5 Things: Duke gets 1st Tour win in playoff
Third-round co-leaders Graham DeLaet, Charley Hoffman and Bubba Watson were passed Sunday by Ken Duke and Chris Stroud, who dueled in a playoff as each sought his first PGA Tour win at the Travelers Championship.
Duke –- a veteran of 19 professional seasons -– emerged victorious with a birdie on the second playoff hole on a sunny day at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.
Here are 5 Things to Know from the Travelers Championship:
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1. DUKE'S DART: Well back of Chris Stroud in the fairway on the second playoff hole, Duke nonetheless took dead aim at the bunker-guarded pin with his approach on No. 18.
It was dead-on, clearing the sand and settling inside 3 feet.
Stroud reached the green from the fairway, but was left with a long birdie putt; his effort on the green would have made for a good lag putt, just missing low, but with Duke at can't-miss range he needed to make it.
Duke seemingly took a moment to collect himself while reading the short putt, then rolled it in for the win. He had won twice on the Web.com Tour and earned three runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour.
Duke had gotten into the playoff thanks in part to a lucky break at No. 10, where his approach on the par-4 was wide left of the green but caromed to inside 5 feet of the pin. He made birdie, one of four in a six-hole stretch. His final-round 66 got him to 12 under – shooting under par in every round this week.
Stroud also had shot under par every day this week, closing with a 67 – including chipping in on the 18th green to earn the playoff spot. Having turned pro in 2004 out of Lamar, Stroud's best Tour finish is fourth in the Mayakoba Golf Classic; he's never won on the Web.com Tour.
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2. WATSON WANES: Still looking for his first win since the Masters, Bubba Watson led late at the Travelers Championship.
Watson was 13 under through 12 holes Saturday before bogeying three of five holes to fall back to 10 under, the mark where he began the final round Sunday as co-leader alongside Graham DeLaet and Charley Hoffman.
Again, Watson pushed his way to 13 under on the back nine – thanks to birdies at Nos. 10, 13 and 15. And again, he gave back 3 shots.
This time, it was one hole that undid Watson. He hit his tee shot in the water, chiding caddie Ted Scott afterward, on the par-3 16th; he had played the hole to 1 under for first three rounds. From the drop area, he went at the pin at the back of the green and overshot the putting surface. He failed to get up and down, carding a 6.
Two pars later, he signed for his second consecutive even-par 70. That left him in fourth place and two shots out of the playoff.
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3. SIZZLING SUNDAYS: You probably didn't hear much about Angel Cabrera or Rickie Fowler this week, neither having factored much into contention at the U.S. Open nor going particularly low during the first three rounds at TPC River Highlands (Cabrera's opening 67 had been the best round for either). Yet both finished strong.
The low round of the day was posted early by Cabrera when he shot a 63 that pushed him to an T-9 finish.
His round was topped by four straight birdies after he made the turn, from the 10th to the 13th. In all, he had nine birdies against bogeys at the 8th and 17th.
Fowler followed suit with a 64 despite a three-putt at the last for his only bogey of the day. He finished T-13 –- and had his playing partner envying at least one part of his game. Fowler had just one bogey against five birdies and an eagle.
Said Gary Christian, no slouch himself Sunday with a 66, via social media from his Twitter account, @GazzaGolf1966: "Pleasure playing with @RickieFowlerPGA today - lovely fellow, would love to rent his putting stroke" – to which Fowler replied from his account, @RickieFowlerPGA: ".@GazzaGolf1966 enjoyed it man! Wish we could have had a couple more go in!"
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4. FUTURE IS BRIGHT: Justin Thomas and Chris Williams gave the PGA Tour a glimpse at what they can expect to see quite a bit of during the next few years.
Thomas, an Alabama junior and playing as an amateur, finished T-30 at 3 under after a 3-over 73 Sunday that included four back-nine bogeys. Thomas posted back-to-back 66s Friday and Saturday, picking up six birdies in each round.
Williams, who turned pro this week, also finished T-30 after a second consecutive 69 Sunday. Williams, a former All-American at Washington, started and ended his Sunday round with back-to-back birdies. After hitting more than 80 percent of his fairways during the first two rounds, Williams struggled off the tee over the weekend, including hitting only 8 of 14 fairways Sunday.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: DeLaet finished with a 1-under 69 to stand alone in third place. . . . Hoffman closed with a 72, his second over-par round of the week, for T-7. . . . Webb Simpson opened the week as he began it, with a 5-under 65; the round was the best among those who began the day in the top 25 it pushed him to a T-5 finish. . . . Justin Rose's final-round 71 ensured that we'll wait another year to see a U.S. Open champ win in back-to-back weeks. The last was Ernie Els in 1997. . . . Lee Westwood probably wishes he had Sunday to do all over again, a 78 pushing him to the bottom of the weekend field at 7 over for 74th. It could have been worse had he not birdied the last two. Among his posts afterward from his Twitter account, @WestwoodLee: "Not had a 4 putt for ages then 2 come along in the same week on the same green! Like London buses!" . . . Padraig Harrington could have used a pair of late birdies. Starting the day T-14, his 80 dropped him next-to-last.