By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
NORTON, Mass. – Johnson Wagner planned to shower and then head for the airport to catch a 5 o'clock flight back to Charlotte.
He’d done everything he could. Of course, Wagner could have made it a lot easier if he'd been able to coax that 6-footer for eagle into the hole.
But he missed, so Wagner was projected 69th when he finished off that round of 69 and moved into a tie for 27th. While he talked with reporters, though, he moved up two spots -- which only served to emphasize the volatility of the rankings.
"I'm going to get out of here and watch it on my phone all
afternoon, sweat it out," Wagner said. "It's like a Friday cut,
sweating out a Friday cut.
"I mean, it's tough out there. It's just the last hole is playing easy. But hey, I'd rather shoot 2 under and be in 67th than projected 90th right now. I gave myself that chance. Would have been nice to make that eagle and move up to 50th or something.
"But that’s what next week's for, hopefully."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Johnson Wagner has plenty of fans here in the spectacular and scenic West Virginia mountains. After all, he went to school at nearby Virginia Tech.
“As the crow flies it’s about 50 miles away, but it takes about an hour-and-a-half.” Wagner said on Wednesday, thinking about the times he used to drive up from Blacksburg, Va., with his college buddies to play at the resort.
And Wagner, who finished one spot shy of fully exempt status for the 2011 season, might have had to rely on those Hokie connections in order to play in The Greenbrier Classic this year. Then he won his second PGA TOUR event earlier this year at the Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya-Cancun, and everything changed.
Since that playoff victory, Wagner has two top-20 finishes. His putter hasn’t been cooperative over the last three weeks, though – he ranks 74th in Strokes Gained: Putting – so Wagner decided to make a change on Tuesday.
The Charlotte, N.C., resident went from a traditional heel-toe weighted putter to a mallet head. “I wanted something different and it's definitely different,” Wagner said.
The putter that was benched had been Wagner’s standby for the last nine years – and had been instrumental in both his PGA TOUR wins, as well as the two on the Nationwide Tour. But a propensity to miss short putts of late was the reason Wagner decided to make the change.
“We'll see how it goes on the course today,” Wagner said. “It was great on the putting green yesterday. I putted for a couple of hours, so it feels good.”
Wagner ended up shooting a 66 in the pro-am, taking 29 putts, so the new flat stick apparently passed muster. He feels like his game is “good, it’s real good” so he’s looking forward to the getting under way at 12:50 p.m. on Thursday.
Wagner said he has a “good vibe” on The Old White TPC. He likes the restoration – although the man who ranks 179th in driving distance on TOUR joked that could have done without the added length.
“But, no, it’s good,” Wagner said with a smile. “I think it will be different because the greens are firmer and the fairways are softer. So it's going to play long and soft except for the greens that are going to play hard.
“I don't think we'll see a 59 this year.”
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
CROMWELL, Conn. -- Add Fredrik Jacobson’s name to the list of contenders. The Swede just moved to 12 under with a birdie on the seventh hole, giving him three birdies through his first seven holes.
Jacobson, who has yet to miss a fairway and has hit five of seven greens in regulation so far, was also in contention (well, for second anyway) last week at the U.S. Open, where he carded a third-round 66 before fading with a 73 to tie for 14th.
Still, the Swede has had some close calls -- most notably a runner-up at the 2008 AT&T National. He also tied for ninth at Bay Hill earlier this year.
While the scoring average remains low for the third round -- still more than two strokes under par -- the leaders haven’t exactly separated themselves from the pack. Amateur Patrick Cantlay is still 1 over through five holes, while Johnson Wagner is even par.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
CROMWELL, Conn. -- Patrick Cantlay is on the golf course and still in the lead despite a bogey on the second hole ( click here to follow live with Shot Tracker ), but he now has company with Shane Bertsch and Johnson Wagner also at 12 under.
There’s a group of seven players within two strokes of them, too, including Bo Van Pelt, who just moved to 11 under with a birdie on the fourth hole. Among the group at 10 under are Spencer Levin and Paul Stankowski, both 5 under through 11 and nine holes, respectively.
In other words, there’s plenty of red out there. All week the course has played under par and that continues here in the third round with a scoring average of 67.837 on the par-70 layout.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
CROMWELL, Conn. -- The second round was finally completed Saturday morning and while amateur Patrick Cantlay still leads, he’s up by just one now after Johnson Wagner finished off a 63 to get to 12 under at the halfway mark.
“The putter is finally working,” Wagner said. “I'm striking the ball well and making a lot of 10-footers and giving myself a lot of chances."
“The course is playing great for all the rain we've had. The greens are perfect. A little soft, so it's going to be a shootout. But I like where I'm at.”
Another spot down from that are Nick Watney and Shane Bertsch, who are both 10 under after shooting 65 and 63, respectively, in the second round.
The third round will begin at 11:45 a.m. with players going off in threesomes off both sets of tees.
