Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson hit a scorching eight-under-par 62 on Thursday to take a two-stroke lead over five players in the first round of the Travelers Championship.
“It was my first (PGA Tour) win (2010) and it’s the same time that I announced to the world that my dad was passing with cancer. So, special in different ways.”
Keegan Bradley (64) was tied for second with Jason Gore, Seung-Yul Noh, Brian Stuard and Harris English, who shot 30 on the back nine.
Eight players hit 65, 12 more opened with 66, while 93 players were under par.
Steven Bowditch and Aaron Baddeley are the best-placed Australians after two-under-par opening rounds of 68.
Cameron Percy shot 69, ahead of Robert Allenby, Mark Leishman and Greg Chalmers (all even-par 70), Matt Jones (72) and rookie Cameron Smith (73), backing up from his equal fourth finish at the US Open in his major debut.
“Coming off a US Open, this golf course seems like it’s gettable, and we all feel that way,” Watson said. “So the guys that played in the US Open maybe feel better about their game when they get here.”
Watson had four birdies on his final five holes and just missed an eagle on the par-4 18th.
His only glitch was bogey on the par-3 16th.
“I just kept grinding it out. Whatever shot was called for, I tried to hit it and, somehow today, I hit it good.”
Bradley put up an early 64, shooting a 31 on his front nine. The 29-year-old considers the Travelers Championship as his home tournament. His best finish has been 18th.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself in every tournament, but this one especially just because I’ve got a lot of people here. I know a lot of the fans are rooting for me. I can feel it.”
English, who did not play the US Open, had just 22 putts.
Ernie Els, making his first appearance since 2002, is among those on 66.
He normally heads to Europe after the US Open to prepare for the British Open, but has decided to try to pick up a few more FedEx points.
Argentina’s Andres Romero won a Rolex watch during his 69 when he aced the 177m par-3 16th hole, while Martin Laird holed out from 140m for an eagle on the par-4 17th.
As many as nine spots for the British Open are available this week.
The leading five players, not already exempt, from the top 20 in the FedEx Cup will be part of the field next month at St Andrews.
In addition, the leading four players who finish in the top 12 at TPC River Highlands also will get spots. The Travelers is the first of three PGA Tour events where top finishers can get into St Andrews. There are four spots available at The Greenbrier Classic, and one at the John Deere Classic.