• 52°

Spieth, Z. Johnson tied for early lead at Travelers

CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) — Jordan Spieth has no idea what it is like to play from behind at the Travelers Championship.

The defending champion led after every round last year in his first visit to TPC River Highlands, and a shot a 7-under 63 on Thursday to match Zach Johnson for the first-round lead.

Spieth had six birdies and an eagle out the bunker on par-5 sixth hole — a shot reminiscent of the greenside bunker shot that gave him a victory last year over Daniel Berger in a playoff.

“They’ve got some sort of magnetic sand for me,” Spieth joked. “But it was actually a pretty tough shot there, almost a little downslope and I had to hit close to the ball, which you just have to commit to it. I just hit the shot that was necessary. I probably could have gone 4-5 feet bye, but I couldn’t hit it any better than I did and I was obviously fortunate for it to hit the pin and go in.”

Johnson went out in the morning and led for most of the day. He had eight birdies, including six straight on the back nine, one off than the course record.

“Six in a row is a treat,” said Johnson, who finished tied for 12th last week in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. “I had a lot of loft in my hand, lot of wedges in my hand. So that’s kind of how you’ve got to think about it is you have a lot of opportunity on the back side if you get the ball on the fairway. There are some holes you can get at.”

Rory McIlroy missed a 13-foot putt for par on the final hole that would have given him a share of the lead and finished in a three-way tie for third place with Brian Harmon and Peter Malnati.

McIlroy, who like Spieth missed the cut in the U.S. Open, said he’s been working on his swing since Saturday. He saw the practice pay off, hitting 17 greens with seven birdies during his round of 64.

“Sometimes when you take your focus away from the result and away from what you’re actually scoring like and focus just on what you’re trying to do within your golf swing, you sort of have days like this,” he said.

A lot of golfers took advantage of the soft greens and favorable wind conditions Thursday. Twenty-two of them shot a 66 or better.

Brooks Koepka followed his second straight U.S. Open victory with a 68. Koepka, who started on the 10th tee, shot a 31 on his first nine, but bogeyed four of his final six holes.

“I’m still kind of going on adrenaline right now,” he said. “But I’ll be honest, I’m dead right now. I think it showed kind of coming in.”

The Travelers was selected by the PGA last year as its “Tournament of the Year” and the “Players Choice.”  That has helped attract a 156-player field that includes five of the world’s top 10 ranked golfers and all four reigning major championship winners.

PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas was in a group of 14 players at 66. He made an eagle on sixth hole out of the same bunker as Spieth. His caddie tried to hand him a putter after the shot and Thomas shook him off.

“I don’t know why he did that,” Thomas said. “I think out of instinct went to give me the putter and I told him I didn’t need that, so put it back in the bag.”

Masters champion Patrick Reed had a tougher day, making four bogeys in a 72.

Comments

Local

City gives away nearly 100 trees during ‘We Dig Salisbury’ event

Local

Political Notebook: Bitzer expects most ‘Trump-like’ candidate to be favorite in state’s Senate race

Crime

Blotter: Concord man arrested in Rowan for indecent liberties with children

Coronavirus

Half of US adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

Nation/World

Police: FedEx shooter legally bought guns used in shooting

News

Hester Ford, oldest living American, dies at 115 … or 116?

Local

Size of pipeline spill again underestimated in North Carolina

BREAKING NEWS

Kannapolis Police searching for suspect who fled scene of homicide

Education

RSS superintendent talks district’s future, strategic plan survey

News

Complaints and fines pile up against unpermitted landfill in southwest Rowan County

College

Catawba baseball: Crowd comes out to say goodbye to Newman Park

Lifestyle

History is a great teacher: Farming has helped shape Rowan County

Business

‘A safe place for them’: Timeless Wigs and Marvelous Things celebrates fifth anniversary

China Grove

County will hear request for more tree houses, hobbit-style homes in China Grove

Coronavirus

Livingstone College partners with Health Department to administer 500 Pfizer vaccinations

Education

‘Elite and it shows’: Staff at Partners in Learning at Novant celebrate news of national accreditation

Business

Biz Roundup: Food Lion earns Energy Star award for 20th consecutive year

Columns

Ester Marsh: What body type are you?

Nation/World

The queen says goodbye to Philip, continues her reign alone

Nation/World

Worldwide COVID-19 death toll tops a staggering 3 million

Nation/World

US, China agree to cooperate on climate crisis with urgency

Nation/World

Sikh community calls for gun reforms after FedEx shooting

High School

North Rowan romps into second round of football playoffs

Nation/World

FBI had interviewed former FedEx employee who killed eight