CROMWELL, Conn. - Twice tied for the final-round lead - after a birdie at No. 3 and another at No. 6 - James Driscoll placed himself firmly among the scrum that was going to decide Sunday’s Travelers Championship.
Two back-nine swings made the decision for him. Neither was good.
Driscoll sent drives on the 10th and 14th holes out of bounds - first right, then left - that led to a double bogey and a quadruple bogey, dropping six shots to par. He finished six strokes behind winner Marc Leishman, at 8 under, left to wonder what might have been.
“Obviously as a whole the week wasn’t a total disaster, but finishing the back nine like that is not the note you want to end on,’’ said Driscoll, who shot a final-round 72 at TPC River Highlands and tied for 18th. “My swing’s just a little off, and I just had a couple of really costly bad swings.’’
Driscoll, looking for his first PGA Tour win, got off to the quick start he needed, chipping in for a birdie at the first hole, then adding the birdies at 3 and 6. He also birdied the 16th, but by that point the damage had been done.
“Terrible swing on 10, possibly not the right club off the tee, so it was maybe a mental error there,’’ Driscoll said. “But then it was just a really bad swing on 14. No coming back from that.’’
After shooting a second-round 69 to barely make the cut, Hunter Mahan didn’t sound like someone capable of producing a weekend run.
“I don’t know, I’m pretty tired, I don’t have any energy to do anything,’’ Mahan said Saturday morning. “There’s a lot going on in my head right now, trying to figure a lot of things out, just not handling it very well. I’m just not in a good place to play well.’’
Mahan birdied two of his final four holes in the third round just to avoid a second cut, and was in the first twosome out on Sunday morning, tied for 69th when he started.
By the time Mahan had finished, he was tied for third after a career-best 61.
“I made a 6-footer yesterday on the last hole just to make it to today. At that point you’re kind of like, ‘Do I want to make this?’ It was infuriating,’’ Mahan said. “What it comes down to in golf is making putts, because you can hit a lot of great shots, but if you can’t make the putt, it doesn’t matter.’’
After five holes in his final round - five pars - nothing had fallen. Then the floodgates opened. Birdies at the sixth, eighth, and ninth, then a back-nine 29. In the span of 13 holes, Mahan went from being an afterthought to having a career day, and nearly cracked the top 10. He tied for 11th.
On a bad roll
It’s not often that someone who ties for 29th leaves thinking they should have had a chance to win, but Keegan Bradley boarded his trans-Atlantic flight Sunday night from Newark to Belfast knowing that a bad putter cost him mightily.
“I probably hit it well enough to win this week, this is the worst putting week of the year, for sure,’’ said Bradley, who hit 58 of 72 greens in regulation, tied for the most, but had 125 putts (tied for 69th). “From the start I was hitting it close. I just didn’t make any putts.’’
Bradley now has gone eight tournaments on the PGA Tour without a finish better than 24th (including three missed cuts), so he’ll give the European Tour a try this week. Bradley is playing in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush, his first real look at links golf before next month’s British Open, which he’ll play for the first time.
“I’m looking forward to being in the atmosphere, the tournament’s sold out, it’s going to be lots of fun,’’ said Bradley, who traces part of his heritage to County Cork. “I’m really excited.’’
Defending champion Fredrik Jacobson made a spirited run, leading after two rounds and finishing with a 68, tied for eighth. There’s only been one back-to-back winner (Phil Mickelson in 2001-02) in tournament history . . . US Open winner Webb Simpson closed with a 71 and tied for 29th. He was looking forward to spending a week at home, since he’s not playing at the AT&T National . . . Michael Ballo, who roomed with and played with Bradley at St. John’s and has finished second in the last two Massachusetts Opens, caddied for Jamie Lovemark. They’ve become friends since moving to the Jupiter, Fla., area, and the working arrangement gave Ballo an opportunity to make some money as he tries to carve out a career as a professional golfer. Lovemark closed with 75 - “He can blame the caddie,’’ Ballo said - and tied for 69th, earning $12,060 . . . Rory Sabbatini made his first hole-in-one on the PGA Tour, using an 8-iron on the 161-yard 16th on his way to a 67. Sabbatini won a $27,000 Rolex for his ace, and tied for 18th.