“It’s like rehab at the US Open”

"It's like rehab at the US Open"

CROMWELL, Conn. — Only nine golfers at last week’s U.S. Open finished with a score below par, and in a golf tournament that annually boasts of being the toughest and most rugged of the season, it seemed fair. As usual, the US Open rewarded plodders and grinders.

This week, the best golfers in the game compete in the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands, a course where Jim Furyk shot a 58 in 2016. It serves low scores like Ronald McDonald serves burgers.

“It’s like the anti-US Open here. It’s like US Open rehab coming here,” Rory McIlroy said with a smile after shooting 62 on Thursday morning. “You’re like, oh, i can actually birdie. It’s nice. I like to come here the week after the US Open. It kind of gives you the opportunity to shoot low scores and get away with it, and that’s good.

Travelers: Distance book | PGA Tour live on ESPN+

In the last two rounds of the US Open, McIlroy had six birdies, but on Thursday he had eight, even with a cold his daughter, Poppy, brought home from daycare.

“I feel a little bad, but it’s just focus at this point,” McIlroy said. “I have three rounds left until I have a few weeks off and prepare for the Open Championship. I’m going to put everything into those three rounds.

Off the ropes, McIlroy has been one of the most vocal supporters of the PGA Tour and its commissioner, Jay Monahan, who announced on Wednesday that the PGA Tour would make significant changes to the structure of the regular season and the playoff system. of the FedEx Cup starting in 2024. Monahan also said substantial prize money increases will be made to eight top-tier tournaments in 2023.

When McIlroy was asked to comment on the return from the start of the season in January and other changes Manahan discussed, the four-time Major winner who is currently ranked No. 2 in the world, offered his support.

“Everyone has the same opportunity to do the big events with the big prize fund,” McIlroy said. “I think it will make it more competitive and make it a more attractive product, honestly. I think it will be good.

Ordinarily, a first lap 62 like McIlroy’s would create distance between a leader and the rest of the field, but not in the Voyageurs championship.

Travelers Championship 2022 at TPC River Highlands

Travelers Championship 2022 at TPC River Highlands

Xander Schauele plays a shot from the fairway on the third hole during the first round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta – USA TODAY Sports

Playing a group ahead of McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, the 2020 Olympic gold medalist, shot 63 and hit 18 of 18 greens in regulation for the first time as a professional.

“Mid-teens to teens have won this tournament. If you finish in the teens, you’re in a good position for the week,” Schauffele said, and he’s right. Last season, Harris English beat Kramer Hickok in an eight-hole playoff after the two tied at -13. The previous year, Dustin Johnson had won at -19.

“If it stays soft, it may be lower than this week,” added Schauffele. “After playing at the US Open [where] you’ve kind of been battling all week, then you kind of hit a bad shot on a day like today and your ball can stay on the green and not roll in ankle-high rough. I think mentally it’s a bit more forgiving.

Martin Laird, a 39-year-old Scotsman who now resides in Scottsdale, Ariz., tied Schauffele with a 63 on Thursday morning, while Charles Howell shot 64 and Webb Simpson, who played with McIlroy, also shot 64.

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