Rory McIlroy brilliantly shrugged off any Shinnecock Hills hangover with a Travelers Championship first round 64 that was 16 shots fewer than last week’s U.S. Open opening nightmare.
In fact, it was also his second straight Travelers 64 as McIlroy signed-off in the event a year ago also with a six-under 64 on the TPC River Highlands course.
McIlroy, however, did look headed to tie fellow Open Champions Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson in the lead with a seven-under 63 only to lose his footing in playing his second shot up the last and take bogey. He had grabbed a hat-trick of birdies from 13th to move into a share of the lead in holing a virtual tap-in on 15 before ending with two pars and the 18th hole bogey.
“A couple of 64s back-to-back is quite nice,” he said smiling. “I played really well today. I feel like the work that I did over the weekend sort of started to pay off already. It was nice to see the shots I was playing right there. Being able to work the ball both ways was something I wasn’t quite as comfortable doing last week.”
“Obviously, you never want to miss a cut in a major, but it might have been a blessing in disguise for the rest of the year.”
After missing last week’s U.S. Open cut McIlroy headed home to Florida where he spent the weekend working on his game at the Bear’s Club and clearly time on the range has paid off with the now 29-year old admitting the feeling he now has in his game is the feeling he had some nine years ago.
“I’m trying to get back to the way I swung in sort of 2010, 2011. It’s hard because my body has changed quite a bit since then and the feelings I have. But the feeling I have right now is the feeling I had in the middle of 2009,” he said.
“So, it’s just trying to go back, and, okay, I was swinging it really well then. What was I doing? What was I thinking about? What was the focus on the swing?”
“I was just trying to rack my brain to recreate feelings that I had back then. That’s basically what I did over the weekend. I got a feeling that really sort of resonated with me and brought me back to a time when I was swinging it really well, and just sort of went with that feeling.”
England’s Paul Casey is just a shot back of McIlroy and only two off the lead thanks to his round of a five-under par 65 and including in the Valspar Championship winner’s round was six birdies, and like McIlroy, just the lone bogey.