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Travelers Championship

Tournament Preview

It's not one of the four Majors, but the fairways and the prize money are just as green at the Travelers Championship, which kicks off Thursday at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.

Last year's champion Marc Leishman leads a field in pursuit of the $6.1 million purse and 500 FedEx points.

But the real eyes of the tournament will be on Justin Rose, fresh off his US Open title less than a week ago and newly minted No. 3 player in the world.

Rose is the only Top 10 player active this weekend, but he'll be joined by Top 20 talent in No. 12 Lee Westwood, No. 14 Keegan Bradley, No. 17 Jason Dufner, No. 18 Ian Poulter and No. 19 Bubba Watson.

This is the 61st year of the tournament, formerly known as the Great Hartford Open between 1967-2003. The par-70, 6,844-yard course traditionally plays to longer hitters such as former champions Watson and Hunter Mahan, who are both in the field. Every hole is under 500 yards except for No. 13, the only par 5 on the course, which runs 523 yards.

Another player to watch is Chris Williams, the No. 1 world amateur and a recent graduate from the University of Washington.

06/20/13, Thursday

On a leaderboard full of big names, Charley Hoffman wasn't well-known until Thursday.

The 36-year-old Hoffman, currently ranked 48th on the PGA money list, fired a dazzling 9-under 61 to take a one-stroke lead on Day One of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut.

Hoffman knocked down five birdies and a pair of eagles, shooting a sizzling 28 on the back nine and missing the course record by a single stroke.

It was a bit of redemption for Hoffman, who seemed to have this tournament locked up a year ago, only to fall apart down the stretch with a double bogey on No. 17 and a bogey on 18, allowing Marc Leishman to slide past him for the title.

Even at a near-record pace, Hoffman needed everything in his bag of tricks to hold off Hunter Mahan (8-under) and Bubba Watson (7-under) on Thursday.

Mahan, who finished fourth last week at the US Open, was consistently outstanding, hitting eight birdies, including four in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. Mahan is after his second title at this tournament after winning it in 2007.

Watson, who won the title here in 2010, was erratic early on, birdying the first two holes, then bogeying No. 4 and No. 7. He still hit the turn 2-under, then turned it on with three birdies and an eagle on the back nine.

Six players are tied for fourth at 5-under including Webb Simpson and Zack Johnson.
US Open champion Justin Rose started his day like a guy who might have partied a bit more than usual lats week, with bogeys on three of his first six holes. He settled down to hit four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine .

His 3-under ties him for 18th with, among others, Masters' runner-up Angel Cabrera. Lurking one shot back at 2-under is American John Daly, who knocked in three birdies and just one bogey on his first day.

06/21/13, Friday

On a day that shows just how fickle the game of golf can be, an old pro took the lead at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut.

Thirty-four-year-old Bubba Watson jumped to the top of the leaderboard with a 3-under 67 to lower his two-day total to 10-under, good for a two-stroke lead at the midway point of the $6.1 million tournament.

Watson and a whole mess of other players went blazing past Day 1 leader Charley Hoffman, who followed up his near-record 61 with a 3-over 73 to drop out of the top five at the midpoint.

The champion here in 2010, Watson calls the course one of his favorites, and it shows with four Top 15 finishes in the past six years. The title in 2010 was his first on the tour.

Watson had four birdies and a single bogey on Friday. He has a two-stroke lead over fellow American Patrick Reed and Ireland's Padraig Harrington. Reed and Harringoton each have posted a pair of matching 66s on the first two days of action.

Harrington's best stretch was a string of four birdies in five holes on the back nine Friday.

Reed was within a stroke of the lead until he bogeyed No. 18.

A further four players, including the sizzling Hunter Mahan, are three strokes back at 7-under. Mahan was actually a disappointing 1-over on the day, unlike American Tag Ridings, who tied for the best round on Friday with a 5-under 65.

American Keegan Bradley was also 5-under on the day to drop to 6-under and into a tie for eighth. He had three birdies in his first four holes and added two more on No.17 and 18.
 Also at 6-under are Webb Simpson and the aforementioned Hoffman US Open champion Justin Rose remains in spitting distance of the lead, tied for 12th at 5-under.

Rose was 2-under on the day Eighty-three players made the cut in all, which was set at even par. Among those to miss it were John Daly, who followed up Thursday's 2-under with a 5-over, crumbling down the stretch with four bogeys on the last five holes.

06/22/13, Saturday


The course at the Travelers Championship is being mighty friendly this weekend, and that is setting up one heck of a photo finish for Sunday's final round.

Three players - Day 1 leader Charley Hoffman, Day 2 leader Bubba Watson and Canada's Graham DeLaet are tied atop the leaderboard at 10-under through three rounds, with a staggering 24 other players within five strokes of the lead as rounds well under par were a generous commodity Saturday at the TPC River Highlands course in Cromwell, Connecticut.

The newcomer to the group atop the leaderboard was Saskatchewan's DeLaet, the 31-year-old graduate of Boise State University still seeking his first PGA title after turning pro in 2007.

DeLaet shot his second 5-under 65 in three days on Saturday, highlighted by a string of four straight birdies to start the back nine, to rise into a tie for first place.

