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June 20 2013

5:00 PM

Hoffman grabs lead with career-low 61

Hoffman closed in 28 en route to shooting a 61 in Thursday's opening round. (Kinnarid/Getty Images)

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

CROMWELL, Conn. -- Charley Hoffman broke a tooth Thursday morning then nearly broke the course record at TPC River Highlands.

Hoffman shot a 9-under 61 -- a career low and one stroke off the record -- to take a one-shot lead over Hunter Mahan in the first round of the Travelers Championship.

Hoffman broke the crown on his front right tooth during THE PLAYERS Championship and had it re-plastered. But during breakfast Thursday morning it came loose.

"Nothing major, no pain or anything," said Hoffman, who tied the back-nine record here with a 28 that included a pair of eagles.

Hoffman never thought about withdrawing, he joked in reference to Rory McIlroy, who earlier this year walked off the golf course in the middle of a round and later cited tooth pain.

Besides, Hoffman was playing too well to feel any pain -- though he did leave the course for the dentist following his round.

After making the turn in 3 under, he made the first of his two eagles on the par-4 10th, holing out with a 7-iron from 169 yards.

Three holes later, Hoffman, who came into this week ranked 15th in total eagles with seven, added to his total when he reached the 534-yard par 5 in two and two-putted from 20 feet.

On the drivable par-4 15th, Hoffman missed the green right but got up and down, sinking a 6-footer for birdie.

His chances of shooting golf’s magic number, 59, disappeared however when he parred each of his next two holes before one last birdie on 18, where he hit his approach to 3 feet.

"It sort of crossed my mind, but not for long," Hoffman said. "I learned that 16, 17, 18 aren't an easy test."

It was sweet redemption for Hoffman, who a year ago finishined double bogey-bogey here to lose by one.

"It's nice to come back after that finish last year," Hoffman said.

Thursday, Hoffman made things easy on himself, hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 16 greens in regulation. He also needed only 26 putts.

"Believe it or not, I was thinking about (last year) going down 16, 17, 18," Hoffman said. "If I could have just gotten those balls in play, I would have been defending champion here. But this year, I got off to a good start and was obviously a little more focused on those last two holes. Hopefully I'm there again this year."

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