CROMWELL, Conn. — Xander Schauffele was prophetic. He knew this wasn’t going to be easy.
After Schauffele posted his second consecutive 63 on Friday to get to 14-under and take a five-shot lead into the weekend, he said: “It’s only Friday. This is a course that’s giving up some birdies, and if you’re leading the pack and you get kind of comfortable, people are going to hunt you down.’’
The hunt ensued in earnest on Saturday with a flurry of players making spirited runs at Schauffele, and the 28-year-old from Southern California will enter the final round of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands on Sunday anything but comfortable.
Schauffele shot 67 on Saturday to get to 17-under, but his five-shot lead melted to just one shot in the searing heat.
Patrick Cantlay shot the day’s low round of 63 to get to 16-under and trails Schauffele by a mere shot. Sahith Theegala posted 64 to get to 14-under and is three back.
“Xander is the man,’’ Theegala said. “I don’t know him too well, but he’s been so nice to me and a guy that I’ve definitely kind of looked up to the last few years, kind of watching him play. His demeanor is the best.’’
Kevin Kisner shot 66 and is 13-under and four back. Martin Laird shot 66 to get to 12-under, along with K.H. Lee.
The shocker of day — and the tournament — was Michael Thorbjornsen, a 20-year-old amateur from Wellesley, Mass., who’s 11-under and six shots back after shooting 66 on Saturday.
He’s tied with Webb Simpson, J.T. Poston and Nick Hardy.
World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler is not out of it at 10-under after shooting 65 on Saturday. He’s tied with defending champion Harris English, Lee Hodges and Matthew NeSmith.
Thorbjornsen, who plays his college golf at Stanford, said he’s still riding the high from his experience at the U.S. Open, at which he played a practice round with Collin Morikawa and picked his brain for advice.
“He said to really try and do whatever it takes to be comfortable out there and like understand that it’s just another round of golf, that everyone’s human, basically. Those guys are just really good. Try and forget about that and just play your game,’’ Thorbjornsen said.
“I think one thing that might help is winning or coming in second or third, I’m not getting paid either way, so it’s just another tournament for me,’’ he went on. “It’s just one more round of golf, just trying to again, do the same thing I did [Saturday] — focus on my swing, just like making sure I get to certain positions and I guess like not really having any regrets [Sunday].’’
Asked if there’s anyone in the field he’d like to play with, Thorbjornsen named Scheffler.
“Any time you see a kid who is 20-years-old up on the leaderboard you know he’s got a lot of talent and also no fear,’’ Scheffler said. “That’s kind of big, because there’s tons of guys in college that are really talented and they get out here and maybe they’re not really sure how talented they are and they come out maybe a touch tight.
“I did that a few times in my professional starts as an amateur. You don’t really know what to expect, so for a kid to come out here and put his name up on the leaderboard is really impressive.’’
Chris Gotterup, the Little Silver, N.J. native, shot an even-par 70 Saturday and stands at 4-under, tied for 42nd entering the final round.