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."