CROMWELL, Conn. – Kramer Hickok finished the third round of the Travelers Championship too late in the day to go fly fishing again.
He’ll have to wait until Sunday to try to reel in the biggest catch of his career.
The 29-year-old minor league tour regular shot a 2-under 68 on Saturday to tie for the lead with three-time winner Bubba Watson. Hickok, who has never won on the PGA Tour, opened a two-stroke lead before bogeying the final two holes.
“I thought I’d be a lot more nervous than I am,” said Hickok, who went fly fishing on the nearby Farmington River after the first round. “I know those nerves are going to be there. It’s just embracing those nerves, not trying to fight it."
Watson shot a 68 at the TPC River Highlands, picking up three strokes on Hickok over the final two holes. Jason Day was also also in a tie for the lead before a bogey on No. 18 dropped him into a three-way tie at minus-9.
“When you’re playing in the afternoon you know the challenge ahead of you,” said Watson, who won the event in 2010, ‘15 and ’18. “You don’t want to play safe. In my stage of my career if I have a chance to win I’m going to go for it. That’s the key. I’m not going to worry about third or fourth place. I am going to try to go for it if I can.”
Hickock was 12 under — two strokes ahead of Day and three in front of Watson — heading to the 17th before flying the green and missing a 10-foot par putt. He was still a stroke ahead of the final pairing before three-putting from 8 feet on No. 18 to fall back into a tie.
“I’ve been in contention before,” said Hickok, who has victories on the Korn Ferry Tour and the Canadian Mackenzie Tour. “Obviously, this is a bigger stage. But it’s just about going out there and playing golf, and I play my best when I’m relaxed.”
Watson birdied No. 17 to move to 10 under and then missed a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the lead. Day, the overnight leader, putted past the 18th hole from 22 feet for a bogey to finish at 70.
Cameron Smith (66) and Russell Henley (68) also were 9 under, and three players were another stroke back.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson, who birdied the last two holes on Friday to make the cut on the number, shot 65 to climb into a tie for ninth at minus-7. The former world No. 1 reached the clubhouse just two strokes off Day’s 36-hole lead.
“To birdie the last two yesterday to make the cut, which I definitely wanted to be here for the weekend, and obviously go out today and shoot a nice score, it was good,” he said. “So I feel like the game is coming around.”
Johnson shot 61 on Saturday last year to move from a tie for 20th into second, two strokes behind leader Brendan Todd. His victory was his first in 490 days; a win on Sunday would give him his first victory of 2021.
Abraham Ancer made a hole-in-one with a 7-iron on the 179-yard eighth hole. It was his second straight year with an ace at TPC River Highlands. He had a 1 on the 169-yard 16th hole in the first round last year, when he tied for 11th.
Kyle Stanley also made a 1 with a 7-iron on the eighth.
Mark Hubbard took some time out from his round to help a wayward turtle find its way back to a pond after it had wandered onto the eighth green. “He’s out there playing lift, clean and place,” announcer Jim Nantz said on the broadcast.