67 and still did not have to make a bogey through 36 holes.
Korda set the championship record that was last set a year ago when Sei Young Kim finished with a 63 to victory in Aronimink. She had the third round of 63 in a major at the Atlanta Athletic Club, followed by Steve Stricker in 2011 and Mark O’Meara in 2001 at the PGA Championship.
And Korda still has work to do if she wants to win her first major.
With her consistent diet of fairways and greens, Salas couldn’t come close to making a mistake. That was her plan, and the 31-year-old American executed it brilliantly.
“I am definitely satisfied,” said Salas. “We came in with a few goals, and we’re getting there. Overall, I think my attitude was pretty solid. It’s a major. It’s supposed to be tough. It’s supposed to test you in a number of different ways, and I think I can handle it just fine. And successive 67s, I won’t complain. “
Celine Boutier of France drove the sixth green on 8 feet for an eagle on her way to a 64, which left her four strokes at 7-under 137 with Cydney Clanton (67) and Alena Sharp (68).
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Still lurking was the seven-time major winner Inbee Park, who got back into shape at the Olympics, pocketed a chip for Eagle and shot 68. She was six behind.
Korda, with five wins on the LPGA Tour, has never won in a row and spoke about how stressful it was earlier in the year after winning at Lake Nona.
The crowd on the Highlands course helped and she caused a lot of cheers with her 10 birdies following her lone bogey in 10th place at the start of her lap.
“I’ve definitely seen some low ones,” said Korda of the morning results. “On my first nine, I thought, ‘Where do everyone do birdies?'”
She found them, including two accessible par 5s and the mobile par 4.
Korda’s big finish started with a 7 iron at 20 feet. She followed that we put a 7-stick on the green at par-5 fifth – her caddy told her not to hit the pin, but she couldn’t resist – and then the 7-stick to the green at an attainable sixth and her best stroke of the day, a 5-iron at 5 feet on the seventh par-3.
The surprise was the big putt in 8th place and the final birdie was the ideal way to end such a round.
Korda is not someone who lingers on the previous week, even if it resulted in a trophy.
“If you win, it’s hard,” she said. “I’ve never won towards the end of my track, I’ve always won something like I did at the beginning. It’s not even that clear that I won. In a way, you don’t even do it, I can enjoy it because I won and then: ‘Hey, it’s a great championship, how do you get ready.’
“These are two completely different golf courses and two different strategies. I just play good golf and I hope I can continue. “
Maria Fassi lost two strokes from a slow play penalty and turned a birdie into a bogey on the turn on the 18th. The former NCAA champion from Mexico had a 77 and missed the cut by one shot.
Steve Stricker extended his lead to five strokes in the Senior Players Championship after opening a 7-under 63 with a 68 in the breezy Firestone in Akron, Ohio.
The 54-year-old US Ryder Cup captain had a total of 9 under 131 on the difficult South Course and played without a bogey in the first two rounds.
The tournament is the third of the five majors on the PGA Tour Champions schedule. Stricker has six senior wins – two of them major championships – after winning the PGA Tour 12 times.
Paul Broadhurst finished second with 4 under after a 69. The 55-year-old Englishman has five championship wins – two of them majors – after winning six times on the European Tour.
Marco Dawson (69) and Ken Duke (71) were 2 under.
Defending champion Jerry Kelly (70) was 1 under with Jim Furyk (68), Ernie Els (67), Jose María Olazabal (69), Paul Goydos (69) and Kevin Sutherland (69). Kelly celebrates a win at the American Family Insurance Championship in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin two weeks ago.
Niall Kearney took the lead with two strokes after the second round of the BMW International Open in Munich.
Kearney shot a 4 under par 68 to end the day at 11 as he pursued his first European Tour title.
Viktor Hovland, Bernd Wiesberger, Masahiro Kawamura, Adrien Saddier and Jorge Campill share second place with 9 Under, US Open runner-up Louis Oosthuizen and two-time major winner Martin Kaymer form a group two strokes back.
Sam Horsfield and Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez were the leaders when the first round ended on Friday morning after play was suspended on Thursday due to the risk of lightning. Garcia Rodriguez finished the second round 7 under, while Horsfield dropped to 3 under for the tournament after shooting a 5 over 77.