Bubba Watson overcomes snapped driver to take Travelers lead


CROMWELL, Conn. — We pause now to fondly remember Bubba Watson’s neon pink driver, which broke apart mid-swing on the second tee in the Travelers Championship on Friday.

And, if the three-time winner is going to have luck like this over the weekend, please spare a few thoughts for the rest of the field at the TPC River Highlands, too.

Watson recovered after snapping his driver to make birdie at No. 2 on his way to a second straight 66, bringing him to 8 under par and the tournament lead midway through the second round.

“It was a perfect tee shot right down the middle. Chipped it in there and made the putt for birdie,” Watson said wryly. “Ho-hum.”

Russell Henley (66) and Kevin Kisner (63) were tied at minus-7, with first-round co-leader Kramer Hickok waiting to tee off in the afternoon. Satoshi Kodaira, who was also 7 under on Thursday, shot a 2-over 72 in the second round.

Watson, who won the tournament in 2010, ’15 and ’18, started at No. 10 on Friday morning and was 1 under for the day when he arrived at the par-4, 350-yard second hole.

That’s when his club fell apart — but he didn’t.

After making contact with the ball, Watson’s clubhead came hurtling off the shaft, landing short of the gallery to the right and leaving him with a broken shaft in his hands.

“Luckily … it didn’t reach the crowd so nobody got hurt,” he said. “Nobody in my group knew were the ball was. Once you hit, you’re focused on where the driver head goes.”

Despite a fairly pronounced fade, the ball landed in the fairway, about 50 yards from the pin. Watson pitched to within 11 feet and holed the putt.

Watson said it might have been the travel, going from hot to cold, or overuse that caused the club to break right above the hosel where the shaft connects to the head. His caddie, Ted Scott, tried to pry out the remnant of the shaft so the head could be reused; Watson had a spare driver in his car trunk in case of just such an emergency.

Rule 4.1 allows Watson to replace the club. After hitting a 3-wood on the 437-yard, par-4 third, he had his backup in time for the 479-yard, par-4 fourth.

“It’s one of those things that happened before and I always have a backup. They brought me the backup two holes later and I played with that the rest of the day,” he said. “I knew there was only a couple drivers left, so really wasn’t too big a deal.”

Watson added birdies on the fifth and sixth holes before holing a 50-foot birdie putt on No. 7 to take the lead at 9 under. He gave that shot back with a missed 3-footer on the final hole.

“I was trying to get some extra ones if I could,” he said. “Just one of those things that went the wrong way.”

Henley was tied for the 54-hole lead at the U.S. Open last week before shooting a 76 on the final day and finishing in a tie for 13th.

“That did take a lot out of me. Didn’t really realize it,” Henley said. “I feel OK. I’m definitely going to try to chill this afternoon. But just the fact that Tiger has won 15 of these (majors) and Phil (Mickelson) has won six — I mean, you just think of these guys winning that many majors and it’s just unbelievable to think about how tough they are mentally.”

Mickelson and second-ranked Dustin Johnson were 2 under through 36 holes. Brooks Koepka shot 67 on Friday and was four shots behind Watson.

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