Spieth, Zach share Travelers lead at 63

Jordan Spieth has been struggling a bit with his game this season and missed the cut last week in the U.S. Open, but was back on track in the first round his title defense in the Travelers Championship.

The fifth-ranked Spieth (pictured) collected six birdies and an eagle while shooting 7-under-par 63 and is tied for the lead with Zach Johnson at Cromwell, Conn.

“First rounds been tough for me (this year), maybe trying to do a bit too much,” said Spieth, who won the tournament last year with a hole-out birdie from the sand in a playoff and made his eagle this time on a 31-foot bunker shot at No. 7. “It’s been a testing year. My game is in a good place, but the scores don’t reflect that.

“I just tried to hit the center of the greens today and go from there. It’s great to get a nice score in the first round and be back in contention, in the thick of things, but there’s a long way to go.

“I spent to much time on my putting that my ball-striking suffered, but the putter feels good and it’s only a matter of time before it’s all there.”

Spieth hit his drive into the water on the 15th hole en route to his only bogey as he and two-time major winner Johnson missed by one stroke the course record of 62 set by Kevin Streelman when he won the Travelers in 2014.

Johnson rattled off six straight birdies through No. 16 before making his lone bogey at the 17th hole in his 63.

“You do get excited (on a run of birdies),” said Johnson, who tied for 12th last week at Shinnecock Hills. “But you stay in the moment and get excited. To execute shots when you know you have to, especially when you’ve got momentum, is fun. I kind of got caught up in my numbers on the putting green, but when it comes to hitting shots, I thoroughly enjoy having the confidence to go up there and hit a shot.

“I think today was a day where just I felt good going into it. I felt good coming into the week, I felt good going into last week. But today was kind of a day where if I just remain patient and stayed in it … hit a lot of fairways, lot of greens. I think I missed two greens, technically got up-and-down on both. I hit quality shots, gave my putter an opportunity, and capitalized on a bunch of those.”

Seventh-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland was tied for the lead with Johnson and Spieth before making his only bogey on the final hole for a 64 that left him in a tie for third with Brian Harman, who chipped in for birdie at No. 18, and Peter Malnati.

Beau Hossler of Rancho Santa Margarita recorded a bogey-free 65 and is tied for sixth with Paul Casey of England and Matt Jones of Australia, who sank a 10-foot eagle putt on the 10th hole.

Second-ranked Justin Thomas totaled 66 and is in a massive tie for ninth that includes ninth-ranked Jason Day of Australia, Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis, J.B. Holmes, John Huh of Los Angeles and Cal State Northridge, Si Woo Kim of South Korea, Jason Kokrak, Kelly Kraft, Vaughn Taylor, Russell Henley, Padraig Harrington of Ireland, Steve Marino, James Driscoll and Chase Seiffert.

Fourth-ranked Brooks Koepka, coming off his second straight victory in the U.S. Open, is tied for 37th at 68.

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