Bubba Watson right at home in Hartford
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Bubba Watson right at home in Hartford

Bubba Watson hasn’t played his best golf as of late after poor weekend performances at the last two majors, but the two-time Masters champion has found his home atop the leaderboard at TPC River Highlands.

Watson is a three-time champion at the Travelers and will be in good position to win his fourth title after two straight rounds of 66 to begin the week.

Watson started on the 10th tee and made eight pars along with a birdie at the par-5 13th on his opening nine. If the first nine lulled you to sleep, Watson woke up with a jolt on the second hole. His tee shot carried 265 yards and found the fairway, but the custom pink driver head broke off and went flying as Watson checked his swing like a baseball player. Unfazed, Watson hit a wedge to 10 feet and rolled in the putt for birdie.

He added two more at five and six before holing a 50-foot putt for another birdie at the 7th that set off a roar from the crowd as Watson moved into the lead by himself.

When you swing as hard and work the ball as much as Bubba does, equipment can malfunction from time to time. Watson said that this last happened to him at the Presidents Cup in Korea in 2015.

“It's one of the things where the driver is travel, heat, cold, whatever it is, over time, overuse, my driver head popped off,” Watson said. “It's the shaft right above the hosel. It's cracked, broke, whatever you want to call it.”

Watson’s second round ended on a sour note with a miss from 2 feet 11 inches to drop a shot at the 9th. It was a demoralizing miss, but Watson gave himself credit with having a more aggressive mindset down the stretch.

“I told Teddy (caddie Ted Scott) I'm not going to baby it on 8 and 9, so I wanted to try to make the putts. Normally I'm used to lagging them,” Watson said. “I was trying to get some extra ones if I could. Just one of those things that went the wrong way.”

Elsewhere on the course, Kevin Kisner made a move up the leaderboard as he equaled the low round of the week with a 63. The three-time Tour winner has missed the cut in seven of his last nine stroke play events and fallen out of the top-50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, but he’s hoping the solid round bodes well for the future. Kisner isn’t letting the slump get to him as he plans to continuing to trust his process.

Brooks Koepka sent a surge through the golf course with a 31 on his opening nine that included a hole-out eagle at the 18th. Kopeka acknowledged the roar that came from his spectacular shot then turned to the camera with a message for Justin Thomas—the two made a bet on who could have more hole outs in 2019.

Koepka got to six under for the week with a birdie at the third and looked to be making a move into serious contention, but two bogeys in his final five holes left him at four under for the championship, four shots behind Watson’s lead through 36 holes.

The closing bogey at the ninth was an ugly one. Koepka hit a perfect drive leaving himself just 66 yards for his second, but his approach spun off the front of the green and his putt from the collection area rolled just onto the front before rolling down into the same collection area further to the left. Koepka tapped in for bogey and looked disappointed, but he is still within striking distance as he looks for another win.

About the author

Peter Santo

Peter Santo

Peter Santo is a golf writer and a graduate of Emerson College. He previously covered all sports for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and The Washington Times.

When not writing about or playing golf, he can often be found listening to or creating country music.

He can be reached by email at petersanto1129@gmail.com

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