CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) — Justin Rose closed in on his second straight PGA Tour victory Saturday, shooting a 2-under 68 to take a three-stroke lead over Ben Curtis into the final round of the Travelers Championship.
Rose, the 29-year-old Englishman who won the Memorial three weeks ago but then failed to qualify for the U.S. Open, had a 16-under 194 total at TPC River Highlands after setting the tournament 36-hole record with rounds of 64 and 62.
“It was just a day when nothing went in on the greens at all,” said Rose, a stroke off the best 54-hole total in tournament history. “The tale of the day was that I made nothing on the greens. The longest putt I made was 4 feet, 10 inches for par on 17.
“So, I’m really happy to have a day like that on the greens and still shoot 68 and still maintain my lead.”
Curtis, the 2003 British Open champion, shot a 64. Vaughn Taylor (67) was 11 under, and Ricky Barnes (64), Scott McCarron (66), Brendon de Jonge (67), Bubba Watson (67), Matt Jones (68), Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin (69) and Bill Lunde (69) were 10 under.
Charlie Wi cut Rose’s lead – four strokes after the first two days – to two early in the round, but that was as close as Wi or anyone else could get.
Rose birdied Nos. 5 and 6 to open a six-stroke lead before Curtis – seven strokes back at the start of the round – pulled within three with five back-nine birdies.
“I thought the start was key for me today,” Rose said. “I hit a lot of good shots early in my round. Birdies at 5 and 6 really felt like it got the round going and brought me back into the comfort zone.”
Rose drove into the water on the 13th hole en route to his first bogey in 37 holes.
“I had only one real bad swing – on the tee on 13,” Rose said. “There was a little bit of wait there. It was just a bit of a slack tee shot, I suppose. After that, I played really well. I bounced back well from the only bogey of the day.”
Curtis’s big regret was that he didn’t play the front nine as well as he did the back. His had eight pars and a birdie on the opening nine.
“I got off to a slower start today than I maybe wanted to,” Curtis said. “I just stayed patient and tried to keep hitting the greens and tried to make the putts and luckily, on the last nine holes, they kind of started going in.”
Rose’s birdie on 15 stretched his lead back to three.
“I just got to keep playing aggressive when I need to and just keep hitting the greens and picking the right club,” Curtis said. “You know, it’s one of those weeks when if you shoot par, you’re going to go backward.”