He's joined there by Watson, who was at 10-under to start the day, and looking poised to run away with the lead when he birdied three of the first six holes to drop to 13-under.

Watson gave back the advantage with three bogeys on the back nine to finish the round at even par.

Then there was Hoffman, whose course-record 61 on Thursday was tempered by a 3-over 73 on Friday. Hoffman was back close to his Thursday form to start the weekend by birdying three of the first six holes in route to a 4-under 66.

The trio are followed by American Chris Stroud and Australian Nick O'Hern at 9-under for the tournament. Stroud fired his second 4-under 66 of the tournament.

American Ken Duke is alone in sixth place at 8-under following his blistering 5-under 65 on Saturday in which he recorded four birdies on the front nine.

Following him is a block of seven players tied for seventh at 7-under. One of those is US Open champion Justin Rose, who delivered his second straight 2-under 68 on Saturday, and world No. 14 Hunter Mahan.

Two players in the top five of the leaderboard at the end of Friday found themselves considerably on the outside looking in on Saturday, despite the mostly successful rounds of their peers.

Italy's Padraig Harrington, two strokes behind Watson at 8-under to start the day, got in trouble early with bogeys on No. 2 and 5 and ended up 2-over for the day, sliding into a five-way tie for 14th at 6-under.

He's joined there American Tag Ridings, whose 1-over dropped him from fourth.

The real shocker of a round came from American Patrick Reed, who followed up back-to-back 66s with a 3-over 73 to tumble from second all the way to a tie for 19th.

Reed was a 9-under after two holes, but the middle of his round was an ugly one as he bogeyed No. 5, 6, 8, 10 and 14.

The final round begins Sunday at 8:26 a.m. Eastern. Rose and Mahan are paired together and tee off at 1:10 p.m. Watson and Chris Stroud begin at 1:50 p.m., followed by DeLeat and Hoffman at 2 p.m.

06/23/13, Sunday

Alone in sixth place after three rounds, Duke fired a 4-under 66 on Sunday to forge a tie at the top of the leaderboard with Chris Stroud, then sank a birdie putt on the second hole of their playoff to clinch his first-ever PGA title.

It looked like Duke would take the title outright before Stroud made a 51-foot putt on the 18th hole to force the playoff.

As dramatic as that putt was, Duke's shot for the win was the exact opposite - a 2-1/2 footer that saw the man ranked 144th in the world proudly lifting his first-ever title trophy.

Day Three co-leader Graham DeLaet finished third at 11-under. A victim on the 16th hole was costly.

DeLaet's co-leader to start the day, Bubba Watson, looked like he would take the title for the second time in three years. Watson started off slowly, 1-over through eight holes, but then knocked in four birdies between No. 9 and No. 15 to get to 3-under for the day and 13-under for the tournament.

But Watson imploded on No. 16, with his drive landing in the water and its successor landing past the green, the bulk of a triple bogey 6. Watson wound up at 10-under to take fourth place, a stroke ahead of Webb Simpson and J.J. Henry.

Meanwhile, Charley Hoffman, who was the overall leader on Day 1 and still tied for the lead with Watson and DeLaet after three rounds, had another bad round, a 2-over 72 to finish tied for seventh at 8-under.

Hoffman bogeyed three of his first six holes and had six bogeys overall on the round.
US Open champion Justin Rose finished tied for 13th at 6-under after a 1-over 71.

Tournament Recap

The PGA Tour has been a young man's game of late, with 32-year-old Adam Scott taking the Masters in April, followed by 32-year-old Justin Rose gobbling up the US Open title two weeks ago.

For every player whose ever broken 80 for the first time after his 40th birthday, the victory of 44-year-old Ken Duke Sunday at the Travelers Championship was made all the more sweet by this fact.

Duke's entire career, heck his entire life, have been a string of successes and failures, but that's what makes Sunday's result so satisfying for both Duke and for everyman fans of any sport.

Born in Hope, Arkansas, the same small town that produced former President Bill Clinton, Duke didn't look like he would be playing any sort of sport when he was young. He wore a back brace for 23 hours a day when he was in middle school to fight scoliosis, eventually having surgery and a 16-inch metal rod attached to his spine. Less than a year later, he medaled at his high school's district golf tournament.

Duke turned pro in 1994, but didn't qualify for the PGA Tour until 2004. Once there, his success was slow, not sudden, as he lost his card and didn't play on tour again until 2007.

He joined the Top 100 for the first time in 2007, and after 187 career starts and three second-place finishes, finally achieved his first title on Sunday at the Travelers.

To put into perspective just how big this win was for Duke, consider that since January he has played 19 tournaments. He had missed the cut of 10 of those, and won a combined $502,000 in the other nine before last week, when he pulled in $1.098 million for his victory.

Duke won by being quietly consistent in a field that saw lots of extremely low rounds, but also lots of mistakes from other top players.

Duke shot between 1-under and 5-under in each of the four rounds, and had just two bogeys and one double bogey over the final 72 holes, meaning he didn't take a lot of chances because he didn't have to.
Slow and steady won the race.

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