CROMWELL, Conn. — The star power is rather dim at the top of the leaderboard through one round of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands.
Kramer Hickok and Satoshi Kodaira lead at 7-under par after shooting 63s. Talor Gooch is 6-under. Maverick McNealy, Brice Garnett, Beau Hossler, Henrik Norlander and Patrick Rodgers are next on the board at 5-under.
Yes, there are some big names playing in this tournament, which actually boasts a rather impressive field, particularly when you consider the U.S. Open just ended Sunday at Torrey Pines, on the other side of the country.
Dustin Johnson, the defending champion is here, but managed only an even-par 70. Brooks Koepka is here, too, but is 1-under, same score as his younger brother, Chase, who’s in the field as a sponsor invite and isn’t even on the PGA Tour. Brawny Bryson DeChambeau is here, but is also 1-under. So, too, is Phil Mickelson, a former Travelers winner.
No disrespect to the leaders, but Hickok is ranked 331st in the world and has no PGA Tour wins, or Kodaira, who’s ranked 294th and has one win on tour. Gooch is ranked 70th and has no wins. McNealy is ranked 109th and also has no wins. Garnett is ranked 262nd and has one win. Hossler is ranked 393rd in the world and has no wins. Norlander is ranked 136th with no wins, and Rodgers is 209th and has no wins.
So, to review: The top eight players on the leaderboard have an average world ranking of 226 and have produced a combined two career wins.
This is what you call a network TV nightmare.
There, of course, is plenty of time for a correction, for the cream to rise to the top, as it did last week at Torrey Pines.
“I’m awful the week after a major, especially U.S. Open, because it takes so much out of you, but still [I] should have played better, no excuse,’’ Koepka said.
“I didn’t score as low as I wanted to but didn’t hurt myself,’’ Mickelson said. “I need to come out [Friday] and play a good round. I’m hopeful to kind of build into the tournament, try to get a little bit sharper, sharper.’’
Hickok said he “got off to like the worst warm-up session of the year’’ in the morning “and was just hitting it everywhere.’’
“It’s funny, because whenever that happens you hear guys shoot course records and shoot their best rounds,’’ he said. “I don’t know if it’s a mentality, you just take a lot weight off your shoulders and you just go and simplify things. That’s what I did.’’
Gooch said he “unfortunately’’ watched the U.S. Open at home with his father and recalled playing in it his rookie year paired with Justin Rose and having a sniff of contention.
“I was a little nervous, to say the least,’’ he said. “So just being in those positions really early on a lot has got me more comfortable to be in these positions now. It just comes with experience, and there is nothing that can train experience except just going there and being in that spot.’’
Hossler called “golf all confidence — especially at this level.’’
“Every player out here can win on a given week,’’ he said.
Through 18 holes of this Travelers, the top of the leaderboard truly represents the everyman element of the PGA Tour.