Planet Golf — 24 June 2022 by GW staff and news services
Pals pace pack at The Travelers

CROMWELL, Conn. — Xander Schauffele shot a 3-under 67 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead over good friend and playing partner Patrick Cantlay into the final round of the Travelers Championship.

Schauffele had a 17-under 193 total at TPC River Highlands. Cantlay shot 63.

Rookie Sahith Theegala was third at 14 under after a round of 64, and Kevin Kisner had a 66 to get to 13 under.

Schauffele began the day at 14 under with a five-stroke lead. The Olympic champion birdied the second hole for the third time this week and had another at No. 6, part of a career-best run of 48 holes without a bogey.

But he put his tee shot at 13 in the water and briefly fell into a tie for the lead after a bogey. He broke his minor birdie drought at 16, then hit the pin on his approach at 17 and sank another.

“I would love to have that tee ball back on 13,” he said. “For the most part I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to protect a lead, especially when it’s five shots and it’s easy to get comfortable.”

Cantlay’s bogey-free round was the best of the day.

Schauffele and Cantlay have been close friends since being paired together at the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia and they combined to win the Zurich Classic this season.

“If only it was a combined score again this week we would be doing well,” Cantlay joked. “It’s always nice to be out with him, if he’s on my team or if he’s not. I’m going to go out there tomorrow and try as hard as I can and let the chips fall where they may.”

Schauffele is looking for his sixth individual title and first since the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions. He also is shooting for his sixth straight top-20 finish. He and Cantlay finished tied for 14th last week in the U.S. Open.

“I’ve been looking forward to playing with Pat in a final round,” Schauffele said. “We don’t get paired together very often in regular tournaments, only in those team ones. So there’s a certain level of comfort we have playing with each other and hopefully that pays off and hopefully we can make a lot of birdies.”

Theegala had an eagle on 13 to go with four birdies. The 24-year-old Californian hit his second shot on the par-4 17th over the course’s signature lake to about a foot from the pin, briefly tying Schauffele for the lead. But he bogeyed the final hole.

He is looking to become the 18th player to get their first tour win in Connecticut. Ken Duke was the last to do it in 2013.

“I’m definitely going to be nervous, definitely going to be excited,” he said. “Every single week I’m out here I feel like I’m getting more and more comfortable.”

Former U.S. Junior champion Michael Thorbjornsen shot a 66 to put himself in contention. He started the weekend at 7 under, just the third amateur to make a PGA Tour cut in 2022. The Stanford star is in a group of four tied for seventh place, but said he wasn’t feeling much pressure.

“One thing that might help is winning or coming in second or third I’m not getting paid either way, so it’s another tournament for me,” he said. “It’s just another round for me and I’ll just try to go out there and do the same thing I did today.”

Harris English, who is trying to become just the second player to successfully defend his title here after Phil Mickelson won in 2002, shot a 69 and was in a group at 10-under.

Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler was also in that group after shooting a 65. He began the weekend nine strokes behind Schauffele.

“Maybe I’ll go out tomorrow and do something crazy and we’ll see what happens,” Scheffler said.

First-round co-leader Rory McIlroy (72) got in trouble early Saturday, hitting his tee shot on No. 2 off a nearby tree and into the tall grass 108 yards across the fairway to the right. After a 39 on the back nine Friday, he shot 36 on the front nine Saturday and finished 2 over for the day, and 6 under for the tournament, 11 strokes off the pace.

There was also a buzz at the tournament Saturday around a player who was no longer even in Cromwell.

Jason Kokrak was disqualified Friday after launching his final shot on the ninth hole over the green and the fence behind it. Kokrak, who would have missed the cut anyhow, left the course without replaying the shot.

William McGirt who was playing in the same group said Kokrak simply didn’t see any point in finishing the hole.

“He was like, `I’m not going to hold anybody up,’” McGirt said. “He didn’t storm off the golf course.”

SECOND ROUND
CROMWELL, Conn. — Xander Schauffele shot his second straight 7-under 63 on Friday to take a five-stroke lead in the Travelers Championship.

The Olympic champion shot a 31 on the front nine at TPC River Highlands with four birdies, then had a 32 on the back, making birdies on 11, 14 and 17.

He has hit 33 of 36 greens in regulation and is the only player in the tournament without a bogey. His closest call came close at the par-3 16th, where he hit his tee shot found the rough behind a greenside bunker.

“It plays really interesting with the wind swirling through there,” Schauffele said. “It was my least committed swing of the week and just really happy to get up and down there and save par.”

Kevin Kisner (64), Nick Hardy (64), defending champion Harris English (65), Cam Davis (66) and Patrick Cantlay (67) were tied for second at 9 under. First-round leaders Rory McIlroy and J.T. Poston followed opening 62s with 70s to drop six strokes back.

