Todd matches Johnson’s 61 to take the lead at Travelers

Brendon Todd in action during the third round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 June 2020

Todd matches Johnson’s 61 to take the lead at Travelers

  • Both shot bogey-free rounds, with Todd making five birdies on the front nine and Johnson five on the back

CROMWELL, Connecticut: Brendon Todd and Dustin Johnson each shot career-low 61s at the Travelers Championship on Saturday, leaving Todd with a two-stroke lead over the 2016 US Open champion.

The 34-year-old Georgian, playing a couple holes behind Johnson, had a chance at the tournament’s second 60 of the week but missed a 10-foot putt to the left on the 18th hole.

He finished with a 54-hole score of 192, 18 under par, after shooting 66-65 the first two rounds. Johnson, who is looking for his 21st win on tour, also has improved each day, opening with a 69-64.

Both shot bogey-free rounds, with Todd making five birdies on the front nine and Johnson five on the back. Todd said the round became a game of whatever you can do, I can do just as well.

“It’s hard to miss the leader boards obviously, so (Johnson’s) name was up there from a pretty early point,” Todd said. “Again, I just use it as motivation to go out there and make some more birdies.”

Todd is looking for his third win of the season but his first since the fall, when he went back-to-back at the Bermuda Championship and the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico.

“Whenever I get a two- or three-week stretch in a row, I tend to be playing better by the end of it,” he said. “That’s just something I’m using to my advantage now after missing two cuts. I’m peaking in the third week and hopefully I can get it done tomorrow.”

Despite going 9 under for the day, Johnson lamented missing several birdie chances and an eagle attempt on the par-4 ninth, when his ball stopped six inches from the pin.

Just two of his birdie putts, an 18-footer at the 10th hole and a 21-footer on the 12th, were longer than 9 feet.

“I really felt like I controlled the distance with my irons really well and hit tons of good shots,” he said. “I had a lot of really good looks at birdie.”

Kevin Streelman fired a 63 after two straight rounds of 66 and was just three shots back. Mackenzie Hughes, who led after a 60 on Thursday, shot his second straight 68 for sole possession of fourth place.

“Today if I had putted like I did the first day, I could have shot low 60s for sure,” Hughes said. “Play the same as I did today tee to green and roll in a few putts and it’ll be awesome.”

Bryson DeChambeau and Kevin Na each shot 65 and were tied for fifth at 197.

Phil Mickelson, who celebrated his 50th birthday on June 16, began the day with a one-stroke lead but struggled, finishing tied for seventh in a group six shots back. He made just his second bogey of the week on the third hole and also dropped strokes on the seventh and 13th before finishing with a 71.

Mickelson, looking for his 45th win and third on this course, has mostly struggled. He missed the cut in his previous three tournaments.

“I haven’t played great this year,” he said. “I’ve missed a lot of cuts, and the next thing I know my game is starting to come back and I can sense it. I played two great rounds, and this is really a lot of fun.”

Top-ranked Rory McIlroy, who opened the tournament with a 63, said he feels he is too far back to contend for the title after rounds of 68 and 69. He bogeyed two of his final four holes — his tee shot landed in the water on the course’s signature 15th hole and he also made bogey at 18 — to finish in a group eight shots back.

“I guess, if I had have been able to sneak a couple more over the last few holes, get to 14 and then all of a sudden you feel like you’re right in it. But I went the other way those last few holes, and that’s what took me out of it,” he said.

England pace aces create ‘headache’ for Root ahead of Pakistan Tests

Updated 03 August 2020

England pace aces create ‘headache’ for Root ahead of Pakistan Tests

  • England have the luxury of six specialist pacemen in their 14-man squad for this week’s first Test against Pakistan 
  • Hosts rotated their quicks during last month’s 2-1 series win over the West Indies which forms a program of six Tests in seven weeks

LONDON: England have the luxury of six specialist pacemen in their 14-man squad for this week’s first Test against Pakistan at Old Trafford — a welcome “headache” for captain Joe Root.
The skipper can call on veteran new-ball partners James Anderson and Stuart Broad, the express pace of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood and the impressive Sam Curran and Chris Woakes.
The hosts rotated their quicks during last month’s 2-1 series win over the West Indies which, together with the upcoming campaign against Pakistan, forms a program of six Tests in seven weeks.
That is a particularly tough schedule for fast bowlers in a season cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
England’s management has argued no paceman can play all six Tests, with the restrictions imposed by maintaining a bio-secure “bubble” requiring several options to be immediately at hand.
But it is an issue they will need to handle with care given they have now lost the opener in eight of their past 10 multi-match Test series, which for all their resilience could prove costly if it happens against Pakistan.
Broad revealed on Sunday he felt “so low” after being omitted from the West Indies opener that he considered retiring.
The recalled Broad responded with 16 wickets at a miserly average of under 11 in the next two matches as he joined long-standing England new-ball colleague Anderson as one of a select group of seven bowlers to have taken 500 Test wickets.
At 34, and bowling a generally fuller length which makes his ability to move the ball late off the seam an even more challenging proposition, Broad is in arguably the best form of his career.
Anderson, four years older and a swing bowler who thrives in home conditions, is closing in on 600 Test wickets, with England’s all-time leading bowler clearly not done yet.

World Cup winners Archer and Wood provide England with the option of genuine 90-miles-per-hour-plus pace, with speed through the air an asset even when pitch and overhead conditions favor the batsmen.
Then there is Curran, whose left-arm angle adds variety to an otherwise all right-arm attack. The Surrey bowler has won every Test he has played in at home.
Woakes, who took 5-50 in the West Indies decider, has a better home average than either Broad or Anderson, with his 81 Test wickets in England coming at just 22 apiece.
Woakes is now more inclined to deploy a sharp bouncer, which makes it harder for batsmen to routinely push forward in the hope of blunting his movement.
That still leaves the pace bowling of star all-rounder Ben Stokes who, as he showed before guiding England to an astounding one-wicket win with a brilliant century during last year’s Headingley Test against Australia, can also drag his side back into matches by sheer force of personality with the ball.
But the West Indies finale may serve as a model for England.
Stokes was unfit to bowl, although he featured as a batsman, and that meant England deployed Anderson, Broad, Archer and Woakes in an attack featuring spinner Dom Bess after omitting batsman Zak Crawley.
England could now drop Bess or still play four specialist quicks even if Stokes is fit to bowl for the first Test, which starts at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
There were times when Archer, who clearly thrives on responsibility, was relegated to the role of first and second change during the West Indies finale and appeared to bowl accordingly.
Archer was making his return after missing the second Test due to a breach of coronavirus protocols.
It may be, however, that even Anderson and Broad will have to accept they cannot always be the “main men” from now on.
England often appear so obsessed with the Ashes that the opponent in front of them becomes relegated to a warm-up act for their next confrontation with Australia.
But this season’s compressed schedule may have inadvertently given England a template for how to regain the urn Down Under in 2021/22.
“With the talent that’s waiting in the wings it’s an exciting place to be and long may those headaches continue,” said Root.