CROMWELL—— Having just made the cut, J.J. Henry was out on the course early Saturday. The air was still at 8:28 a.m., the greens pristine at that hour, and all that was missing for him to feel at home was his old putter.
He switched from the mallet type he had been using to the center-shaft Odyssey model he had used for years, and everything began to feel almost like 2006.
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Henry, the only Connecticut native ever to win the tournament now known as the Travelers Championship, made a 22-foot putt for birdie on the first hole, and went on to birdie four of the first five. He finished with a 6-under par 64, vaulting himself from the brink of going home to a tie for 13th place, eight shots off the lead at the TPC River Highlands.
"I love this course," said Henry, 35, a Fairfield native now playing out of Fort Worth. "I feel very comfortable here. You just see some courses better than others."
A 5-iron to set up his 10-foot birdie putt on the par-3 fifth was the shot that made Henry most satisfied.
Henry needed only 27 putts Saturday, after he needed 32 and 31 the first two rounds. He finished with a birdie on 18, sinking a 12-foot putt. His only bogey was at No. 4.
Henry's lone PGA Tour victory was at Cromwell in the 2006 Buick Championship, the last time he played this well on a Saturday "moving day." He shot a third-round 63 on July 1, 2006.
"I birdie all the holes you're supposed to birdie here," he said.
This year has been a struggle for Henry, who missed the cut in his previous two tournaments and, after finishing the first two rounds this week at 138 (71-67), was right on the line.
"I may be too far back [to make a run this year]," he said, "but you never know. I remember I shot a real good Saturday round when I won here in '06. … Any time you shoot 64 on a Saturday, you usually feel good about yourself."
Wherever he finishes, Henry's work in his home state will not end today. He is hosting a charity event Monday morning in his hometown, at the Patterson Golf, to benefit the First Tee programs in Connecticut and New York, which use golf to teach life skills to children.
"We didn't know what to expect," Henry said. "It's our first one, but it's completely sold out."
Through his Henry House Foundation, he is developing youth programs on his own, such as providing a skybox for kids at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial for the last three years.