Relaxed, strategic Casey takes command after Round 3 at Travelers
CROMWELL, Conn. – After the second round of the Travelers Championship on Friday at TPC River Highlands, Paul Casey looked as relaxed and as comfortable as you’d expect for someone who had just gone 65-67 to trail halfway leader Brian Harman by two. Talking with the media outside the scorer’s trailer, Casey said, “If I string it all together and pick the ball-striking up a little bit, there’s no reason why there can’t be two more low numbers.”
Casey was not only relaxed and comfortable, but prophetic. In Saturday’s third round he got Low Round No. 1. Casey hit every green in regulation in shooting an eight-under-par 62 to take a strong four-shot lead at 16 under par. Russell Henley is in second, and Harman, J.B. Holmes and Anirban Lahiri are five behind.
In his bogey-free round, Casey had birdies at 2 and 3, 8 and 9, 13, a 23-foot eagle putt on 15, and nearly holed out for eagle on 18 but settling for birdie.
It was an unusually cool, cloudy day for summer, ideal for scoring and Casey wasn’t the only one who benefited. All but two players in the top 20 by the end of the day shot under par.
Casey has come close before at The Travelers, but is looking very good to get the job done this year. “Johnny, my caddie, and I, we always have a good plan around here,” Casey said. “It’s always a golf course I’ve felt comfortable on. And today was just one of those days where I didn’t really miss a shot, and if we did, we missed it in the right place.
“The lines on the putts were popping out for me, and the hole looked to be reasonable size, bigger than normal, and just a real joy. Good golfing conditions as well. I quite liked the sort of grayness…It was just one of those days, so very, very happy, and glad to be in the lead. It’s a championship I’d really like to win having gotten close a couple years ago…It’s one I feel like I can win, and I’m really happy to be in the position I’m in.”
More than anything, Casey likes how he has strategized his way around the course. “I play this golf course, and I feel like I execute it really well. It’s a great strategy with Johnny and myself. I’m not the longest guy in the field, but…it’s a golf course which is receptive to all styles of game..”
Sunday is expected to be warmer and more humid with a possible pop-up thunderstorm. Casey and Henley will go off at 2 p.m., preceded by Holmes and Lahiri at 1:50. Since River Highlands is where Jim Furyk shot the PGA Tour’s only 58, there is likelihood for a theatrical run from someone well back. That could include five players at 10 under, including Bubba Watson (67 Saturday), Jason Day (66) and Bryson DeChambeau (68). Rory McIlroy at 8 under after a 69 seems to be too much in arrears, but not as badly as Justin Thomas (70) at 5 under, U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka (69) at 4 and defending champion Jordan Spieth (71) at 3 under.
To get things done Sunday, Casey already is in a good frame of mind, with a back injury out of mind and saying how he feels comfortable at the event and that’s an important key. “If you don’t like playing a tournament, you’re not going to play well because you don’t want to be there. And this is just a good vibe all the way around.”
Casey was asked what must he do to keep the momentum, the good vibe, going and he brought in a local favorite, Bear’s Smokehouse Barbecue. “I don’t know,” he said, “eat barbecue again like I did last night. I don’t know. I’m in a good spot mentally and physically, so I’m not overly worried. That doesn’t mean I know the outcome of tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to it more than anything else. Things will be different. They always are. That’s the thing. You get pin positions that suit your eye, and the greens, the lines were popping out for me. You just hope that continues tomorrow.”