CROMWELL, Conn. — Hunter Mahan made the Travelers Championship his first PGA Tour victory, in 2007. Bubba Watson followed in 2010.
Charley Hoffman already owns two PGA Tour wins — the last coming in the 2010 Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston in Norton — but he’s never won at Travelers.
Its no surprise that those three players were at the top of the leaderboard on Thursday, then. Mahan has won more money in this event ($2.4 million) than anybody else, Watson has a win and a second-place finish in the past three years, and Hoffman tied Watson for second last year.
They took advantage of a TPC River Highlands course still wet from Tuesday’s rain, with Hoffman shooting a 9-under-par 61 to take a one-shot lead on Mahan, and two shots on Watson. Hoffman blistered through the back nine in just 28 strokes, starting the side eagle-par-birdie-eagle. He capped it with a 2-foot birdie at No. 18.
“It was nice after the finish I had last year to start like this,” said Hoffman.
Hoffman’s second shot to the par-4 10th from the left rough went in for eagle, and after reaching the par-5 13th in two, he rolled home a 15-footer for another eagle.
No eagles for Mahan, just eight birdies in a bogey-free round. In addition to his win here, he also has two seconds and a fourth.
Rose meets goal
By the time Justin Rose teed off, he knew there was already a 62 on the board. Playing his first competitive round since winning the US Open, Rose did his best to ignore those and focus on his own game. To help with that, he set a goal for himself.
“My caddie and I talked about 68, I felt like just to set my own goal,” Rose said. “You look at the leaderboard and see 9s and 8s and 7s [under par]. If you try to get to that number, you can get frustrated. So I set my own goal, and it was nice to be shooting 67.”
Rose couldn’t contain a smile when he was announced on the first tee as the 2013 US Open champion, and responded with an opening birdie.
Coming off a missed cut at the US Open — his third in the past five tournaments — Keegan Bradley got off to a terrible start, sitting 2 over after a bogey at the 10th hole. But the Hopkinton High graduate made three birdies coming in, including at the home hole, and shot 69. James Driscoll of Boston, who finished tied for 18th here last year and fifth the year before, also birdied No. 18 to salvage a 68. Fran Quinn of Holden, playing in his first PGA Tour event of the season, bogeyed the last and shot 71 . . . How did Ian Poulter make a quintuple-bogey 9 on the 17th hole? “Missed a putt for 8,” Poulter tweeted. “Hahaha I guess I shouldn’t have watched tin cup last night.” . . . Chris Williams, the former top-ranked amateur in the world making his professional debut, shot 71 . . . Rose confirmed that he’s switching management companies, signing on with Excel Sports Management, run by Mark Steinberg, the agent for Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar, among others.