Xander Schauffele zoomed ahead when second-ranked Rory McIlroy hit a couple big bumps in the road.
Schauffele, from La Jolla and San Diego State, recorded a second straight bogey-free, 7-under-par 63 to take a five-stroke lead over sixth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, defending champion Harris English, Kevin Kisner, Nick Hardy and Cam Davis of Australia midway through the 70th Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.
McIlroy, who was tied for the lead with an opening 62, was still ahead until he took an ugly quadruple-bogey 8 on the 12th hole, added a double-bogey 6 at No. l6 on his way to a 70 and slid to a tie for seventh.
“Two straight rounds of 63 is just great,” said Schauffele, the 2021 Olympic Gold Medalist. “I hit all 18 greens yesterday, but wasn’t quite as sharp and had to do a little more scrambling today, but I got it done. I’m definitely happy with the way things turned out. It hasn’t been too windy so far, which make the greens easier to it.
“I just try to keep my head down, not worry about what anybody else is doing out there and just take care of what I have to do. I’ve got a good process going this week and just want to keep it going that way for the next two days.”
Schauffele, who teamed with Cantlay to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April and has 10 finishes in the top 25 this season, birdied five of the first eight holes highlighted by a 20-foot putt at No. 5, and made three more birdies coming home, including a 28-foot putt at No. 11, on his way to a 36-hole score of 14-under 126.
Cantlay, the defending FedEx Cup champion and PGA Tour Player of the Year, made four birdies while finishing a 67 on the front nine, English also had four birdies coming home in a 65, Kisner sank a six-foot eagle putt at No. 13 in a 64, Hardy had seven birdies in another 64, and Davis birdied the first three holes to kick-start a 66.
Said Cantlay, who shot 60 as an amateur in the 2011 Travelers on his way to a tie for 24th: “I think the course will firm up a little bit. I think historically, high teens (under par) is usually a pretty good score around here. You know, I think if no one runs away … if you get into the teens here you’ve got a chance.”
McIlroy pulled his drive out of bounds at No. 12 and hit his third shot into the water at No. 16 on the way to those big numbers and his 70 left him six shots back in a huge tie for seventh that includes Sahith Theegala of Chino Hills and Pepperdine, John Huh of Los Angeles and Cal State Northridge, and Seamus Power of Ireland, who all finished at 65.
“I was playing pretty well, but just had a horrible stretch on the back nine,” said McIlroy, who claimed his 21st PGA Tour victory two weeks ago in the RBC Canadian Open. “I haven’t felt comfortable with my fairway woods lately and three bad swings cost me six strokes.
“I haven’t made any big numbers like that for a while, but I’m still in the tournament after two rounds and there’s plenty of golf left to be played.”
K.H. Lee of South Korea holed a 21-foot eagle putt at No. 13 in a 64 and also is in the tie for seventh with Matthew NeSmith, who carded a bogey-free 67, Charles Howell III (68), Martin Laird of Scotland (69) and first-round co-leader J.T. Poston (70).
Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler is tied for 26th after a 67, while ninth-ranked Sam Burns posted a second 70 and missed the cut by two strokes in a tie for 88th, and 11th-ranked Jordan Spieth, who won the 2017 Travelers, bounced back from a 75 with a bogey-free 66 but missed the weekend by three shots in a tie for 100th.
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