Kim closes with back-to-back birdies lead at Travelers Championship

Tom Kim fired an eight-under-par 62 without making a bogey to seize the lead after the first round of the US PGA Tour Travelers Championship
Tom Kim fired an eight-under-par 62 without making a bogey to seize the lead after the first round of the US PGA Tour Travelers ChampionshipAFP
South Korea's Tom Kim, playing for his eighth consecutive week, closed with back-to-back birdies to grab a two-stroke lead after Thursday's opening round of the US PGA Travelers Championship.

On the eve of his 22nd birthday, Kim fired a bogey-free eight-under-par 62 with eight birdies at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.

"It was nice," Kim said. "Played a little windy. Had a few testers coming in to keep the momentum going, some nice putts to go in to finish."

Kim sank a 14-foot birdie putt at the 17th hole and a seven-footer at 18 to seize a two-stroke edge over Americans Rickie Fowler, Will Zalatoris, Kurt Kitayama and Akshay Bhatia.

It's the last signature-level event of the PGA season, with a limited field and no cut.

World number 26 Kim, who finished a season-best fourth at the Canadian Open earlier this month, has not missed a tournament since the end of April.

"Age helps. I'm still 21 for today," Kim said. "I've just done a good job of getting mentally ready and physically ready. It's my eighth week but I feel good."

Kim, who shared second at last year's British Open, also made birdie putts from just outside 10 feet at the third and par-3 eighth, from 18 feet at the par-5 sixth, from 16 feet at the 10th and tap-in birdies at 12 and the par-5 13th.

Kim, who shared 26th at last week's US Open, seeks his fourth PGA title and first since defending his crown at the Shriners Children's Open last October.

Scheffler opens on 65

World number one Scottie Scheffler opened with a 65 after struggling to a share of 41st last week at Pinehurst, where he was a huge favourite after five PGA Tour wins this season, the most so soon in a campaign since 1980.

"I hit it nice," Scheffler said. "I'm swinging a lot better than I did last week. Just really getting better feel coming at the top of my swing, making sure my grip's kind of in the right position."

Scheffler, who won his second Masters crown in April, reeled off three birdies in a row starting at the second hole and answered a bogey at the sixth with an eagle putt from just inside eight feet at 13 and birdie at 14.

"It's a very challenging tee shot. Glad to get the ball into play," Scheffler said. "It was nice to see it get close up there, then knock that one in.

"It takes two really good shots to get looks at birdie around here. I'm looking forward to the challenge as the week goes on."

Others on 65 included PGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele and fellow American Tony Finau.

South Korea's An Byeong-hun withdrew due to illness after going one-over par through seven holes.

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