Padraig Harrington in the hunt in Travelers Championship

Bubba Watson birdies five of his last seven to open up a two shot lead in Connecticut

Padraig Harrington is four shots off the lead after the first round of the Travelers Championship. Photograph: Getty

Padraig Harrington is four shots off the lead after the first round of the Travelers Championship. Photograph: Getty

 

Padraig Harrington is in the hunt after he shot a four under par 66 in his opening round at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut.

The three-time Major winner, fresh after sitting out last week’s US Open at Chambers Bay, had a steady front nine, dropping a single shot on seven.

However he then proceded to fly home after the turn getting back to level on 11 and then stringing four birdies together from 13.

Harrington sits four off the lead of Bubba Watson, who birdied five of his last seven holes as he opened up a two-shot lead at the top.

The two-time Masters champion birdied the third, sixth, seventh and ninth to reach the turn in 31 but he was still trailing the leading group, who sat at six under on a day when the majority of players shot under par.

But a birdie on 12 followed by further picked up shots on 14 and 15 catapulted him into the lad before he dropped back into the pack as he gave one back at 16.

Second Captains

The 36-year-old was not done, though, and he birdied 17 before hitting the flag-stick with his approach at the last to leave a tap-in and an eight-under 62 that left him two shots ahead of Noh Seung-yul, Keegan Bradley, Brian Stuard, Harris English and Jason Gore.

Watson was driving the ball an average of just over 325 yards on Thursday and he admitted that his distance was proving a big help around TPC River Highlands.

“If I drive it halfway decent, I’m going to have short irons, I’m going to have wedges,” he told Sky Sports 4. “I think we counted up around five holes that aren’t wedges so that means if my wedges are halfway decent I’m going to have a lot of birdie putts.”

Bradley recorded seven birdies and a single bogey on his way round and the 2011 US PGA champion admitted that playing on lush greens compared to the highly-criticised surfaces at the US Open at Chambers Bay last week made a big difference.

“I made some real good putts on the back, which was my front side, that kind of kept it going,” he said.

“Coming from last week to this week, the greens are perfect any week but especially coming from last week, it seems so easy to make putts. If you feel like you get it on line, it’s going to go in.”

Gore and Stuard were both flawless in their respective 64s while Noh recorded a single bogey and English dropped two shots.

It was a congested leaderboard behind the leader with eight players at five under including former Masters champion Zach Johnson and Sweden’s Carl Pettersson who was the top European after the first day.

Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington were among the group a further shot back while a huge pack at three under included Paul Casey, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia and Billy Horschel.

Argentina’s Andres Romero was seven shots off the lead after a 69 but did have the distinction of recording a hole-in one on the 171-yard 16th.

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