Cromwell, Conn. — Daniel Berger says he’s healthy again and hoping to regain the form that helped him to his first PGA Tour title two months ago.
Last year’s rookie of the year followed his first-round 66 with a 67 on Friday for a share of the lead in the Travelers Championship.
He matched 2012 Travelers champion Marc Leishman, Russell Henley and Tyrone Van Aswegen at 7-under 133. Leishman shot 68, Henley shot 65, and Van Aswegen 66.
Berger strained his shoulder at the U.S. Open after winning in Memphis at the St. Jude Classic, his fourth top-10 finish in seven starts. The injury forced him to withdraw after he hit his opening tee shot at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and he didn’t return until last week at the PGA Championship.
“I definitely played better than I thought I would,” he said. “This is my seventh round in six weeks and for a professional golfer that’s not a lot.”
Four players, including 49-year-old University of Hartford graduate Jerry Kelly, were a shot behind. Kelly had a 70 after sharing the first-round lead with a 64.
Blayne Barber had the best round of the day with a 64 of his own to top the seven players two strokes back.
“The wind got up a little bit today, so you had to be playing good golf to shoot a really good number,” Leishman said.
U.S. Olympians Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar remained in contention. Kuchar shot a 67 to move to reach 4 under. Reed, who turned 26 on Friday, also shot a 67 and was tied with Watson at 3 under. Watson, the defending champion, had a 70.
Seventy-three players made the cut by shooting even par or better.
“If you’re close to the lead, you’re close to missing the cut,” said Paul Casey, who lost last year in a playoff and was among those tied for ninth place at 5 under.
Henley, who is playing this tournament for the first time, joined the leaders by sinking a 20-foot birdie on his final hole, the par-4 ninth.
“It was just a little bit tricky,” he said. “I think with no wind on this course we would have seen double digits (under par) by now.”
Van Aswegen put up an early 66 and led most of the day as the wind picked up and the greens dried out.
The 34-year-old, who is looking for his first PGA Tour win, followed up on his 67 Thursday with a second straight bogey-free round. His four birdies included a 45-foot putt on the par-4 10th.
“You make a birdie on 10, you’re gaining a stroke on the field there,” he said. “I’m hitting the ball quite well and putting really well.”
Kelly had five birdies and five bogeys. He won the last of his titles in 2009.
“I’m tired,” he said. “I’m going to watch a movie and see if I can rest a little bit and see if the old bones will work for two more days.”
Reed, one of six Olympians playing in the tournament, turned 26 on Friday. He was presented with a cupcake on the first tee, and blew out the birthday candle on top with a practice swing. Watson then led the crowd at several holes in rousing renditions of “Happy Birthday.”
“Half the people were chanting ‘Happy Birthday’ and the other half chanting for all of us, ‘USA,’ so it was cool,” he said.
Andrew Loupe, among the leaders after the first round, held a brief one-stroke lead Friday before on his fourth hole of the day, the par-4 14th. He hit his drive out of bounds left, overcompensated right on his next drive and finished with a seven on the hole and missed the cut after shooting a 76.
The most unusual play of the day came from Vaughn Taylor, who put his tee shot on the par-4 17th hole in the course’s signature lake. After conferring with a rules official, he was allowed to take a drop from the opposite shore near the 16th tee, because it was no closer to the hole. That gave him a better angle at the green. After a long cart ride around the lake, he was able to make bogey, despite clipping a corporate tent with his approach shot.
Matt Jones shot a second consecutive 69, despite suffering from what officials described as nausea and dehydration during his round. He took a 15 minute break at the turn and received three intravenous bags of fluid.
After two days of sun and temperatures in the mid-80s, the forecast for Saturday afternoon includes the possibility of severe thunderstorms. Because of that, tournament officials will have the players going out early in threesomes off both the first and 10th tees.
At Blaine, Minnesota, Monday qualifier Glen Day shot a 7-under 65 in perfect conditions to take the first-round lead in the 3M Championship. On Monday, he topped the five qualifiers with a 7-under 64 at nearby Victory Links. On Friday playing in the first group off the first tee at TPC Twin Cities, the 50-year-old Day had four straight late birdies in his bogey-free round.
Jeff Maggert and Rod Spittle shot 66, and two-time champion Bernhard Langer was at 67 along with Colin Montgomerie, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Woody Austin, Kevin Sutherland, Carlos Franco, Scott Dunlap, Bart Bryant and Monday qualifier Jean-Francois Remesy.
Day made a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-4 second and ran in a 10-footer on the par-5 third. He holed a 6-footer on par-4 11th, and made four straight on Nos. 14-17 — holing putts of 4, 25, 8 and 10 feet.
Day won the 1999 MCI Classic for his lone PGA Tour title. On the senior tour, he tied for sixth in Mississippi in April and last month in Endicott, New York.
John Daly opened with a 72, and two-time defending champion Kenny Perry shot 73.
U.S. Women’s Amateur
At Springfield, Pennsylvania, Eun Jeong Seong and Virginia Elena Carta advanced to the all-international U.S. Women’s Amateur semifinals, keeping alive their bids for rare season sweeps.
Seong, 16, is trying to become the first player to win the event and U.S. Girls’ Junior in the same season. The 19-year-old Carta — the oldest of the final four — is attempting to become the second player to win the tournament and NCAA individual title in the same year.
The tournament will have the first all-international championship match since 1910, with 15-year-old Yuka Saso and 18-year-old Mathilda Cappeliez also advancing.
Seong beat 17-year-old Andrea Lee of Hermosa Beach, California, with a par on the 18th hole in a rematch of Seong’s final victory last month in the U.S. Girls’ Junior in New Jersey.
Seong will face Cappeliez, a 19-hole winner over Australia’s Hannah Green.
Carta beat Puerto Rico’s Maria Torres 3 and 1, and Saso outlasted Japan’s 17-year-old Nasa Hataoka 1 up.
Carta won the NCAA individual title in May as a Duke freshman. She’s trying to join Vicki Goetze (1992) as the only players to win the Amateur and NCAA in the same year, and the sixth to win both titles. Carta also is trying to become the second Italian winner, following Silvia Cavalleri in 1997.
At North Berwick, Scotland, Chris Wood and Matt Fitzpatrick were both eliminated in the Paul Lawrie Match Play, leaving their chances of competing for Europe at the Ryder Cup in the jeopardy.
Wood lost 2 and 1 to England’s Daniel Brooks in the round of 32, and Fitzpatrick dropped a 4-and-3 decision to Spain’s Alejandro Canizares in the last 16.
The Englishmen are in the final slots in Darren Clarke’s European team going into the last month of qualifying. Wood would have sealed his place in Minnesota by winning the title at Archerfield.
In the quarterfinals Saturday, Alejandro Canizares will face England’s James Morrison; Germany’s Max Kieffer will play England’s Oliver Fisher; England’s Anthony Wall will face South Africa’s Hayden Porteous; and Alex Noren will play Johan Carlsson in an all-Swedish match.