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Rory McIlroy takes early lead with 62 at Travelers Championship

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Calls friendlier TPC River Highlands layout ‘U.S. Open rehab’

    Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR

    Rory McIlroy's 47-foot birdie putt at Travelers

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy is fighting a cold.

    You can understand why.

    After carding a final-round 69 to finish T5 at the U.S. Open, he flew home to South Florida to see his wife, Erica, and their daughter, Poppy. He slept in his own bed, flew back to Connecticut, attended a five-hour meeting Tuesday – he’s one of four player directors on the PGA TOUR policy board – and played in the Travelers Championship’s Wednesday pro-am in the rain.

    And after all of that, he shot an 8-under 62 Thursday to take the early first-round lead.

    “Energy levels are OK,” McIlroy said after his eight-birdie, no-bogey round, which was one better than fellow morning-wave finishers Martin Laird and Xander Schauffele. “I'm feeling a little under the weather, but it's just concentration at this point.

    “I've got three more rounds left until I have a couple of weeks off and prepare for the Open Championship,” he continued. “I'm going to put everything into those three rounds.”

    It’s been a busy stretch for McIlroy, who is teeing it up for the fourth week in a row. He won the RBC Canadian Open for his 21st TOUR title two weeks ago, and was in contention until the bitter end at the U.S. Open at The Country Club, where he had hoped to break a dry spell in the majors that dates back to 2014.

    Despite falling short in Boston, he’s playing well and is up to second in the Official World Golf Ranking. He and Erica have been laughing about how they’re losing their voices; they think Poppy brought something home from daycare.

    Unlike the weekend at the U.S. Open, and pro-am day at the Travelers, McIlroy found much more agreeable conditions for the opening round at TPC River Highlands. In partly-cloudy skies and warm temperatures, he and the others in his group, Webb Simpson (64) and Kevin Kisner (67), took advantage of a course softened by rain.

    “We had a great group,” said Simpson, who also didn’t make any bogeys. “Rory played great, Kevin played great. We kind of fed off each other. I think the holes started looking bigger and bigger to us. A lot of putts were made.”

    In three previous Travelers starts, McIlroy, who leads the TOUR in scoring average (68.657), has never finished in the top 10. The two-time FedExCup champion, No. 3 in the current standings, couldn’t ask for a better start to rectify that.

    “It's like U.S. Open rehab coming here,” he said. “You're like, oh, I can actually make some birdies. This is nice.”

    Three more solid rounds and his 22nd TOUR title would be even nicer, but it’s early. In his fourth straight week of competition, nursing a cold, McIlroy is taking it one birdie at a time.

    Cameron Morfit began covering the PGA TOUR with Sports Illustrated in 1997, and after a long stretch at Golf Magazine and joined PGATOUR.COM as a Staff Writer in 2016. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.