AP News

The Open's over! Birdies fly at Travelers

Photo: Fred Beckham/AP

Hunter Mahan shoot a first-round 62 Thursday.

CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) — The scoreboard at Travelers Championship made the U.S. Open seem like a distant memory.

A week after only eight sub-par rounds were carded at the U.S. Open, 60 players broke par in the first round.

Hunter Mahan, who finished second a year ago, shot an 8-under 62, one shot off the course record, to take the first-round lead. It was his sixth consecutive round in the 60s at the TPC at River Highlands.

``It's one of the courses that you look at it and you feel comfortable,'' he said. ``There's not really a shot here that I worry about.''

Rain suspended play Thursday night and 39 golfers wrapped up their first round Friday morning, including Olin Browne, who won this tournament in 1998. He finished with a 67, then eagled early in his second round to trail the leader by three.

``This is what golf should be,'' said Chris DiMarco, whose 64 was good for only second place. ``It shouldn't be about plus 20s and plus 25s. I think the fans, if we started doing that every week, I think we would lose our fans. I think they want to see us make birdies.''

Mahan shot a 31 on his first nine holes. He parred No. 10, then birdied his next four holes. A rain delay of more than an hour didn't seem to faze him, as he came back out and birdied No. 17.

``I hit my driver great, put the ball in play,'' he said. ``I hit a lot of good irons and wedges.''

That run allowed him to overtake DiMarco, who shot a strong round despite an ailing shoulder.

``I hit a ton of good golf shots today,'' Mahan said. ``But it's just the first round. We've got a long way to go.''

Mahan tied his best round, which came during the third round of the 2003 Valero Texas Open. His previous best this year was a second-round 65 at the Buick Invitational. He's had two top-10 finishes this year but has never won on tour.

``If I can build on my score from today, I feel I have a pretty good shot,'' he said.

The course record is 61, held by four players, including two-time champion Phil Mickelson, who withdrew from this year's tournament because of an ailing left wrist.

DiMarco, who hasn't won on the PGA Tour since 2002, has been playing with arthritis, tendinitis and a bone spur in his left shoulder for about three months. Two recent cortisone shots and a slight adjustment to his swing seemed to ease his pain. The 64 was his best round of the season.

``It felt a lot better out there today,'' he said. ``Three weeks ago, every shot I hit, whether it was a 70-yard lob wedge or whatever, it would pop.''

Five golfers finished at 65, including Tour rookie Michael Sim of Australia, who shot 29 on his closing nine.

``Once you get on a roll, you just make birdies,'' Sim said.

DiMarco said he tinkered with his putting grip, which seemed to help his short game. He needed just 26 putts.

``I made a bunch of good little putts today,'' he said. ``When you make those, confidence breeds and you make longer ones.''

The best shot Thursday came from Craig Perks of New Zealand, who used a 6 iron to ace the 202-yard par-3 eighth hole. His blind tee shot went over the water and rolled into the cup.

Perks, who shot a 74 in the first round, took home a gold Rolex watch for his effort. Defending champion J.J. Henry, from nearby Fairfield, shot a 68.

Masters champion Zach Johnson shot a 71 and Vijay Singh a 68. Singh entered the tournament in third place in the race for the Fedex Cup. He has a chance to make up ground on Tiger Woods and Mickelson.

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