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Watson New Pacesetter at Travelers


Bubba Watson followed up his opening 7-under 63 with a 67 Friday to take the lead in the Travelers Championship. The $6.1 million PGA Tour is taking place at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.

Watson, the 2012 Masters champion and winner of the Travelers in 2010 for his first Tour title, carded four birdies and a bogey on the par-70 layout. He stands at 10-under 130, two strokes ahead of Patrick Reed and Padraig Harrington, each of whom has carded two straight 66s.

"The golf course has generous fairways, and you're having short-irons into a lot of the holes," said Watson, who finished second to Marc Leishman last year in the tournament. "And it's playable from the rough, unlike last week, not really playable," he added about the U.S. Open at Merion.

Tied for fourth at 7-under 133 are Tag Ridings (65), Australia's Nick O'Hern (66), Tommy Gainey (67) and Hunter Mahan. Mahan, who opened with a 62 and was second to Charley Hoffman entering Friday, had a 71.

With the sun continuing to shine, the TPC River Highlands course has dried out and played harder and faster than the first day. There was no 61, such as was shot by Hoffman Thursday. The 36-year-old needed 12 strokes more Friday en route to posting a 73 and falling into a tie for eighth at 134 with Keegan Bradley (65), Webb Simpson (69) and Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge (67).

There were 11 players who are five shots behind Watson at 5-under 135. The group includes Ricky Barnes (68), Canada's Graham DeLaet (70), William McGirt (68), J.J. Henry (67), Zach Johnson (70), Chris Stroud (69), John Rollins (68), John Huh (69), Jerry Kelly (68), Colombia's Camilo Villegas (70) and Kevin Stadler (67).

Also at that number is Justin Rose. The 32-year-old, who won his first major title last weekend at Merion, followed up his opening 67 with a 68. Rose admitted to reporters that he's experiencing a bit of an "Open hangover" in the Travelers.

"Still don't feel like I'm 100 percent with my body," he told PGATour.com. "I found getting up this morning was a tough one. The night was very, very short."

Still, Rose is seeking to become the first player who ever won the U.S. Open to log a victory the very next week. "I'm just trying to honor the plan as best I can," said Rose, who's also scheduled to play in next week's AT&T National at Congressional. "Honor what's been working for me so well."

Leishman is in another big group tied for 24th at 136 following a 70.

Other scores included a 2-under 68 by Chris Williams, the reigning winner of college golf's Ben Hogan Award who turned pro last week and is playing on a sponsor's exemption. Williams turned 22 Friday and, with his 2-under effort, qualified for the weekend's final two rounds right on the cut line of 1-under 139.

Also playing this weekend is Alabama amateur Justin Thomas, who followed up his opening 72 with a sterling 66. The Goshen, Ky., native, who helped the Crimson Tide win the 2013 NCAA Men's National Golf Championship in resounding fashion over Illinois, is tied for 41st at 2-under 138 with, among others, Vijay Singh. On Wednesday, the PGA Tour filed a motion in the New York Supreme Court to have a lawsuit filed by Singh dismissed.

Singh filed suit in May, claiming the Tour "violated its duty of care and good faith" after he admitted to Sports Illustrated that he used deer-antler spray. Singh was later absolved of any violation.

Among the more notable players heading home are Rickie Fowler, Lee Westwood, Stewart Cink, Jason Dufner, Davis Love III and local favorite Brad Faxon.

Faxon, who usually plays on the Champions Tour but got into this week's field on a sponsor's exemption, opened with a promising 69 but shot a 77 Friday. The 51-year-old Rhode Island native was making his 29th appearance at TPC River Highlands; he won the last of his eight PGA Tour title there - when it was called the Buick Championship - in 2005.

For all the scores, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.