Brendan Steele flirted with golf’s magic number Thursday before settling for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead at the Travelers Championship. Here’s the skinny on Round 1 at TPC River Highlands:
The leaderboard: Brendan Steele (-8); Bud Cauley and Ryan Moore at -7; Scott Langley, Chad Campbell, Joe Durant, Eric Axley and Jeff Maggert at 64
What it means: Steele’s 62 matched his previous low round on the PGA Tour, set earlier this year at the Phoenix Open (T-6). This performance came a bit out of the blue, however, as he was coming off back-to-back missed cuts on the PGA Tour. That said, the 31-year-old has fared well here in the past, recording a pair of top-15 finishes in 2011 and ’13.
Round of the day: Steele made eagle on the par-4 first hole, turned in 30 and was on 59 Watch after going 8 under through 13 holes. Alas, he made par on his last five holes to fall three shots shy. In his first start this season with the conventional-length putter, he required only 26 putts on Day 1.
Best of the rest: Bud Cauley is in desperate need of a good week to help him retain his card for the 2014-15 season, and he’s off to an auspicious start with an opening 63. The 24-year-old has only two top 25s in 14 starts this season, including a T-21 a few weeks ago at Colonial. Other notables include Ryan Moore (63), who has top 15s here in four of the past five years; Sergio Garcia (65), who missed just two greens in the opening round; Dustin Johnson, who bogeyed the last but still backed up his T-4 at the Open with a 66 start here; Matt Kuchar, who poured in a 52-foot eagle putt on 15 to shoot 66; Keegan Bradley, who birdied three of the last four holes to shoot 66; and Bubba Watson, who has three top 5s in the last four years here and opened with 67.
Biggest disappointment: Coming off the emotional high of his T-2 finish at the Open, Erik Compton was unable to sustain the momentum here in Hartford. He shot 4-over 74 and will need a low round Friday just to make the cut.
Shot of the day: Trevor Immelman made an albatross on the par-5 13th, his fourth hole of the day, when he holed out from 246 yards. He finished with 68.
Biggest storyline heading into Friday: The last four winners here have been of the first-time variety, but that trend seems unlikely to continue this year with four of the top-8 players in the world teeing it up. Which of the big names (Sergio, Sneds, DJ, Kooch, Bubba) will make a run on Friday? All four those players begin the second round fewer than five shots behind.