CROMWELL, June 20 – Despite the rain and cloudy conditions, six players share the lead after the first round of the Travelers Championship at the Tournament Players Club at River Highlands. All six fired a six-under-par 64.
Americans Ryan Armour, Bronson Burgoon and Zack Sucher have the lead along with Korean Kyoung Hoon-Lee, Italian Abraham Ancer and Canadian Mackenzie Hughes.
One shot back is Paul Casey, who has finished second at the Travelers twice behind Bubba Watson. Rookie Viktor Hovland, who was playing for Oklahoma State just a few weeks ago in the NCAA Tournament, is three shots back in his first professional start with a 67 along with veteran Phil Mickelson, making his first appearance here in Cromwell since 2003.
Defending champion Bubba Watson shot a one-under 69 with Brooks Koepka, the No. 1 player in the world, shooting a one-over 71 and Jordan Spieth shooting a three-over 73. Watson erased a six-stroke deficit in the final round to win his third Travelers’ title a year ago.
“I thought it was a really good day given the conditions,” Mickelson said. “It was wasn’t really affecting the shots any because we were able to lift, clean, and place it. We were able to move it around in the fairway, which I thought was a really good call. As much mud as we got on the ball, the rules officials really did a good job. And they did a good job of putting the pins in slightly high location so that we didn’t have too much collection of water.”
The rain didn’t hamper Mickelson’s thoughts about the course.
“I really like this golf course. I love the birdie opportunities,” he said. “I love the chances to get aggressive. I love the greens. I putt them very well. They have very soft movement so you feel like you can make a lot of putts. I had a good day putting, and I think I have a really low one in me. Hopefully it’ll be tomorrow.
Ancer started his day on the back nine and finished on the front nine where he birdied five of the nine holes to go from one under to six under and a piece of the lead.
“The first holes (for me), it was a little tough with the weather we got there – some pretty good showers. (I) just had to stay patient,” Ancer said. “After that I kept hitting the ball well and saw some putts go in, which was nice.”
“I think you use every club in the bag out here. It’s not a super long golf course, but it’s pretty (tough) if you don’t hit the right shots. I think it’s a great golf course. (It) showcases (you) if you’re playing well.”
Burgoon had birdies on four of his first six holes of the day while Armour, with a birdie on the final hole, earned his lowest score of the season.
“I rolled one in on (the fifth hole) and that just kind of – unbelievable,” Armour said. “Sports are a game of momentum and golf is too. (As) soon as I made that hole, I rolled in some 15 and 20-foot (putts) which I haven’t been doing.”
For Casey, it was another good day in Cromwell despite missing a putt on the 18th hole.
“It was a very, very good day. I did a lot of things well,” he said. “I putted nicely. It’s clearly a golf course I like and I’m favored on, so it was nice to deliver.
“You know, (this course) fits my eye. Great championship,” Casey said. “The support by all the crowd we get out there, you know, this is just a joy to play this golf event.
“Travelers does such a great job. It’s a golf course I play well, and it’s not an easy golf course. The rounds of golf shot by guys like Jim Furyk create a false illusion. It’s not that easy. It’s a very good golf course that rewards good play.”
Furyk shot a PGA record 58 in the final round of the Travelers Championship in 2016.