Cantlay, who shot a 60 at TPC River Highlands as an amateur in 2011, played in the same morning group as English.

“(I’m) still right here in this tournament, and looking forward to the weekend,” Cantlay said. “I enjoy the challenge, and that’s all you can do in golf, is give yourself as many chances as you possibly can.”

English, who won on the eighth hole of a playoff last year, is playing in his third tournament since returning in May from Valentine’s Day surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip.

“The toughest thing is walking and playing,” English said. “I mean, I feel like back home I can go hit a bunch of balls on the range, but up and down these hills and being on your feet for five or six hours is the toughest part. It’s getting better and better, and I feel like the more I play competitive rounds out here, it’s just going to get stronger.”

Hardy, starting on the back nine had four consecutive birdies on 16, 17, 18 and 1. He also is coming back from injury after damaging the tendon is his left wrist in April.

“I just was in great rhythm,” Hardy said. “That’s kind of been the name of the game for me since I came back. Just being in good rhythm. I think I’m swinging the club well and my mind is in a good spot.”

Kisner had some good luck on 15 when his tee shot went right and rolled toward the course’s signature lake before getting hung up on a microphone cable, inches from the water.

“Five shots is not insurmountable but I’m a going to need (Schauffele) to slow down a little bit,” Kisner said.

Schauffele, played one group ahead of McIlroy, who was still leading by a stroke at 13 under before getting into trouble on the 12th hole.

McIlroy hit his tee shot left and out of bounds into the woods, then found the deep rough to the right on his next shot. He put the ball into a green-side bunker from there, then chipped out short of the green and into the rough again, before finishing with a quadruple bogey.

He left the hole trailing by three strokes and then found more trouble on the 15th. He went right on his tee shot, finding the high grass, then ran his third shot over the green, down the hill and into the water. He finished that hole with a 6.

But he made birdie on 16, finishing with an even-par 70 when his birdie putt lipped out on 18.

“I should be closer to the lead,” he said. “Feel like I let a lot of guys into the golf tournament because of it.”

The last player to make a quadruple bogey and go on to win a PGA Tour event was Adam Scott at the 2016 Honda Classic. Scott put two shots in the water on the par-3 15th hole.

The cut was at 2 under, with 2017 winner Jordan Spieth (1 over) dropping out with Sam Burns (even par), Zach Johnson (4 over) and Jason Day (6 over).

FIRST ROUND

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy is fighting a cold.

You can understand why.

After carding a final-round 69 to finish T5 at the U.S. Open, he flew home to South Florida to see his wife, Erica, and their daughter, Poppy. He slept in his own bed, flew back to Connecticut, attended a five-hour meeting Tuesday – he’s one of four player directors on the PGA TOUR policy board – and played in the Travelers Championship’s Wednesday pro-am in the rain.

And after all of that, he shot an 8-under 62 Thursday to take the early first-round lead.

“Energy levels are OK,” McIlroy said after his eight-birdie, no-bogey round, which was one better than fellow morning-wave finishers Martin Laird and Xander Schauffele. “I’m feeling a little under the weather, but it’s just concentration at this point.

“I’ve got three more rounds left until I have a couple of weeks off and prepare for the Open Championship,” he continued. “I’m going to put everything into those three rounds.”

It’s been a busy stretch for McIlroy, who is teeing it up for the fourth week in a row. He won the RBC Canadian Open for his 21st TOUR title two weeks ago, and was in contention until the bitter end at the U.S. Open at The Country Club, where he had hoped to break a dry spell in the majors that dates back to 2014.

Despite falling short in Boston, he’s playing well and is up to second in the Official World Golf Ranking. He and Erica have been laughing about how they’re losing their voices; they think Poppy brought something home from daycare.

Unlike the weekend at the U.S. Open, and pro-am day at the Travelers, McIlroy found much more agreeable conditions for the opening round at TPC River Highlands. In partly-cloudy skies and warm temperatures, he and the others in his group, Webb Simpson (64) and Kevin Kisner (67), took advantage of a course softened by rain.

“We had a great group,” said Simpson, who also didn’t make any bogeys. “Rory played great, Kevin played great. We kind of fed off each other. I think the holes started looking bigger and bigger to us. A lot of putts were made.”

In three previous Travelers starts, McIlroy, who leads the TOUR in scoring average (68.657), has never finished in the top 10. The two-time FedExCup champion, No. 3 in the current standings, couldn’t ask for a better start to rectify that. 

“It’s like U.S. Open rehab coming here,” he said. “You’re like, oh, I can actually make some birdies. This is nice.”

Three more solid rounds and his 22nd TOUR title would be even nicer, but it’s early. In his fourth straight week of competition, nursing a cold, McIlroy is taking it one birdie at a time.

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