CROMWELL, Conn. — Although Bubba Watson will always have a soft spot in his heart for Augusta National Golf Club, he enjoys playing TPC at River Highlands nearly as much.
Watson shot 3-under-par 67 Friday to take a two-stroke lead over ex-Augusta State All-American Patrick Reed and Padraig Harrington after two rounds of the Travelers Championship.
“I love this place. I always play well here,” Watson said.
The 2010 Travelers champion is at 10-under 130. Reed and Harrington are 8-under after both shot 66s in the second round. Four players – including 2007 champion Hunter Mahan – are tied for fourth at 7-under.
Reed, who helped lead the Jaguars to back-to-back national titles, had five birdies and a bogey Friday. His best finish this season came at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February, where he tied for seventh.
Charley Hoffman, who held the first-round lead after 61 on Thursday, had 73 in a round that included three bogeys and a double-bogey.
U.S. Open winner Justin Rose is tied for 12th at 5-under.
Watson, whose last victory came in the 2012 Masters, has played well in this event often. He’s finished in the top 15 four times in six previous starts, including that win in 2010 and a second-place finish last year.
“The tee shots set up well for me. I like the way they look,” Watson said. “There’s about two tee shots on the whole course that are really tough for me. Other than that, the course sets up well for me.”
With two top-10 finishes and six top-25s this season, Watson is currently 57th in FedEx Cup points. He finished tied for 32nd in last week’s U.S. Open.
“It’s funny. Last year if I don’t hit the hook shot and I don’t win, I don’t have a win all year, even though it was my best year on Tour,” Watson said, referring to his sweeping left-to-right recovery shot from the trees in his playoff win at Augusta. “I’m looking to be more consistent. I had a lot more top 25s over the last few years, a lot less cuts.”
Watson began his day with a bogey at No. 10 but made four birdies after that in the relatively benign morning conditions. Windy conditions kept many of those who began their rounds in the afternoon from matching the scores of their early rising counterparts.
Still, Harrington managed a 66 despite teeing off at 12:40 p.m.
“It did get windy out there,” Harrington said. “It was a challenge but there were still opportunities to make birdies.”
Harrington hasn’t won since the 2008 PGA Championship, his third career major. The 41-year-old Irishman has missed four cuts this season but is playing relatively well lately. He finished 10th at the St. Jude Classic two weeks ago and tied for 21st at the U.S. Open last week.
Harrington shot consecutive rounds of 4-under-par but called his second effort “a fighting 66.”
“I didn’t hit it perfect in any shape or form on the first two days,” said Harrington, who was in contention to win here in 2010 and 2012. “So I’m not exactly brimming with confidence.”
Rose admits to being a bit tired but still shot 68 Friday.
“I haven’t hit the ball quite as solidly as I would have liked to,” said Rose, who made bogey on River Highlands’ two easiest holes, Nos. 2 and 15. “I just think I need to maybe go and take care of my body a little bit, some stretching, some physio, maybe a workout, just work out a few kinks. I feel a little bit stiff and tight in the back and the hips.”