CROMWELL, Conn. — Since he’s tied for the lead at the Travelers Championship with one round to play and looking for his first PGA Tour victory, Graham DeLaet will certainly be focused on the task at hand.
But his thoughts are also with the people back home, in Canada, especially his friends and family near the Calgary area, which is experiencing record flooding. DeLaet has pledged to donate $1,000 for each weekend birdie to the disaster relief effort, and $2,500 for each eagle. The PGA Tour of Canada is matching DeLaet’s donations.
A six-birdie 65 at TPC River Highlands on Saturday left DeLaet tied for the lead at 10 under par with Bubba Watson (70) and Charley Hoffman (66). He’ll be paired with Hoffman in the final round, looking for more birdies, even though it’ll cost him more money.
“It’s a pretty small part, what we’re doing, but anything helps,” DeLaet said. “It’s just a shame what’s happening up there, a lot of people affected, disaster situation. There’s a lot of help from everyone all across Canada, and I just feel super fortunate to have grown up in that country.”
DeLaet and Hoffman found themselves in Sunday’s final pairing only when Watson struggled down the stretch. Leading by four strokes at one point in the third round, the 2010 Travelers champion made a bogey at the par-5 13th (which has been the fifth-easiest hole all week), then inexplicably took four shots from maybe 50 feet for another bogey at the 15th (easiest hole).
“Couple bad breaks here and there, but that’s golf,” said Watson, who tied for second last year, with Hoffman. “At the end of the day I still have a chance on Sunday, and that’s what we’re always looking for.”
Hoffman will look to atone for last year, when he finished double bogey-bogey to lose by one stroke to Marc Leishman, who began the final round six strokes back. Two of the last three years, in fact, the winner trailed by six shots after three rounds, giving those at 4 under or better some hope. That includes 31 players, setting the stage for what could be a volatile, unpredictable final day.
Thomas comes through
Justin Thomas received a sponsor exemption, the latest in a long line of amateurs to get a spot in the Travelers field. Thomas just completed his sophomore year at Alabama, and helped the Crimson Tide win the NCAA championship this season.
Playing in his third career PGA Tour event (he’s made the cut now all three times), Thomas shot a 4-under-par 66 — highlighted by four straight birdies on Nos. 12-15 — and was tied for 14th after three rounds. Not surprisingly, the 20-year-old was asked about turning professional.
“Eventually, yeah, but the Walker Cup is in September, and that’s a huge goal of mine. That’s my main goal for now,” said Thomas, who would automatically earn a spot in the Greenbrier Classic should he finish in the top 10 here. He also said the US Amateur, which is Aug. 12-18 at The Country Club, is on his summer schedule.
A cut above
After 36 holes, there were exactly 70 players at 1 under or better, leaving many to assume that’s where the cut would fall, since the top 70 and ties advance. But PGA Tour rules stipulate the cut is the top 70 professionals and ties, and since Thomas was inside the number, it meant that only 69 pros were 1 under or better. So all 13 players at even par got in, too.
Lee Westwood (69), Stewart Cink (74), and Rickie Fowler (70) were part of that 13-player group, but Jeff Maggert took full advantage on Saturday, shooting a 65 to match Ken Duke and DeLaet for low round of the day. Maggert went from a tie for 71st to a tie for 19th.
If more than 78 players make the 36-hole cut, another cut is made after 54 holes to get to the low 70 professionals and ties. That came at even par, with 74 players advancing to Sunday’s final round. The nine players sent home receive earnings, and credit for a cut made.
No birdies for Bradley
For the first time in his three Travelers appearances, Keegan Bradley failed to make a birdie in a round, shooting a Saturday 72 to fall from a tie for eighth to a tie for 25th. He made 16 pars, and bogeys at Nos. 1 and 5 . . . Patrick Reed was in Saturday’s final pairing with Watson, but shot 73 to fall back into a tie for 19th . . . US Open champion Justin Rose, who took a three-shot lead into the final year at the Travelers three years ago and shot 75 (when Watson won in a playoff), remained in the hunt with a 68. He’s at 7 under, three shots back.