CROMWELL, Conn. — Three-time Travelers champion Bubba Watson picked up three strokes on Kramer Hickok over the final two holes, shooting a 2-under 68 on Saturday at TPC River Highlands to pull into a tie for the lead with the minor league tour regular at 10-under par.
Hickock, who has never won on the PGA Tour, was 12 under — two strokes ahead of Jason Day and three in front of Watson — heading to the 17th before flying the green and missing a 10-foot par putt. He was still a stroke ahead of the final pairing before three-putting from 8 feet on No. 18 to finish with a 68 and fall back into a tie.
“I’ve been in contention before,” said Hickok, who has won on the Korn Ferry Tour and the Canadian Mackenzie Tour. “I know those nerves are going to be there. It’s just embracing those nerves, not trying to fight it. I thought I’d be a lot more nervous than I am.”
Watson birdied No. 17 to move to 10 under and then missed a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 18. Day, the overnight leader, putted past the hole from 22 feet for a bogey to finish at 70 and minus-9, tied for third place with Cameron Smith (66) and Russell Henley (68).
Three players were another stroke back.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson, who birdied the last two holes on Friday to make the cut on the number, shot 65 to climb into a tie for ninth at minus-7. The former world No. 1 reached the clubhouse just two strokes off Day’s 36-hole lead.
“To birdie the last two yesterday to make the cut, which I definitely wanted to be here for the weekend, and obviously go out today and shoot a nice score, it was good,” he said. “So I feel like the game is coming around.”
Johnson shot 61 on Saturday last year to move from a tie for 20th into second, two strokes behind leader Brendan Todd. His victory was his first in 490 days; a win on Sunday would give him his first victory of 2021.
Watson won the tournament in 2010, ‘15 and ’18.
Abraham Ancer made a hole-in-one on the 180-yard eighth hole. It was his second straight year with an ace at TPC River Highlands. He had a 1 on the 169-yard 16th hole in the first round last year, when he tied for 11th.
Mark Hubbard took some time out from his round to help a wayward turtle find its way back to a pond after it had wandered onto the eighth green. “He’s out there playing lift, clean and place,” announcer Jim Nantz said on the broadcast.