2023 Travelers Championship leaderboard, scores: Keegan Bradley, Denny McCarthy share lead entering weekend

A fan favorite and a player looking for a breakthrough victory head into the weekend sharing the lead with a number of stars in the rearview mirror. Sound familiar? No, it is not Rickie Fowler or Wyndham Clark in command at the 2023 Travelers Championship. Rather, it is Denny McCarthy, who followed up a near 59 on Thursday with a 5-under 65 Friday to stand at 15 under halfway through this week’s proceedings, sitting atop the leaderboard with native New Englander Keegan Bradley.

The 30-year-old reached 15 under first, but it is Bradley who will be the crowd’s first choice over the final 36. McCarthy’s rise to prominence on the PGA Tour has been gradual, but this year’s emergence can be credited to his improvement in the ball-striking department. This presents a stark contrast to Bradley, a man who won his first major in a debut appearance and rode ball-striking competence to his five Tour victories.

Widely known as the best putter in the game, McCarthy has worked hard at his long game in recent years, and it is beginning to show. Hitting 30 greens and 21 fairways through 36 holes, the world No. 33 ranks second in strokes gained tee to green along with topping the field with the putter in hand.

While the latter is the norm for McCarthy, it is the former which will have to carry him into the winner’s circle. He will need it in spades over the final half of the Travelers Championship with five of the top six players in the world within shouting distance. Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and defending champion Xander Schauffele find themselves inside the top 10 at 8 under, while world No. 1 Scottie Scheffeler and his fellow American Patrick Cantlay are one worse at 7 under.

The leaders

1. Denny McCarthy, Keegan Bradley (-15)

He was only half as good on Friday as he was on Thursday, but it’s all relative. An opening 60 was followed by an impressive 65, and now McCarthy heads into the weekend with a two-stroke lead. The UVa product is just a couple of starts removed from falling agonizingly close in a playoff at the Memorial Tournament against Hovland and will look to put this experience to good use. 

“That would be cool [to join 18 first-time winners at the Travelers],” said McCarthy. “I didn’t know that. It’s not something I’m really thinking about. I’m not — I don’t want look too far ahead. I’ve been playing some nice golf coming into this. Just keep trying to get better every day. Still some things — I’m going to go over to the range. There are still some things I think I can improve on for the weekend. So I’m just going to go out, like I said, and enjoy the challenge and try and have as much fun as I can.”

Other contenders

3. Chez Reavie (-13)
4. Eric Cole (-11)
T5. Zac Blair, Adam Scott (-10)
T7. Chesson Hadley, Lucas Herbert, Min Woo Lee (-9)
T10. Greyson Sigg, Kevin Yu, Brian Harman, Viktor Hovland, Sungjae Im, Corey Conners, Ludvig Aberg, Austin Eckroat, Emiliano Grillo, Xander Schauffele, Alex Smalley (-8)

In his fourth straight week of tournament golf, McIlroy has played himself into contention once again. The 34-year-old was four strokes worse on the eighth hole compared to Thursday, but outside of a water ball and subsequently a double-bogey on the par 3, he was flawless. He turned in 30 and carded a total of eight birdies in his second round thanks to a strong effort from the wand. More than 120 feet of putts made and 64 strokes later, and the Northern Irishman is right there heading into the weekend.

“I think when you can get out in the morning here the greens are so much better,” said McIlroy. “They haven’t started to seed yet and they’re not quite as bumpy as the afternoon. So feel like you can — there was a lot of 20-footers in the afternoon and you’re just trying to finish by the hole because you don’t want to have the three- and four-footers on way back. You can be a little more aggressive with your putts, and that paid off for me this morning and held quite a few. Everything was just a little bit better today. I played more solid, gave myself more opportunities, you know, eradicated most of the mistakes I made yesterday.”

Is Justin Thomas … back?

It has been a poor 2023 for the 15-time winner on the PGA Tour, but Thomas’ second round could be the springboard he needs for the end of the season. After signing for an even-par 70 on Round 1, the 30-year-old recorded nine birdies against three bogeys to catapult himself into red figures. Thomas hasn’t been in contention on Sunday since the 2022 Canadian Open and is still in need of a massive Moving Day if he is to break such streak. Still, after a second-round 81 at the U.S. Open, Thomas looks much more like his normal self and experienced his best day from tee to green (+4.21 strokes gained) since the final round of the WM Phoenix Open in February.

Big names sent packing early

The cutline bounced around most of the afternoon but ultimately settled on 4 under. A number of notable players saw their name fall on the wrong side of the number, including four of the top 20 players in the world. World No. 2 Jon Rahm missed his first cut in 36 (!!!) tries when not factoring his withdrawal from this year’s Players Championship. The Spaniard’s last missed cut came at the 2021 Fortinet Championship the week before the Ryder Cup, and he bounced back quite nicely at Whistling Straits. 

A red-hot Tommy Fleetwood joined his European Ryder Cup teammate to leave Connecticut early. Max Homa missed out on the weekend by single stroke, as did his fellow Cal Bear Collin Morikawa, whose second round bogey-free 63 was stellar but not enough to make up for an opening 74.

2023 Travelers Championship updated odds and picks

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

  • Denny McCarthy: 12/5
  • Keegan Bradley: 5/2
  • Chez Reavie: 17/2
  • Eric Cole: 20-1
  • Rory McIlroy: 20-1
  • Scottie Scheffler: 22-1
  • Adam Scott: 25-1
  • Xander Schauffele: 25-1
  • Viktor Hovland: 28-1
  • Patrick Cantlay: 35-1
  • Min Woo Lee: 40-1

It looks like a two-man race through 36 holes, but there are some chasers who could put a scare into the duo that occupies the top of the leaderboard. It may give McCarthy a sense of déjà vu, but Hovland at 28-1 just seven back is a prime candidate to make a massive run over the weekend. The Norwegian is not short on confidence and has only had his B-game up to this point. If that B turns into an A, Hovland’s game is perfectly suited for a sprint to the finish line.

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