CROMWELL, Connecticut – Just nine golfers at last week’s US Open finished with a score below par, and in a golf tournament that annually calls itself the toughest and bumpiest event of the season, it felt right. As usual, the US Open rewarded arrangers and grinders.
This week, the best golfers in the game will compete in the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands, a course where Jim Furyk rolled a 58 in 2016. It serves low scores like Ronald McDonald serves up burgers.
“It’s like the anti-US Open here. It’s like US Open rehabilitation is coming here, ”Rory McIlroy said with a smile after firing 62 shots on Thursday morning. “You’re like, oh, I can really make birds. This is cute. I love coming here the week after the US Open. It somehow gives you the opportunity to score low scores and chase them, and that’s cool. “
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In the last two rounds of the US Open, McIlroy made six birdies, but on Thursday he carded eight, even with a cold that his daughter, Poppy, brought home from daycare.
“I feel a little under the weather, but at this point it’s just focus,” said McIlroy. “I still have three rounds until I have a couple of weeks off and prepare for the Open Championship. I’ll put everything into those three rounds. “
Off the ropes, McIlroy was one of the PGA Tour’s most vocal supporters and its commissioner, Jay Monahan, who announced Wednesday that the PGA Tour will make significant changes to the regular season structure and FedEx Cup playoff system starting in 2024 Monahan also said that substantial increases in prize money will be made for eight high-profile tournaments in 2023.
When McIlroy was asked to comment on the return of the start of the season in January, and other changes discussed by Manahan, the four-time main winner who is currently ranked No. 2 in the world, he’s been supportive.
“Everyone has an equal opportunity to do the big events with the big prize pool,” said McIlroy. “I think it will make it more competitive and make it a more compelling product, honestly. I think it will be fine ”.
Usually, an opening 62 round like McIlroy’s would create distance between a leader and the rest of the field, but not in the Travelers Championship.
Xander Schauffele plays a fairway shot from the third hole during the first round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Playing in a group ahead of McIlroy, 2020 Olympic gold medalist Xander Schauffele shot 63 shots and scored 18 greens out of 18 regulation for the first time as a professional.
“The boys from mid-teens to high-teens have won this tournament. If you finish in the high-teens, you are in a good position for the week, ”Schauffele said, and he’s right. Last season, Harris English defeated Kramer Hickok in an eight-hole playoff after both players tied at -13. The year before, Dustin Johnson won at -19.
“If it stays soft, it could be lower than for the week,” Schauffele added. “After playing in the US Open [where] you beat yourself up all week, and then hit a bad shot on a day like today and your ball could stay on the green and not roll into an ankle-deep rough. I think mentally he’s a little more forgiving. “
Martin Laird, a 39-year-old Scotsman who now calls Scottsdale, Arizona, home, matched Schauffele with a 63 on Thursday morning, while Charles Howell threw 64 and Webb Simpson, who played McIlroy, also threw 64.