Rory McIlroy insisted he has nothing to prove to LIV Golf or anyone else after scorching into the early lead with an eight-under 62 in the $8.3m (£6.7m) Travelers Championship.
As Londonderry’s Ruaidhri McGee shot a nine-under 61 on just his second start for two years to lead by three on the Challenge Tour, McIlroy continued his hot run at TPC River Highlands.
Playing his fourth event in a row before taking two weeks off to prepare for The Open, the World No.2 turned in three under before covering the front nine in a blistering five-under 30 to lead by a shot from Xander Schauffele and Scot Martin Laird.
“It’s like the anti-US Open here,” McIlroy joked. “It’s like US Open rehab coming here. You’re like, ‘Oh, I can actually make some birdies. This is nice’.”
Continuing the form that brought him victory in the Canadian Open and a tie for fifth at Brookline in his last two starts, McIlroy insisted his performances have nothing to do with him trying to cast the PGA Tour in a good light.
“I don’t think so,” McIlroy said. “I just think it so happens that the most protective of the PGA Tour are the best players in the world right now. I’m not going out to try to prove anything to anyone.”
That said, he’s supportive of commissioner Jay Monahan and his plans to revamp the PGA Tour by dramatically increasing purses at eight events and creating a three-event international series in the autumn for the game’s top players.
“I’m sure it’ll have some guys that were thinking about it thinking twice and maybe reconsidering their decision,” McIlroy said of Monahan’s plans.
It was also an amazing day for McGee (31), who shot a 62 in his first tour start for two years in the Czech Republic last week and yesterday made two eagles in his first eight holes en route to a nine-under 61 and a three-shot lead at the Blot Open de Bretagne in Brittany.
“I’m delighted with my round today,” said McGee, who took a break from the game and moved to Florida during the pandemic.
“I haven’t been playing competitively for a couple of years now and this is only my second Challenge Tour event of the season.
“I’ve probably played more golf being in Florida than I would have back at home. I’ve been playing every day and sometimes getting in 36 holes which has helped.”
Tramore’s Robin Dawson was 14th after a 67 and Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy 51st on level par but Paul McBride and Gavin Moynihan were 74th after 71s as Tom McKibbin shot 72 and Rowan Lester and John Murphy struggled to 77s.
There was also low scoring at the DP World Tour’s BMW International Open in Munich where China’s Li Haotong (26) carded a course record-equalling 10-under 62 to take a one-stroke lead at Golfclub München Eichenried.
Niall Kearney shot 72 to share 89th and 75s left Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin 136th.
It’s a major week on the LPGA Tour and Jordanstown’s Stephanie Meadow was tied 41st after opening with a one-over 73 in the KPMG Women’s PGA at a long and demanding Congressional Country Club in Maryland, where Cavan’s Leona Maguire was a later afternoon starter on the first day.
Meadow was still nine shots behind runaway leader In Gee Chun of Korea, who made nine birdies and a bogey in an incredible eight under 63 to lead by seven strokes from compatriot A Lim Kim.
In the rain-lashed US Senior Open in Pennsylvania, Pádraig Harrington struggled early on the greens but opened with a level-par 71 at Saucon Valley Country Club to lie just two shots behind clubhouse leader Paul Goydos as playing partner Darren Clarke bogeyed two of his last three holes to shoot 74.
Meanwhile, AIG Irish Women’s Close champion Beth Coulter bowed out of the Women’s Amateur Championship when she fell 2&1 to England’s Jessica Baker in the last-32 at Hunstanton.