CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) — Johnson Wagner says he could shoot a 61 while playing the TPC River Highlands on his old Sega Genesis video game as a kid.
The actual course didn’t give Wagner much more of a challenge Thursday in the Travelers Championship when he shot a 6-under 64 to match Steve Lowery, Brad Adamonis and Englishman Brian Davis for the first-round lead.
With temperatures hovering in the low 70s and soft greens from rain Wednesday night, conditions set up nicely for the field. Seven players were a shot back at 65, and another 16 shot 66s. Of the 156 players, 104 shot under par.
“We had no wind and it was just kind of there for the taking today with it being so soft,” Wagner said. “But get a little wind and get this place firm and it’s all you can ask for, so I’m happy to get a good round when I needed too.
Wagner, who is looking for his second career victory after winning in Houston earlier this season, eagled the 296-yard 15th after hitting his approach shot within 18 inches of the pin.
Lowery also won this year, at Pebble Beach in February. He was the first leader in the clubhouse, after playing his first golf in almost two weeks. Lowery decided to skip this year’s qualifying for the U.S. Open because he felt fatigued.
He sat at home and played with the kids and watched the Open on TV. He practiced a bit, but said he didn’t play a single round of golf.
“Regardless of the golf courses, when I’m tired I don’t do as well, and when I’m rested I tend to play better,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll stay rested this week.”
Davis, looking for his first tour win, and is coming off disk injuries to his back and neck that he says have affected his swing since late last season. He started the day hitting his first shot into the trees.
“I didn’t have a lot of good vibes then,” he said. “I holed a 5-footer for bogey. It’s funny how a round somehow starts with a bogey and ends up being good. I mixed in a couple of birdies and kept on rolling.”
Adamonis, from nearby Cumberland, R.I., also eagled the 15th and had to overcome a heckler who yelled during his swing on the second shot on the 17th hole. Despite a bit of a miss-hit, the shot managed to clear the course’s signature lake and land on the green, 25-feet from the hole.
“It must have been a Yankees fan,” said Adamonis, a die-hard Red Sox rooter. “I think I would have been a little more mad if it had hit the water.”
John Huston, Peter Karmis, Justin Rose, Lucas Glover, Ken Duke, Tom Pernice Jr. and amateur Michael Thompson shot 65s. Thompson, coming off a U.S. Open that saw him tie for 29th place, had the shot of the day. His 199-yard approach on the par-4 10th hole found the cup.
“I’m here to have fun,” he said. “There’s no pressure, there’s nothing to lose, just going out and playing golf and see how I do.”
Only three of the top ten players on tour are playing in this year’s tournament, which has a $6 million purse and a top prize of just over $1 million.
Stewart Cink, Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry each finished at 4 under. Many other big names decided not to make the cross-country trip from last week’s U.S. Open in San Diego.
Fairfield native J.J. Henry, the winner two years ago, also was among those who finished two shots back. Henry, who grew up coming to the tournament with his family, won the event in 2006 and tied for 13th a year ago.
“It was pretty easy out there,” he said. “It wasn’t very stressful.”