Paul Casey one off the lead at Travelers Championship as Brooks Koepka struggles
Casey goes low on one of his favourite course as Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth face big tasks to avoid missing the cut
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 21/06/19 6:20am
Paul Casey made his customary good start to the Travelers Championship in Connecticut as he ended the opening day just one stroke off the lead.
Casey was in a tie at the top until he bogeyed the last as he settled for a five-under 65, and Tommy Fleetwood is just one further back while Brooks Koepka looked out-of-sorts and needs a sub-70 round on Friday to avoid missing the cut having struggled to a one-over 71.
Ryan Armour, Bronson Burgoon, Mackenzie Hughes, Abraham Ancer and Kyoung-Hoon Lee all share the overnight lead after each fired 64s in excellent scoring conditions on a TPC River Highlands course softened by rain throughout the week.
But Casey will have high hopes of again contending in one of his favourite events, where he has twice finished runner-up including last year when he was overtaken down the stretch by an in-form Bubba Watson.
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Casey made a solid start before he got up and running with birdies at the fifth and sixth, and a superb wedge to a couple of feet at the ninth set up another gain and took him to the turn in 32.
The 41-year-old knocked another impressive iron in close at the short 11th and converted the chance, and he picked up further shots at 13 and 15 before a putt to claim the outright lead on the 16th green grazed the lip of the cup.
But after a perfect tee shot at the last, Casey tugged his approach into the greenside rough on the left and pitched to 15 feet before two-putting for a closing bogey which dropped him into a tie for sixth place.
"I'm still frustrated on that one," said Casey as he accepted the blame for his mistake at the last. "That was my fault for trying to push it. That front left pin just looked like I needed to go at it and there is no reason to go at it. Total error on my behalf, nobody else's.
"But it's nice to get that momentum and I'm keen to get straight back out there. I like the quick turnaround to try and keep that momentum going. I'm keen to try and put the some birdies on the board and maybe set a number for guys to chase.
"I've got a number in my head this week that will be a winning score. Put it this way, if I do three more five unders then it's more than my number, so that's a good thing."
Fleetwood was not satisfied with his driving but was grateful for some solid iron play and assured putting as he mixed five birdies with just one dropped shot in his 66, a score matched by Louis Oosthuizen, Marc Leishman, Ireland's Seamus Power and Patrick Cantlay, who was six under with two to play until dumping his tee shot into the water at the short eighth.
Phil Mickelson produced his usual mixture of wayward drives and short-game brilliance as he carded six birdies and three bogeys in his 67, while Watson opened his defence with an erratic 69 along with reigning Open champion Francesco Molinari.
World No 1 Koepka said at his pre-tournament press conference he was wary of fatigue having just missed out on a third consecutive US Open victory, and he was perhaps affected by his exertions at Pebble Beach as he offset three birdies with four bogeys.
But Koepka ended the day two shots better than 2017 winner Jordan Spieth, who was level par with six to play before he pulled his drive out-of-bounds at the long 13th and then found water with his fourth as he ran up an ugly triple-bogey eight that leave him facing an early exit.