A total of 74 players made the cut, which was at 4 under.
Among those who missed the cut? Geoff Ogilvy, Jim Furyk, Anthony Kim, Lucas Glover and Boo Weekley.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Johnson Wagner certainly wasn't looking forward to his opening tee shot at TPC River Highlands on Friday morning.
Wagner had finished 16 holes of his first round at the Travelers Championship when the downpour came late Thursday morning. Like everyone else, he waited for the next seven hours before the decision finally was made to suspend play until Friday.
The tee shot at the 17th hole is a daunting one under the best of circumstances. But at 7 a.m. – and the first strike of the day -- it can be even more nerve-rattling. There's water down the entire right side of the fairway and a challenging bunker in the fairway to the left.
Turns out Johnson, who was playing with the overnight leader, Michael Bradley, didn't need to be worried. He ended up making a birdie at the 17th and saving par at No. 18 on the way to a 65 that left him one shot behind Ryan Moore and Andres Romero.
"I was real happy to get that 17th tee shot out of the way," Wagner said. "It's just a tough hole. Easy if you put it in the fairway, but then I got to thinking about it last night, and I thought, oh, man, I could chunk it in the water and make double, but luckily I put that out of my head, hit it within about five feet and made it and had a nice up-and-down on 18."
Wagner, who won his second PGA TOUR event earlier this year at the Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya-Cancun, said his putting was the catalyst in his solid start. The 65 was his lowest opening round of the season by four strokes and tied for his best of the season.
"Everything was pretty good," said Wagner, who needed just 25 putts over his first 18 holes. "I putted really well. I've never been so committed to my stroke, and I kept my head down. Didn't see any putts really go in. I was trying to listen for them and just really putted great. Gave myself a lot of opportunities on the back nine for birdies and capitalized on most of them."
Wagner was hoping he'd get some more golf in on Friday afternoon with tee times for those in Thursday morning’s wave scheduled from 5:30-7:30 p.m. ET. At least, though, he can go back to his RV and wait instead of hanging around the clubhouse. A nap and some TV are on his agenda.
"The course was so perfect on Tuesday, and it's definitely soft, but it's still in great shape and the fairways are real good," Wagner said. "I think the maintenance staff has done a good job of getting it ready with all that rain yesterday. Scores should be low today. If the weather stays good, scores should be low, so I don't think 5-under is going to hang in there for long."
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
You know that learning curve a player has after his first win? The one step-forward-two-back thing?
Johnson Wagner does. He pretty much lived it from mid-2008, when he won the Shell Houston Open and found himself playing at the Masters the next day. It ended late last year.
"I did a lot of things the wrong way after winning here,’’ said Wagner, who won earlier this year at the opposite-field Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya-Cancun.
"I went from winning here to going to the Masters. And I was just thinking it was just the easiest thing in the world to do. And I dug myself in a deep hole, and it was hard to get out of it. And finally I did and, you know, I feel like I've got a really, really good future ahead of me, and hopefully I'll win a ton of tournaments and contending more. And I just -- I've got such a different perspective after winning the second time. I just kind of know how to handle myself now a little bit better.’’
The Mayakoba win coupled with a pair of top 10s in the 2010 Fall Series and a caddie change last year -- have him in contention going into the weekend at the Shell Houston Open. He'll get another chance to play his way into the Masters, since winners of opposite-field events don’t get automatic invitations.
He’s bogey-free through the first 36 holes with rounds of 69-67.
"I'm not expecting that for 72 holes,’’ he grinned, "But it would sure be nice.
"The golf course is in fabulous condition. Greens were rolling great as always, and I just love being here. I love the golf course, I love the people, the Houston Golf Association, everybody at Redstone. I've got very good feelings as soon as I step on the property here.
"The last couple weeks really was trying to get my game finally tuned to play well here. And then my coach came up to Bay Hill last week and my caddie, and I hit a lot of balls, worked on our putting a lot and just trying to peak for this week, really."
He said he’s not thinking about Augusta. Just here. And, yes, he’s a better golfer than he was when he won here in 2008.
"I'm a much better golfer,’’ he said. "Much better golfer today than I was the day before than I was three years ago. That's the goal is to try to get better every day. It's kind of a cliché’, but you want to get better every day. If you're not getting better, you're getting worse.
"My game is so much better today than it was in '08 when I won here. I made a lot of putts that year. Really putted my way to victory, which would be nice to putt like I did then. That's all that golf is, is who gets it in the hole. Tee to green I play a much straighter shot than I used to. I have much more command over where the ball goes."
So far, he’s driving the ball great. Hitting targets. Finding fairways. And that has set up some great iron shots. As for the greens? He said they can’t get any better.
"It's hard to improve on perfection,’’ he said. They're just so good. The ball doesn't bobble. The ball doesn't wiggle. You can look up on a 10-footer and know you made it because it's won't roll off line. The greens are just spectacular. The best we play all year."