CROMWELL, Conn. — Rory McIlroy battled a sinus problem to shoot an 8-under 62 on Thursday and share a first-round lead with JT Poston in the Travelers Championship.
Coming off a tie for fifth on Sunday at the US Open after winning the Canadian Open the previous week, second-ranked McIlroy had a bogey-free morning round, highlighted by a 47-foot birdie putt. on the seventh par 4.
McIlroy matched the lowest opening round of his PGA Tour career. He finished with a bunt birdie on the ninth hole after a 332-yard drive and a 44-foot chip just past the pin.
“It’s like rehabilitation from the US Open to come here,” the four-time Grand Slam champion said. “I like coming here the week after the US Open. It kind of gives you an opportunity to get low scores and chase it.”
Poston had five birdies in a row at numbers 13-17 and turned around at 6-under 29, prompting thoughts about Jim Furyk’s record 58 at the same TPC River Highlands course in 2016. Poston walled the first six holes on the front nine and birdied numbers 7 and 9 to cap off a bogey-free round.
“I gave myself a few looks, but I made a bunch of pars to start the front, so that kind of fell out of the picture after a while,” said Poston, the 2019 Wyndham Championship winner. “I might have thought about it a little more if I had made a couple of early birdies.
Xander Schauffele and Martin Laird were a blow back.
Schauffele hit all 18 greens in regulation time for the first time in his career, despite being late to the driving range because he thought his 7:35 a.m. tee time was 7:50.
“That was a pretty big rookie move on my part,” the Olympic champion said. “But when I’m home, I show up at 8:00 a.m. to 7:55 a.m., maybe hit two putts and then start swinging. So I guess I take advantage of youth.”
Patrick Cantlay, Charles Howell III and Webb Simpson, who played alongside McIlroy, were 2 shots behind at 64.
“We feed off each other,” Simpson said of McIlroy. “The holes started looking bigger and bigger. A lot of putts were made.”
Wednesday’s rain left the greens soft in the morning. They stiffened up later in the day and the wind picked up after lunch leading to some higher scores.
“I thought the afternoon conditions were a lot tougher,” Cantlay said. “It was blowing as soon as I got to the first tee. Watching a bit of the coverage this morning, I knew it was a lot different this afternoon than the low scores those guys put up this morning.”
Harris English, who won last year on the eighth hole of a playoff, opened with a 66. Top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler had a 68.
Jordan Spieth, who holed a shot from a greenside bunker on the 18th to win here in 2018, had one of the toughest afternoons. He double bogeyed on the 12th, with his tee shot out of bounds near the Connecticut River. The three-time major winner sat cross-legged on the fairway as he tried to regroup and then birdied two of his next three holes. But his tee shot on the 16th found water and he ended up with a 75.
There were no withdrawals on Thursday after several earlier in the week. Among them are Justin Thomas, who withdrew 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 doesn’t feel any pressure this week to be an ambassador for the PGA tour.
“I’m in good shape. I’m playing good,” McIlroy said. “If that gives me a little more confidence to talk about certain topics, maybe. But I just go out there and try to play my game and try to win a few more tournaments.”