Travelers Championship: Be Prepared for a Good Old-Fashion Shootout

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2009

CROMWELL, CT - JUNE 27: Paul Goydos looks over his shoulder on the 18th green during round three of the 2009 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands on June 27, 2009 in Cromwell, Connecticut. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

CROMWELL, CT - Kenny Perry began the third round of the Travelers Championship with a one-stroke lead over David Toms and a two stroke lead over Ryan Moore and Paul Goydos.

But Perry got off to a slow start on Saturday afternoon with a par at the first and a bogey at the second.   

Despite recovering with birdies at the third and sixth, Perry had lost his lead to John Merrick by the time he stepped onto the seventh tee box.

Merrick slowed down a bit on his outward nine and Perry regained the lead after a birdie at the par-thee 11th; but, lurking in the background all afternoon was the inconspicuous Paul Goydos.

Paul Goydos is the type of player who tends to be overlooked until his name suddenly appears atop the leaderboard; which is exactly what happened on Saturday afternoon.

Goydos was plodding along between one and two under par for most of the day before catching fire on the par-five 13th.

Goydos recorded five birdies on the back-nine which included a run of four consecutive birdies between the 13th and 16th holes to take a one-stroke lead over Perry heading into the final round.

As Perry was standing on the 15th tee box, still fuming from his bogey on the short par-four 14th and awaiting Goydos’ group to vacate the green on the drivable par-four, he heard the roars reverberate as Goydos sunk his seven-foot birdie putt and took sole possession of the lead.  

Perry drove the ball just short of the 15th green, pitched to within a foot of the hole and was at ease for a brief moment believing that he was just seconds away from regaining a share of the lead.

But, prior to Perry’s tap in birdie; an even louder roar rumbling down from the 16th green where Goydos had just sunk a 28-foot birdie putt from the back fringe.

As Perry was on the 16th green and Goydos in the 17th fairway, if you can believe it, there was another weather delay.

After all, it wouldn’t be a day on the PGA Tour lately if there wasn’t at least one weather delay at some point during the round.

The delay lasted for around an hour before players went back onto the course to finish off their rounds in front of only about 100 fans who had decided to ride out the storm in their hospitality tents rather than waste a second of their ‘all-you-can-drink’ deals.

Goydos and Perry both pared their way in after the delay and the third round finally ended at around 7:45 PM with Goydos holding a one-stroke lead over Perry.  

The great thing about TPC River Highlands is that it equalizes the field.

Paul Goydos is averaging almost 30 yards less off of the tee than Kenny Perry is this week, yet Goydos was able to sneak up and snatch the lead away Perry late in the third round.  

TPC River Highlands plays just 6,841 yards and nine out of the 11 par-fours on the course are less than 450 yards. 

If you’re hitting fairways and having a solid week with your short irons, you will have an excellent chance to win, whether you’re averaging 320 or 260 yards off the tee.

TPC River Highlands is also not a golf course where the leader has the luxury of playing conservatively and protecting his lead.  

There have already been 32 of rounds of 65 or better this week and with soft greens and virtually no wind to speak of, there will probably be several scores of 65 or better again on Sunday.

“You can be five shots behind, standing on the 15th tee and still win this tournament” Goydos said in the media center following his round. 

“You can go two, two, three, three. I'm not saying it's ever happened, but it definitely is a possibility. So no matter what happens tomorrow, you'll probably still be in it standing on the 15th tee, at least hopefully”.

There are sixteen players currently within six strokes of Goydos.  

If Goydos doesn’t go out and make birdies this afternoon, you can be assured that at least one of those players within striking distance will surpass him on the leaderboard.

“I look at leaderboards” Goydos said after his round. “It’s part of the fun.  I’m not going to sit out there and try to ignore what I’m doing.  I think that—I enjoy what I do.  I enjoy the competition.  I want to know what’s going on, especially on this golf course”.

Although there’s a large handful of players in a great position to make a run, Goydos should pay particularly close attention to Hunter Mahan.

Mahan won the Travelers Championship back in 2007 and has not finished worse than second in each of his last three appearances.  In fact, no one in the history of the Travelers Championship has earned more money in Cromwell, CT than Hunter Mahan.  

Mahan carded a 63 yesterday, which was his ninth consecutive round of par or better at TPC River Highlands.

“I wish I could find more courses that suit me like this one” Mahan said after his round on Saturday.  “I just like it. It suits my eye. It's a fun course. You can make a lot of birdies. I just have a lot of confidence when I play here”.

Mahan has the ability to catch fire on any golf course, but at TPC River Highlands, which is a course that clearly suits his eye, five strokes is an easily surmountable deficit if he is hitting the ball well.

Be prepared for a good old fashion shootout this afternoon in Cromwell, CT.


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