CROMWELL - Heading into the second round of the Travelers Championship, it appeared Bubba Watson would have a tough time making it to the weekend.
After an even-par 70 that put him seven strokes off the lead following Thursday’s opening round, the 20th-ranked golfer in the world and two-time winner at TPC River Highlands had his work cut out for him. But Friday afternoon, that all changed and the crowd responded in kind.
Watson turned in one of the best scores of the day, tying Lanto Griffin for a round-best 7-under 63, which jumped him up 69 spots and into a tie for eighth place with Rory McIlroy and Griffin. Entering the third round, he is just three strokes off Brian Harman (-10) for the lead.
“Yesterday I didn’t feel very good after that score,” Watson said. “So today, backing it up and making some putts, shooting a good number, obviously I’m not too far out right now.”
Unlike Thursday, Watson was able to take advantage of his opportunities when they presented themselves and largely played mistake-free. He finished with six birdies, including his final hole of the afternoon, and an eagle on the par-5 13th hole against just a single bogey.
But as helpful as it was making putts when he needed to, Watson looked to be more locked in Friday and admitted his mental focus was much stronger in round two than in the opener.
“I was just focused on the wrong things yesterday,” Watson said. “I had some mental mistakes yesterday, and then I didn’t make some putts. Today I started out hotter. I made a good shot on 11, our second hole, made the putt, making the eagle, making a solid par putt on 12, and then that freed me up a little bit. So it was just a combination of better thinking and then making the putts.”
It worked. Watson hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation and made putts from 17 and 20 feet out on the third and fourth holes that only boosted his confidence.
“That’s the beauty of golf, right?,” Watson said. “Even if the tournament ended yesterday, the following tournament, right, I’d be back at it. So it’s one of those things where you can always redo it. When the day’s over, the day’s over. I don’t ever dwell on how bad it was the day before. I just focus on my shot, my first tee shot like I did on 10 today. I was ready to play.”
He’ll need to be ready for the weekend in a field where 16 golfers are within four strokes or less of one another.
But Watson knows how to play this course. He was the runner-up in 2012 in addition to his two wins and is potentially 36 holes away from his third Travelers championship and third victory of the season.
“Around here I feel pretty comfortable,” Watson said. “I can hit some shots around here, and I’ve made it work throughout some of the years.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or