Thursday's golf: Rory McIlroy, JT Poston share Travelers lead at 8-under 62
Cromwell, Conn. — Rory McIlroy fought off a sinus bug to shoot an 8-under 62 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead with J.T. Poston in the Travelers Championship.
Coming off a fifth-place tie Sunday in the U.S. Open after winning the Canadian Open the previous week, the second-ranked McIlroy had a bogey-free morning round — highlighted by a 47-foot birdie putt on the par-4 seventh.
McIlroy matched the lowest opening round of his PGA Tour career. He finished with a tap-in birdie on the ninth hole after a 332-yard drive and 44-foot chip just past the pin.
“It’s like U.S. Open rehab coming here,” the four-time major champion said. “I like coming here the week after the U.S. Open, it sort of gives you an opportunity to shoot low scores and get after it.”
Poston had five straight birdies on Nos. 13-17 and made the turn at 6-under 29, giving rise to thoughts of Jim Furyk’s record 58 on the same TPC River Highlands course in 2016. Poston parred the first six holes on front nine and birdied Nos. 7 and 9 to cap a bogey-free round.
Xander Schauffele and Martin Laird were a stroke back.
Schauffele hit all 18 greens in regulation for the first time in his career, despite showing up late at the practice range because he thought his 7:35 a.m. tee time was at 7:50.
“That was a pretty big rookie move on my behalf,” the Olympic champion said. “But when I'm at home, I'll show up for an 8 o'clock tee time at 7:55, maybe hit two putts and then start swinging. So, take advantage of the youth, I guess.”
Patrick Cantlay, Charles Howell III and Webb Simpson, who played alongside McIlroy, were two shots back at 64.
Harris English, who won last year on the eighth hole of a playoff, opened with a 66. Top-ranked mastes champion Scottie Scheffler had a 68.
Jordan Spieth, who holed a shot out of a greenside bunker on 18 to win here in 2018, had one of the tougher afternoons. He made a double bogey on 12, hitting his tee shot out-of-bounds near the Connecticut River. The three-time major winner sat cross-legged in the fairway as he attempted to regroup and then birdied two of his next three holes. But his tee shot at 16 found the water and he finished with a 75.
There were no withdrawals Thursday after several earlier in the week. Those include Justin Thomas, who bowed out Wednesday to rest an ailing back, and Brooks Koepka, who this week became the latest player to defect to the LIV Golf series.
McIlroy, who has been an outspoken critic of those leaving for the Saudi tour, said he's not feeling any pressure this week to be an ambassador for the PGA Tour.
“I'm in a good run of form. I'm playing well,” McIlroy said. “Whether that gives me a little more confidence to speak up on certain issues, maybe. But, I'm just going out there and trying to play my game and try to win some more tournaments.”
Bethesda, Md. — In Gee Chun breezed to an 8-under 64 on Thursday to jump out to a big early lead in the first round Women's PGA Championship.
While most of the field slogged through the day on the wet Blue Course at Congressional, Chun birdied seven of eight holes during one stretch. She was seven shots better than anyone else who started in the morning, making her a threat to break the record for the largest 18-hole lead in a women's major — set by Mickey Wright, who led this tournament by five shots after 18 in 1961.
Chun was playing the same course as everyone else — one that went through a full restoration last year. There was heavy rain in the area overnight and more precipitation during play Thursday morning. That softened the course but also made Congressional’s length — 6,809 yards for this first round — more of a factor.
Hye-Jin Choi was 3 under through 11 holes in the afternoon, one of several players who threatened to shrink Chun's lead — but not by much.
Chun, who started on the back nine, birdied Nos. 15, 16, 17 and 18. After a bogey on No. 1, she rebounded with three more birdies in a row.
Chun set a major championship record — male or female — when she won the Evian Championship in 2016 at 21 under. She also won the U.S. Women's Open the previous year.
Korda was part of a group at 1 under, along with playing partner Brooke Henderson. One example of how challenging the course was: Korda hit driver, hybrid and 7-wood while making par on the 587-yard ninth hole.