Travelers Championship: Canada's Mackenzie Hughes strikes career-low 60 to take three-shot lead after first round

Playing the back nine first at the TPC River Highlands, Hughes was in blistering form as he strung together a run of five straight birdies from the 14th on his outward nine and picked up four more after the turn.

Reuters June 26, 2020 11:40:50 IST
Travelers Championship: Canada's Mackenzie Hughes strikes career-low 60 to take three-shot lead after first round

Canadian Mackenzie Hughes fired an error free 10-under 60 to take the first-round lead at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut, on Thursday, putting himself three shots clear of three players including world number one Rory McIlroy.

Playing the back nine first at the TPC River Highlands, Hughes was in blistering form as he strung together a run of five straight birdies from the 14th on his outward nine and picked up four more after the turn.

He had a long look at a magical 59 but left a 41-foot birdie putt short at his last.

Travelers Championship Canadas Mackenzie Hughes strikes careerlow 60 to take threeshot lead after first round

Mackenzie Hughes fired an error free 10-under 60 to take the first-round lead. AP

“I’ve shot 61 twice in competition, once at Sea Island and once at a mini-Tour event,” Hughes told reporters. “Both times there was an outside chance the last few holes to shoot 59.

“Kind of similar deal to today where I kind of needed to birdie the last few holes.”

Also a back nine starter, McIlroy got off to a flying start by rolling in an 11-foot putt for an eagle on the par five 13th and then followed up with birdies at 14 and 15 to quickly get to four-under.

The Northern Irishman’s only miscue was a bogey at 16 but he was error free the rest of the way, piling on four more birdies after the turn for a seven-under 63.

American Xander Schauffele and Norway’s Viktor Hovland, who were part of the afternoon wave, finished tied with McIlroy after both carded seven-under 63s.

Lurking one shot further back is a pack led by Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson, who recently celebrated his 50th birthday, with both also enjoying error free starts.

Joining the two major winners at six-under are Americans Tyler Duncan and Michael Thompson plus South Korea’s Noh Seung-yul and South African Louis Oosthuizen.

Golfers appeared to be taking heed and paying closer attention to COVID-19 safety protocols after PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan issued a stern warning on Wednesday following the withdrawal of several players.

Major champions Brooks Koepka and Graeme McDowell pulled out of the event after their caddies tested positive for COVID-19 while Cameron Champ withdrew on Tuesday after testing positive.

Calls to shut down Travelers after COVID-19 positives were silly, says McIlroy

World number one Rory McIlroy said on Thursday that it would have been silly to cancel this week’s Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut after Cameron Champ and two caddies tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the tournament.

American Champ withdrew from the event after testing positive at a pre-tournament screening while world number four Brooks Koepka and Graeme McDowell also withdrew as a precaution when their caddies tested positive.

McIlroy, who shot a seven-under 63 in the opening round, praised PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan for allowing the tournament to go ahead despite the positive tests.

“I thought Jay did a wonderful job yesterday, just relaying the information and where the PGA Tour stands and where we’re going forward,” Northern Irishman McIlroy told reporters.

“You hear one or two positive tests and people are panicking. I saw a couple of calls to shut the tournament down, which is silly from my point of view.

“There’s been almost 3,000 tests administered and the percentage of positive tests, it’s a quarter of a percent. I think, as a whole, it has been going really well. There’s a couple of loose ends that we needed to tidy up.”

The Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands is the third of five events on the PGA Tour’s revamped schedule.

It is closed to spectators in a bid to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Canadian Mackenzie Hughes fired an error free 10-under 60 to take an early first-round lead, three shots clear of McIlroy.

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