Travelers Championship: The Leaders’ Winning Formulas

Sifting through Saturday’s interviews at the Travelers Championship, I was struck by how many prescriptions the players had for what it was going to take to win on Sunday.

It’s a very tight leaderboard with three players tied for the lead at 10-under: Charlie Hoffman, Bubba Watson and Graham Delaet. Nick O’Hearn is one stroke back with Chris Stroud and one back of them is Ken Duke.

Hoffman and Watson have won before, Delaet, a Canadian, has four international victories, but none on the PGA Tour yet. Here’s what they’re going to be trying to do to win on Sunday.

Charlie Hoffman: I mean I’ll just try to take one shot at a time. This golf course is hard. You can make a lot of birdies out here, but like I demonstrated yesterday, you can make doubles pretty quick and bogeys also. So I’m just going to try to put the ball in position off the tee like I have been, give myself opportunities. I mean I drove it well early and gave myself a bunch of opportunities with wedges into the greens today, and hopefully I’ll have that opportunity tomorrow. You get out of position here, you can make some bogeys.

Obviously if I get on 17 tee [where he hit it in the hazard to lose the tournament last year], I’d be lying to say I’m not going to think about that tee shot, but I’m a much more mature, better player than I was a year ago and don’t feel uncomfortable on that tee shot, and guess what, I’m going to envision the same tee shot I’ve hit the last three days. And hopefully I pull it off. If I don’t, I don’t and if I do, I do.

[As to getting over that tee shot last year] I think about it, but obviously I think about a lot of other things. I like being in the position to win, so it’s good to have those things go through your mind, but you wash it out and just focus on that spot where you want to hit it and go from there.

Bubba Watson: Yeah.  I’m looking forward to it.  This is what we sign up to do, have a chance to win on Sunday and got a pretty good position to be in right now, I’m tied for the lead, and one good round tomorrow, then I can walk away with the tournament title.

I’m full of energy when I get here, this golf tournament, Travelers is a great sponsor, but for me this golf course always suits me eye.  I’m looking forward to it.  Know I have some quality play here.  I know I can play in certain conditions here, so I’m looking forward to the challenge.

I’ll do the same thing [as Saturday], try to make birdies around this golf course.  Try to limit your mistakes.  And yeah, it’s still golf.  Still 18 holes.

You know, you play safe, and then obviously coming down the stretch if you’re one back, two back or whatever, you get more aggressive, or if you’re leading by a bunch, kind of play a lot smarter.

Graham DeLaet: Pretty much try to do the same things I have been doing.  It’s probably going to take a hot putter for me tomorrow to win the tournament, depending on what the leaders do out there, but at the same time I feel like I’m hitting it well.  I’m in control of my golf ball.  I’m giving myself a lot of looks, and if I can make a couple early and get a little confidence going with the putter, you never know, but like I said, I might be six or seven back at the end of the day.  I don’t know what these guys are doing out there, but happy to be where I’m at and I’m excited about the opportunity tomorrow.

Nick O’Hearn: Yeah.  There were some tough pins out there today, especially on the back nine.  We had to be a little cautious firing at some of those flags.  I had a look at some of the pins tomorrow and it’s going to be the same story.  A lot depends on conditions.  If it’s dry, windy, the scores won’t be too low, so we’ll play it by ear and hopefully roll in a few putts tomorrow.

It’s nice to be in contention.  The juices are flowing.  I’m playing good, so everything is aligning nicely.  It’s just a matter of can I execute.  So it’s why we play the game, why we practice and it’s been a while for me to be in this position.  The good news is my game is in really good shape.  And it’s just a matter of rolling in a few putts, so we’ll see.

It’s going to be hard.  The pins are going to be tucked away again which I’ve seen.  The conditions will determine that.  If it’s dry like today, who knows how many under will win, but I don’t think you’ll see very low scores if it’s like today.  If it’s a little softer, well, then sure, we can fire a bit more.  Sundays are always different.  It’s a matter of who handles themselves the best and that’s what we’re all trying to do.

Ken Duke: I wish I could predict the future, man.  I tell you what, Bubba and some of those guys at the top are playing good.  If the wind picks up, maybe it’ll hold them back a little bit and some of us guys can make a run at it tomorrow [he shot 5-under Saturday, low score of the day, along with Graham DeLaet and one other guy who wasn’t a factor].  But you just never know out here.

It’s firming up.  We’ve had perfect weather here.  Usually we have some thundershowers and get some rain that softens it up.  But that last hole I hit a pitching wedge from 138, and when it hit the green it went about 12 steps.  It’s usually stopping about five or six.  So that’s the difference from the first day to today, it’s firming up out there.  And when this golf course gets firm, it plays harder.

It’s good just to get to Saturday.  But it’s good to have a good round and look forward to Sunday.  That’s what it’s all about.  You prepare to practice for Sunday’s round and hopefully you have a good round and see what happens. I like this golf course.  I’ve played well here.  You have to drive it well.  That’s what I do.  Just have to get the putter hot, and the last couple of days I’ve played pretty solid.

Played well a few times in New Orleans.  Dallas, played well.  Tampa last year.  Bogeyed the 17th hole and missed a playoff by one.  Had a lot of good Top 10s.  In the final group at Pebble last year with Charlie Wi.  So it’s there.  Just gotta put it all together and that’s what it’s all about.

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