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Spieth shares first round lead with Zach Johnson at the Travelers Championship

Justin Thomas, front, couldn’t get started in the first round of the Travelers Championship Thursday in Hartford.

After a very challenging course at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y., for the U.S. Open, there were many golfers looking forward to playing at the Travelers Championship at the Tournament Players Club in Cromwell.

Reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed was anticipating a different type of tournament.

“You go into this golf course and you think about it completely different than you did last week,” he said on Wednesday. “This week it’s kind of in attack mode. Last week was, okay, how can I manage myself around here where I have the hard holes you can make pars on and the easy holes I can attack to make birdie. This week it’s guns blazing. Everyone is going to be firing at flags and going.

Reed struggled with four bogeys and an opening round two-over-par 72 at the first round of the Travelers Championship on Thursday.

But there were plenty of low scores. Defending champion Jordan Spieth shot a 63 with seven birdies and shares the first round lead with Zach Johnson. Spieth has now held the lead here in Cromwell for five consecutive rounds after going wire-to-wire a year ago when he won his first Travelers Championship.

Rory McIlroy is one of three players who are one stroke back with a 64 while defending PGA champion Justin Thomas and No. 9 Jason Day were among 14 golfers tied for ninth place with a 66.

Spieth hit 12 of 14 fairways and missed just three greens. It was one of his better rounds of golf this season.

“I would probably call it third best of the year, behind the first and last round at Augusta,” Spieth said. “This golf course — I played it really smart today. It was probably the smartest round I’ve played this year, really the last couple years. I just didn’t feel great coming off the range. I’ve been working on some things on the swing, just decided to play toward the center of the greens and let the putter do the work because it’s starting to come around.”

Johnson surged into the lead with his 63, thanks to eight birdies and six birdies in a row from the 11th hole to the 16th hole.

“That felt great,” Johnson said. “The ever competitor in me felt like it could have been more. I actually lipped out my chip on 10, lipped out for eagle on 13. So I’m saying all that, but yet I made some putts and hit quality shots.

“Six in a row is a treat,” he said. “So that’s kind of how you’ve got to think about it is you have a lot of opportunity on the back side if you get the ball on the fairway. There are some holes you can get at. There is a stretch there where you can make some big numbers or you can make some low numbers. That’s why I think this golf course here at Travelers is terrific.”

Thomas couldn’t things started on Thursday and is way back with a 72. “That’s the thing about this course, you can get pretty hot on it pretty quickly. I was just in a weird mood today. I couldn’t really get into it. I slept for a while last night, and I kind of had a hard time getting out of that grogginess,” Thomas said.

“I couldn’t get into it. I was having a hard time, not getting motivated, but just getting focused,” Thomas said. “Some sloppy, sloppy bogeys and some swings and mistakes there early in the round. I just was having a hard time really getting into the round.”

Travelers Championship leaderboard, round 1

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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