Harrington and McIlroy make strong starts at Travelers
Irish pair are three and four shots off the lead respectively – held by Jordan Spieth at -7
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland lines up a putt on the 11th green. He is considering changing putter after another frustrating day on the greens. Photograph; Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Padraig Harrington admitted he surprised himself after shooting a four-under par first round of 66 at the Travelers Championship to sit just three shots behind leader Jordan Spieth and one shot ahead of Rory McIlroy.
The Dubliner has played precious little golf this year, back surgery laying him up for three months before a freak elbow injury at the start of June saw him miss another 10 days while stitches healed.
But there was little sign on rust at River Highlands in Connecticut as Harrington carded four birdies in a blemish free round.
Harrington’s latest injury came during a coaching session he was hosting, with an amateur hitting him on the elbow, but although it remains “quite sore” Harrington was glad to be back in the swing of things while he already has one eye on the British Open at Royal Birkdale where he won his third Major title.
“We’re close to half a year done now and I’ve only played 21 competitive rounds. You can get that done in a month,” he said. “It’s been a bit of a struggle just getting momentum . . . there’s no substitute for being on the golf course. While it hasn’t been a great year I’ll be happy if I’m ready for the Open.”
McIlroy, making his debut in the Travelers, is one behind Harrington on three under but the former world number one’s putting remains a cause for concern. With 30 putts in his opening round, McIlroy admitted afterwards that he is running out of patience with the TaylorMade Spider he has been using since the US Open and is considering trying a new short stick.
McIlroy’s frustration was borne out of an inability to capitalise on opportunities – he missed five birdie putts from inside 10 feet and even managed to fluff a tap-in. “I come off the golf course a little disappointed with a 67, because I gave myself so many chances,” he explained afterwards.
“Tee to green game is where it needs to be. It’s just a matter of converting the chances I’m giving myself . . . I made a decision this week, I’d give it one more week and see how it (my putter) performed. But again, it’s nothing to do with the putter, it’s mostly what I’m doing.”
Meanwhile, a birdie on the last hole saw Spieth take sole possession of the first round lead in Connecticut.
The former world number one signed for a seven-under 63 on his debut at the tournament, with a bogey on the 406-yard ninth preventing him from securing more than a one-stroke advantage.
The 23-year-old Texan told Golf Channel: “It was a really solid start.
“I got things kicking off early and that helps you walk a little easier and helps with the shots you’re playing throughout the round.
“You don’t feel like you have to take as many chances and I was able to play away from some pins when I was in a little bit of trouble.
“You’re not going to shoot seven-under every round, it’s impossible and I recognise that, so it’s about waiting for my chances to come in the same way we did today.”
Collated first round scores in the USPGA Tour Travelers Championship, TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut, United States of America (USA unless stated, par 70):
(a) denotes amateurs
63 Jordan Spieth
64 Brett Stegmaier, Johnson Wagner
65 Troy Merritt, Graham DeLaet (Can)
66 Hudson Swafford, Xander Schauffele, Beau Hossler, Mark Hubbard, Scott Piercy, Matt Every, Brian Harman, Fabian Gomez (Arg), Tom Hoge, Kevin Na, Boo Weekley, Daniel Summerhays, Padraig Harrington (Irl)
67 Byeong-Hun An (Kor), David Hearn (Can), Steve Wheatcroft, Robert Streb, Rory McIlroy (NIrl), Wesley Bryan, Cameron Percy (Aus), Bryson DeChambeau, Sebastian Munoz (Col), Patrick Reed, David Lingmerth (Swe), Harris English, Keegan Bradley, Jim Furyk, Rod Pampling (Aus), Morgan Hoffmann, Mackenzie Hughes (Can), Michael Kim
68 Spencer Levin, Vaughn Taylor, Tag Ridings, John Peterson, Smylie Kaufman, William McGirt, Chase null Seiffert, Brendan Steele, Danny Lee (Nzl), Hunter Mahan, Daniel Berger, J.J. Henry, Ryan Brehm, Paul Casey (Eng)
69 Nick Watney, Seung-Yul Noh (Kor), Charley Hoffman, Scott Stallings, Robert Garrigus, Ryan Palmer, Rick Lamb, Chez Reavie, Will MacKenzie, Emiliano Grillo (Arg), Grayson Murray, Marc Leishman (Aus), Ken Duke, Tyrone Van Aswegen (Rsa), Kyung Ju Choi (Kor), Greg Chalmers (Aus), Bobby Wyatt, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Spa), Alex Cejka (Den), Kevin Streelman, Joel Dahmen, Billy Hurley III, Kyle Reifers, Russell Knox (Sco), Jonathan Randolph
70 Bud Cauley, Harold Varner III, Brandon Hagy, Kelly Kraft, Adam Hadwin (Can), Webb Simpson, Tony Finau, Chad Campbell, Brad Fritsch (Can), Patrick Rodgers, Bryce Molder, Dominic Bozzelli, Andres Gonzales, Retief Goosen (Rsa), Kyle Stanley, Sung Kang (Kor), Ricky Barnes, Whee Kim (Kor), Cheng-Tsung Pan (Tai), Brandt Snedeker
71 Brian Stuard, Jason Kokrak, Ryan Ruffels (Aus), Jonas Blixt (Swe), Julian Etulain (Arg), Richy Werenski, Derek Fathauer, Chad Collins, Brian Campbell, Ryan Armour, John Huh, Jhonattan Vegas (Ven), Carl Pettersson (Swe), Nick Taylor (Can), Stuart Appleby (Aus)
72 Peter Malnati, Jason Day (Aus), Brian Gay, Lucas Glover, Seamus Power (Irl), Jamie Lovemark, Mark Anderson, Tim Wilkinson (Nzl), Trey Mullinax, Vijay Singh (Fij), Ben Crane, Miguel Angel Carballo (Arg), Martin Laird (Sco), Jim Herman
73 Shawn Stefani, Steven Alker (Nzl), Martin Flores, Geoff Ogilvy (Aus), Justin Thomas, Patton Kizzire, Troy Kelly, Luke Donald (Eng), Kevin Tway, Zac Blair, Jason Bohn, Anirban Lahiri (Ind)
74 Brett Coletta (Aus), Bob Estes, Rory Sabbatini (Rsa), Zack Sucher, Cody Gribble, Mark Wilson
75 JT Poston, Michael Thompson, Zach Johnson, Brett Drewitt (Aus), Bubba Watson, Nicholas Lindheim
76 Ryan Blaum, Zach Zaback, Billy Downes
77 Charlie Beljan
78 Wyndham Clark, Neil Johnson
80 Bobby Gates
81 Andrew Loupe