Following a third-round 70, Bubba Watson reflects on his play in the Travelers Championship with Mark Carnevale from PGA TOUR Radio on PGATOUR.COM and SiriusXM.
CROMWELL, Conn. -- Three years ago, Bubba Watson broke down in tears following his first career victory at the Travelers Championship.
Saturday hurt for a different reason.
Watson bogeyed three of his final six holes to shoot 70 and fall into a share of the lead with Charley Hoffman and Graham DeLaet with one round to go at TPC River Highlands.
The good news for Watson is he still has 18 holes to make up for it.
“At the end of the day I still have a chance on Sunday and that's what we're always looking for,” he said.
The odds just could have been a lot better going into Sunday.
Watson led by as many as three midway through his round, making three birdies and no bogeys on the front nine.
Then Watson’s game started to wander, much the way his mind does when he gets bored.
Watson pushed his tee shot into a fairway bunker on 13, could only advance it 30 yards, missed the green on his next shot and eventually bogeyed the par 4.
Two holes later on the drivable 15th, Watson’s tee shot came up just short of the green. He tried putting it up to the hole only to watch his ball roll back off the green. He would go on to miss a 7-footer for par.
The slide was completed on 17 when he went fairway bunker, to greenside bunker, and left his third shot short of the putting surface.
Bogey. Lead evaporated.
But TPC River Highlands has been good to Watson. Last year, for example, he shot a pair of 65s on the weekend to finish in a tie for second.
“The golf course just sets up so well for me,” he said. “A lot of cut shots for me which I love to do off the tee. And I've got a lot of wedges because of the way I hit the ball.”
Given the course’s pristine conditions, he might need another 65 if he wants to win here for the second time and pick up his first TOUR victory since winning the Masters last April.
There are 10 players within three shots of Watson, Hoffman and DeLaet -- including Hunter Mahan and U.S. Open champion Justin Rose.
Mahan has had even more success here than Watson, winning in 2007 and finishing in the top 5 four other times.
Earlier this week, he nearly matched his career-low with a 62 on Thursday -- the same score he shot in the opening round when he won here six years ago.
Like Watson, though, he couldn’t get anything going Saturday, shooting even par.
For Hoffman, Sunday will offer him a chance for redemption as well.
Last year, he led by as many as three in the final round before finishing double bogey-bogey after hitting into the water on the 17th hole and finding the rough and a greenside bunker on 18.
“I think about it, but obviously I think about a lot of other things,” said Hoffman, who along the way this week has also had to deal with a broken tooth. “I like being in the position to win, so it's good to have those things go through your mind, but you wash it out and just focus on that spot where you want to hit it and go from there.”
It’s a position Rose is familiar with following his victory last week at Merion.
Now he’ll try to become the first player since Ernie Els in 1997 to win the U.S. Open and follow it with another victory the following week. Els did it at Congressional then won the Buick Classic at Westchester Country Club a week later.
“The more you're in contention, the easier winning is,” Rose said. “I always felt the key to me winning a major was to win more regularly, so I kind of skipped that and went straight in and won a major.
“It's important for me to contend and to win more regularly on TOUR, and that's my goal every week really.”
It hasn’t been easy this week.
Rose’s wild week began with a media blitz through New York City and continued with the announcement that he was signing with a new agent.
Once inside the ropes, however, Rose was able to get back to what earned him his first career major.
Slowly, he has chipped away at the lead, shooting 67 and a pair of 68s over the first three days here.
“I like to win tournaments by playing golf, having my head down, playing shot for shot,” Rose said. “I've got my own way of doing things, and just really trusting that. I've got better at that over the years, and I felt like even when I don't win tournaments, I feel like I finish strong on Sundays.”
Judging by scores this week, the winner here will need to do the same.