By PAT EATON-ROBB AP Sports Writer
CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) _ Marc Leishman birdied his final hole for a 2-under 68 and a share of the second-round lead Friday in the Travelers Championship.
Leishman, the 2012 winner at TPC River Highlands for his lone PGA Tour title, matched 2015 rookie of the year Daniel Berger, Russell Henley and Tyrone Van Aswegen at 7-under 133. Berger had a 67, Henley shot 65, and Van Aswegen 66.
Four players, including 49-year-old University of Hartford graduate Jerry Kelly, were a shot behind. Blayne Barber had the best round of the day at 64 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 player 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.
Berger, who won his first PGA Tour title two months ago in Memphis at the St. Jude Classic, said he’s finally back to 100 percent health after a left shoulder injury that he suffered at the U.S. Open.
“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.”
The 23-year-old Floridian had been on a roll before the injury, with four top-10 finishes in seven starts. He said he’s hoping to regain that form and make a run at what would be his first Ryder Cup team.
“I’m just doing anything I can to earn a spot on my own, but obviously I would never turn down a pick,” he said.
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 hole.
“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, who was tied for the lead after the first round, shot an even-par 70 that included five birdies and five bogeys. Kelly, who graduated from the nearby University of Hartford with a degree in insurance and finance, is looking for his fourth PGA Tour title, but first since 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 include 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.
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