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Hoffman Fires 61 at Travelers Championship
Charley Hoffman carded five birdies and two eagles Thursday for a 9-under 61 to take the opening-round lead in the Travelers Championship. The $6.1 million PGA Tour event began under sunny skies at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.
Hoffman, a 36-year-old with two career wins on Tour, opened with a pair of birdies on the front nine to make the turn in 2-under 33 on the par-70 course. But the San Diego native got downright torrid on the home half, carding a 7-under 28 that included the two eagles and three birdies.
His first eagle came in an unconventional manner on the par-4 10th when he holed out a 169-yard approach from the fairway. Hoffman's other eagle came on the par-5 13th.
Hoffman could have matched the Tour's all-time low scoring mark of 59, but he could only manage pars on the par-3 16th and par-4 17th. His last birdie came on the par-4 closer. Hoffman knew he was in position for a hallowed 59, but the player with the long blond hair didn't sound too stressed out about it.
"It sort of crossed my mind, but not for long," he told PGATour.com after the round. "I learned that 16, 17, 18 aren't an easy test."
Hoffman is setting the pace in what should be the antithesis of last week's U.S. Open, where no one finished under par through 72 holes at Merion Golf Club and Justin Rose's winning score was 1-over 281. In second place is Hunter Mahan, who carded an 8-under 62, while in third after a 63 is 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson.
Mahan played in the last group last Sunday at Merion Golf Club with Phil Mickelson. Starting the final round only a stroke behind 54-hole leader Mickelson, Mahan closed with a 75 to end up sharing fourth in the U.S. Open at 5-over 285 with Jason Dufner, Ernie Els and Billy Horschel.
Mahan's always enjoyed the TPC River Highlands course and the Travelers Championship, where he notched the first of his five Tour wins in 2007. "There are a lot of courses I like, but I haven't had the success I've had here," Mahan told PGATour.com. "I think this is the most comfortable course on Tour for me.
"I feel like I have a good sense of these greens. I can read them really well. When you have confidence in what you see, it makes your stroke a lot easier."
The highlight of Watson's round came when he drove the green on the 305-yard, par-4 15th and sank the putt for an eagle.
Six players shot 65s, including John Merrick, Webb Simpson, Rod Pampling, Camilo Villegas, Graham DeLaet and Zach Johnson.
Simpson echoed the thoughts of many players who view the Travelers as a welcome respite following the cauldron of a U.S. Open. "Last week is so stressful on every level," the 2012 U.S. Open champion said. "This week is nice in the sense that getting around is easy."
Tied for 10th following 4-under 66s are Chris Stroud, Tommy Gainey, John Huh, Padraig Harrington, Richard H. Lee, Patrick Reed and Chris Kirk. Also shooting a 66 was defending champion Marc Leishman, who posted four birdies and 14 pars Thursday.
Rose continued his fine play from a week ago by opening with a 67. The 32-year-old shares 18th place with 15 others, including fellow Brit Lee Westwood and former major champions Angel Cabrera and Stewart Cink.
Chris Williams, the winner of the 2013 Ben Hogan Award - an annual honor that goes to a college golfer for his excellence on the course and in academics, turned professional following the U.S. Open and received a sponsor's exemption into the Travelers Championship. The former University of Washington All-American, who turns 22 Friday, opened with a 1-over 71.
Alabama sophomore, amateur Justin Thomas, is also in the field on a sponsor exemption. The Goshen, Ky., native, who helped the Crimson Tide win the 2013 NCAA Men's National Golf Championship in resounding fashion over Illinois, opened with a 72.
PGA Tour Files Motion to Dismiss Singh's Lawsuit
On Wednesday, the PGA Tour filed a motion in the New York Supreme Court to have a lawsuit filed by Vijay Singh dismissed. Singh filed suit in May, claiming the Tour "violated its duty of care and good faith" after he admitted to Sports Illustrated that he used deer-antler spray. Singh was later absolved of any violation.
Singh's attorney, Jeffrey Rosenblum, said that the Tour wants the case dismissed as the players sign a contract before joining that they can't sue the organization. Ty Votaw, the Tour's executive vice president, declined to comment on the motion.
Singh opened with an even-par 70 at the Travelers.
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