Despite all the big names in the Travelers Championship, it was relatively unheralded Mackenzie Hughes of Canada who had the biggest first day.
The 29-year-old Hughes sank a 31-foot birdie putt on his 17th hole but left short a 36-footer on his last hole to settle for a bogey-free, 10-under-par 60 and a three-stroke lead over top-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, 10th-ranked Xander Schauffele and Viktor Hovland of Norway at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.
Hughes finished two shots off the tournament and PGA Tour record of 58 set by Jim Furyk in 2016.
“I kind of joked walking off there that 59 wasn’t even the record because of Jim’s 58,” said Hughes, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2016 RSM Classic, when he had a 61 in round one. “It’s probably not even that special around here. But as a personal milestone it would have been neat. I knew what I had to do, but just came up short. It still feels pretty good.
“At 14 the putts started going in, the hole was looking a little bigger and I just kept making birdies. I made a good read on that last putt, but just didn’t hit it. It was at least a 30-footer, but I made a long one like that on the previous hole.
“Still, it was pretty fun.”
Hughes, who captured the Canadian Amateur in 2011 and 2012, started on the back nine and made the first of his 10 birdies on the 11th hole before making birdies on the last five holes on that side. Then he birdied No. 2 and added three in a row through No. 8.
McIlroy, who started slowly with a tie for 32nd in the Charles Schwab Challenge and a tie for 41st in the RBC Heritage after the PGA Tour ended its shutdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, sank an 11-foot eagle putt on the 13th hole and added six birdies in his 63.
“I played well from the start,” said McIlroy, who has seven top-10 finishes this season but hasn’t won since the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai last November. “The round got going with the eagle on 13.
“You get a little antsy and go a little quick if you start thinking (about going low too soon). I have to remember it’s a 72-hole golf tournament. As much as it’s low scores, you have to keep telling yourself to be patient.”
Schauffele, from La Jolla and San Diego State, made nine birdies and was two strokes back and alone in second before making his second bogey at No. 17 in his 63, which Hovland matched thanks to a four-foot eagle putt at No. 14 and seven birdies.
Phil Mickelson, who turned 50 last week and won at TPC River Highlands in 2000 and 2001, carded three birdies on each nine in a bogey-free 64 and is tied for fifth with Sergio Garcia of Spain, Michael Thompson, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Tyler Duncan and Seung-Yul Noh of South Korea.
Second-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain shot 66 and is in a tie for 17th that includes 10th-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, while sixth-ranked Dustin Johnson totaled 69 and is in a tie for 79th that includes three-time Travelers champion Bubba Watson.
Defending champion Chez Reavie finished at 70 and is in a tie for 107th that includes seventh-ranked Patrick Reed, while third-ranked Justin Thomas is tied for 126th at 71.
The Travelers is the third straight tournament being played without spectators because of social distancing guidelines.
For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html