CROMWELL, Conn. — Dustin Johnson and Brendon Todd each shot a career-low 61 at the Travelers Championship on Saturday, leaving Todd with a two-stroke lead over the 2016 U.S. Open champion entering the final round of the PGA Tour's visit to TPC River Highlands.
Playing a couple holes behind Johnson, the 34-year-old Todd — a former University of Georgia golfer who still lives in the Athens area, just south of the home of the Bulldogs in Watkinsville — had a chance at the tournament's second 10-under-par 60 of the week but missed a 10-foot putt to the left on the 18th hole.
Todd was at 18-under 192 after 54 holes — having opened with a 66 before shaving a stroke off that result Friday — as he seeks his fourth PGA Tour win overall and third in less than eight months. After winning twice on the developmental circuit now known as the Korn Ferry Tour, including a 2013 tournament at UGA's course, he broke through on the PGA Tour at the 2014 Byron Nelson Championship. He added two more wins this past November in back-to-back fashion at the Bermuda Championship and the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
He has played every event since the PGA Tour returned after a three-month shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, but he wasn't around for the weekend at the first two, the Charles Schwab Challenge and the RBC Heritage.
"Whenever I get a two- or three-week stretch in a row, I tend to be playing better by the end of it," Todd said. "That's just something I'm using to my advantage now after missing two cuts. I'm peaking in the third week, and hopefully I can get it done tomorrow."
Johnson, who is looking for his 21st win on tour, also has improved each day, opening with a 69-64. Both shot bogey-free rounds Saturday, with Todd making five birdies on the front nine and Johnson five on the back. Todd said the round became a game of whatever you can do, I can do just as well.
Johnson is No. 6 in the World Golf Ranking; Todd is 58th.
"It's hard to miss the leaderboards obviously, so (Johnson's) name was up there from a pretty early point," Todd said. "Again, I just use it as motivation to go out there and make some more birdies."
Despite his score, Johnson lamented missing several birdie chances and an eagle attempt on the par-4 ninth, when his ball stopped six inches from the pin. Just two of his birdie putts, an 18-footer at the 10th hole and a 21-footer on the 12th, were longer than nine feet.
"I really felt like I controlled the distance with my irons really well and hit tons of good shots," he said. "I had a lot of really good looks at birdie."
Kevin Streelman fired a 63 after two straight rounds of 66 and was another shot back in third. Mackenzie Hughes, who led after a 60 on Thursday, shot his second straight 68 for sole possession of fourth place.
"Today if I had putted like I did the first day, I could have shot low 60s for sure," Hughes said. "Play the same as I did today tee to green and roll in a few putts, and it'll be awesome (in the final round)."
Bryson DeChambeau and Kevin Na each shot a 65 and were tied for fifth at 197.
Phil Mickelson, who celebrated his 50th birthday on June 16, began the day with a one-stroke lead but struggled, finishing tied for seventh in a group six shots back. He made just his second bogey of the week on the third hole and also dropped strokes on the seventh and 13th before finishing with a 71.
Mickelson, looking for his 45th win overall on the PGA Tour and third on this course, has mostly struggled in 2020. He missed the cut in his previous three tournaments.
"I haven't played great this year," he said. "I've missed a lot of cuts, and the next thing I know my game is starting to come back and I can sense it. I played two great rounds, and this is really a lot of fun."
Top-ranked Rory McIlroy, who opened the tournament with a 63, said he thinks he is too far back to contend for the title after rounds of 68 and 69. He bogeyed two of his final four holes — his tee shot landed in the water on the course's signature 15th hole, and he also made bogey at 18 — and was tied for 18th, eight shots back.
"I guess, if I had have been able to sneak a couple more over the last few holes, get to 14, and then all of a sudden you feel like you're right in it. But I went the other way those last few holes, and that's what took me out of it," he said.
Jason Day requested to be tested for COVID-19 on Saturday morning just before his round. Officials decided to have him play as a single on Saturday as a precautionary measure. He shot a 69 and was tied for 49th at 5 under.
There have been seven COVID-19-related withdrawals from the tournament.
Two players withdrew because of the coronavirus Friday: Denny McCarthy for a positive test, and Bud Cauley, who tested negative but decided to pull out after playing alongside McCarthy on Thursday.
McCarthy was the third PGA Tour player to test positive for the virus since its restart and the second of the week, joining Cameron Champ, who withdrew Tuesday.
Nick Watney withdrew just before the second round of last weekend's tournament in Hilton Head, South Carolina. RBC Heritage champion Webb Simpson, Graeme McDowell, Brooks Koepka and his younger brother Chase also withdrew from the Travelers Championship after coming into contact with people who had the virus.
McDowell and Brooks Koepka's caddies both tested positive. Simpson cited the positive test of a family member.
The PGA said because of the positive tests this week, players, caddies, and anyone else "inside the bubble," will not be allowed on the property at future tournaments until first being cleared with a negative test for the coronavirus.
Officials said Saturday that all of the follow-up tests as a result of potential contact with McCarthy came back negative.
The round began early in the day because of threatening weather, with golfers going off both the first and 10th tees. It finished just before the skies opened. A forecast for more rain Sunday will mean another early start.