CROMWELL, Conn. — TPC River Highlands never stood a chance.
The 15-under-par scores posted by 36-hole co-leaders Keegan Bradley and Denny McCarthy at the Travelers Championship were tournament records for the halfway mark.
Then came the rain, which further softened the vulnerable course.
Then came Rickie Fowler flirting with a 59, finishing with 60, Patrick Cantlay posting a 61 and Justin Thomas shooting 62 a week after declaring himself at a “low point’’ in his career after missing the U.S. Open cut by miles.
And those guys aren’t even leading the golf tournament entering Sunday’s final round.
Bradley, hardly spooked by the 62 he shot in the opening round or the 63 he followed that up with in Friday’s second round, had his foot firmly pressed to the accelerator Saturday, shooting a 6-under 64 in the third round.
He’ll enter Sunday’s final round at 21-under with a one-shot lead over Chez Reavie, who closed out his third-round 63 in style with a birdie on 18 to get to 20-under.
Bradley, a New Englander, having grown up in Vermont, said this tournament, which he attended as a fan before he was a pro, is one he wanted to win more than a major once he got on the PGA Tour.
“I’ve wanted to win this tournament forever,’’ Bradley said. “When I got my PGA Tour card in 2010 going into ’11, the first thought in my mind wasn’t to play the majors, whatever, it was I get to come play Hartford. It was my first PGA Tour event I ever went to.
“I came here and watched David Duval play. I remember looking at his tee time and making sure I got here when he warmed up. It was my first real taste of what the PGA Tour was like. It’s pretty special to be able to come back here and compete in this tournament.’’
Bradley has played 54 holes with only one bogey in the tournament, that coming on his 14th hole in the opening round.
He’s gone 40 holes without a blemish on his cards.
He’s a five-time PGA Tour winner who’s held a 54-hole lead five times in his career, but never converted one of those into a victory.
In an interesting twist, four years ago at the 2019 Travelers, Bradley and Reavie were paired together in the final round, with Reavie converting the six-shot 54-hole lead into a win.
Bradley and Reavie will be paired together again in Sunday’s final round.
“It is a different situation,’’ Reavie said. “I had a big lead and then Keegan made a bunch of birdies throughout the beginning and middle part of the round to make it really close. Tomorrow is going to be the opposite. It’s going to be a shootout. We’re one shot apart. I’m not going to be able to go out there and just make some pars and kind of hang in there. I’m going to have to go make some birdies.’’
One thing Reavie knows won’t be different is the fanfare for Bradley, the New Englander.
“I would expect the fans to root for the hometown guy,’’ Reavie said. “They did it in 2019 when Keegan and I played.’’
Cantlay stands at 16-under, five shots back, Fowler is six back at 15-under, as are Adam Scott and McCarthy.
Thomas is 14-under, along with world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, who shot 63 on Saturday.
The only player in contention who didn’t make a move on this day of target practice was McCarthy, who shot an even-par 70 after a 60 on Thursday and a 65 on Friday.
Cantlay is no stranger to going low at TPC River Highlands. He shot 60 in 2011 as a 19-year-old UCLA star. It was the lowest round ever by an amateur on the PGA Tour.
He unearthed that mojo on Saturday.
“At this place, if you can get all your balls up and down and drive the ball in the fairway a lot you can make a bunch of birdies,’’ Cantlay said. “[Sunday] with the scores low, I imagine it’ll take another low one. It’s great to have a chance coming into the last round.’’