CROMWELL, Conn. — Phil Mickelson entered Saturday’s third round as the sole leader of the Travelers Championship. A shot at his first victory in his first event since turning 50 years old 11 days ago seemed like a real possibility.
After a less-than-stellar 71 in Saturday’s third round, and with a leaderboard complete with big names and red-hot players posting numbers in the low 60s, is it still a possibility?
Here’s a look at everything from Mickelson’s chances to Bryson DeChambeau‘s game of chance to a refresher course on Brendon Todd and more to get set for what could be an interesting Sunday at the Travelers:
Does Phil still have a shot?
Saturday wasn’t his best day at the office, that’s for sure. Maybe it was the early start. He finished his second round, a dazzling 63 that nearly included a hole-out from the fairway at the 18th, after 5 p.m. ET on Friday and was back on the tee at 9:15 a.m. Saturday morning. OK, playing two rounds of golf 16 hours apart might not seem like the hardest thing in the world, but he did just turn 50. And despite his fitness routine and his leaner frame, well, he did just turn 50.
On a day when it seemed that everybody in the field was posting a number in the 60s, Mickelson shot a 1-over 71. Mickelson and Will Gordon, who were in the same threesome on Saturday, were the only two players in the top 20 not to shoot in the 60s.
So what does all this mean for Sunday? There’s a good news/bad news way to look at this: Bad news is he’s 6 shots behind Todd; good news is he’s tied for seventh, meaning there aren’t a lot of people to jump between him and Todd.
“I haven’t played great this year. I’ve missed a lot of cuts, and the next thing I know my game is starting to come back and I can sense it,” Mickelson said. “I’m going to come out tomorrow and give it my best to go low. I know I’m playing well enough to do that.”
Bet on the casino
By now, everybody knows about the new Bryson DeChambeau. He bulked up. He swings hard. He hits it far. (He hit a tee shot 428 yards in Friday’s second round. Yes, 428 yards). Most importantly, he’s playing well. He hasn’t shot a round worse than 70 since returning from the shutdown; in fact, he’s posted 65 or better five times in 11 rounds.
That’s not enough to give him a good look Sunday? Well, there’s this, too: He’s walking around comparing himself to a casino.
“What I have to do is imagine that I’m like the casino and just keep playing,” he said after Saturday’s 65. “Just keep playing and giving myself the best chance to win out here, and that’s what I’m doing.”
It’s the second day in a row he’s gone with the casino reference.
“I’m trying to be the house,” he said. “I’m definitely trying to be the house.”
DeChambeau, though, wasn’t leaving all this to chance. He was displeased with how he hit his driver in the third round. On Saturday afternoon, his round complete and as rain hammered down, there was one person left standing on the range hitting driver after driver. It was Bryson DeChambeau.
“I’m guiding it with the driver right now, not 100% confident with it, but I’m working hard to figure out what I had at Colonial and RBC,” he said.
After a missed cut at the Charles Schwab Challenge, there were signs last week at the RBC Heritage that Dustin Johnson was starting to figure things out. Four straight rounds of 68 or better gave him just his second top-20 finish since January. At the Travelers, his game and scores steadily improved. He opened with 1-under 69, then posted 64 on Friday before a nine-birdie, zero-bogie 61 on Saturday.
“I felt like I gave myself really good birdie opportunities on every hole,” said Johnson, who celebrated his 36th birthday on Monday.
The 61 was he lowest round Johnson has ever posted on Tour. On Sunday, he will be in search of his 21st career win.
About this Brendon Todd guy
Maybe you don’t know a lot about Brendon Todd; OK, there’s a chance you’ve never heard of him. Well, it’s time to take him seriously because he might win for a third time this season. Yes, he’s won twice already, winning back-to-back weeks in November at the Mayakoba Golf Classic and the Bermuda Championship. Todd, Justin Thomas and Webb Simpson are the only players on the PGA Tour with multiple wins this year. On Sunday, after Johnson posted 61 to take the lead, Todd matched it.
“It really was a moving day, so I was just trying to get as low as I could, and if anything just use the leaderboard as motivation,” he said.
It’s a lot to ask for another 61, but given how the players have taken advantage of TPC River Highlands all week, it will likely take a low number on Sunday for Todd to pick up his third win.
“It very well could [take another low-60s round to win],” Todd said. “That just depends on how the four or five guys behind me play. My job is going to be to go out there and get off to a good start and just try to make as many birdies as I can and see if I can’t shoot another good round.”
It’s back to wait and see who is playing
Michael Eaves details why Jason Day played a round solo after he tested negative for the coronavirus.
As this week has proved, the field at the Travelers Championship is fluid. The coronavirus pandemic has caused seven withdrawals this week. On Saturday, Jason Day asked to be tested again and had his tee time delayed by an hour to see if he was negative and if he could remain in the field. He ended up staying in the tournament, but played the round by himself.
This is going to be an ongoing situation for the Tour, one that will be monitored not simply week to week, but day to day and hour to hour. Before the event began, Cameron Champ, Brooks Koepka, Chase Koepka, Graeme McDowell and Webb Simpson all withdrew. Champ tested positive. The caddies for Brooks Koepka and Graeme McDowell both tested positive. Chase Koepka and Webb Simpson pulled out for precautionary reasons. On Friday, before the second round, Denny McCarthy tested positive and withdrew, as did Bud Cauley, who played with McCarthy in Thursday’s first round. The third member of their group, Matt Wallace, stayed in the field and played alone on Friday, but shot 72 and missed the cut.