Bubba Watson not going to play it safe: Final round preview of the Travelers Championship

The three-time tournament winner shares the lead with Kramer Hickok heading into the final round at TPC River Highlands.

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Harris English to win 12/1

Sunday at the Travelers Championship is looking a lot like a cavalry charge; with 18 holes to play at TPC River Highlands there are 26 players within four shots of the lead.

"Anyone can win it," is an over-used phrase in golf, but for once it has some relevance, especially given the tournament's history of final round comebacks - no less than three of the last 11 winners were six back at this stage (which gives 44 of the field hope).

Bubba Watson shares the lead with Kramer Hickok on 10-under 200 and is in no doubt about his Sunday strategy.

"You don't want to play safe," he said after a Saturday 68. "At this 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."

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A three-time winner on the course, he trusts in a simple plan.

"I'm not going to change anything," he said. "I've played here pretty good over the years and so my whole thing is just make birdies when you can."

All that said, Watson is keen to maintain perspective.

"I expect to play good here," he said. "But expecting to win? That's Tiger Woods level and I'm nowhere near Tiger Woods level.

"You know what I'm saying? That's a Jack Nicklaus/Tiger Woods saying.

"So, to play good is one thing. And I don't know what you all think playing good is, but I think a top 25 is playing good. Right? These guys are really good at golf.

"Then you go from there. A top 25 is nice, but then if you move it in, top 15, top 10, top five, that's what you want on the weekend on or Sunday.

"So tomorrow when I (hit the back nine), hopefully I have a chance to challenge for the win."

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Among those seeking to go low and apply pressure to the leaders are Cameron Smith, Russell Henley and Jason Day, who share third on 9-under with Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau three back on 7-under.

Let's take a look at the leading contenders.

Bubba Watson - tied first, 10-under (66, 66, 68)

A fourth tournament win is the goal and he knows how to go low on Sunday at River Highlands: he has a final round average of 66.73 and has twice carded a 63. He's 4-for-11 at converting a 54 hole lead, but three of the wins have come in his last four instances.

Kramer Hickok - tied first, 10-under (63,69,69)

Completely new ground for the 29-year-old who has never won, or held a 54 hole lead, on the PGA Tour. He is, however, 2-for-4 from this position on the Canadian and Korn Ferry Tours. He was one back of the third round lead in last year's Bermuda Championship, ending the week tied eighth.

"I'm trying to relay it back to how I felt on the Korn Ferry Tour and Canadian Tours," he said. "Obviously this is a bigger stage, but it's just about going out there and playing golf."

Cameron Smith - tied third, 9-under (67, 68, 66)

The Aussie has rediscovered his fine form from the early months of the year, is set to land a first top 30 at the course at the fifth time of asking, and is hopeful of doing so in style. "I'm confident and ready to really give it a crack," he said. "Sometimes it doesn't go your way and that's just the way golf is. But I'm feeling confident for sure."

Russell Henley - tied third, 9-under (67, 66, 68)

Contended in last week's US Open and is riding the Torrey Pines wave. "I probably learned that I can handle more pressure than I thought I could," he said. "I've always known under the gun I can handle it because I've won a few times out here. But last week was more pressure than I've experienced. So that gives me confidence. Everybody is so good out here and you got to keep playing good golf all the way to the very end to have a chance."

Jason Day - tied third, 9-under (69, 62, 70)

His experience last week was entirely different to Henley's. "It was killing me to watch the US Open sitting at home," he said. "I'm just trying to slowly work my way back to where I need to be." He's chasing just a second top 10 of 2021.

River Highlands trends

Par 4 performance matters: every winner since Kevin Streelman in 2014 led the category. Good news for the current co-leaders who are both on track to maintain that pattern.

The last six winners have also all ranked top six for Strokes Gained Tee to Green. That's bad news for Hickok (currently 23rd), but good for Watson (second).

Seven of the last 25 tournament winners were at least four shots off the pace at this stage. That said, 23 of 25 were T7th or better.

Do those three trends lead us anywhere? Maybe towards Harris English.

The winner of January's Tournament of Champions ranks fifth Tee to Green, sixth for the Par 4s, lies tied sixth on the leaderboard just two shots back of the lead, and has found form in recent weeks - he was tied second at this stage in the Palmetto Championship (finishing T14th) and third at last week's US Open. He's 12/1 with PlanetSportBet.

And an absolute potential bolter? Brendon Todd ranks eighth Tee to Green, fourth on the Par 4s and is four back on 6-under. If his putter (often his best weapon) catches up with his long game he could threaten at 125/1.

READ MORE: What he said: Jon Rahm's winning words after taking US Open glory

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