Travelers Championship: 5 things we learned during Thursday’s first round at TPC River Highlands

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CROMWELL, Conn. — Four days after Matthew Fitzpatrick won the 122nd U.S. Open and less than 24 hours after PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced that significant changes to the PGA Tour calendar and FedEx Cup playoff system are on the way, the Travelers Championship began at TPC River Highlands.

Several golfers commented Thursday that after the grind of a U.S. Open, coming to this course, which usually yields low scores, is a welcome relief. Among the players who went low on the first day of the tournament were Rory McIlroy and J.T. Poston, both of whom shot 8-under 62s, as well as Xander Schauffele and Martin Laird (63). Three more players—Charles Howell III, Webb Simpson and Patrick Cantlay—shot 64. Anirban Lahiri had the most boring scorecard of the day. He shot a 70 after parring all 18 holes. He also did that in the final round of the 2015 Masters.

Here are five takeaways from the first day of action at the 2022 Travelers Championship.

Rory is not playing to make a point

2022 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands
2022 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands

Rory McIlroy plays a shot from the fourth tee during the first round of the Travelers Championship. (Photo: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Even while he was fighting cold-like symptoms, Rory McIlroy continued his strong play on Thursday by shooting a bogey-free 62 to take the early lead at the Travelers Championship.

Asked if he and some of the other supporters of the PGA Tour are especially motivated or trying to send a message to the LIV Golf supporters with strong play, McIlroy said no.

“I just think it so happens that the most protective of the PGA Tour are the best players in the world right now,” he said. “I’m not going out to try to prove anything to anyone. I’m in a good run of form. I’m playing well. Whether that gives me a little more confidence to speak up on certain issues, maybe. But I’m just going out there trying to play my game and trying to win some more tournaments.”

Poston wasn't thinking history after hot start

J.T. Poston
J.T. Poston

J.T. Poston lines up a putt on the seventh green during the first round of the 2022 RBC Canadian Open at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Etobicoke, Ontario. (Photo: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

TPC River Highlands yielded a 58 to Jim Furyk in 2016, so when J.T. Poston was 6 under through his eight holes Thursday afternoon, another sub-60 score looked like it might be on the way. However, Poston then made seven consecutive pars before making birdies on the seventh and ninth holes for his 8-under 62.

Was he thinking 58?

“You know, I didn’t really think about it that much. I probably would have thought about it if I would have made a few birdies in those first few holes on the front nine,” he said afterward. “I gave myself a few looks, but kind of made a bunch of pars to start the front. That was kind of out of the picture after a little while. I might have thought about it a little bit more if I’d have made a couple of early birdies, and who knows?”

Warm up is overrated

2022 Travelers Championship
2022 Travelers Championship

Xander Schauffele talks with his caddie on the third fairway during the first round of the 2022 Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut. (Photo: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Most players go through the same warm-up and preparation routine before every round. It usually includes stretching, then hitting a series of putts before moving to the range and progressing from wedges up to irons and finally some drivers. If the practice green is on the way to the first tee, maybe they’ll hit a few final putts before playing. That typically takes about an hour.

Thursday, Xander Schauffele got mixed up on his tee time and arrived at the practice area only 30 minutes before his 7:35 a.m. ET tee time.

“For whatever reason, I really thought I was teeing off at 7:50. My tee time tomorrow is 12:50, so maybe that was the mix-up,” said Schauffele. “But it was a pretty big rookie move on my behalf.”

The abbreviated warm-up didn’t seem to bother Schauffele too much. After making three straight pars to start his day, he birdied Nos. 13, 15, 17 and 18 to play his first nine holes in 31 shots. He finished with a 7-under 63. He also went 18-for-18 hitting in greens in regulation.

Grinning after he signed his card, Schauffele said, “When I’m at home, I’ll warm up in the gym or with a physio, but when I’m at home I’ll show up for an 8 tee time at 7:55, maybe hit two putts and then just start swinging, so take advantage of the youth, I guess,”

For Jordan Spieth, 4 + 5 + 2 + 4 = 5 over

Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth and his caddie Michael Greller at Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands (Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Jordan Spieth hit one of the most famous shots in Travelers Championship history, a bunker shot that went in the 18th hole on Sunday in 2016 that won him the tournament over Daniel Berger. In pure elation, he jumped into his caddie, Michael Greller. You’ve seen that replay a million times.

On Thursday, he felt the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, shooting a 5-over 75 that included four birdies, three bogeys, double bogeys and four (yes, four!) penalty strokes.

You might assume that Spieth has never had four penalty strokes added to his score in a PGA Tour event, but amazingly, he also did it in the final round of the first 2021 FedEx Cup playoff event held last year at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The course

2022 Travelers Championship
2022 Travelers Championship

The eighth hole during the first round of the 2022 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut. (Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

With two 62s, a pair of 63s and three 64s at the top of the leaderboard, you might think that TPC River Highlands was defenseless Thursday, but the 6,852-yard, par-70 course played to a stroke average of 69.9. Offsetting the low scores at the top were scores like the aforementioned Jordan Spieth’s 75, as well as Jason Day’s 74 and Richy Werenski’s 78.

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